In the 1990s, the term ‘Indigeneity’ replaced the once common identifier ‘First Peoples.’ The rhetorical move was a purposeful one, attempting to broaden, rather than supplant, the scope of what it means to be natural to a land—to have a “historical continuity with pre-colonial societies,” as José Martínez Cobo framed it to the United Nations nearly four decades ago. Since then, scholars and activists have made important contributions in bearing out the inextricable link between Indigeneity and colonialism that Cobo invokes. This transition from First Peoples to Indigeneity, however, is far from a simple one. In his 2023 New Yorker article “It’s Time To Rethink the Idea of the ‘Indigenous,’” Manvir Singh insists that the two terms are not synonymous: “Many groups who identify as Indigenous don’t claim to be first peoples; many who did come first don’t claim to be Indigenous.”

” Rather, Singh observes a worrying prioritization of colonial logic as the necessary backdrop to which Indigeneity is understood. Though Indigenous peoples comprise an expansive range of geographic, linguistic, and cultural markers, their identification with sole reference to pre-colonialism risks the reductivity that it sought to overcome: “Indigeneity is powerful. It can give a platform to the oppressed [ . . . ] Yet there’s also something troubling about categorizing a wildly diverse array of peoples around the world within a single identity—particularly one born of an ideology of social evolutionism, crafted in white-settler states, and burdened with colonialist baggage.” More than a question of semantics, Singh alerts us to both the powers and shortcomings of globalizing Indigeneity. How do we, then, maintain Indigeneity’s tie to the horrors of colonialism without allowing it to flatten beneath those same forces? In what follows, our contributors review four works that each uniquely describe how Indigeneity endures and, ultimately, transcends its boundaries.

This special section commences with Ali Eren Yanik’s reappraisal of Deborah A. Miranda’s Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, reissued in 2022 in a special tenth anniversary edition. Yanik challenges the book’s categorization as “creative non-fiction” and instead outlines Miranda’s use of “multigeneric and multimodal narrative [ . . . ] which constitute a morphologically complex Native epistemology.” Both intimately personal and wryly critical of settler-colonial anthropologicalization, the enduring impact of Bad Indians seems to stem from its boundary- crossing methods for relating how California Indians survived the past 250 years. The “settler dance scholar” Jaqueline Shea Murphy lingers with her own distance from first-hand knowledge of Indigenous ways of being in her recent Dancing Indigenous Worlds: Choreographies of Relation, reviewed here by Cindy-Lou Holland. By participating in and reflecting on contemporary practices across Australia, New Zealand (Aoteroa), Canada, and the United States, Murphy extrapolates interpersonal, reciprocal methods for beginning to access the profound differences between her own background and Native dance cultures. As Holland emphasizes, though, the knowledge and experiences which are refused to Murphy present the most provocative meditations on settler- colonialism and the presumptions of academic research.

There is a related sense of peering around the edges of that which is deliberately occluded from the settler gaze in HBO’s recently released fourth season of the anthology series True Detective, subtitled Night Country in this installmentNina Gary’s assessment tacks between the fascination and discomfort that the detective drama evokes in its depiction of the ‘Polar Night’ at a fictional Alaskan Inupiat community that also serves as a scientific research station. The violent revenge at the center of the season’s mystery instrumentalizes Native suffering in Gary’s estimate, calling further into question the orientation and purpose of narrative disclosure— especially in such a popular format. Decolonization that thinks beyond the binaries of Native/settler or natural/scientific may be difficult to imagine as a coherent, televisable theory, but the essays of Decolonial Conversations in Posthuman and New Material Rhetorics—edited by Jennifer Clary-Lemon and David M. Grant— offers some language for its trends and practice in the field of rhetoric. Jo Hurt’s review of the collection surveys the complementarity and contestestation among scholars working to characterize the “affinities and differences between Indigenous and new materialist frames.” These perspectives, she writes, “cultivat[e] pluriversal knowledge and decolonial action” in the service of reconfiguring the borders of Indigeneity as an epistemology. Indeed, we hope that these four reviews together offer an emergent framework for thinking about Indigeneity as a mode capable of decolonizing its colonial ties.