Native American Cultural Activism as Historical Text: From Sarah Winnemucca to Twenty-First Century Drama


ACLS Fellowship Program




Fellow Laurie Arnold (Sinixt Band, Colville Confederated Tribes) is working on “Native American Cultural Activism,” a project that characterizes authors Sarah Winnemucca, Mourning Dove, and Zitkala-Sa as historians of their time. The project investigates how women raised with ancestral traditions working from and for their communities achieved tangible benefits through public-facing activism. It connects the authors with twenty-first-century playwrights to illustrate cultural activism as a continuous process, and consequently it reframes activism as ongoing rather than interpreting it simply as an event. Contemporary Native dramatists are repurposing the history play to recount Native American stories that general audiences have either forgotten or never learned; this activist practice links them to earlier Native American intellectual traditions. This project takes seriously the community narratives that authors, activists, and playwrights build upon when they frame histories and interpret cultural significance from insider perspectives informed by family and place.