Propter Nos, Vol 2. Issue 1



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This issue of Propter Nos offers a collection of essays, poetry, artwork, and prose that meditates on the interrelated phenomena of insurgency and exhaustion. We use the term “insurgency” to describe an approach to political struggle that is comprised of individuals, groups, units, and cells working together through decentralized networks, on multiple scales, and across different institutional sites to abolish a society structured in dominance. Some contributors use the term with a more specific meaning, referring to a form of counter-warfare in which clandestine and “above-ground” formations combine their political resources with the principled use of violence to achieve revolutionary strategic objectives. Yet while insurgency is a key thematic framing this issue, many contributors explore exhaustion as an inherent aspect of growing, nurturing, and sustaining opposition to the dominant culture—its state and military, its laws and mode of production, its moral and aesthetic values. What exactly are the long-term consequences of our most cherished approaches to organizing, education, and cultural praxis? Are the leading paradigms, strategies, and tactics of political work at all sustain­able? What if we admit that we are burnt out? Stress, fatigue, burnout, war-weariness, and emotional expenditure are all inherent elements of building mass movements against anti-blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, racial capitalism, and cis-heteropatriarchy. As in all aspects of life, without the proper diagnosis, healing, care, and rest, exhaustion weakens our capacity to effectively guard against the forces of counterinsurgency. In a moment when the World has become ever-so politicized, enraged, and emboldened, what would it mean if we made room to consider the effects of exhaustion in the pro­cesses of building anti-systemic insurgency? What direction would our struggles take if we troubled the insistence on an ever-approaching future plentitude?



August Communiqué

True Leap Press is a radical publishing collective based in Chicago, Illinois. We support the intellectual struggle and advocate for the building of mass-based projects for antiracist, anticapitalist, and antipatriarchal political education. Our collective encourages any-and-all forms of revolt and insurrection against global anti-blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy. We also aim to facilitate the growth of a progressive political consciousness that is deliberately antipatriotic and against all forms of U.S. nationalism.

In the coming years, we hope to increase our number of publications, establish infrastructure for printing and distribution, and grow our capacity to work across prison walls. Our current (soon to be print) publication is entitled PROPTER NOS. It offers a platform for Black and radical antiracist theoretical and cultural work—such as poetry, short essays, experimental writing, artwork—and will also increasingly serve as a source of commentary and analysis from imprisoned activists and grassroots abolitionist organizations.

Referring to the collective sense of “We” that inspires the mobilization and identity formation of a People, the Latin phrase “Propter Nos” is the title we chose for our first publication. This is because we believe that one of the central tasks of building consciousness amongst colonized, imprisoned, working class, and poor peoples is to build spaces where a core set of political principles can be cultivated amidst the contradictions and antagonisms inherent to revolutionary movement building.

True Leap Press believes that establishing a clearinghouse for the formulation of a vision of mass insurgency among differently situated communities of struggle is a necessary (and urgent) task in the present moment of white nationalist resurgence and patriotic liberal counterrevolution. We therefore obstinately oppose the mythology of U.S. exceptionalism and white manifest destiny, and do not presume that American liberal democracy is an inherent “good.” Instead, we hope PROPTER NOS will serve as a forum for works that invigorate a different sense of common political consciousness, one rooted in the historical experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Queer movements mobilizing against the white capitalist civilization and nation-building project of the United States.

The works included in each volume of PROPTER NOS loosely operate in accordance with the Black Liberation Army’s principle of “unity-criticism-unity.” This concept refers the “process of the members of a group, unit or organization united on a set of principles and objectives to struggle internally, behind closed doors among themselves.” This process is carried out in practice by working together with comrades, “observing and analyzing each other’s errors, and then offering constructive criticism to each other to correct errors and overcome any shortcomings.” The unity-criticism-unity approach is meant to “strengthen each other and thus advance the group, unit or organization” towards its revolutionary objectives. This type of practice also means remaining open to forming larger strategic networks and fronts.

By labeling an insurgent collaboration “strategic,” we simply mean a relationship formed between two or more groups based on a purpose that is contingent on the short- or long-term goals of participant organizations, cells, or even between differing movements. Networks and fronts aligned by shared strategic objectives—if practiced in a principled manner—hold the potential for facilitating the creation of dynamic forms of insurgency that operate simultaneously on different scales, across multiple institutional sites, and amongst a broader formation of insurgent cells working towards their own unique political ends. We also urge differently situated groups, units, organizations, and movements to not only engage in these strategy-driven configurations and joint processes of reflection, but also to approach mass political education and the art of movement building in a way that maintains awareness of how we are all complicit (albeit to varying degrees) in the ritualized and programmatic violences that constitute American social and gendered racial formation. This is a principle developed over the last two decades by the national antiviolence organization INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.

Our publishing collective is itself aligned by a shared understanding of the U.S. regime of policing and imprisonment as a fundamentally anti-Black regime of physiological, psychic, and cultural violence that is traceable to the epoch of plantation slavery. We are quite deliberate in our efforts to maintain a political line that works critically and reflexively in collaboration with “above-” and “underground” organizations in the movement to abolish domestic warfare and the prison industrial complex. Our intention here is to support intellectual and cultural work that is directly connected to and relevant for the project of abolition. If, as abolitionists have argued for decades, the racial carceral-policing regime is not only a domestic military apparatus but a rigorous cultural production, then our enemy-in-struggle is also the mythologies, norms, and collective sense of “We” that has driven the last five-hundred-years of settler land-ecological conquest, racial chattel slavery, (proto)genocidal warfare, and empire.

         For a print copies of PROPTER NOS, please send a request by snail-mail. We try to respond to mail as quickly as possible, but during our editing cycles and around certain deadlines our replies might be slightly delayed. We thank you for your patience in advance and hope to continue facilitate the dissemination of sharp criticism and analysis for the road ahead. To download PN in digital format please follow the link on our site.

Download, print, share and circulate our statement in PDF form HERE

*A version of this communiqué will appear in Issue #28 of The Abolitionist.


Propter Nos. Vol. 1 Issue 1

The inaugural issue of our journal, Propter Nos.

Vol. 1 Issue 1 (Fall 2016): Reflections on the “Movement Moment”

Download link: Propter Nos Vol 1 Issue 1


The goal of this first publication is to produce a space for commentary and reflection on the last half-decade of an emergent Black protest movement. Forgoing a paternalistic posture or the assumption that a “pure” form of political consciousness is attainable, our publishing collective sees the role of this publication as merely a tool among many other tools. With this publication we only wish to 1.) problematize the discourse that frames and informs the popular movement’s terms of engagement, 2.) generate modes of analysis that demystify the circulation and consumption of images of racial and sexual violence in the media, 3.) revise and revisit the three-pronged cultural project of the Black arts, aesthetics, and studies movements, 4.) provide an outlet in which information from counterintelligence operations for the Black movement against the racist capitalist state can be recorded, accumulated, and disseminated.


