The 'Labor' of Belonging
This article examines notions of "labor" and "belonging" in contemporary indigenous-settler relations on the Wampanoag island of Noëpe, a place known all too well in the U.S. as "Martha's Vineyard". I focus on an ethnographic incident in which a Wampanoag fisherman stands before a town council on Noëpe and appeals for the right to fish in ancestral waters without penalty. Conceptualizing labor as agency, I am interested in the kind of work indigenous belonging demands in contested places. I am especially concerned about the vulnerability of small, financially stressed tribes and indigenous selves who must out-maneuver the labored manipulations of settler law and regulation at the level of locality. What are the political alternatives for Indians who are not rich, who are not members of rich tribes? What kind of "labor" must small tribes exert in order to preserve and protect indigenous selves and articulations of self-rule? It is within an economy of labored belonging that this project situates indigenous agency and contemplates the intensity and complexity of its work.