For Thanksgiving, we highlight Native American resistance that caught the nation’s attention in the 1960s and 70s. As Howard Zinn wrote in Chapter 19 of A People’s History of the United States, “Never in American history had more movements for change been concentrated in so short a span of years.” Following are additional resources on Native American history and resistance.
For a time, the disappearance or amalgamation of the Indians seemed inevitable—only 300,000 were left at the turn of the century, from the original million or more in the area of the United States. But then the population began to grow again, as if a plant left to die refused to do so, began to flourish. By 1960 there were 800,000 Indians, half on reservations, half in towns all over the country.
The autobiographies of Indians show their refusal to be absorbed by the white man’s culture. One wrote:
Oh, yes, I went to the white man’s schools. I learned to read from school books, newspapers, and the Bible. But in time I found that these were not enough. Civilized people depend too much on man-made printed pages. I turn to the Great Spirit’s book which is the whole of his creation….
A Hopi Indian named Sun Chief said:
I had learned many English words and could recite part of the Ten Commandments. I knew how to sleep on a bed, pray to Jesus, comb my hair, eat with a knife and fork, and use a toilet. … I had also learned that a person thinks with his head instead of his heart.
Chief Luther Standing Bear, in his 1933 autobiography, From the Land of the Spotted Eagle, wrote:
True, the white man brought great change. But the varied fruits of his civilization, though highly colored and inviting, are sickening and deadening. And if it be the part of civilization to maim, rob, and thwart, then what is progress? I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting—the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization….
As the civil rights and antiwar movements developed in the 1960s, Indians were already gathering their energy for resistance, thinking about how to change their situation, beginning to organize. In 1961, five hundred tribal and urban Indian leaders met in Chicago. Out of this came another gathering of university-educated young Indians who formed the National Indian Youth Council. Mel Thorn, a Paiute Indian, their first president, wrote:
There is increased activity over on the Indian side. There are disagreements, laughing, singing, outbursts of anger, and occasionally some planning…. Indians are gaining confidence and courage that their cause is right.The struggle goes on…. Indians are gathering together to deliberate their destiny….
Around this time, Indians began to approach the United States government on an embarrassing topic: treaties. In his widely read 1969 book, Custer Died for Your Sins, Vine Deloria, Jr., noted that President Lyndon Johnson talked about America’s “commitments,” and President Nixon talked about Russia’s failure to respect treaties. He said: “Indian people laugh themselves sick when they hear these statements.”
The United States government had signed more than four hundred treaties with Indians and violated every single one. For instance, back in George Washington’s administration, a treaty was signed with the Iroquois of New York: “The United States acknowledge all the land within the aforementioned boundaries to be the property of the Seneka nation….” But in the early sixties, under President Kennedy, the United States ignored the treaty and built a dam on this land, flooding most of the Seneca reservation.
Resistance was already taking shape in various parts of the country. In the state of Washington, there was an old treaty taking land from the Indians but leaving them fishing rights. This became unpopular as the white population grew and wanted the fishing areas exclusively for themselves. When state courts closed river areas to Indian fishermen, in 1964, Indians had “fish-ins” on the Nisqually River, in defiance of the court orders, and went to jail, hoping to publicize their protest.
A local judge the following year ruled that the Puyallup tribe did not exist, and its members could not fish on the river named for them, the Puyallup River. Policemen raided Indian fishing groups, destroyed boats, slashed nets, manhandled people, arrested seven Indians. A Supreme Court ruling in 1968 confirmed Indian rights under the treaty but said a state could “regulate all fishing” if it did not discriminate against Indians. The state continued to get injunctions and to arrest Indians fishing. They were doing to the Supreme Court ruling what whites in the South had done with the Fourteenth Amendment for many years—ignoring it. Protests, raids, arrests, continued into the early seventies. Continue reading.
Visit the the Zinn Education Project for resources on Native Americans.
Q’Orianka Kilcher reads Chief Joseph’s 1879 speech. Recorded, February 1, 2007, at All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA. Watch at The People Speak on Vimeo.com.
Deepa Fernandes reads Tecumseh’s speech on March 10, 2007, at The Great Hall at Cooper Union, New York, NY. Watch at The People Speak on Vimeo.com.
Documentary film on a small group of Native American students and “Urban Indians” who occupied Alcatraz Island in November 1969, and how it forever changed the way Native Americans viewed themselves, their culture and their sovereign rights. Read more at the Zinn Education Project.
Documentary film about the 1973 Wounded Knee incident and the conviction of Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Read more at the Zinn Education Project.
The following is an excerpt from “Surprises,” Chapter 19 of A People’s History of the United States. As Howard Zinn states, “Never in American history had more movements for change been concentrated in so short a span of years.” This excerpt highlights Native American resistance during this time. This is followed by additional resources on Native American history and resistance. Read More
For Veterans Day, we highlight this article, “Dissent at the War Memorial,” written by Howard Zinn for The Progressive in 2004. Asked to speak on a panel called, “War Stories,” Zinn said, “I don’t want to honor military heroism–that conceals too much death and suffering. I want to honor those who all these years have opposed the horror of war.”
This is followed by additional resources for learning and teaching about war.