Time on Ice

Florida Officials Torture Prisoners

With Freezing Strip Cells

By Kevin Rashid Johnson


When I first arrived in the Florida prison system on June 22, 2017, and was thrown in solitary confinement in the latest of numerous retaliatory interstate transfers for publicizing and resisting prison abuses, I questioned and discussed with numerous other prisoners our being forced to live in sweltering cells without air-conditioning, or fans, or any other protections against the severe Florida heat….

DOWNLOAD “Time On Ice”

Propter Nos ~ Now Available @ New Locations

Paperback copies of our periodical publication PROPTER NOS

are NOW AVAILABLE for purchase at the following locations:

The Armadillo’s Pillow 
Women & Children First Bookstore
Quimby’s Bookstore 
Volumes Bookcafe
Blood Fruit Library & Coffee
34 Trinity Arts & News (San Francisco)

PN now for sale!


You can also order individual copies via snail-mail:

True Leap Publishing Collective, P.O. Box 408197 Chicago IL, 60640.

Please enclose $15.00 per book requested.

We can do bulk orders up to 10 copies, but books must be purchased up front. 


Don’t worry, PN is also always available for free download on our website


January Study Packet (2018)

The below list of materials is abolitionist food-for-thought. Each collective-author pushes the limits of what a mass struggle to abolish white supremacist domestic warfare and the U.S. prison industrial complex could look like. These can be shared electronically, printed out, mailed to friends/comrades, memorized, or otherwise circulated freely.

All items reproduced for educational purposes and are not the creation of True Leap Press


Reading List for January 2018:

Angela Davis –  Are Prisons Obsolete?

Angela Davis –   Slavery and the Prison Industrial Complex

Angela Davis & Cassandra Shaylor –  Race, Gender, and the Prison Industrial Complex

Liz Appel –   White Supremacy in the Movement Against the Prison-Industrial-Complex

Frank Wilderson – The Prison Slave As Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal

> Courtesy of Ill Will Editions

Julia C. Oparah –   Maroon Abolitionists: Black Gender-Oppressed Activists in the Anti-Prison Movement

> Found in Smith & Stanley’s Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex. Oakland & Edinburgh: AK Press, 2011.

Mariame Kaba –  On Self-Defense

> To learn about Mariame’s work, see: US Prison Culture (blog) or follow her on twitter: @prisonculture

Butch Lee –  The Re-Biography of Harriett Tubman

> This book is originally published by Kersplebedeb, and can be purchased at https://www.leftwingbooks.net

Critical Resistance –  The Abolitionist Toolkit

> Learn more about Critical Resistance and follow them on twitter: @C_Resistance


Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN) –   Below & Beyond Trump: Power & Counter-Power in 2017

Federación Anarquista Black Rose / Rosa Negra (BRRN) –  Bajo Trump y más allá: Poder y contrapoder en 2017

J. Sakai –  On Fascism

>This book is originally published by Kersplebedeb, and can be purchased at https://www.leftwingbooks.net

Dylan Rodríguez –  On the Fascism Problematic

Dylan Rodríguez –  Genocide and/as American Social Formation

Sub.Media –  What is Race?

Andrea Smith –  Three Pillars of White Supremacy

Denise Ferreira Da Silva –  Toward a Global Idea of Race

Seminario Permanente de Teoría y Crítica –   Book Review: Toward a Global Idea of Race

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image courtesy of: Black Autonomy Federation

all items reproduced for educational purposes 

and are not the creation of True Leap Press

Bibliography of Hortense J. Spillers

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We are avid readers of Hortense J. Spillers and believe this bibliography of her life’s work will be a useful tool for people interested in reading and learning. Two summers ago our collective held a reading group, exchanging our thoughts on Spillers’ collection of essays Black, White, and in Color (2003). Through that experience we became most familiar with her work. Professor Spillers is a Black radical literary and cultural theorist who is oft cited for her essays “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words” (1984) and “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” (1987). Yet, her life’s work in papers, essays, speeches, and interview transcript spans over FOUR DECADES, and she is writing and teaching to this present day. Please take some time to get to know and appreciate her philosophical outlook. Below is a list of every work (to our knowledge) that she has published since 1970. We’ve also attached a zip file for ya’ll to download most of the titles listed below. Enjoy. 

download link:  Spillers Essays, Interviews, and Book Reviews

If there are any missing essays, articles, interviews, or titles that you find,
please contact our collective and let us know.
None of the materials are original creations of TLP,
but are republished online for educational purposes only.



Hortense J. Spillers

Working Bibliography and Source Book

[last updated 7/3/17]

