Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Negotiating American Indian Identity in the Land of Wahoo
by Jacobs, Michelle R., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2012, 286; 10631094
Abstract (Summary)

Despite the post-1970s resurgence of American Indian identity, American Indians remain largely invisible in contemporary society. Racial formations, including "common sense" notions of race and place, contribute to the racial misidentification (and further invisibility) of American Indians who live in urban spaces – approximately 60% of the U.S. American Indian/Alaskan Native population. This dissertation explores the effects of macro-historical racial projects on the formation of urban American Indian racial/ethnic identities, as well as the meso and micro level strategies utilized by American Indians as they negotiate these identities in the urban sphere of Northeast Ohio. Specifically, I delineate two pathways – reclamation and relocation – to urban American Indian identity. Utilizing an ethnographic approach, I illustrate how these pathways manifest in different experiences of American Indian identity for the members of two NE Ohio Native community organizations: Native People Reclaiming Indian Identities (NatPride, Reclaimers) and the Relocated Indians of Ohio (RelOH, Relocators). In addition to participating in and observing these community groups, I conducted formal interviews with 39 self-identified Native residents of NE Ohio.

My comparative analysis of NatPride and RelOH members' experiences reveals that pathway to urban Indianness affects (1) the process of becoming Indian, (2) the ability to accomplish Indianness intrapersonally and in interactions with others, and (3) the organizational priorities and strategies of urban Indian communities. The dissertation also explores NE Ohio Natives' perceptions of the Cleveland Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise's pseudo-Indian mascot, "Chief Wahoo." Although pathway does not map neatly onto Native respondents' views regarding the mascot, the respondents who most vehemently resisted Chief Wahoo lived in reservation environments prior to moving to the urban environment of NE Ohio. Ultimately, this research investigates American Indian racial/ethnic identity as a macro, meso, and micro level phenomenon, and in doing so, reveals the multi-tiered effects of racial formations on the day-to-day lives of urban American Indians.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stacey, Clare L., Feltey, Kathryn M.
Commitee: Fenelon, James V., Kaplan, David H., Taylor, Tiffany
School: Kent State University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Sociology, Ethnic studies, Native American studies
Keywords: American indians, Ethnicity, Ethnography, Identity, Indian mascots, Ohio, Race
Publication Number: 10631094
ISBN: 9780355013924
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