Sovereignty for Survival American Energy Development and Indian Self-Determination James Robert Allison

The Lamar Series in Western History
Publication date:
20 Oct 2015
Yale University Press
256 pages: 235 x 156 x 24mm
5 b-w illus.
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In the years following World War II many multi-national energy firms, bolstered by outdated U.S. federal laws, turned their attention to the abundant resources buried beneath Native American reservations. By the 1970s, however, a coalition of Native Americans in the Northern Plains had successfully blocked the efforts of powerful energy corporations to develop coal reserves on sovereign Indian land. This challenge to corporate and federal authorities, initiated by the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations, changed the laws of the land to expand Native American sovereignty while simultaneously reshaping Native identities and Indian Country itself.
James Allison makes an important contribution to ethnic, environmental, and energy studies with this unique exploration of the influence of America’s indigenous peoples on energy policy and development. Allison’s fascinating history documents how certain federally supported, often environmentally damaging, energy projects were perceived by American Indians as potentially disruptive to indigenous lifeways. These perceived threats sparked a pan-tribal resistance movement that ultimately increased Native American autonomy over reservation lands and enabled an unprecedented boom in tribal entrepreneurship. At the same time, the author demonstrates how this movement generated great controversy within Native American communities, inspiring intense debates over culturally authentic forms of indigenous governance and the proper management of tribal lands.

James Robert Allison III is assistant professor in the department of history at Christopher Newport University. He lives in Richmond, VA.

"Before Allison, the story of mineral exploitation of tribal lands was a two-dimensional tale with influence located externally producing dire consequences for the communities themselves. This study challenges us to comprehend the complex interplay of tribal self-determination, multinational corporations, federal Indian policies, and pan-Indian organizing.  Neither an idealized portrayal of the triumph of tribal sovereignty nor a critical dissection of capitalism’s corrosive effects, Allison’s analysis significantly advances our understanding of self-determination and economic change."—Brian Hosmer, University of Tulsa

Sovereignty for Survival tells the important story of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow and how energy development provided a seminal opportunity for tribes throughout the West to define their future.  James Allison’s authoritative story of late-twentieth-century policy fills a clear gap in energy history and speaks to many issues facing the West today.”—Brian Black, Penn State University

"Allison takes a little-considered tribe and explores comparatively the cultural choices and legal ramifications of converting natural resources into energy into political power in the twentieth century. Sovereignty for Survival is a carefully crafted and fluidly written meditation on the interplay between Indian policy and law, tribal self-determination, and Native identity that will change the way we think about each."—David Rich Lewis, Utah State University

 “[Sovereignty for Survival: American Energy Development and Indian Self-Determination] is a well—written documentation of an important and underappreciated history that contributes to how we think about tribal sovereignty and development in reservation communities.”—Andrew Curley, American Indian Culture and Research Journal