Date of Award

Winter 2005

Project Type


Program or Major

Composition and Rhetoric

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cinthia Gannet


This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

This project stems from my mixedblood heritage and from a community of mixedblood scholars. In this text, I relate stories of the early colonization of Southern New England, of the zones of contact between whites (primarily English) and Indians (primarily Massachusett or Wampanoag). I offer perspectives on competing views of literacy and explored texts translated from Massachusett Algonquin to see how Indians used writing to enact rhetorics of survivance which challenged the prevailing assumptions of the dominant culture. Within these texts we see how Indians continued to define themselves in the Metis spaces of colonization and missionary attempts to change them. Moreover, I extended my discussion to look at other missionary efforts in the eighteen century. I read letters in English which also uncover ways in which Indians described themselves and the events brought upon them.

From there, my focus turns to the newly-formed United States government which was determined to solve the "Indian problem," and invested in a program of cultural genocide, or a David Wallace Adams calls it "education for extinction." During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the off-reservation federal boarding school system was developed, English-only became the strictly-enforced policy, and vocational education programs were designed to remake the Indian into an industrious and useful citizen who would assimilate into white culture---everyone would all be part of the same homogenous pot. However, notions of racial superiority ensured the Indians would find themselves being educated in the ways of the whiteman, but unable, for the most part, to participate fully in the whiteman's world. They were trained for trades and domestic work, and not expected to achieve much beyond those vocations. Thousands of children were taken from their homes and languages, rituals, and beliefs from their cultures were stripped from them. Yet, in the writing produced by these Indians, we find evidence of rhetorical sovereignty as they used their writing to maintain their Indian selves and enact rhetorics of survivance. These writings tell a different story from the grand narratives, and they also help us to learn how to read texts differently so that we may recover the stories in them. We find political, historical and social stories among them, and gain knowledge of how people negotiate the particular borders of these Metis spaces.

In my pedagogy, I use some of the Indian texts I have explored in my classes and listen to the student voices joining in these stories and finding their own rhetorical sovereignty. I lay out my approaches for working with students, and use examples of their writings and dialogues to reveal their negotiations in academic spaces and how these negotiations are evidence of survivance rhetoric. I also critique current practices in institution as I work toward pedagogical sovereignty.