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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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Late 1700s-1800s: Colonizing the West

Late 1700s-1800s: Native people are forced to convert, labor and live in Spanish Missions throughout what is now the Southwest and West of the United States. From the East, the United States military and settlers push West. Disease outbreaks, loss of land and food sources and war decimate Native populations.  [User Created Media]

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1775/1785: Early resistance to Missions included the 1775 destruction of Mission San Diego and the 1785 effort to destroy San Gabriel, led by the Tongva shaman Toypurina.
  • 1866: Red Cloud and the battle to save Powder River halt internment of Native Americans in Wyoming.  Miners increasingly use the area. 
  • 1872: Captain Jack and the Modoc successfully resist U.S. army in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • 1876: After breaking the Fort Laramie Treaty, which protected the Black Hills as Lakota land, the U.S. Army is defeated by an alliance of Native tribes.
  • 1877: Resistance of the Nee-Me-Poo (Nez Perce), who originally welcomed and fed the Lewis and Clark expedition. 
  • 1973: Occupation of Wounded Knee in response to corruption in tribal government, the lack of prosecution of white people attacking Lakota and the larger American Indian Movement. 
  • 1985: Katsi Cook organizes the Akwesasne Mother’s Milk project to "understand and characterize how toxic contaminants have moved through the local food chain, including mother's milk." For the Akwesasne Mohawk community in upstate New York, the majority of the contaminants come from GM plants.
  • 2011: Fighting the erasure and profiling of contemporary Native people, Native students from South Dakota create a response to Diane Sawyer’s ABC special on the plight of contemporary Native people.

Discussion Questions:
  • Compare and contrast reservations, modern prisons and inner cities. How are they different/similar?
  • What justifications are given today for taking over someone's land (when someone is evicted, when a war is waged)? How are they related to the taking of Native American land in North America?
  • Imagine the landscape of the West if all treaties were still honored. What would the government and culture of where you live look like?
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