Inventing the Savage: The Social Construct of Native American Criminality. Luana Ross. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1998.
There is much literature about African American and Hispanic offenders and the punishment of males in the criminal justice system; however, there is not much literature on either Native Americans or women offenders in the criminal justice system. Luana Ross attempts to break this trend with her research in Inventing the Savage: The Social Construct of Native American Criminality. In her book, Ross first gives a comprehensive history and perspective on the perception of Native Americans by what she describes as “Euro-Americans.” In the second part of her book, Ross gives us a glimpse on the conditions and treatment of women prisoners (particularly Native American women) in a Montana women’s correctional facility (labeled the WCC by the author).
Ross was very qualified to write this work. She is part of the Flathead Indian Tribe in Montana, where much of her research and book is written. She has her Ph.D. in sociology and currently works as a professor of Native American studies at the University of Washington and is co-director of an Indian Studies graduate program at the University of Washington. Because of her immense knowledge of the subject and where she is from, Ross most likely had a particular interest in this book, and it translates well into the research.
In the words of Ross, her focus and goal for writing this book was to write “…about the racialized and gendered experiences of incarceration, with a focus on Native American women and the loss of sovereignty as it is implicitly tied to Native criminality…” because there was little information on this subject. This means that Ross studied women in the WCC of all races, but she primarily focused on the Native American population in prison; however, Ross also focused on the white individuals in the WCC, partially as a comparison point, but as an outlet to discuss how the whites and the Native Americans interacted with each other and their views of each other. In addition, Ross discussed the history of why Native Americans have been discriminated against and the downfall of their power in early times of the United States.
Ross did a good job at proving her purpose of the book. Ross uses the first section of her book to describe the history between the “Euro-Americans” (those who came and took over the land) and to describe the downfall of Native American power. One example Ross uses to discuss this downfall is her discussion of Public Law 280 (a law in which United States government can take jurisdiction over Native American reservations). Prior to this law, Native Americans handled their own and had their own government and penal system. The punishments for Native Americans were very different compared to the American criminal justice system and relied heavily on spiritual punishment and restitutions. Most Native Americans did not believe in imprisonment...