Publication Title

Ethnic and Racial Studies

Document Type


Department or Program

Gender and Sexuality Studies

Publication Date



decolonization, Indigenous, LGBTQ, peoplehood, settler colonialism, Two-Spirit


As settler colonialism has forcibly constricted vast expanses of Indigenous lands, criss-crossing them with superimposed borders, it has sought to redraw the boundaries of Indigenous identity by imposing definitions and categories that invariably lead to Indigenous diminishment. Strategic and eliminatory categorization is essential to the settler-colonial imperative. This essay explores settler-colonial exercises of rhetorical imperialism that deploy language, connotation, and categorization to dismantle Indigenous cultural systems. The author discusses the political stake in who is designated Indigenous, the drive to remake Indigenous nations in the image of the settler-state, the enforcement of cis-heteropatriarchal capitalist norms, and assimilationist strategies aiming to disrupt Indigenous formations of gender and kinship. The author argues that Indigenous assertions of peoplehood as a definitional and unifying framework and Two-Spirit as a self-identifier are acts of resistance that they term “oppositional identification” and “contrast mechanisms.” They are exercises of rhetorical and radical sovereignty, tantamount to everyday decolonization.

Copyright Note

This is the publisher's version of the work. This publication appears in Bates College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.

Required Publisher's Statement

This is a version of record article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethnic and Racial Studies on January 1st, 2021, available online: