Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

International/Intercultural Studies

Reader 1

Erich Steinman

Reader 2

Lako Tongun

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© 2021 Leah W Kelly


Indigenous peoples living on Turtle Island, or what is now known as North America, are under constant threat of both erasure and domination. This study explores the intersecting concepts of Indigenous identity and sovereignty through the perspectives of Indigenous interviewees in the Northeast region of the continent as they navigate settler-colonial society and practice anticolonial resistance. It reveals the ways in which colonizing forces reappropriate and redefine the meanings of indigeneity and sovereignty in order to control Indigenous peoples and inhibit their ability to live self-sustainably. Incorporating qualitative sociological research methods, decolonizing methodologies, a settler-colonial framework, previous scholarly literature, and interviews with 12 participants, this study seeks to answer two main questions: 1) How has settler-colonial society reconstructed notions of Indigenous identity and sovereignty in a way that harms Indigenous peoples? 2) How can Indigenous peoples reclaim the meanings and practices of indigeneity and sovereignty to achieve justice in a colonized world?

On a broader level, this thesis seeks to amplify Indigenous voices and contribute in some way to their fight for justice. It also attempts to provide non-Indigenous people with a better understanding of the challenges facing their Indigenous neighbors on this continent. Finally, it highlights a path forward for Indigenous peoples’ resistance, illustrating how by reclaiming indigeneity and sovereignty, Indigenous peoples can more effectively assert their rights, escape settler-colonial control, and achieve justice for their communities.