  1. “Letters to The Black Scholar (with Paul F. Johnson and Robert Boyd.” The Black Scholar 2:3 (1970): 53-54.
  2. “Martin Luther King and the Style of the Black Sermon.” The Black Scholar 3:1 (1971): 14-27.
  3. Fabrics of History: Essays on the Black Sermon. Dissertation. Brandeis University, 1974.
  4. “A Lament.” The Black Scholar 8:5 (1977): 12-16.
  5. “Ellison’s “Useable Past”: Toward a Theory of Myth.” Interpretations 9:1 (1977): 53-69.
  6. “A Day in the Life of Civil Right.” The Black Scholar 9:8/9 (1978): 20-27.
  7. “Gwendolyn the Terrible: Propositions on Eleven Poems.” In Shakespeare’s Sisters, edited by Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert, 233-244. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.
  8. “Formalism Comes to Harlem.” Black American Literature Forum 16 (1982): 56-63.
  9. “Black American Literature and Humanism edited by R. Baxter Miller (review).” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 82:4 (1983): 583-586.
  10. “A Hateful Passion, a Lost Love.” Feminist Studies 9:2 (1983): 293-323.
  11. “‘Turning the Century’: Notes on Women and Difference (review).” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 3:1/2 (1984): 178-185.
  12. “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words.” In Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, edited by Carol Vance, 73-101. London: Routledge, 1984.
  13. “Kinship and Resemblances: Women on Women.” Feminist Studies 11:1 (1985): 111-125.
  14. “An Order of Constancy: Notes on Brooks and the Feminine.” The Centennial Review 29:2 (1985): 223-248.
  15. “Chosen Place, Timeless People: Some Figurations on the New World.” In Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, edited by Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers, 151-174. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
  16. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics 17:2 (1987): 64-81.
  17. “Moving Down the Line.” American Quarterly 40:1 (1988): 83-109.
  18. “The Permanent Obliquity of an In(pha)llibly Straight”: In the Time of the Daughters and the Fathers.” In Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women, edited by Cheryl A. Wall, 127-49. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989.
  19. “Changing the Letter: The Yokes, the Jokes of Discourse, or, Mrs. Stowe, Mr. Reed.” InSlavery and the Literary Imagination, 25-61. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
  20. “Notes on an Alternative Model—Neither/Nor.”In The Difference Within: Feminism and Critical Theory, edited by Elizabeth Meese and Alice Parker, 165-187. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1989.
  21. “Black, White, and in Color, or Learning How to Paint: Toward an Intramural Protocol of Reading.” Paper presented at the “Sites of Colonialism” retreat, Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture, University of Pennsylvania, 1990.
  22. “Who Cuts the Border? Some Readings on America.” In Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text, edited by Hortense Spillers, 1-25. New York: Routledge, 1991.
  23. “Reading the Future, Future Reading.” The Women’s Review of Books 8:5 (1991): 20-21
  24. “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Post-Date.” boundary 2 21:3 (1994)
  25. “Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory (review).” African American Review 1 (1995)
  26. “All the Things You Could Be by Now, If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother”: Psychoanalysis and Race.” boundary 2 23:3 (1996): 75-141.
  27. “HORTENSE SPILLERS.” interviewed by Tim Haslett for the Black Cultural Studies web site collective in Ithaca, NY February 4, 1998. url: http://www.blackculturalstudies.net/spillers/spillers_intvw.html
  28. “Race Men (review).” Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire. 2:3 (1999): 63.
  29. “Uber Against Race (review).” Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire 3:2 (2001): 59.
  30. “Roundtable: Restoring Feminist Politics to poststructuralist Critique (with Susan Lurie, Ann Cvetkovich, Jane Gallop, Tania Modleski, Hortense Spillers and Carla Kaplan).” Feminist Studies 27:3 (2001): 679-707.
  31. Faulkner Adds Up: Reading Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and Fury.” In Faulkner in America, edited by Joseph R. Urgo and Ann J. Abadie, 25-44. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
  32. “The Little Man at Chehaw Station” Today boundary 2 30:2 (2003): 5-19.
  33. “Peter’s Pans: Eating in the Diaspora.” Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, 1-64. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  34. “Traveling with Faulkner.” In Critical Quarterly 45:4 (2003): 18-34.
  35. “Topographical Topics: Faulknerian Space.” Mississippi Quarterly 57:4 (2004): 539-568.
  36. “A Tale of Three Zoras: Barbara Johnson and Black Women Writers.” diacritics 31:1 (2004): 94-97.
  37. “The Idea of Black Culture.” CR: The New Centennial Review 6:3 (2006): 7-28.
  38. “First Questions: The Mission of Africana Studies: An Interview with Hortense Spillers.” Callaloo 30:4 (2007): 1054-1068.
  39. ‘“Watcha Gonna Do?”: Revisiting “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book”: A Conversation with Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Shelly Eversley, and Jennifer L. Morgan.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 25:1/2 (2007)”: 299-309.
  40. “Imaginative Encounters.” In Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory, edited by Marleen S. Barr, 3-5. 2008.
  41. “Views of the East Wing: On Michelle Obama.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 6:3 (2009): 307-310.
  42. “Long Time”: Last Daughters and the New “New South.” boundary 2 (2009): 149-182.
  43. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe, Too.” Trans-Scripts 1 (2011)
  44. “A Transatlantic Circuit: Baldwin at Mid-Century opening Keynote Address.” Callaloo 35:4 (2012): 929-938.
  45. “African American Women and the Republics.” In Reconsidering Social Identities: Race, Gender, Caste, and Class, edited by Abdul R. JanMohamed, 19-41. London; New York; New Delhi: Routledge, 2011.
  46. “Destiny’s Child: Obama and Election ’08.” boundary 2 39:2 (2012)
  47. “Discomforts.” boundary 2 41:2 (2014)
  48. “Writing and States of Emergency.” In The Power of Writing, edited by Christiane Donahue and Kelly Blewett, 57-73. Hanover: Dartmouth College Press, 2015.
  49. “Art Talk and the Uses of History (review).” Small Axe 19:3 (2015): 175-185.
  50. “Racial Blackness and the (Dis)continuity of Western Modernity by Lindon Barrett (review).” Modernism/modernity 23:1 (2016): 251-255.




If there are any missing essays, articles, interviews, or titles that you find, please contact our collective and let us know. We want to make this work accessible as possible.



DIVISIBLE: Breaking up the U.S.

by Bromma

 What will the dismemberment of the U.S. look like? 

One thing we do know is that the necessary negotiations and decisions about redrawing the map of a dying settler state belong in the hands of oppressed nations and peoples, not the white settler population. 



This essay first appeared on the Kersplebedeb website (www.kersplebedeb.com). Other writings of Bromma’s are also available on the Kersplebedeb site, and in print through www.leftwingbooks.netThis piece was republished in our latest issue of PROPTER NOS.

As U.S. politics lurches rapidly to the right, worried residents wonder about getting out. Friends talk among themselves about moving to Canada, Europe, Mexico—anywhere to escape Trumpland. Taking a different angle, some activists propose separating the “blue states” from the “red states,” essentially redrawing the map of North America. One plan calls for the West Coast to secede. Others lobby for California to become an independent country. So far, most radicals don’t seem too serious about these exit strategies. But they do have a serious aspect. For one thing, if things keep getting worse, some of us might be forced to flee. What’s optional now could become a necessity.

            But whether that happens or not, U.S. borders are going to be the focus of intense political struggle in the coming period. We already see it happening. The borders are brute physical expressions of the authority of the empire and its state. So naturally they are zones of contention, especially in times of social stress. Principled radicals in North America have always challenged the U.S.’s arrogant territorial claims and its corrupt settler nationalism. Right now, as the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees are thrown into turmoil by the Trump regime, we’re forcefully reminded that this challenge is no abstraction. It’s a concrete practical obligation.

            So it makes sense for us to think creatively (and disloyally) about the borders of the empire we live in. With or without Trump, we should never adopt the oppressors’ borders as our unchangeable destiny. But we need to generate better solutions than hunkering down with Democrats in “blue” California, or searching for a friendlier, more progressive home overseas. Our strategy must be more radical than that.


