Faculty Spotlight ~ Brian Hosmer

Monday, April 25, 2011



Dr. Brian Hosmer attended an American Indian Workshop in Graz, Australia, March 31-April 4, 2011. On April 2, Dr. Hosmer spoke on Working and Belonging, on Wind River as panelists on the Sustainability of Identity Panel.

Working and Belonging, on Wind River

Over the course of the twentieth century, Northern Arapahos and Eastern Shoshones of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming worked on relief projects and as ranchers and farmers, as producers of handicrafts for sale, at powwows and other cultural events, for tribal governments, and as independent entrepreneurs. Their stories, like those of indigenous peoples across North America and even beyond, have helped scholars better understand the hidden histories of Indians - as workers and not simply landless and occupation-less. Yet there is more to this story than job creation, the development of infrastructure, or the dispersal of wages. Work operated within multiple discourses, framed and articulated by non-Indian administrators, in discussions at tribal business council meetings, and by Indian workers, at the time and in retrospect. This presentation considers laboring on Wind River through two linked concepts: working and belonging. Natives and non-Natives, independently and in dialogue with one another, invested Indian labor with multiple meanings that drew upon conceptions of cultural authenticity, perceived contradictions between individuality and community, and evaluations of the present state and future prospects of Indian peoples. Work, as a conceptual category as much as lived experience, holds powerful and specific resonance in Indian communities, not to mention for non-Indian administrators, policy makers, scholars and the general public. Linking the concepts Indian with work (not to mention Indian-ness with idleness) has shaped policy initiatives historically, and influences evaluations of reservation problems and associate remedial measures well beyond the boundaries of Wind River.

Dr. Hosmer holds the H.G. Barnard Chair in Western American History at the University of Tulsa. Prior to moving to Tulsa in 2009, he was Director of the Newberry Library's D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History, founding Director of the CIC American Indian Studies Consortium, and Associate Professor of History and Native American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on intersections between economic change, nation building and tribal self determination in twentieth century American Indian communities. His publications include, American Indians in the Marketplace (1999), Native Pathways (co-edited with Colleen O'Neill, 2004), Native Americans and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman (2010), and several articles, essays and book chapters. He is currently busy with Working and Belonging, on Wind River and Indians of Illinois: A Concise History.

Toy Kelley