Aram Mattioli’s “Times of Rebellion”

Dhe sport fishermen came at night. They used rocks to attack Native Americans who were fishing for salmon in Puget Sound in the early 1960s, just as their ancestors had done for centuries. The attackers verbally abused the people in the boats, then game wardens intervened. But it was the indigenous people who went to prison for poaching – in an area where the state had contractually allowed them to fish.

The economies and cultures of the Puyallup, Nisqually, and Muckleshoot were based on fishing, but Washington State continued to restrict their rights. In his new book “Times of Rebellion”, the Lucerne historian Aram Mattioli tells of the years of conflict that became a milestone in political resistance as the “Fish War”. Mattioli traces how the twentieth century’s Indigenous nations of America struggled against their ongoing disenfranchisement and discrimination.

The result is an overview of the history of their political activism, which is also easy to read for non-historians. Extensive research into sources and literature brings to light stories about people who often remain unknown in Europe. There is Clyde Warrior, co-founder of the National Indian Youth Council, who criticized the American system in the 1960s as a “combination of colonialism, segregation and discrimination”. Or Madonna Thunder Hawk, who took part in an occupation of the prison island of Alcatraz in California and decades later organized resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Women have always played an important role in the Native American resistance, even though its most prominent actors have been men.

They had spoken in Congress and appealed to the Supreme Court

For his study, Mattioli chose the period from 1911 to 1992. In 1911, the Society of American Indians was the first cross-interest organization to be founded. In 1992, indigenous activists protested against the 500th anniversary of the so-called discovery of America. The historian analyzes how the approximately six hundred indigenous nations formed alliances with one another in the twentieth century in order to better resist internal colonialism. In doing so, they relied on the means available to them through the rule of law and parliamentarianism, as well as on civil disobedience, which also shaped the African-American civil rights movement. It is remarkable how early on the native peoples tried to put international pressure on the American government by enlisting support from the League of Nations and the United Nations – albeit largely without success.

Aram Mattioli:

Aram Mattioli: “Times of Rebellion”. A History of Indigenous Resistance in America.

Image: Klett-Cotta Verlag

Mattioli also recalls that Democrats and Republicans did not differ much in their dealings with Native Americans. Many indigenous nations had hoped for support from President John F. Kennedy because he had courted them during the election campaign. But Kennedy pushed ahead with a project that became one of the focal points of the resistance. The Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania was planned during the New Deal era. The federal government wanted to dam the Allegheny River in a way that would prevent flooding and generate electricity for the region’s growing population.

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