It won’t last forever

            The U.S. isn’t a legitimate nation. It was formed by war criminals and human traffickers who raped and pillaged their way across the continent. It became rich through genocidal land grabs, slavery, white supremacy and colonialism. The U.S.’s imposed imperial borders and its colonial claims are buttressed by white capitalists’ economic dominance and the overwhelming power of their military. But those circumstances won’t last forever.

            Every empire falls eventually. And today the U.S. is a declining superpower, wobbling on the edge of economic and social collapse. Its industrial base is hollowed out; its infrastructure and educational systems are crumbling. Imperial rivals are snapping at its heels. Its environment and food supply are compromised. Its corrupt health care “system” is in chaos. Its rulers, in their insatiable hunger for obscene profits, have become addicted to elaborate financial swindles that are more and more vulnerable to global economic shocks. The current US regime’s greedy, blundering imperial foreign policy threatens to ignite major wars, which probably won’t turn out well for them.

            The New Deal “social contract” between U.S. capitalists and their white population is being phased out. Capitalists don’t want to pay for it any more. They’re rolling the dice on a meaner and cheaper version of the “American Dream” for the white masses, even though that has already caused greater social instability. They’re counting on naked racism to maintain white loyalty, and on naked force to contain the emerging non-white majority. But reactionary populism, repression and race conflict have volatile side effects; they lead to unexpected consequences.


Rapid change

            When empires fall, they can fall fast and fall hard. It wasn’t that long ago that the Soviet Union was a major superpower, rivaling the U.S. in military power and geostrategic influence. Starting in 1985, during a period of economic stagnation and military overextension, Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev and his crew decided to shake things up with a new set of economic, political and foreign policies that they thought would “make the U.S.S.R. great again.” But as it turned out, they had underestimated the underlying weakness of the U.S.S.R.’s economy, and overestimated its social cohesion. Over the course of just six years, the Soviet Union collapsed. Not only was the Soviet Union officially dissolved into more than a dozen sovereign countries, but some of those countries sub-divided further into separate nations along old historical lines. For instance, Yugoslavia broke down initially into Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro; after further secessions there are now seven independent states within its former borders. Czechoslovakia divided into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. On the other hand, East Germany reunited with West Germany. Some former Soviet countries are still allies of the Russian Federation, while others joined NATO. What had seemed like an established order with fixed borders changed almost overnight.

            There are lots of differences between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., of course. But this empire will also fall someday, unable to survive its own centrifugal forces and its own geopolitical overextension. As with the Soviet Union, that fall may happen sooner that we expect. Today’s volatile political and economic turmoil could easily spiral into depression, world war, total fascism or civil war. Fragmentation and division could spike suddenly and gain momentum quickly, like they did in the U.S.S.R.


Not “our” country

            Will the collapse of the U.S. as a political entity be good or bad? Well, clearly it could have a variety of outcomes, depending on how it happens, and the strength of all the active social forces. But a disintegrating U.S. certainly offers opportunities for oppressed people and for revolutionaries—if we’re prepared. One thing’s for sure: for activists serious about fighting oppression, the U.S. isn’t “our” country. We don’t pledge allegiance to it. We don’t consider it “one nation under God” or “indivisible.” We don’t celebrate the Euro-settler conquest of North America. The U.S. is a prison-house of nations, held together by white supremacy and imperialism. If it falls apart, that’s no reason to mourn. In fact, we shouldn’t wait to see if the U.S. disintegrates on its own. We should be strategizing right now about breaking it up. We should be trying to make it happen, on our terms.


Fault lines

            What will the dismemberment of the U.S. look like? There are lots of theoretical possibilities, with different timelines. But more than likely, a breakup will happen along the deep national fault lines that already exist.


  1. During the genocidal removal of Native peoples from their lands, more than 370 treaties were ratified between the U.S. and Indian nations. These treaties were coerced or fraudulently obtained. And afterwards, as we know, the treaties were systematically violated to facilitate additional settler land grabs. According to the federal government’s own research, the land that was never legally ceded, even under duress, by Native peoples to the U.S., amounts to approximately one third of the land mass of the contiguous 48 states (without even considering Indigenous land in Hawai’i or Alaska). There’s no way that the injustices done to Indigenous peoples in North America can be reversed without the reestablishment of full Native self-determination, and the return of huge tracts of stolen land throughout the continent (including Canada and Mexico). That alone requires breaking down the existing borders of the settler state.


  1. In 1848, the U.S. militarily imposed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Mexico. This treaty forced Mexico to turn over more than half of its entire land area to the U.S., including California, parts of Texas, half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada and Utah and parts of Wyoming and Colorado—525,000 square miles. As many Mexicans say, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Today the Trump regime is fixated on building a “physically imposing” wall running for thousands of miles along the entire artificial U.S./Mexico border. This wall-building obsession isn’t a sign of strength, but of weakness. It reflects insecurity about the empire’s ability to sustain white power and to dominate the peoples of Latin America in the future. Mexicans have the right to live, work and travel freely within their national territory—on both sides of the illegitimate boundary that currently divides it. Mexicans, Chican@, and Indigenous peoples must decide their own futures on the land stolen from them, with secession from the U.S. as an active option.


  1. Descendants of African slaves have never received the 40 acres and a mule promised to them at the end of the Civil War. And the Black population has never been treated as citizens by the ruling class or the white population as a whole. In fact, over the course of generations of exploitation and brutal oppression, African Americans were forged into an internal colony of the U.S.; they evolved into a rebellious nation considered both alien and dangerous by settler society. African American communities exist under occupation by the U.S. state. Widespread police terror, systematic discrimination, mass incarceration, gentrification and relentless racism are everyday features of African American life. This constant genocidal assault has been unable to destroy the Black Nation. African American revolutionary nationalists of many tendencies have been fighting for an independent territorial homeland in the Black Belt South for hundreds of years. This is an entirely just claim, which repudiates and de-legitimizes the existing borders of the U.S. Given the historical importance of the Black liberation struggle, the demand for a Black/New Afrikan national territory may play a key role in the deconstruction of the settler state.


  1. Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated territory” owned by the U.S. In other words, it’s a colony. Its 3.5 million residents aren’t allowed to vote for President, Vice President, House of Representatives or Senate, even though Congress exerts “legal” control over the island. There are now over 5 million Puerto Rican nationals living on the U.S. mainland, roughly 10 percent of the total Latin@ population there. Most retain strong ties to the island. There have been imperial military bases on Puerto Rico for generations. The U.S. has crushed several waves of revolutionary struggle, and still rules with an iron fist. The federal government, taking advantage of a deep economic crisis on the island, is currently making plans to cut Puerto Ricans out of any vestiges of control over their own economy. The Puerto Rican diaspora inside the U.S. is also heavily oppressed, facing conditions similar to those confronting African Americans. But Puerto Rico’s right to independence is recognized all over the world. The desire for national freedom for Puerto Rico is strong, with new forms of resistance appearing every year. The Puerto Rican liberation movement could play an important role in breaking down the US’s territorial structure as well as its imperial arrogance.


