Skip to main content

Voices and Votes in the Fields of Settler Society: American Indian Media and Electoral Politics in 1930s Wisconsin

  • Grant Arndt (a1)

In 1939, Wisconsin readers of a weekly newspaper column by Mitchell Redcloud, a member of the Ho-Chunk Indian community settled within the rural township of Komensky, were greeted with a set of headlines from the imaginary “Komensky News” about an actual local event. The headlines reported that despite opposition from local whites, Ho-Chunk people had successfully elected a Ho-Chunk candidate to the township board. This article draws on studies of Indigenous media and recent efforts to develop field-theoretic accounts of social action to understand the interdependence of Redcloud's headlines and the Ho-Chunk vote as part of an incipient project of Indigenous political action. Using census records, I first describe the positions in the everyday field of race and class relations that Ho-Chunk people occupied in Komensky, based on their incomes, educations, and occupational statuses. I then draw on this description to understand Redcloud's position-taking strategies before the election. I next examine Redcloud's writing career in the newspaper to understand his strategy of self-positioning as a marked Indian voice within a print-based discursive field that denigrated other Ho-Chunk voices. I finish by examining new position-taking strategies manifest in the 1939 vote and in Redcloud's turn to headline register. I argue that both media and electoral mechanisms offered relatively autonomous fields that made these experiments with Indigenous action possible despite the absence of tribal political institutions necessary to transform the positions Ho-Chunk people occupied in their everyday lives. Together, the headlines and the election suggest the interdependence of activism carried out in media and in governmental structures in the production of transformative acts of political self-representation.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Agha Asif. 2005. Voicing, Footing, and Enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15, 1: 3859.
Arndt Grant. 2010. The Making and Muting of an Indigenous Media Activist: Imagination and Ideology in Charles Round Low Cloud's “Indian News.” American Ethnologist 37, 3: 499510.
Ash Michael G. 1998. Gestalt Psychology in German Culture, 1890–1967: Holism and the Quest for Objectivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Basso Keith. 1979. Portraits of ‘the Whiteman’: Linguistic Play and Cultural Symbols among the Western Apache. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bourdieu Pierre. 1986. The Forms of Capital. In Richardson J. C., ed., Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Westport: Greenwood Press, 241–58.
Bourdieu Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bourdieu Pierre. 1993. The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press.
Bourdieu Pierre and Wacquant Loic J. D.. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bruyneel Kevin. 2007. The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S.-Indigenous Relations. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bucaria Chiara. 2004. Lexical and Syntactic Ambiguity as a Source of Humor: The Case of Newspaper Headlines. Humor 17, 3: 279309.
Clark William Leslie and Wyman William D.. 1973. Charles Round Low Cloud: Voice of the Winnebago. River Falls: University of Wisconsin Press.
Conklin Beth A. and Graham Laura R.. 1995. The Shifting Middle Ground: Amazonian Indians and Eco-Politics. American Anthropologist 97, 4: 695710.
Couldry Nate. 2010. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism. New York: Sage Publications.
Cutler Charles. 1994. O Brave New Words! Native American Loanwords in Current English. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
De La Cadena Marisol and Starn Orin. 2007. Indigenous Experience Today. Oxford: Berg.
Deloria Vine Jr. and Lytle Clifford M.. 1984. The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty. New York: Pantheon.
Dubois John W. 2007. The Stance Triangle. In Englebretson Robert, ed., Stancetaking in Discourse: Subjectivity, Evaluation, Interaction. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 139–82.
Edwards Alba. 1943. Comparative Occupation Statistics for the United States, 1870–1940. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Fortun Kim, Fortun Mike, and Rubenstein Steven. 2010. Editors’ Introduction to Emergent Indigeneities. Cultural Anthropology 25, 2: 222–34.
Fowler Loretta. 2004. Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Garst Robert and Bernstein Theodore M.. 1933. Headlines and Deadlines. New York: Columbia University Press.
Ginsburg Faye. 1991. Indigenous Media: Faustian Contract or Global Village? Cultural Anthropology 6, 1: 92112.
Ginsburg Faye. 1994. Embedded Aesthetics: Creating a Discursive Space for Indigenous Media. Cultural Anthropology 9, 3: 365–82.
Goc Michael J. 1990. The Wisconsin Dust Bowl. Wisconsin Magazine of History 73, 3: 162201.
Gorski Philip S., ed. 2013. Bourdieu and Historical Analysis. Durham: Duke University Press.
Graham Laura R. 2002. How Should an Indian Speak? Brazilian Indians and the Symbolic Politics of Language Choice in the International Public Sphere. In Warren Kay B. and Jackson Jean E., eds., Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 181228.
Graham Laura R. 2011. Quoting Mario Juruna: Linguistic Imagery and the Transformation of Indigenous Voice in the Brazilian Print Press. American Ethnologist 38, 1: 164–83.
Gudinas Ruth A. 1974. Wisconsin Winnebago Political Organization: Structure/Cultural Incompatibility and Organizational Effectiveness. PhD diss., Department of Political Science, University of Chicago.
Hamilton Jennifer A. and Placas Aimee J.. 2011. Anthropology Becoming…? The 2010 Sociocultural Anthropology Year in Review. American Anthropologist 113, 2: 246–61.
Hanks William F. 2005. Explorations in the Deictic Field. Current Anthropology 46, 2: 191220.
