CIRCA:Scott Richard Lyons.“Rhetorical Sovereignty: What do American Indians Want From Writing?”


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Scott Richard Lyons, “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What do American Indians Want From Writing?” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 51, No.3 (Feb., 2000), pp. 447-468.

This paper explores the issue of rhetorical sovereignty in the American Indian context. The author first traced the historical origin of "sovereignty" as a concept and discussed the imperial, colonial consequence of Western sovereignty on American Indians and their effort in fighting this "colonized scene of writing."(458) He then resolves to answer “what do American Indians want from writing”: to allow Indians to have some say about the nature of their textual representations, that is, to have themselves do the writing to avoid rhetorical imperialism that debase Indians to oral creatures that is more animalistic than human. (458) To achieve this rhetorical sovereignty of their own, the author suggested, the voice of the speech or writing must employ a Native language. (462) Some site/practice of rhetorical sovereignty by Indians was presented such as the Tribal Law and Government Center and the Indian Nations At Risk Task Force. (463) Pedagogical actions such as to incorporate “a fair and correct history of the Native Americans” (466) were also proposed to achieve the goal of obtaining a sovereignty of their own.

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