  1. Hawai’i and Alaska are colonial territories that weren’t formally absorbed into the U.S. until 1959. Alaska doesn’t even have a territorial connection to the rest of the country, requiring an overland passage through Canada. After the U.S. purchased it from Russia in 1867, Alaska was established in the form of a “military district,” which pursued a vicious genocidal policy toward resident Indigenous peoples that continues today. Hawai’i, of course, is a distant island violently wrested away from its Native people in order to generate profits for U.S. capitalists and help them project military force throughout the Pacific Rim. As the U.S. settler state begins to weaken, both Alaska and Hawai’i will likely see a strengthening of existing Indigenous resistance, and renewed demands for independence. The same applies to the Marshall Islands, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam.


  1. The U.S. has a long ugly history of imposing segregation, pogroms, deportations, internment, and savage exploitation on any peoples it classifies as non-white, including descendants of Chinese, Japanese, Aleuts, Filipinos, Arabs, Central Americans and many other nationalities. The lives of millions of national minority residents have been heavily impacted by systemic discrimination and racist violence. Breaking down this institutionalized white supremacy can only be accomplished by demolishing the U.S. settler state and the white nationalism that’s fundamental to it.


Breaking it down

            There’s no unanimous formula for revolutionizing the borders of the U.S. A territorial breakout by one oppressed nationality could set off land struggles by other nationalities. Or a chaotic disruption of the social order might lead to the rise of insurgencies for self-defense and independent community-building. One thing we do know is that the necessary negotiations and decisions about redrawing the map of a dying settler state belong in the hands of oppressed nations and peoples, not the white settler population. The Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika provides one illustration of how conflicting and overlapping land claims might be resolved:

It shall be the policy of the Provisional Government to recognize the just claims of the American Indian nations and other oppressed nations for land in North America. It shall be the policy of the Provisional Government to negotiate with the American Indian Nations the claims which conflict with the claims of the New Afrikan nation and to resolve these claims in the spirit of justice, brotherhood, and mutual revolutionary commitment to the human and natural rights of all oppressed nations in North America.

In the meantime, all radicals, including white radicals, should be struggling to secede—both mentally and physically—from the U.S. Because practically speaking, it’s not just the U.S. ruling elite that we have to overthrow; it’s the settler nation itself.

            As activists of conscience, we should reject political schemes that promise to keep the U.S. intact, while somehow turning it into a “progressive” country. These “left” patriotic scenarios aren’t realistic or honest. They’re based on the pretext that the world’s deadliest imperialist settler state can turn into its opposite; that the bulk of the white settler population will surrender its beloved race privileges, its imperial benefits, and its domination of land and resources in order to lift up the oppressed and return what was stolen. There’s no support to be found anywhere in U.S. history for this fantasy.

            Instead, we need an entirely different alignment: the oppressed peoples of the U.S. empire fighting for self-determination, plus a rebellious white minority acting in solidarity, committed to tearing down colonialism and white supremacy. It’s within that alignment that we all can contribute to the empire’s revolutionary demolition and find a path to freedom.

            Internationalism has always been close to the heart of radical politics. In the long run, we strive to break down arbitrary and unnecessary barriers that divide peoples from each other. Some of us envision a time when nations and borders as we know them are unnecessary. But internationalism doesn’t mean we sweep the U.S. empire’s constant drive to conquer, liquidate or subordinate oppressed nations and nationalities under the rug. For radicals, internationalism is based first of all on the establishment of justice among nations. It’s a voluntary unity of equals—something which can only become a reality if all parties are exercising self-determination.

            This is something white radicals in particular must grasp as a matter of principle. Otherwise, we find ourselves utterly compromised: promoting supposedly progressive politics without fundamentally and fully repudiating the ruling class’s own “internationalist” program of genocide, colonialism, forced assimilation and white domination. That’s how some white leftists end up, through twisted and opportunist logic, blaming oppressed peoples for “divisiveness.”

            Native and national liberation movements face many challenges as they confront modern imperialism. In some cases they’ve been weakened by neo-colonialism and internal divisions, and struggle to regroup and rebuild. Still, given their deep-rooted tenacity, and their strategic position astride the main contradictions in imperial society, these movements are currently the main forces capable of leading an anti-imperialist breakdown of the U.S.

            That breakdown can also be significantly advanced by creating and defending enclaves where people of color, women, gender non-conformists and radicals struggle to create diverse forms of independence and autonomy.

            Unfortunately, on a practical level, the radical Right is ahead of us here. Many die-hard fundamentalists and neo-fascists have already started building enclaves of their own. They’ve grasped a harsh reality: that in a chaotic, deteriorating, violent society, a group’s chances of survival increase according to their social unity, self-sufficiency, control of territory, and capability for self-defense.

            With or without our intervention, the U.S. will disintegrate eventually. If it happens without us planning it, or even expecting it, we could be disoriented and caught in the crossfire. It’s far better to be prepared and proactive. In coming years, as the empire weakens, many strategies for revolutionary change will be proposed, discussed, and attempted. The breakup of the U.S. must be central to those strategies.



Recommended Reading:

J Sakai, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat

Victor Sebestyen, Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

Ward Churchill, I Am Indigenist

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the US

Sanyika Shakur, “Who Are You?”

Butch Lee, The Coming of Black Genocide

Provisional Government, Republic of New Afrika, The Code of Umoja/Black Constitution

Kersplebedeb, “Black Genocide and the Alt-Right”

Rodolfo Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos

Nelson Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony

Oscar Lopez Rivera, Between Torture and Resistance

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, “The United States Makes the Case for Why Puerto Rico is Still its Colony”

Michael Kioni Dudley & Kioni K. Agard, A Call for Hawaiian Sovereignty

J Sakai, Learning From an Unimportant Minority: Race Politics Beyond the White/Black Paradigm


Original url: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/divisible-breaking-up-the-us/

Dancing for Sovereignty

by Jessica Fremland

Free PDF download HERE!

