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ERIC Number: EJ880838
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 30
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Working the Indian Field Days: The Economy of Authenticity and the Question of Agency in Yosemite Valley
Cothran, Boyd
American Indian Quarterly, v34 n2 p194-223 Spr 2010
Originally conceived by National Park Service (NPS) officials as a way to "revive and maintain the interest of Indians in their own games and industries," the Yosemite Indian Field Days were part rodeo, part pageant, and part craft fair. Through its activities, the Field Days offered white tourists the opportunity to encounter "real" Indians whose ethnic authenticity exuded from their physical appearance, embedding itself within those very items tourists came to purchase. However, ever-shifting standards of authenticity were maintained through a rigorous set of observations in the form of competitions and through the policing of borders of visibility. In this article, the author discusses how Indians with ties to Yosemite Valley negotiated these borders to participate in an "economy of authenticity." By examining the origins and contours of this economy of authenticity and the ever-shifting expectations that structured it, the author explores how participants in the Field Days made a series of tactical choices in order to recognize, navigate, and manipulate the tools of their own domination. By translating Walter Johnson's vision for the future of academic debates over slavery to American Indian historiography, this essay moves beyond discussions of whether or not the market stripped Indian laborers of agency and seeks to articulate what Indian labor within a government-controlled, touristic, and gender/racially normalizing economy looked like and what power-structured processes shaped or defined the boundaries of the possible. (Contains 4 figures and 71 notes.)
University of Nebraska Press. 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. Tel: 800-755-1105; Fax: 800-526-2617; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California