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Within federal Indian law, Indianness is presented as tied to belonging to the sovereign collective of the tribe as opposed to an individual quality separate from matters of governance. However, in such policy, Indianness also represents the innate/ingrained characteristics of a racialized population. Indigenous governance is made to pivot around some version of the privatized family, delimiting the scope of Native peoplehood through its repeated linkage to the scene of (racial) procreation. These dynamics can be seen at play in three of the watershed changes in Indian policy adopted in the same year (1978)—Oliphant v. Suquamish, Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. By contrast, Native feminist work has addressed the ways Indigenous governance and peoplehood emerge through everyday matrices of interdependent relation that cannot be conceptualized as merely an extension of the private sphere or heterofamilial lineage.

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