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This chapter contrasts the decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish with the Indian Child Welfare Act to show how both rely on biopolitics of Indianness. It maintains that available ways to represent Indigenous peoples within federal law and policy are routed through the notion of “Indianness,” understanding Indians less as fully autonomous polities than as a special kind of racially defined population. While not apparently about race, “family” and “culture” as employed within federal discourses depend on notions of reproductive transmission, such that “Indian” appears to have nonracial content while the concept relies for its coherence on long-standing logics of racial genealogy. The apparent recognition of tribal difference on the basis of a shared, trans-tribal Indianness ultimately positions Native peoples as not quite political in ways that facilitate the ongoing assertion of plenary power over Native peoples and of the coherence and legitimacy of U.S. national space.

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