Writing Indigenous Histories of Protest

AHA Session 224
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Chelsea (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Daniel M. Cobb, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Daniel M. Cobb, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Session Abstract

Indigenous activism against the theft and appropriation of lands, waters, and resources has a long history in North America. Recent activism at Standing Rock illustrated that Indigenous concerns and continued resistance to settler colonialism continue today. The presenters in this session engage with several examples of Native resistance to dispossession—from the Puerco Valley in Arizona to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota—to reveal the challenges and opportunities of researching and writing narratives of Indigenous activism.

Teresa Montoya analyzes the fragmentation of Diné homelands due to the arrival of the railroad to the Puerco Valley to show how Indigenous family histories fill in gaps in the settler-colonial archival record. Employing the lens of Native biography, Kent Blansett examines the life of Richard Oakes, the Mohawk organizer of the occupation of Alcatraz fifty years ago, to explore the role of this charismatic leader in the early years of the Red Power movement. Situating the activism at Standing Rock within the long history of Indigenous resistance to anti-colonialism, Nick Estes reflects on what it means to write Indigenous history in the era of mass protest. Together, the work of these presenters demonstrates that writing Indigenous histories of protest empowers our peoples and tribal nations.

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