Police Violence Against Native Americans Syllabus
Mah-Hi-Vist Goodblanket, Christina Tahhahwah, John T. Williams, Nicholas “Sul” Concha, Corey Kanosh, Benjamin Whiteshield, Christopher J. Capps, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Loreal Juana Barnell Tsingine, and Paul Castaway are just some of the Native Americans who have recently been killed by police. Indeed, Native Americans are the race most likely to be killed by law enforcement. Yet these stories are ignored in mainstream media. Violence against Native women is an epidemic: one in three Native women will be raped in her life time, and Native women are murdered at a rate ten times the national average. Yet this violence is often not known outside of Native communities. Over and over again, violence against Native Americans is rendered invisible. This syllabus was formed to help fill this absence.
Even if ignored in mainstream social culture, Native Americans are always organizing and advocating around issues that impact them. The original Native Lives Matter Coalition (website here, facebook page here, and twitter here), for example, which is based in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, works to prevent violence against Native communities, address treaty violations, and advocate for environmental justice. Settler-colonialism - an oppression unique to indigenous peoples - connects all of these issues. This syllabus focuses specifically on violence and recognizes the role of settler-colonialism and systemic racism.
Wait! What is “settler colonialism”? How is it different from other forms of colonialism? What is the significance of using this term over others? Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism in which the colonizers seek land, not just resources. Thus, the elimination of the indigenous people on the land is required for the colonizers to replace them. Indigenous people must “disappear” in order for the project of settler-colonialism to be fulfilled; literally (e.g.: murder or removal from land), culturally (e.g.: making their languages or religions illegal), and within the public mind (how often do we see Native Americans in mainstream media and consciousness?). Examples are the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
This syllabus is arranged topically, and in addition to touching on issues such as police violence and violence against women, we provide a historical and political framework. Why are there such high levels of violence impacting Native communities? What laws prevent tribal communities from protecting their own citizens? How are contemporary violences woven with histories of colonialism, racism, and heterosexism?
We acknowledge this is not the full spectrum of available resources and readings. As much as possible, we have tried to choose resources available for free online. However, there are quite a few critical books that we have included on the list that you can find at your local library or bookstore. Additionally, it should be noted that though the website in general privileges the work of marginalized peoples, this syllabus contains the work of both indigenous and non-indigenous writers. Not every reader will agree with everything on this list; if you don't like something, move on to the next one.
Please note that this is meant to be a starting point of the conversation point. The goal of this syllabus is to engage people who are beginning to discuss these issues; this is not for your graduate school seminar. If you have suggestions on other items to include (especially videos, poetry, or art), please let us know! Thank you to those who have assisted in collecting these resources.
We are in strong support and solidarity with Native Americans as they work to lift their communities from violence and bring about justice. We hope these resources inspire you to get involved. Support Native lives. Decolonize. Know Our History. Know Our Struggle. Feel Our Resilience.
We are in support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and encourage you to also check out the Black Lives Matter Syllabus website, by whom we were inspired. Thank you for your leadership on these issues.
This syllabus was compiled and written by Abaki Beck (Blackfeet & Red River Metis). It was last edited October 10, 2016.
Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe (1978)- Asserted that tribal courts could not prosecute non-Native offenders, even if they are on tribal land
Tribal Law and Order Act (2010) - Increased tribal ability to prosecute criminals and helped to expand tribal police forces (Related to TLOA, check out the report U.S. Department of Justice Indian Country Investigations and Prosecuting 2011-2012)
Violence Against Women Act (2014) - Increased tribal jurisdiction in prosecuting non-Native offenders in some sexual assault cases
Structural Background on Violence Against and Within Native Communities:
Book Suggestion: Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West by Ned Blackhawk. Harvard University Press (April 30, 2008)
Book Suggestion: An Indigenous Peoples' History of America by Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz. Beacon Press; 1 edition (August 11, 2015)
Book Suggestion: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 12, 2016)
Book Suggestion: Red Skins, White Masks: Rejecting Colonial Politics of Recognition by Glen Sean Coulthard. Univ Of Minnesota Press; First Edition edition (September 7, 2014)
Book Suggestion: What Does Justice Look Like?: The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland by Waziyatawin, Living Justice Press; First edition (September 9, 2008).
