Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 5, 2020

'Red Nation Rising: From Bordertown Violence to Native Liberation' new book documents racism and violence in bordertowns and birth of The Red Nation

'Red Nation Rising: From Bordertown Violence to Native Liberation' new book documents racism and violence in bordertowns and birth of The Red Nation

By Melanie Yazzie

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Super thrilled to announce my first book, co-authored with Nick Estes, Jennifer Denetdale, and David Correia, with a brilliant and fierce foreword by Brandon Benallie and Radmilla Cody.

This book began in 2014. That spring, Albuquerque experienced a mass insurrection against police violence. That July, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson were brutally murdered on Albuquerque's westside. That August, Gallup was trying to pass a racist anti-panhandling law. Weeks later, The Red Nation was born.

It was during this time -- the long hot summer of 2014 -- that Nick, Jennifer, David and I created what we called the "Bordertown Violence Working Group," a community research project in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, First Nations Community Health Source, and the Albuquerque Indian Center, to capture stories and research on the conditions of life for Native people--particularly, our unsheltered relatives--in reservation bordertowns. We spent hours on the streets interviewing unsheltered Native folks in Albuquerque and Gallup about police violence. We conducted community health surveys. We organized protests and vigils in Albuquerque's international district where encampments are located and where police routinely terrorize poor Native people. We went to Gallup and held community forums at the Hozho Center and organized the first protest in decades in that racist town.

That fall, Radmilla Cody and Brandon Benallie created a campaign called "For the People: We Are All Sacred," a series of concerts to raise funds for mutual aid. With these funds, they began feeding and clothing unsheltered relatives in Gallup, and, in the spring of 2017, founded the K'é Infoshop in the Navajo Nation, where they upscaled their mutual aid in Gallup and Window Rock. Their work created a powerful foundation of love and solidarity for our unsheltered relatives in bordertowns throughout the Southwest.

The Red Nation, Gallup, New Mexico 2018

Also happening at that time was the resurgence of Native LGBTQ2 organizing in bordertowns. Along with Jeremy Yazzie, Elise Stelly (Stella Martin) co-founded Rainbow Naatsiliid, an Indigenous-run LGBTQ organization, in Gallup. Native transwomen like Stella and Mattee Jim were making headway into the leadership of NM PRIDE. Stella organized drag shows, fundraisers, and protests in Gallup and Albuquerque throughout 2014 and 2015 to elevate LGTBQ issues in bordertowns and create a culture of fierce love and support for Indigenous unsheltered and LGTBQ relatives in the organizing.

Many other organizations worked to elevate the struggles and stories of Native people in bordertowns. This book is simply a window into--a way to interpret -- the Indigenous insurrection that began hundreds of years ago against the first bordertowns -- forts and frontier settlements--on this continent. This resistance continues today, and will continue until Indigenous people achieve liberation from the colonial condition that denies us a dignified life and future in our own lands.

The Red Nation Indigenous Peoples Day 2018 Albuquerque

From the Publisher: Red Nation Rising

Red Nation Rising is the first book ever to investigate and explain the violent dynamics of bordertowns. Bordertowns are white-dominated towns and cities that operate according to the same political and spatial logics as all other American towns and cities. The difference is that these settlements get their name from their location at the borders of current-day reservation boundaries, which separates the territory of sovereign Native nations from lands claimed by the United States.

Bordertowns came into existence when the first US military forts and trading posts were strategically placed along expanding imperial frontiers to extinguish indigenous resistance and incorporate captured indigenous territories into the burgeoning nation-state. To this day, the US settler state continues to wage violence on Native life and land in these spaces out of desperation to eliminate the threat of Native presence and complete its vision of national consolidation “from sea to shining sea.” This explains why some of the most important Native-led rebellions in US history originated in bordertowns and why they are zones of ongoing confrontation between Native nations and their colonial occupier, the United States.

Despite this rich and important history of political and material struggle, little has been written about bordertowns. Red Nation Rising marks the first effort to tell these entangled histories and inspire a new generation of Native freedom fighters to return to bordertowns as key front lines in the long struggle for Native liberation from US colonial control. This book is a manual for navigating the extreme violence that Native people experience in reservation bordertowns and a manifesto for indigenous liberation that builds on long traditions of Native resistance to bordertown violence.


“The authors of this brilliant exposition on bordertown violence are no ordinary academics, although academia would benefit from having more faculty scholars such as these. They are also master organizers, a part of a network of indigenous and other community organizers in Indian Country fueling the process of decolonization of Native lands and communities. Bordertown violence is as old as US colonization of the continent itself, and it persists today in the towns and cities that border Native reservations and communities all over US-claimed territory and is replicated in even more distant cities that have large Native populations, many of whom are homeless. This may be the most important organizing manual ever produced by a social movement in the United States.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

“The borders racking our world are in constant motion and, like the explosive grinding of tectonic plates, the violence of this movement and resistance to it emerges most sharply at the edges. This essential volume brings together militant intellectuals to provide an accessible introduction to the violent encirclement of indigenous communities, and to provide crucial concept-weapons to deepen ongoing collective resistance.”
—George Ciccariello-Maher, author of Decolonizing Dialectics

“Red Nation Rising shines a revolutionary spotlight on border politics in the United States. By centering the framework of bordertown violence, this book extends and sharpens our critical understanding of what it means to struggle for liberation and freedom on stolen land. Showcasing the ways that settler colonialism works through our ideas about place, belonging, migration, and territory, the book’s crucial theoretical interventions, extensive glossary, and anticolonial manifesto demand that we think differently about that constitutes ‘the border.’ Essential reading for academics and political organizers committed to radical praxis and politicized solidarity with everyday Native people resisting colonial occupation.”
—Jaskiran Dhillon, associate professor of global studies and anthropology, the New School; author of Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention; coeditor of Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement

“A remarkable body of work that effectively weaves long overdue native scholarship and historical analysis of settler colonialism with direct and timely frontline reports on the continuing bordertown wars and conflicts in occupied native territories. Offers a comprehensive framework for advancing present and future indigenous resistance and liberation struggles.”
—John Redhouse (Diné)

About the Contributors:

Nick Estes (Kul Wicasa) is assistant professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He organizes with the Red Nation, an indigenous-led leftist organization committed to indigenous liberation. He is also part of the collective for Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics. His advocacy and research focus on indigenous resistance, anticolonialism, abolition, decolonization, and anticapitalism. He is the author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance (Verso, 2019).

Melanie K. Yazzie (Diné) is an assistant professor in the Departments of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She organizes with the Red Nation, an indigenous-led leftist organization committed to indigenous liberation. She is lead editor of Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, an international journal committed to public intellectualism and social justice.

Jennifer Nez Denetdale (Diné) is a professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico who teaches courses in critical indigenous studies, indigenous gender and sexuality, and Navajo studies. She is a strong advocate for Native peoples and serves as chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. She is the author of Reclaiming Diné History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita.

David Correia is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Properties of Violence: Law and Land Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico (University of Georgia Press, 2013), and co-author of Police: A Field Guide (Verso, 2018).

Radmilla Cody is a Grammy Nominee, multiple Native American Music Awards winner, 46th Miss Navajo Nation, one of NPR’s 50 great voices, a Black History Maker Honoree, and an advocate against domestic abuse and violence. Miss Cody is of the Tla’a’schi’i’ (Red Bottom People) clan and is born for the Naahilii (African-Americans).

Brandon Benallie is a long-time activist, member of The Red Nation, and a co-founder of the K’é Infoshop in Window Rock, Arizona.

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PM Press. Purchase book from the publisher.

The Red Nation Riders, Standing Rock, 2016
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