This publication would not have been possible without the water protectors who risked their lives and livelihoods to advocate for Native sovereignty and the protection of Mother Earth’s resources. To them I’d like to say: Wopida taŋka ečičiyapi ye. I am especially grateful to Antonia Juhasz and Simon Moya-Smith who created and made the important videos I analyze in this article available to the public.  The personal conversations I had with each of these filmmakers illuminated their commitment to Native feminist values and the project of decolonization that are reflected in the videos. I look forward to continuing conversations with the filmmakers to build upon the analysis presented in this article.

Image credit: http://www.nodaplarchive.com


On October 28, 2016, just days after hundreds of water protectors1 were arrested and physically assaulted by the Morton County Police Department, leaders of the No Dakota Access Pipeline (NODAPL) movement called on jingle dress dancers to come to the resistance camps adjacent to the Standing Rock Reservation. A large conglomerate of approximately 50 dancers arrived to dance on the frontlines of the action just a day later, with police and armored vehicles just down the road. In this paper, I ask: How can we understand the jingle dress dancers’ movements across colonial configurations of space and time as the embodiment of an indigenous radical tradition? I contend that while the U.S. settler colonial state perpetually demands that indigenous people disappear through processes of assimilation and physical elimination, the act of dancing on the frontlines of a fight for Native sovereignty forces the state to acknowledge a level of indigenous autonomy and incongruity with white settler society.

            The form of dance practiced in this contested space serves as a simultaneous embodied remembrance and imagining. The jingle dress dancers call on the memory of ancestors and cultural teachings to collapse impositions of settler time, space, and patriarchy. The act of dancing in the tradition of ancestors conjures a double presence that recalls the resistance of ancestors and proves that bodies not only remember the violence and pain of colonial conquest, but also the power of indigenous knowledge to subvert and overcome settler-colonial structures. Hence, the dance proves powerful because of its insistence on refusing to be regulated by normative colonial movements. This form of dance, as it accesses embodied memory, gives shape to the notion of indigenous autonomy as it generates the power to move between planes and provides the freedom to define oneself and to determine the parameters of indigenous identity. It legitimates the freedom to practice spiritual traditions regardless of restrictions imposed by the settler government.

            Ultimately, the jingle dress dancers engage in an indigenous radical tradition of imagining an alternative mode of existence rooted in non-heteronormative interpretations of spatial and temporal relations and connectivity. Heteronormative space restricts mobility, especially for Native women. It seeks to confine them to designated domesticated spaces. In the same vein, heteronormative capitalistic notions of temporality are normally calibrated through ideas of sexual and economic productivity; however, this works differently for Natives. Natives are denied both coeval temporality and future temporality. They are primarily talked about as existing in a ‘tragic’ past.2 For jingle dress dancers to so visibly move across this contested space and call upon ancestral knowledge in their imaginings of futurity is to fundamentally challenge colonial heteropatriarchal space and time. In other words, their movements and embodied memories map an unbounded spatial-temporal plane traditionally restricted by the settler state. Additionally, where heteronormative expressions of connectivity emphasize intimate relationships amongst men and women, the jingle dress dancers in the context of the NODAPL movement, express non-hierarchical connections that go beyond the human. Their movements engage a connection between the water, the Earth, ancestors, and animals. Thus, they connect not just to humans, but to energy and to other sentient life forces. These connections assert a precarious freedom, as it is incredibly powerful to be able to assert sovereignty through these reclamations of space, temporality, and futurity; however, these assertions are met with extreme repression to suppress sovereign claims.

            This article explores the extent to which the jingle dress dancers conform to Jaqueline Shea Murphy’s conception of ‘doing indigeneity’. 3 This concept encompasses an understanding of indigeneity as more than a static identity. Rather, much like Maile Arvin’s notion of an analytics of indigeneity, this idea engages indigeneity as something in-process, generative, and imaginative—rooted in traditional “stories protocols, epistemologies, and reciprocal responsivities.”4 As such, to ‘do’ indigeneity is a performative process of using indigenous methods of engaging with the world to ground and envision decolonial possibilities. I hope to illustrate that this method (re)maps—as in constructs and re-signifies—an indigenous feminist space over patriarchal social, geographic, and bodily colonial arrangements. The act of dancing, laughing, and loving in the face of immanent threats to life, freedom, and sovereignty is emblematic of an adamant rejection of the settler’s terms of order.

            This topic necessitates a theoretical analysis of cultural production because the NODAPL movement relied so heavily on images and videos to spread their message. This movement has relied greatly on social media to garner support and to hold the state accountable for its inherent violence. Thus, the videos I am analyzing are found on news outlets and social media sites like Twitter. It should be noted that in contrast to many forms of analysis, I will not be detailing the cultural aspects and meanings of the jingle dress. While this form of analysis may be important in some instances, there has already been scholarship that speaks to this topic. Furthermore, the goal of my paper is not to make the jingle dress dance a ‘legible’ form of cultural expression. In fact, making the dance legible runs counter to the claim I wish to make—that it is, in part, the illegibility of the dance that makes it so powerfully subversive to the white settler state. Thus, this paper engages in an extension of Audra Simpson’s theory of ‘ethnographic refusal’, by refusing to unpack the anthropological genesis of the jingle dress for a racist academic audience.5 This work is not meant to make sense of the jingle dress dance in a way that facilitates cultural appropriation. Rather, my analysis aims to draw attention to the jingle dress dancers and their filmmakers as proponents of forceful assertions of sovereignty.

            To ground this analysis, it is important to describe what I am tentatively calling an indigenous radical tradition. This term derives from Cedric Robinson’s discussion of the ‘Black radical tradition’. Robinson describes this tradition as Black people’s revolutionary practice of consistently resisting the terms of order that premise their oppression by obstinately opposing the worldviews that rationalize white supremacist mythology (i.e. scientific racism, manifest destiny, democratic nation-building, and so on).6 Robinson explains that the root of Black resistance is located in a distinctly African consciousness, which in turn facilitates what Ashon Crawley, among many others, calls an imagining of being/existing ‘otherwise’.7 We see a similar form of consciousness existing in various Native-led resistance movements, particularly in the actions engaged by NODAPL water protectors. Their resistance gives us insight into the process of imagining an Otherwise realm of existence, in contrast to the terms of settler colonial order. Though the oppression faced by Black people in the United States should not be assumed commensurate with the oppression experienced by Natives, there is comparable overlap in traditions of resistance. Like the Black movements described by Robinson, which are influenced by a metamorphicized African consciousness, Native people have also held-on to—and consistently (re)constructed—indigenous consciousness. This consciousness is mobilized in resistance to the destructive forces of settler colonialism. The NODAPL movement, and other movements like it, are underpinned by a Native-based ontology,8 as evidenced by NODAPL’s insistence on prayer based resistance, their emphasis on the power of women, and the assertion of a symbiotic relationship between men, women, ancestors and the Earth’s resources. Thus, any analysis of Native social movements must acknowledge both their grounding in indigenous epistemologies and their locus within a tradition of radical resistance.

