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“Even in My Years to Come, I’m Still Gonna Be Here”: A Look at the Effects the Rhetoric of Survivance Present in Digital Spaces has on Native American Identity

“Even in My Years to Come, I’m Still Gonna Be Here”: A Look at the Effects the Rhetoric of Survivance Present in Digital Spaces has on Native American Identity
by

Alexis Pegram

on 10 May 2010

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Transcript of “Even in My Years to Come, I’m Still Gonna Be Here”: A Look at the Effects the Rhetoric of Survivance Present in Digital Spaces has on Native American Identity

“Even in My Years to Come, I’m Still Gonna Be Here”: A Look at the Effects the Rhetoric of Survivance Present in Digital Spaces has on Native American Identity By Alexis Pegram Throughout their post-contact history, many Native Americans from the multitude of indigenous tribes and nations have often done what they had to do to survive. As Powell so powerfully conveys, “Despite hundreds of years of pressure, first from European colonists then from Euroamericans, American Indians did not disappear. And though our visibility has been repeatedly erased in American discourses of nationhood, we have, just as insistently, refigured ourselves and reappeared”. And now Native Americans have found yet another medium, another voice, another means through which they are able to identify, unify, mobilize, and subvert. As the technology of writing becomes increasingly more digitized, the language and rhetoric of survivance (survival + resistance) has found a new medium. The rhetoric of survivance, the language that Malea Powell maintains Native Americans “consciously or unconsciously, use in order to reimagine and, literally, refigure ‘the Indian’” has moved online. This specific rhetoric has quite successfully been refigured and rearticulated to reach and rally a new, more extensive audience. I contend that this development to communication in digital spaces is frequently creating a more cohesive identity for Native Americans who are able to move on the internet. http://www.blogged.com/blogs/pretty-bird-woman.html
http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org/
http://www.indigenousportal.com/?lang=
http://www.nativeamericannetroots.net/
The different blogs and websites we have looked at use different rhetorical tactics (both implied and direct) in their presentation to manipulate identities and to persuade visitors to make various identifications, however, all of these different digital/rhetorical spaces— in various ways— effectively promote some form of social cohesion—along with also often promoting some measure of social justice advocacy and even political conscription. • I argue that one of the ways these Native American digital spaces persuade the indigenous individuals who visit them is to demand those individuals put aside their various and extremely varied tribal backgrounds, experiences, and identities, and then— first and foremost— identify themselves broadly as “Native Americans” or “indigenous people” for purposes of community cohesion, and ultimately for the purpose of social justice, activism, and political mobilization. This is yet another rhetoric of survivance. • The commonly ascribed to, cohesive identification as “Native American” is the most useful for action, for change: the unified voice is stronger, and more likely to be heard than the cacophony.


• In order to subvert, resist, and to survive, a marginalized group must be heard— first by their own people, and then by their oppressors.


• The technology of the internet provides a new medium for this voice, for the Native American rhetoric of survivance.
In the digital information age, the internet is the most important new tool for this reimagining, for the re-conceptualization of “Indian-ness”, and for the social cohesion this re-imagining will motivate —even sometimes at the cost of tribal affiliations, connections, and identities. For better and for the worst, a critical battle in the perpetual war to survive and resist is now being fought online. Individuals who identify themselves as Native Americans must form identifications with a cohesive community of often diverse individuals: they must define and identify themselves broadly as “Native American”, while also attempting to maintain their identity as and affiliation with a particular tribe, a particular faction of the larger, more cohesive and comprehensive community— which, fortunately or unfortunately, is often not the primary focus of many online forms of communication and community building for Native Americans. • Throughout this process of identification as “Native American”, individual tribal, clan, and familial identities may become diluted, and consequently less meaningful.
In addition, assuming a collective, seemingly homogeneous, defensively situated, and apparently static identity discounts the complex, multifaceted, constantly changing, continually re-worked and re-negotiated reality of identity. The Sites I Analyze: Discrete Stops Along an Expansive Continuum
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