Faculty member in Geography and Native American Studies, The Evergreen State College

Lab 1, Room 3012, 2700 Evergreen Pkwy. NW,

Olympia, WA 98502 USA


Tel. (360) 867-6153

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Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands

(forthcoming from University of Washington Press Indigenous Confuences series, Spring 2017)

Foreword, by Winona LaDuke

Part I: Running Upstream
1. Fish Wars and Co-management (Western Washington)
2. Water Wars and Breaching Dams (Northwest Plateau)

Part II: Militarizing Lands and Skies
3. Military Projects and Environmental Racism (Nevada & Southern Wisconsin)

Part III: Keeping It in the Ground
4. Resource Wars and Sharing Sacred Lands (Montana & South Dakota)
5. Fossil Fuel Shipping and Blocking (Northern Plains & Pacific Northwest)

Part IV: Agreeing on the Water
6. Fishing and Exclusion (Northern Wisconsin)
7. Mining and Inclusion (Northern Wisconsin)



As Native nations have asserted their treaty rights and sovereignty, they have confronted a "white backlash" from their neighbors fearful of losing control over the land and natural resources. Farmers, ranchers, and fishers have at times been virtually at war with Native peoples over treaty resources such as fish and water. Yet faced with an outside threat to the common environment--such as a mine, dam, bombing range, coal train, or oil pipeline---some communities unexpectedly joined to protect the same resources. Strong rural alliances of Native peoples and their white neighbors, such as the Cowboy Indian Alliance, came together in areas of the U.S. where no one would have predicted or even imagined them. Some regions with the most intense and violent conflict were even transformed into the areas with the deepest cooperation to defend sacred lands and water.

Unlikely Alliances explores this evolution from conflict to cooperation through place-based case studies in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, from the 1970s to the 2010s. They suggest how a deep love of place can overcome the most bitter divides between Native and non-Native neighbors, but only through challenging white privilege and upholding tribal sovereignty. They offer lessons about the complex interplay of particularist differences and universalist similarities in building social movements across lines of racial and cultural identity. They also show how "outsiders" can be transformed into "insiders" by redefining a contested local place as common ground. In our times of polarized politics and globalized economies, many of these stories offer inspiration and hope.

Zoltán Grossman is professor of geography and Native studies at The Evergreen State College. He is a longtime community organizer and coeditor of Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis.

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Unlikely Alliances: Treaty conflicts and environmental cooperation between Native American and rural White communities

Zoltan Charles Grossman, Ph.D. , University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002 (Adviser: William Cronon) 529 pages; ISBN: 0-493-76089-X

UMI Proquest Digital Dissertation http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/fullcit/3060425 (for ordering information, 24-page preview, and 25.16 Mb image-only PDF )


The Cowboy Indian Alliance Rises to Protect Our Common Land and Water,
on Common Dreams, Indianz, Native News Today, Z, Counterpunch, Portside (2014)
Unlikely Alliances: Idle No More and Building Bridges Through Native Sovereignty,
on Z, Counterpunch, Unsettling America (2013)

Winona LaDuke interviews Zoltan Grossman on Unlikely Alliances, KKWE Niijii Radio, White Earth, MN (7/2/14).

Where are the Cowboys in the Standing Rock standoff? Counterpunch, Z, Indianz.com (9/20/16)

Quinault Nation Builds Bridge to Stop Grays Harbor Oil Terminal, Works in Progress (12/16)

"Unlikely Alliances: Treaty Conflicts and Environmental Cooperation Between Native American and Rural
White Communities," Powerpoint lecture at Association of American Geographers (AAG),
Chicago 2006; U.W.-Stevens Point Earth Day 2005, and talk at U.-W-Eau Claire Faculty Forum 2006.
Article in American Indian Culture and Research Journal
(AICRJ), Vol. 29, No. 4 (2005).
"Defending a Common Home: Native/non-Native
Alliances Against Mining Companies in Wisconsin,"
With Dr. Al Gedicks in In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples,
Civil Society, & the Environment. See map.
(London: Zed Press, 2004).
"Crandon mine victory won by a historic alliance,"
with Debra McNutt in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram (Nov. 2, 2003)
and other websites and papers.
"Cowboy and Indian Alliances in the Northern Plains."
Agricultural History (Spring 2003 , Vol. 77 no. 2).
Effects of White Racial Advantages in Environmental Alliances
on Wisconsin Ho-Chunk/farmer alliances against low-level jet flights,
bombing range, and Perrier, at Association of American Geographers (AAG)
annual conference, Los Angeles, 2002.
"Place membership" in ethnic conflict management: the case of Native Americans
and white ranchers/farmers, on rural environmental alliances in Oregon, Montana,
and South Dakota, at Association of American Geographers (AAG)
annual conference, New York, 2001.
Geographies of Inclusion: Interethnic Alliances for Environmental
Protection, on Wisconsin spearfishing and mining disputes,
at Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual conference,
Pittsburgh, 2000. Winner of 2000 AAG American Indian Speciality Group
student paper competition. Also at WestLakes AAG, (Northern Illinois
University, DeKalb), and Midwest Sociological Society conference (Chicago).
"Let's Not Create Evilness for This River: Interethnic Environmental
Alliances of Native Americans and Rural Whites in Northern Wisconsin."
In Forging Radical Alliances Across Difference: Coalition Politics for the New
Millennium. Jill M. Bystydzienski & Steven P. Schacht, eds. (Boulder:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).
Removal Reversed: Native/non-Native joint management of reclaimed lands,
on Kickapoo Valley, Sauk Prairie, and Crandon mine sites
in Wisconsin. PowerPoint at Association of American Geographers
(AAG) annual conference, New Orleans, 2003.
Native environmental justice and the Crandon mine (PowerPoint).
Lecture with Kenneth Fish (Menominee). Summer Institute on Environmental Justice
(U.W.-Madison) and Western Mining Activists Network conference (Albuquerque).
Wisconsin's Native/non-Native anti-mining alliance, with
Dr. Al Gedicks in Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2001.
"From Enemies to Allies: Native Americans and Whites Join Forces
in Wisconsin," with Debra McNutt, in ColorLines, 2001, and
in Multiracial Formations: New Instruments for Social Change.
Native and Environmental Movements," in Z magazine (Boston), 1995.
Chippewa treaty rights issues, 1989-91.