            Before I commence the discussion of the jingle dress dancers, it is important to also call attention to the inextricably gendered context of the NODAPL movement. First, it is important to note that Native women still experience sexual assault at rates higher than any other demographic in the United States.9 There is a trend of increased sexual assault when pipelines are built adjacent to Native communities. In the North Dakota Bakken oil fields, ‘man camps’ provide shelter to the primarily male temporary workforce. The communities adjacent to these camps have experienced increased levels of sexual violence, prostitution, and drug use.10 Many of the activists arguing against the Dakota Access Pipeline have used this as an example of how the Dakota Access Pipeline not only poses environmental risks, but also heightens the risk of patriarchal-misogynist violence against Native women.11 Instances of sexual assault have long been used as tools of settler colonial governance and rule, and many scholars have called attention to the interrelation between this violence and the lethal human conquest of Mother Earth. 

            Despite the resistance of water protectors and the threat of environmental pollution Dakota Access insisted on building the pipeline. The phallic representation of a drill digging into Mother Earth against her resistance has serious undertones of sexual assault. These violations in conjunction with the violence enacted on Native women are indicative of the sense of entitlement settler society claims in relation to Native women and Native land. They never seek permission from Native people to make the land ‘productive’. Rather, they appeal to the colonial government whose interests are always invested in asserting rightful claim to indigenous land. Since Native ideology sees the Earth just as sentient as humanity, the violation of either is an egregious offense. Thus, it is ever more powerful to see Native women responding to such offenses in the form of social movements. Yet this also means they continue to bear the brunt of state repression in quotidian, day-to-day life. This is certainly true at Standing Rock, where it seems the heaviest exactions of violence were exerted on women’s bodies. By enacting violence against Native women, who are often the leaders of resistance movements, and in many cases considered the cultural bearers of Native societies, the colonial project aims to repress the indigenous radical tradition.  Still, even in the face of this violence the women at Standing Rock continued to unsettle patriarchal logics and the coherence of settler self-knowledge, thereby engaging in an indigenous radical tradition that is also rooted in Native feminist praxis.

            The jingle dress dancers exemplify the spirit of this Native feminist praxis. As discussed above, the American settler colonial project involves intricate injections of heteropatriarchy and hetero-paternalism into the structure of Native communities;12 however, the NODAPL movement has worked to subvert those arrangements in unique and notable ways. Both videos I examine involve powerful and strategic choices in terms of how and where the jingle dress dancers are filmed. For example, the jingle dress dancers and organizers of the action chose to position the dancers on the frontlines rather than dancing in the camps, or in spaces considered more ‘safe’. This is impressively dissident considering it refuses to be regulated by the threat of violence.  This choice, when compounded with the filming choices, becomes an even more subversive move.

            In the first video,13 the dancers are focused in the foreground and take up most of the frame; however, just beyond the dancers we see what appear to be military vehicles on the hilltops and a barricade created by the police to restrict the water protectors from moving into the construction zone of the pipeline.14  By foregrounding the women in the video, the colonial social arrangements of heteropatriarchy are overturned.  In this arrangement, the matriarchal traditions of the Očeti Šakówin15 are given primacy over settler colonial heteropatriarchal structures. Furthermore, although there are several men in the frame, they are standing in supportive roles in a circle surrounding the dancers, and we do not see any of the predominantly white male police force. By reversing the social organization, and by positioning men and the police vehicles in the background, the dancers and filmmakers collectively redefine whiteness and patriarchy. By dancing on the land before the instruments of settler colonial violence, these Native women call out the white supremacist settler state for its violence, hypocrisy, illegitimacy, and inability to assert dominance over Natives. This new interpretation of whiteness is part of the (re)mapping of space discussed by Mishuana Goeman. Goeman explains (re)mapping space as the labor of generating new possibilities. She writes: “(re)mapping is not just about regaining that which was lost and returning to an original and pure point in history, but instead understanding the processes that have defined our current spatalities in order to sustain vibrant Native futures.”16

            Thus, Native women engage in an act of (re)mapping by calling on dance as the embodiment of both traditional and contemporary indigenous epistemologies of resistance. The U.S. has been heavily invested in establishing a heteronormative patriarchal social structure; however, it’s important to recognize the interconnections between social and physical space, as for Natives, the colonization of social space is just as important as the colonization of physical space.  The colonial configurations of social space are integral to the dispossession of Native women in particular, as many Native women lost their independence and their rights to own and maintain property through redefining women’s roles according to the European standard.17 Thus, to (re)map a more indigenous social space is to also imagine a (re)mapping of physical space.

            This physical space is further (re)mapped through the application of Jacqueline Shea Murphy’s discussion of ‘doing indigeneity’. According to Shea Murphy, “indigenous dancers’ bodies…are a location of ways of being and knowing…[a]nd movement practices…are a tool for locating and unearthing these ways of knowing.”18 In this sense, it is not only the location of the filming and dancing, but also the very movements the dancers employ that (re)map space. The fact that the dancers are engaged in unified, but improvisational dance, and that their regalia is vastly different from person to person, makes their dance practice less legible, predictable, and controllable, and therefore, it can be regarded as ‘threatening’ to the state. The spontaneity of the dancers also introduces the notion of Native temporalities that are not confined by the disciplinary regimes of punitive linear-progressive colonial time. Such normative conceptions of time are important to the settler state because of its predictability, as opposed to the more multi-dimensional indigenous conceptions of time. This form of dance disrupts the state’s ability to expect and manipulate a future, as the future becomes tangled with the present and thus, becomes unregulated by the confines of colonial temporality and spatial organization. Hence, this form of dance compels an interpretation of indigeneity and Native futurities as multiple, contingent, and constantly being formed and re-calibrated. By disavowing colonial conceptions of linear time where the future is inevitable, the Jingle dress dancers call on indigenous epistemologies to produce an imagining of an indigeneity yet to come, and for this reason the dance can be considered to be ‘doing indigeneity’ rather than simply being an indigenous performance. The latter assumes a more stagnant identity while the former acknowledges indigeneity as resilient, inventive, and fluctuating.

