Living and working in the enchanted lands: American Indian tourism labor, development, and activism, 1900-1970

Melissa Rohde
History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
December, 2010


Tourism work occupied an important role culturally, economically, and politically in American Indian communities throughout the US between 1900 and 1970. My dissertation looks at two case studies of Native American communities' incorporation of tourism work: Anishinaabeg in northern Wisconsin and the northern Pueblos in New Mexico. Native Americans responded to changes in the political, economic, and natural environments through tourism work and development, in the process restructuring communities' systems of labor and remaking identities. The intersection of work and recreation in sites of tourism helped create commodified ideas of "Indianness" and popularize stereotypical images of Native Americans. Tourism also became a tool communities used to create and build tribal industries and labor opportunities, to restructure communities' labor systems, and to exert a voice in regional and national politics. My dissertation engages the following questions: How did Native American communities understand and negotiate the possibilities and perils of tourism work? How did communities organize socially, politically, culturally, and economically to perform work in the tourism industry? What forms of interactions did spaces of tourism facilitate between Native Americans and non-Indians? How did Native American communities' engagements in tourism work remake tribal identities, especially connections to place, and conceptions of American Indian citizenship and sovereignty within and outside these communities?