Better Understanding of Bruyneel

While my previous analysis of Kevin Bruyneel’s first part of The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S. Indigenous Relations offered an understatement of the point of his book, my understanding of this second section, or the last part is more comprehensive. Although his novel still reminds me of an in-depth textbook that focuses on specific moments of history involving the US and Indigenous peoples, the issues he brings up are unresolved and important to understanding ‘third-space’ identities.

Bruyneel’s second section, or the last three chapters of his book, again focus on specific glimpses of history involving the US and Indigenous peoples. The chapter “Between Civil Rights and Decolonization” is particularly interesting as he compares and explains the differences between ‘anticolonial nationalism’ and ‘postcolonial nationalism’ through the Vine Deloria Jr. Deloria is a “Standing Rock Sioux, a lawyer, and a professor of history and Native American Studies” (134). Bruyneel emphasizes Deloria’s importance by stating that “the impact of Deloria’s political and intellectual presence in the general American political discourse [can]… be felt, in terms of both the substance of his work and its general reception” (135). Deloria’s novel Custer does “not exist on the margins of either American or indigenous public life”, therefore it is literature in a third space.

In the section “Postcolonial Nationalism: Not the Same as Anticolonialism” Bruyneel “interprets Deloria’s consistent emphasis on the relationship between tribalism and nationalism” (140). Bruyneel defines postcolonial nationalism as “a modern political identity that sought to defy and challenge containment by American boundaries, refusing spatializatoin as either inside or outside, urban or rural” (141). Deloria relates in that he “look[s] beyond American boundaries to help define and frame what indigenous politics is about within the American context.” Deloria’s understanding is mort that of a “’tribe as nation’” (141). The difference between anticolonialism is that the latter “will succeed only if it does more than just expel the colonizer, it must do so in a way that decolonizes the imaginations of the colonized subject themselves” (142). Bruyneel concludes that “postcolonial nationhood resembles anticolonial nationalism in that it is a political identity forged through direct political engagement that aims to decolonize the imagine of the colonial subjects…[the former] envisions not a binary relationship between American and indigenous political life, but rather one in which the boundaries of the former are traversed and remapped as tribes, from rural to urban settings, seek to gain greater self-determination in modern time and space” (146).

While Bruyneel lays down the frame work for understanding both postcolonial nationalism and anticolonialism, I think it is important for indigenous people to figure out a common ground. On one side they should avoid thinking in the colonizer’s mindset and stay away from such values, but it is also important to consider how that colonizer views them in the ways of politics. It is important for indigenous people to go on with their way of life with their natural rights, but the ambivalence of the colonizer is always something that is looming over them. It may be easy for me, an outsider of the indigenous way of life to say a middle ground is necessary, but time and history have proved it otherwise. A full understanding by the US government of indigenous policies and beliefs is necessary and not by a panel of “experts” but by actual indigenous people who are experiencing these struggles. It is not enough for a ‘one-size’ fits all policy to be applied to the many different indigenous tribes; US policies need to change to better understand how to address its ‘third space citizens’.


Bruyneel, Kevin. “A Complicated Relationship.” The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S.-indigenous Relations. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2007. 3-6. Print.


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