This essay analyzes the long genealogy of Haitian indigenism as an alternative discourse to diaspora in discussing Caribbean identity. It focuses on two moments when indigenous rhetoric becomes prominent: the 1920s cultural movement against the US occupation and the war of independence itself. At both these conjunctures, the rhetoric of indigeneity foregrounded issues of sovereignty, making specific territorial claims on the basis of filiation while demanding the expulsion of others as foreign. At the same time, the term indigène more frequently designated a position in relation to an imperial power than a set of concrete cultural attributes, advancing an argument that is more political than essentialist. While examining how this indigenous rhetoric envisions relations with the aboriginal Taino, the author demonstrates the strengths, limitations, and contradictions of a discourse that sought to anchor Africans and their descendants in New World spaces.

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