Justin Gage, "We Do Not Want the Gates Closed Between Us: Native Networks and the Spread of the Ghost Dance" (U Oklahoma Press, 2020)


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Writing to U.S. President Grover Cleveland in 1888, Oglala Lakota leaders Little Wound, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, and Red Cloud insisted upon a simple yet significant demand to allow western Indigenous nations to retain intertribal communication networks, stating that "we do not want the gates closed between us." These vast networks - and the written letters, in-person visits, and anticolonial ideologies that sustained them - are the focus of historian Justin Gage's new book, We Do Not Want the Gates Closed Between Us: Native Networks and the Spread of the Ghost Dance (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020). Gage shows how sustained communication between reservations enabled a diversity of peoples to share knowledge of common experiences under U.S. settler colonialism, culminating with the rise and rapid spread of the Ghost Dance.

Focusing on extensive correspondence between Indigenous communities at over thirty western reservations, Gage elevates the voices of Indigenous leaders, diplomats, family members, and others who sought to use English literacy, one of the United States' primary tools of assimilation, to resist confinement within colonial boundaries. The result is an essential study of how the U.S. federal government struggled and ultimately failed to limit Indigenous mobility and the powerful intellectual currents that helped Indigenous nations to assert their autonomy and sovereignty at the turn of the century.

Annabel LaBrecque is a PhD student in the Department of History at UC Berkeley. You can find her on Twitter @labrcq.

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