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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1889: In the Name of Progress

1889: Modesta Avila, a 22-year-old Mexican American woman, is the first felon in Orange County, California. She is sentenced to three years in San Quentin State Prison and dies there of a fever. She was arrested for an act of protest: attempting to block railroad tracks that crossed her property only 15 feet from her door. (Some claim that she hung a clothesline, others that she posted a sign, and still others that she placed a railroad tie on the tracks). 

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1975: After more than half a century of organizing and claims against the destruction caused by the Santa Fe railroad and silver rush, the Havsuw‘ Baaja (Havasupai) regain 251,000 acres of ancestral land through the U.S. judicial system . The tribe continues to remain active in a coalition fight against uranium mining in the area.
  • 1978: The Combahee River Collective frames the importance of the perspective and leadership of women of color in feminist and freedom movements through the The Combahee River Collective Statement.
  • 1996: Thanks to their blockade of railroad tracks running through the Bad River Reservation in White Pine, Michigan, Ojibwe activists are successful in halting the transportation of sulfuric acid to a copper mine. The mine would have polluted local food sources that are central to the culture of the Ojibwe.
Discussion Questions:
  • Create a map of your neighborhood, town or city and the major transportation routes. How do these organize and impact the area?
  • What does the Combahee River Collective mean by "the major systems of oppression are interlocking"? 
  • Choose one item you use frequently (phone, computer, shoes, soda) and create a map of the resources that make up this item. Who lives on or near the land where the resources come from?
Additional Resources:
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