History ETDs


Kent Blansett

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A Journey to Freedom: The Life of Richard Oakes 1942-1972,' is the story of Indigenous leader and activist Richard Oakes, and focuses on the climax of the national movement toward Native self-determination and freedom. 'A Journey to Freedom' investigates the intersections of place, space, identity, and socio/political coalitions within the Red Power movement. Oakes' leadership was influential in the Alcatraz (1969) and Fort Lawton (1970) takeovers, as well as Pit River's resistance to PG&E Corporation's illegal land use. Each successive takeover pushed for land rights, treaty rights, and the development of ecological centers that forged links between reservation and urban spaces. Oakes' political activism also influenced other organizations such as the Black Panthers, Brown Berets, Atzlan, and the national environmental movement. The assassination of Richard Oakes led to the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington D.C. and ultimately resulted in the passage of federal self-determination legislation. I use two theoretical models to construct an 'alternative' twentieth-century history: what I define as 'Intertribalism' and the advent of an 'Indian City. While the term 'Pan-Indian' implies the Ethnic-American destruction of Tribal identity, Intertribalism emphasizes the study of coalitions between Tribes. Native history, within this context, is transnational history. Intertribalism, I argue, emerged as a central force of American Indian Nationalism. Intertribalism is also connected to Indian Cities. Unlike traditional ethnic neighborhoods, these cities were comprised of institutions (Indian Centers, Indian bars, health centers, businesses, churches, and a host of others) that politicized a highly migrant and dispersed urban population. 'A Journey to Freedom' is the first urban comparative study to examine the construct of Indian Cities within New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Oakes' unique life provides an alternative narrative to previous scholarship that placed the American Indian Movement as the lone icon of Red Power. My dissertation counters this representation by emphasizing the multiple roles of community, ideology, identity, and nationalism. 'A Journey to Freedom,' moves beyond an examination of contemporary Native leadership, and exposes the deep and diverse foundations of the larger Red Power movement that informs contemporary definitions of Native politics and sovereignty.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Connell-Szasz, Margaret

Second Committee Member

Hutton, Paul

Third Committee Member

Cahill, Cathleen

Fourth Committee Member

Farber, David



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