American Studies ETDs


Dina Gilio

Publication Date



Through a case study of the protection of a Native American sacred site from the development of a road through it in southern California, this study argues that environmental justice (EJ) for Native peoples encompasses far more than the protection of marginalized people from disproportionate rates of detrimental health effects of industry. Mainstream environmental justice discourse is troubled when it centers indigenous peoples' histories, differentiated political status, and epistemologies in EJ analytical frameworks. Viewing EJ through the lens of settler colonialism allows for an analysis that broadens the scope of what environmental justice means for indigenous peoples by examining the meaning they attach to place through their spiritual/ancestral relationship to it. The relentless desecration and loss of sacred sites highlights the inadequacy of the institutional tools of law to protect them in the context of a capitalist system that commodifies land and resources, and necessitates coalition building among diverse interests to accomplish common goals. The connection between people and land through the concept of radical relationality represents a decolonial framework that can transcend hierarchical power relationships in the interest of protecting dwindling natural landscapes for Native and non-Native people alike.




Environmental justice, Native American Studies

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Alyosha Goldstein

Second Committee Member

David Correia

Third Committee Member

Lloyd Lee