Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination


Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination

Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics

Loretta Fowler

368 pages
illus, maps


August 2012


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Loretta Fowler offers a new perspective on Native American politics by examining how power on multiple levels infuses the everyday lives and consciousness of the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples of Oklahoma.

Cheyennes and Arapahos today energetically pursue a variety of commercial enterprises, including gaming and developing retail businesses, and they operate a multitude of social programs. Such revitalization and economic mobilization, however, have not unambiguously produced greater tribal sovereignty. Tribal members challenge and often work vigorously to undermine their tribal government's efforts to strengthen the tribe as an independent political, economic, and cultural entity; at the same time, political consensus and tribal unity are continually recognized and promoted in powwows and dances. Why is there conflict in one sphere of Cheyenne-Arapaho politics and cooperation in the other?

The key to the dynamics of current community life, Fowler contends, is found in the complicated relationship between the colonizer and the colonized that emerges in Fourth World or postcolonial settings. For over a century the lives of Cheyennes and Arapahos have been affected simultaneously by forces of resistance and domination. These circumstances are reflected in their constructions of history. Cheyennes and Arapahos accommodate an ideology that buttresses social forms of domination and helps mold experiences and perceptions. They also selectively recognize and resist such domination. Drawing upon a decade of fieldwork and archival research, Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination provides an insightful and provocative analysis of how Cheyenne and Arapaho constructions of history influence tribal politics today.

Author Bio

Loretta Fowler is a professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. She is the author of Arapahoe Politics, 1851–1978: Symbols in Crises of Authority (Nebraska 1982) and Shared Symbols, Contested Meanings: Gros Ventre Culture and History, 1778–1984.


"Award-winning anthropologist Fowler (Univ. of Oklahoma) provides one of the few microcosmic investigations of this phenomenon, and she does so in a fair and balanced way. . . . Based on solid research and a decade of field research, this excellent book will find its primary audience among academicians."—Choice

"Fowler's volume is clearly a work by a mature scholar who has raised issues of fundamental importance in the study of Native American political history. Her choice of tribal group enriches the literature, her data are detailed, and the analysis is properly placed within the holistic context of Cheyenne-Arapaho culture, historical past, and contemporary life."—Martha C. Knack, American Historical Review

"In Fowler's excellent work, one begins fully to understand the trials and triumphs of the Arapahos and Cheyennes and why the process of governance has been such a long and at times tortuous road to political stability."—William D. Welge, The Chronicles of Oklahoma

"Fowler offers an instructive view of modern Cheyenne-Arapaho political culture that helps readers understand both the historical and current efforts of Native American leaders to protect sovereignty and the ambivalence that such efforts have created among diverse tribal groups."—Paul Rosier, The Journal of American History

"[Fowler's] prodigious research and careful writing will require critics to engage [her] ideas directly. And so will scholars who now have before them a model 'tribal history.'"—Brian Hosmer, The Western Historical Quarterly

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