Book Suggestion: Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization by Robert A. Williams, Jr, St. Martin’s Press (August 21, 2012)
Book Suggestion: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond. W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (April 1, 1999)*
*please note that the work of Jared M. Diamond is controversial among indigenous scholars, some of whom critique his research methods.
Documentary Transcript: “We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee” Documentary Transcript, PBS, American Experience
Article: “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (read our summary here)
Article: “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native” by Patrick Wolfe
Article: “After the Frontier: Separation and Absorption in US Indian Policy” by Patrick Wolfe
Article: "The Forgotten Slavery" by Margaret Ellen Newell
NATIVE LIVES MATTER ACTIVISM
What is Native Lives Matter?
The term "Native Lives Matter" evolved in response to and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement calling attention to issues of police brutality. Our communities are similarly impacted by state violence.
Article: An Indigenous View on Black Lives Matter, Leanne Simpson, Yes! Magazine, December 2014
Article: #NativeLivesMatter: It’s a Different Kind of Hurt, Johnnie Jae, Native News Online, December 2014
Article: Native Lives Matter, Too by Lydia Millet, the New York Times, October 2015
Article: Native Lives Matter goes beyond police brutality by Aaron G. Fountain, Jr., Al Jazeera America, February 2016
POLICING & POLICE VIOLENCE
Book Suggestion: Policing Race and Place in Indian Country: Over and Under Enforcement by Barbara Perry, Lexington Books (January 16, 2009)
Book Suggestion: Inventing the Savage: The Social Construction of Native American Criminality by Luana Ross. University of Texas Press (1998)
Article: “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origin of American Policing” by Victor E. Kappeler
Article: “Native Americans Get Shot by Cops at an Astonishing Rate,” Al Vicens, MotherJones, July 2015
Article: “U.S. Must Return ALL Stolen Land to Native Tribes In Order to End Police Brutality and Racism” by Counter Current News
Report: Native Lives Matter by the Lakota Law Project (report on police brutality)
Resource: “Tribal Governance” webpage by the National Congress of American Indians
Book suggestion: Indians in Prison: Incarcerated Native Americans in Nebraska by Elizabeth S. Grobsmith. University of Nebraska Press; First Edition/First Printing edition (February 1, 1994)A
Article: “The Quiet Crisis in Native American Juvenile Justice” by Robert Winters
Article: “The American Indian in the White Man’s Prison: A Story of Genocide, 1989” by Little Rock (Timothy) Reed
Article: Sweat Lodges in American Prisons by Prison Legal News
Article: Mass Incarceration Since 1492: Native American Encounters with Criminal Injustice by James Kilgore for Truthout, February 2016
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Book suggestion: The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America by Sarah Deer. Univ Of Minnesota Press (November 1, 2015). Read an interview with the author to learn more about her book here
Book suggestion: Chain Her by One Foot: The Subjugation of Native Women in Seventeenth Century New France by Karen Anderson. Routledge, 1993
Book suggestion: Injustice in Indian Country: Jurisdiction, American Law, and Sexual Violence Against Native Women by Amy L. Casselman, Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers (November 29, 2015)
Novel Suggestion: The Round House, a novel by Louise Erdrich, Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 24, 2013)
Report: Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA, Amnesty International Report
Article: Broken Justice in Indian Country, N. Bruce Duthu, August 2008
Resource: “Ending Violence Against Native Women” webpage by the Indian Law Resource Center
Resource: The Counted: People killed by the police in the US, database by the Guardian
Resource: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Solidarity Campaign (from Native Lives Matter website)
Resource: Origins of the Women's Memorial March (in Minneapolis)