As I write this, the sounds of the World War II Memorial celebration in Washington, D.C., are still in my head. I was invited by the Smithsonian Institution to be on one of the panels, and the person who called to invite me said that the theme would be “War Stories.” I told him that I would come, but not to tell “war stories,” rather to talk about World War II and its meaning for us today. Fine, he said. Read More
Voices of a People’s History of the United States, The New School for Public Engagement, and Seven Stories Press, in association with Haymarket Books, present a special evening of music and readings to celebrate the tenth-anniversary edition of Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
This special tenth anniversary event will include Voices co-editor Anthony Arnove, actors Viggo Mortensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Kelly MacDonald, Aasif Mandvi, Jessica Pimentel, Wallace Shawn, Elizabeth A. Davis, Christina Kirk, Erin Cherry, Susan Pourfar, Brian Jones, and Jeff Zinn, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, poets Staceyann Chin and Kevin Coval, playwright Idris Goodwin, and other special guests to be announced. With music by DJ Charlie Hustle.
The first-ever Howard Zinn Bookfair will be held on November 15th, 2014 at the Mission High School in San Francisco. Professor Robin D.G. Kelley is one of the featured keynote speakers. Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Marcus Bookstore, the nation’s oldest black-owned bookstore, and Elizabeth “Betita” Martínez, Chicana feminist, community organizer and author. The bookfair will also feature a full day of workshops.
Learn more at HowardZinnBookfair.com.
For Columbus Day, we feature an excerpt from Chapter One of A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn describes why he tells the story of Columbus’s arrival “from the viewpoint of the Arawaks” and “the inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history.” This is followed by additional resources for examining the impact of Columbus’s arrival. Read More
With Banned Book Week (Sept. 21-28) in full swing, we call attention to the recent—sometimes successful—attempts to ban Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
In 2012, the Tucson Unified School District decided to abolish the highly-successful Mexican American Studies Program and called for an immediate removal of all program books, including A People’s History of the United States and other people’s history texts.
In 2013, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels orders to ban the use of any of Zinn’s books in K-12 classrooms gained national attention, especially since Daniels is now the president of Purdue University. Read More
Paralleling Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Voices of a People’s History is the companion volume with first person voices—speeches, letters, poems, and songs.
The 10th anniversary edition will feature new voices including whistleblower Chelsea Manning; Naomi Klein, speaking from the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Liberty Square; a member of Dream Defenders, a youth organization that confronts systemic racial inequality; members of the undocumented youth movement, who occupied, marched, and demonstrated in support of the DREAM Act; a member of the day laborers movement; and several critics of the Obama administration, including Glenn Greenwald, on governmental secrecy.
Available from Seven Stories Press, Nov. 2014.
On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado. An estimated two dozen people were killed, including young children.
Known as the Ludlow Massacre, Howard Zinn described its importance and obscurity in The Politics of History, “The culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history. Despite five thousands pages of testimony, taken at the time by Congressional investigating bodies, it remains an obscure event, rarely mentioned in textbooks on American history.”
In Howard Zinn’s brilliant, timely play, Karl Marx launches into a passionate, funny and moving defense of his life and political ideas.
The play is an excellent introduction to Marx’s life, his analysis of society, and his passion for radical change. Marx uses current news and events to show how his ideas still resonate.
Visit www.ironagetheatre.org for more information and reviews.
In August 2014, a new version of HowardZinn.org launched to provide greater online access to articles, interviews, and other works by and about Howard Zinn. The website also offers a comprehensive list of books by Howard Zinn and announcements about events based on Zinn’s work. Additional articles, interviews, photos, and other archival materials will be added to the site in the months ahead.
If you have additional interviews or archival materials by Howard Zinn that can be published online, email email@example.com.
On April 24, 2014, a daylong symposium was held at New York University (NYU) to celebrate the donation of Zinn’s personal papers to NYU’s Tamiment Library by his children, Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jeff Zinn. Included in the donation are Zinn’s personal correspondences, school and military records, FBI files, datebooks, biographical articles, and interviews.
Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.
By Alison Kysia
Most famously, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels celebrated Zinn’s death in emails to his education lieutenants and ordered them to find and remove Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, from schools and teacher education programs. Read More
By Andrea Germano
In organizing a Howard Zinn read-in at Purdue University, students have cultivated what is described as an “imaginative and defiant response to the corporate attack on our students and our schools.”Controversy flared the summer when the Associated Press revealed that Mitch Daniels, former Indiana Governor and now Purdue University president, attempted to censor Howard Zinn’s classic A People’s History of the United States from Indiana classrooms. Read More
By Bill Bigelow
Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, one of the country’s most widely read history books, died on January 27, 2010. Shortly after, then-Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels got on his computer and fired off an email to the state’s top education officials: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.” Read More
Mitch Daniels, as an unconventional choice to become Purdue University’s president, has repeatedly pledged his strong commitment to academic freedom. And many professors — including some who had questioned the wisdom of appointing a governor as university president — have given him high marks for the start of his work at Purdue.
A new book is available that engage the various complexities and tensions present throughout Howard Zinn’s work and subject them to a 21st century assessment. It is edited by Stephen Bird, Adam Silver, and Joshua Yesnowitz.
Here is the publisher’s description:
Agitation with a Smile offers a reappraisal of Howard Zinn’s political thought and situates his efforts in a contemporary context, looking toward the nature of activism and dissent in the future. This is the first book to provide a substantive account and assessment of Zinn’s philosophy and approach to collective action and, to a larger extent, democracy. Read More
Alternative Radio, established in 1986, is a weekly one-hour public affairs program offered free to all public radio stations with information, analyses and views that are frequently ignored or distorted in other media. The programs are also available on CD and MP3 for classroom use. (There is a small processing fee.)
Alternative Radio has an archive of more than 50 talks and interviews by Howard Zinn. Here is a list of the topics: Read More