            This indigeneity yet to come is further enunciated through the slogan Mni Wiconi, Water is Life. This slogan invokes a notion of time that is also antagonistic to capitalistic notions of time. Settler capitalist ideologies of time place primacy over instantaneous extractive values, while the indigenous perspective espoused by Mni Wiconi calls attention to time’s continuity and generative power. Where Dakota Access ignores the environmental and health consequences of building this pipeline that will affect present and future Native generations, the indigenous consciousness informing the efforts of water protectors’ is bound up with a consideration of future generations. This consideration tethers the future to the present and continuously disturbs hegemonic structures of power maintained through the pervasive acceptance of linear time within settler society.

            The most noticeable aspect of the second video is the cinematography.19 Rather than panning across the dancers or looking down on them, the video focuses primarily on the dancer’s feet, and scrolls up to occasionally film the dancers’ faces. This modality of filming from the bottom up reverses colonial implementations of a top-down hierarchical structure, and is indicative of an indigenous consciousness that focuses more on grass-roots organizational systems. This combined method of filming and dancing makes (re)mapping its central tool of decolonization. Colonial logics of seeing tend to be more removed from subjects and spaces in order to capture the entirety of a performance, and can be connected to the desire to manipulate and control the future. For example, anarchist anthropologist James C. Scott comments on the historical objective of modern nation-states to create legibility, control, authority, and engineer society, most crucially in periods of systemic unrest.20 In order to do this, state planning of cityscapes necessitates the use of airborne tools to capture entire spaces and involves a heavy emphasis on “straight lines and hard right angles.”21 The choice to film only portions of dancers’ bodies and to film from various angles defies the colonial desire to create orderly and controllable space. Thus, the jingle dress dancers and the film makers use the camera from below to (re)map space as illegible and uncontrollable—as free and sovereign. It thus locates power in illegibility and invisibility. I contend that the choice to film in a spatially adjacent position to the dancers exploits the camera’s inability to fully capture the dancers’ essence as insurgent, unruly, imaginative, and powerful. As such, the dancers’ bodies, the embodied knowledges of their movements, and the ancestors who dance alongside them can be defined as excess by the colonial state, and the indigenous futurities their bodies create refuse to be subsumed under colonial logics.  The video merely provides a glimpse into their embodied knowledge by filming several dancers’ feet and portions of their bodies, but it cannot fully capture their complexity.  While the camera provides the opportunity to compress space-time so viewers can connect to the movement, its inability to fully contain the dancers’ bodies indicates that the camera, as a colonial apparatus, is fundamentally unable to regulate Native bodies. Thus, the dancers’ movement through contested and surveilled space signifies their refusal to be governed by colonial logics and a decision to move on their own terms.

Image credit: http://www.nodaplarchive.com

            Therefore, I assert that the NODAPL jingle dress dancers both enact and provide a model for an inhabitation of the indigenous radical tradition. Their movements and (re)mappings of both social and physical space reveal the limits of settler colonial logics of violence, heteropatriarchy, and containment. The embodied knowledge and futures created through the dancers’ movements invoke spirits of ancestors past, and together they envision futures unknown. These ghosts, like the ‘lawless’ dancers who conjured them, move freely between planes unable to be controlled or made visible. Their autonomy lies in the choice to become visible when it suits them, but they cannot be made legible. The dancers’ refusal to be made legible creates an affinity between them and the ghosts they conjure. Ghosts and dancing water protectors move on their own terms, to their own beat, and according to their own time. Their movements, remembrances, and visions of the future transport them through closed portals to realms untraveled. The settler state can’t follow them there.  They are free.

jingledressdancersunitedstandingrock (1).jpg


  1. The term ‘water protector’ is itself a method of resistance in its refusal to be defined by settler society’s definition of resistance/right/wrong/legitimacy/illegitimacy.
  2. Mark Rifkin. Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination, vii. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
  3. Jacqueline Shea Murphy and Jack Gray. “Manaakitanga in Motion: Indigenous Choreographies of Possibility.” Biography 36:1 (2013): 242-78.
  4. Maile Arvin. ‘analytics of indigeneity.’ Native Studies Keywords, edited by Stephanie N. Teves, Andrea Smith, and Michelle H. Raheja. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2015. 119-29.
  5. Audra Simpson. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham; Duke University Press, 2014.
  6. Cedric Robinson. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, 72-73, 240. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1983.
  7. , 73, and Ashon T. Crawley. Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.
  8. Maria Regina Firmino Castillo. “Dancing the Pluriverse: Indigenous Performance as Ontological Praxis” Dance Research Journal: Congress on Research in Dance 48:1 (2016): 55-74.
  9. Sarah Deer. The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, ix. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
  10. Damon Buckley. “Firsthand Account of Man Camp in North Dakota From Local Tribal Cop.” Lakota Country Times.  22, May 2014.  Accessed August 20, 2017.  http://www.lakotacountrytimes.com/news/2014-05-22/Front_Page/Firsthand_Account_Of_Man_Camp_In_North_Dakota_From.html#.VlToP9-rRE4. (Accessed August 20, 2017.)
  11. Erin Longbottom and Nia Evans. “Why the Dakota Access Pipeline is a Feminist Priority.”  National Women’s Law Center Blog.  15 Sept. 2016. https://nwlc.org/blog/why-the-dakota-access-pipeline-is-a-feminist-priority/. (Accessed August 20, 2017.)
  12. Maile Arvin, Eve Tuck, and Angie Morrill. “Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy.” Feminist Formations 25:1 (2013): 8-34.
  13. Antonia Juhasz, “‘We Have Come to Dance for Our People’.” Pacific Standard. 7 Nov. 2016. https://psmag.com/we-have-come-to-dance-for-our-people.
  14. Antonia Juhasz, telephonic communication with author, September 14, 2017.
  15. Očeti Šakówin (pronounced oh-chet-tee sha-koh-ween) is the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota term for the seven council fires. This term is used to reference the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota nations as a whole.
  16. Mishuana Goeman. Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2013, 3.
  17. Jean M. O’Brien, “‘Divorced From the Land’: Resistance and Survival of Indian Women in Eighteenth-Century New England.” In Native Women’s History in Eastern North America before 1900: A Guide to Research and Writing, edited by Rebecca Kugel and Lucy Eldersveld Murphy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. 333-67.
  18. Jacqueline Shea Murphy. The People Have Never Stopped Dancing Native American Modern Dance Histories, 10. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  19. Simon Moya-Smith. “Jingle Dress Dancers Took to the Front Line at Standing Rock in North Dakota Saturday..” #NoDAPL, https://twitter.com/SimonMoyaSmith/status/792483544639561728. Twitter, 29 Oct. 2016.
  20. James C. Scott. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, 56. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
  21. Ibid, 57-58.