Spatiotemporal, Geographic, and Linguistic Fixity: (Counter)hegemonies in the Pueblo Borderlands

  • Erin Debenport University of California, Los Angeles


Discussions about migration, geography, and Indigenous language use are key ways that community members perform, negotiate, and contest identities and politics in multilingual Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a federally-recognized Native nation located within the city of El Paso, Texas. This linguistic anthropological piece illustrates how tribal members creatively use local ways of speaking and the indexing of language ideologies to critique hegemonic discourses that constrain tribal members’ Native identities and call into question the tribe’s status as an Indigenous community. Through “indexing”—or pointing to—dominant and emergent narratives about place and language, Ysletans are able to enhance their visibility as a nation and their political and social influence in the region and beyond. Speech genres focusing on the 17th century Pueblo revolt, the seizure of lands near the U.S.-Mexico border, and the loss of the tribe’s Indigenous language allow community members to assert sovereignty, belonging, and indigeneity in the face of these criticisms by Indian and non-Indian audiences.