22-1 “Native Activism” Resource Guide

Aug 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-1: Native Activism, Fall 2010, Online resource guides, Resource Guides, Web Exclusive
By Cheryl Redhorse Bennett

Strong leadership in American Indian communities has sustained American Indian peoples and American Indian nations for thousands of years. Modern heroes continue that strong leadership tradition and embody those virtues that our ancestors held to be important qualities of a good leader. Our heroes and activists are our modern day warriors who continue to fight for American Indian people, social justice, environmental justice, and treaty rights.

The list of modern American Indian heroes and activists is long, and this resource guide cannot include all of them. However this resource guide does include some of the most significant and important agents of change in Indian Country. The writings of Vine Deloria Jr. inspired an entire generation of scholars and advocates for American Indian causes.

This guide lists familiar American Indian Movement as well as some newer environmental activists, such as the Black Mesa Water Coalition and the Save the Peaks Coalition. The youth involved in these efforts are inspiring as they lead the way for the new generation of modern heroes and activists.

Books on American Indian Activism and Social Movements

Alfred, T. (1999). Peace, power, righteousness: An indigenous manifesto. Oxford University Press: New York.
Taiaiake Alfred (Mohawk) discusses colonization and its effects on First Nations peoples and other indigenous groups. He critiques current leadership structures and advocates for a return to traditional leadership models.

Crow Dog, M. (1990). Lakota woman. HarperPerennial: New York.
Mary Crow Dog describes her encounters in the American Indian Movement during the 1970s. She also relates her experience as a mixed-blood woman on the Pine Ridge Reservation and her marriage to a prominent medicine man of that community.

Deloria, Jr., V. (1969). Custer died for your sins. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman.
This is one of the most premier influential pieces by Vine Deloria, Jr. (Hunkpapa Lakota). This book inspired American Indian people by addressing issues that affected us such as images, stereotypes, federal Indian law, and treaty rights. In many ways it served as a catalyst for American Indians to bring change and demand attention to injustices. It began a movement for continued scholarship on American Indians by American Indians. Deloria, with wit and irony, cleverly demands the rights that American Indians fought for.

Deloria, Jr., V. (1974) Behind the trail of broken treaties. University of Texas Press: Austin.
He describes the incidents leading up to the 1973 standoff between American Indian Movement activists, the tribal government, and the FBI at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Deloria makes an argument for renegotiating the treaty process and gives a history of the relationship between Indian nations and the federal government. Deloria discusses the foundational principles of federal Indian law such as the doctrine of discovery.

Deloria, Jr., V. (1999) Spirit and reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., reader. Fulcrum Publishing: Golden.
This is a compilation of influential articles, excerpts from books, and essays covering a variety of topics including philosophy, education, history, and social science. A good introduction and summary of Deloria’s work, it includes his most renowned pieces, such as Custer Died for Your Sins and some unpublished pieces.

Johnson, T., Nagel, J., & Champagne, D. (eds.) (1997). American Indian activism: Alcatraz to the longest walk. University of Illinois Press: Champaign.
This anthology of 16 essays primarily focuses on the two-year American Indian occupation of the island of Alcatraz in California. Noted American Indian scholars analyze the events that transpired and provide context and historical accounts of one of the most radical demonstrations in the history of American Indian activism.

LaDuke, W. (1999) All our relations: Native struggles for land and life. South End Press: Cambridge.
In this book, environmental activist Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) includes testimonies from different communities facing environmental difficulties. At the center of the book is her commitment to the land. LaDuke founded Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project. LaDuke was also Ralph Nader’s running mate in 1996 and 2000, the first American Indian woman to run as vice president. For more information on Winona LaDuke, see the following website: www.honorearth.org/node/57.

Mankiller, W. (2004). Everyday is a good day. Fulcrum Publishing: Golden.
Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee) conducted interviews with 19 Native women including commentary from LaDonna Harris, Joy Harjo, and Joanne Shenandoah. The book relates stories and wisdom from American Indian women leaders across the nation with an introduction by Vine Deloria, Jr. The topics include ceremony, womanhood, and roles of women.

Smith. A. Conquest: Sexual violence and American Indian genocide. South End Press: Cambridge.
Andrea Smith (Cherokee) correlates sexual violence and exploitation of Native women with genocide and colonization. She discusses community action and response to violence against women. Smith explores ways for communities to get involved and eradicate gender violence and provides sources for communities.

Wilson, A. & Yellow Bird, M. (eds.) For indigenous eyes only: Decolonization handbook. School of American Research Press: Santa Fe.
Michael Yellowbird and Angela Wilson edited this handbook for social change in Indian communities. The authors take a workbook approach and offer practical ideas and solutions for working through community problems that stem from colonization. There are a variety of topics covered from American Indian scholars and advocates such as Susan Shown Harjo, Cornell Pewewardy, James Riding In, and many others. The book’s premise is that colonization is at the root of social ills in American Indian communities.

Wunder, J. (1999). Native American cultural and religious freedoms. Garland: New York.
John R. Wunder provides a compilation of articles about pertinent American Indian religious freedoms and rights issues, including use of eagle feathers, sacred sites, repatriation and museums, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

Autobiography/Biography on Influential Modern Heroes

Harris, L. & Stockel, H. (2006). Ladonna Harris: a Comanche life. Bison Books: Lincoln.
LaDonna Harris (Comanche) is a political activist and leader. The wife of former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris, she used her position to advocate for American Indian peoples and nations, as described in this autobiography. She founded the Americans for Indian Opportunity organization, which advocates for and fosters American Indian leadership. Harris fought for improved socio-economic conditions of American Indians and was instrumental in creating the National Indian Housing Council and other organizations that promote American Indians. For more information about Harris see, www.aio.org/about_aio/ladonna_harris.

Mankiller, W. & Wallis, M. (1999). Mankiller, a chief and her people. St. Martin’s Griffin: New York.
The former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller describes her work as the first female chief of the tribe and as a national leader in Indian Country.

Neithammer, C. (2004). I’ll go and do more: Annie Dodge Wauneka, Navajo leader and activist. Bison Books: Lincoln.
Annie Wauneka (Navajo) lobbied for heath care improvement on the Navajo Reservation. Carolyn Neithammer’s biography details how she was elected to the tribal council in 1951 and continued to advocate for healthcare and social improvement up until the 1980s. She was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom for her advocacy efforts in 1963.

Parker, D. (1994). Singing an Indian song: A biography of D’Arcy McNickle. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln.
D’Arcy McNickle (Salish Kootenai/Cree) was an anthropologist, writer, professor, and a founding member of the National Congress of American Indians. McNickle was also an administrator of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Peltier, L. (2000). My life is my Sundance. St. Martin’s Griffin: New York.
American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) has been imprisoned since 1977 for the alleged 1975 shooting of two FBI agents at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Peltier has maintained his innocence and garnered support across the world for his release. He describes the difficulty of his prison sentence as being like a Lakota Sundance.

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