Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Paul Formisano


This project analyzes Native American women's voices and agency through their presence in a variety of 21st-century literary genres. The texts illuminate a clear presence of Native American authors who actively write Native American female characters that are powerful and take agency over their bodies and stories. The examples of Native American female characters allow readers to see more realistic and relatable figures within literature. Chapter one focuses on the empowering Native American female protagonists in Larissa FastHorse’s What Would Crazy Horse Do? (2019) and Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Sovereignty (2020). The playwrights offer crucial insight into more empowering and complex meanings of feminine autonomy through their female leads. These Native American female characters demonstrate their voices and desires to protect Native American women’s rights, presence, and heritage. Chapter two focuses on Heid E. Erdrich's poetry collection National Monuments (2008) and critics’ history and literature that dehumanize Native American women’s bodies. Erdrich changes the narrative to show the beautiful and robust heritage by exerting her subjects’ agency and reclaiming their bodies. I focus on the powerful examples of Native American female characters who are tenacious, strong, and voice the presence of women. This chapter exposes the urgency for reclamation of Native American women’s bodies and their voices amongst the sea of injustice and prejudices. Chapter three analyzes how Stephen Graham Jones’s novel The Only Good Indians (2020) subverts the narrative that Native American women are victims by making the women the heroes of the narrative. These characters are seen as other than stereotypical horror characters and as Native American women who empower readers. The female characters depict more realistic Native American women who demonstrate agency and presence through their actions. I conclude that these texts amplify the presence and voices of Native American women within 21st-century literature. The texts offer a rich foundation of Native American female characters as heroines who assert their agency and autonomy through different genres that deliberately defy the victim trope and absence. I argue the vitality of Native American women to be recognized as powerful and autonomous within 21st-century literature.

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority


Agency, Indigenous, Native American bodies, Native American women, Presence, Voices

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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