Hoelscher Steven D. 2008. Picturing Indians: Photographic Encounters and Tourist Fantasies in H. H. Bennett's Wisconsin Dells. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Iarovici Edith and Amel Rodica. 1989. The Strategy of the Headline. Semiotica 77, 4: 441–59.
Jaffe Alexandra, ed. 2009. Stance: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jones Tom, et al. 2011. People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879–1942. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Karlan Pamela S. 2011. Lightning in the Hand: Indians and Voting Rights. Yale Law Journal 120: 1420–53.
Kelly John D. and Kaplan Martha. 2001. Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lewin Kurt. 1951. Field Theory in Social Science: Selected Theoretical Papers. Cartwright Dorothy, ed. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
Lewis Herbert S. and McLester L. Gordon, eds. 2005. Oneida Lives: Long-lost Voices of the Wisconsin Oneidas. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Lurie Nancy Oestreich. 1952. The Winnebago Indians: A Study in Culture Change. PhD diss., Department of Anthropology. Northwestern University.
Lurie Nancy Oestreich. 1972. Two Dollars. In Kimball Solon T. and Watson James B., eds., Crossing Cultural Boundaries: The Anthropological Experience. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company. 151–63.
Lurie Nancy Oestreich. 1978. Winnebago. In Trigger Bruce, ed., The Handbook of North American Indians 15: Northeast. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
MacDonald Laughlin. 2010. American Indians and the Fight for Equal Voting Rights. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Martin John Levi. 2011. The Explanation of Social Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Martin John Levi and Gregg Forest. 2015. Was Bourdieu a Field Theorist? In Hilgers Mathieu and Mangez Eric, eds., Bourdieu's Theory of Social Fields: Concepts and Applications. New York: Routledge: 3961.
Marx Karl. 1963 [1852]. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. New York: International Publishers.
Meek Barbara. 2006. And the Injun goes ‘How!’: Representations of American Indian English in White Public Space. Language in Society 35: 93128.
Mey Harald. 1972. Field-Theory: A Study of Its Application in the Social Sciences. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Morgan Mindy. 2005. Constructions and Contestations of the Authoritative Voice: Native American Communities and the Federal Writers’ Project, 1935–41. American Indian Quarterly 29, 1–2: 5683.
Nesper Larry. 2007. Negotiating Jurisprudence in Tribal Court and the Emergence of a Tribal State: The Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe. Current Anthropology 48, 5: 675–99.
Nicoll Fiona. 1993. The Art of Reconciliation: Art, Aboriginality and the State. Meanjin 52, 4: 705–18.
Onsager Lawrence. 1985. The Removal of the Winnebago Indians from Wisconsin in 1873–1874. MA thesis, Department of History, Loma Linda University.
Ramirez Renya K. 2012. Henry Roe Cloud to Henry Cloud: Ho-Chunk Strategies and Colonialism. Settler Colonial Studies 2, 2: 117–37.
Ramirez Renya K. 2013. Ho-Chunk Warrior, Intellectual, and Activist: Henry Roe Cloud Fights for the Apaches. American Indian Quarterly 37, 3: 291309.
Reah Danuta. 1998. The Language of Newspapers. London: Routledge.
Round Phillip H. 2010. Removable Type: Histories of the Book in Indian Country, 1663–1880. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Safley James Clifford. 1930. The Country Newspaper and Its Operation. New York: D. Appleton.
Said Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
Samuels David. 2001. Indeterminacy and History in Britton Goode's Western Apache Placenames: Ambiguous Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. American Ethnologist 28, 2: 277302.
Simpson Audra and Smith Andrea, eds. 2014. Theorizing Native Studies. Durham: Duke University Press.
Smith Andrea. 2010. Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 16, 1–2: 4268.
Smith Paul Chaat and Warrior Robert Allen. 1997. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: The New Press.
Srole Leo. 1938–1939. Field Notes and Materials. Records of the Department of Anthropology. Special Collections Research Center, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago.
Srole Leo. 1938a. Interview with Mr. Mitchell Redcloud, 20 Sept. In Srole 19381939.
Srole Leo. 1938b. Interview with Mr. Mitchell Redcloud, 3 Nov. In Srole 19381939.
Swartz David. 1997. Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Toepel M. G. 1952. The Community of Governments in Wisconsin. In Toepel M. G. and Kuehn Hazel L., eds., The Wisconsin Blue Book. Madison: State of Wisconsin, 75172.
Trechter Sara. 2001. White between the Lines: Ethnic Positioning in Lakhota Discourse. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11, 1: 2235.
Turner Terence. 1991. Representing, Resisting, Rethinking. In Stocking George W., ed., Colonial Situations: Essays on the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 285313.
Turner Victor W. 1975. Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Warren Kay B. and Jackson Jean E.. 2003. Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Warrior Robert A. 2005. The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Webster Anthony K. 2011. “Please Read Loose”: Intimate Grammars and Unexpected Languages in Contemporary Navajo Literature. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 35, 2: 6186.
Webster Anthony K. and Peterson Leighton C.. 2011. Introduction: American Indian Languages in Unexpected Places. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 35, 2: 118.
Wehrwein George S. 1935. Town Government in Wisconsin. In Ohm Howard F. and Bryhan Leone G., eds., The Wisconsin Blue Book. Madison: State of Wisconsin, 95107.
Wilkinson Charles. 2005. Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. New York: W. W. Norton.
Wyss Hilary. 2000. Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 28 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 187 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.