I've posted over the past few months some of the reasons why I think this conference is important and timely. In December for instance I wrote "Indigenous Futures in a Not Yet Postcolonial World," which discusses some of the theoretical needs in the academic world, that make this conference necessary.
I passed by another reason last week, at the Morongo Native American reservation, east of Riverside.
Across the United States, there are literally hundreds of points like this. For most people in the United States they appear to be little more than casinos run by poor destitute Native Americans, or money grubbing Indians. For many others, such as in San Diego county they are simply invisible. Yet despite this inability to see any political meaning behind these sites, they nonetheless do constitute different nations, different sovereign groups. Their existence in a very fundamental way challenges the existence of the United States, challenges its own claims to sovereignty.
This challenge, this sort of persistent resistance appears in so many mundane everyday ways, especially when the issue of "real" Americaness emerges. The challenges are treated even as they are felt as tiny, small, minute, nothing important,, but this reaction is a defensive one. It is meant to neutralize the importance of the challenge, meant to make it seem simply exceptional and nothing more. Certainly nothing foundational, nothing which would question the foundations of the United States, or who "really owns this land?" Who can really claim to be its center?
Take for instance this exchange from an episode of NYPD Blue.
A Russian Woman: Marina. Strangled and raped. What is wrong with this country?
Detective Andy Sipowicz: What's wrong with this country? I'll tell you what's wrong; it's all these foreigners coming over here.
Detective Bobby Simone: Detective Sipowicz here is one of the few Native American Poles.