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Indians & Energy

Exploitation and Opportunity in the American Southwest

Edited by Sherry L. Smith and Brian Frehner

Indians & Energy explores the ways people have transformed natural resources in the American Southwest into fuel supplies for human consumption. Not only do Native Americans possess a large percentage of the Southwest’s total acreage, but much of the nation’s coal, oil, and uranium resources reside on tribal lands. Regional weather and climate patterns have also enabled Native people to take advantage of solar and wind power as sources of energy; however, complex issues related to energy and Indians transcend the region—and the nation. The contributors believe that the lessons of the Southwest can illuminate broader trends in other places. Their intent is not to end but to join the conversation and encourage others to do the same. They consider the intricate relationship between development and Indian communities in the Southwest with the hope that an understanding of patterns in the past might be useful in guiding policies and decisions in the future.

Published in cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

2010. 336 pp., 23 figures, 5 maps, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Benedict J. Colombi, Susan Dawson, Donald L. Fixico, Brian Frehner, Leah S. Glaser, Barbara Rose Johnston, Dailan J. Long, Gary Madsen, Andrew Needham, Colleen O’Neill, Dana E. Powell, Sherry L. Smith, Rebecca Tsosie, Garrit Voggesser

Download an excerpt.

“There are lessons here for all native nations. Indians & Energy is an up-to-date, valuable reference book…The editors and authors have produced an important book that was researched from the bottom up. Indians & Energy will stand as a major contribution to American Indian history and environmental studies.”
—Andrew Gulliford, Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO, Montana The Magazine of Western History, Winter 2011

“The authors of the essays contained in this volume document a history of Native Americans and energy marked by federal mismanagement and corporate exploitation, but they also reveal one in which tribal leaders have embraced the chance to benefit while providing for the country’s energy needs.”
—Nicolas G. Rosenthal, Loyola Marymount University, Ethnohistory, vol. 60, issue 2, Spring 2013

“Lessons learned from this book will influence the development of renewable energy in Indian Country…. Future energy and resource development in Indian Country can benefit from lessons in the summarized histories offered by this book.”
—Joseph G. Hiller, University of Arizona, New Mexico Historical Review, vol. 87, no. 4

“This volume offers important perspectives to scholars and students of environmental history, American Indian political economy, the postwar period, and the American Southwest.”
—Paul C. Rosier, Villanova University, Journal of American History, June 2013

“The dearth of prior research on Native American energy and the timeliness of this current interest make Indians & Energy both significant and relevant … Indians & Energy will serve as an important reference and source book as future decisions are made regarding energy in the Southwest. I will have a broad appeal to those interested in the water and energy field.”
—Douglas E. Kupel, The Journal of Arizona History, Summer 2013

“There is little doubt that indigenous peoples and energy policies form a significant and timely topic in the study of western history. It is also a subject that shows, in myriad of [sic] ways, the continuing confrontation between colonial intrusion and native peoples. This volume, edited by history professors Sherry L. Smith and Brian Frehner, unearths the complex relationship between American Indians and energy by focusing on one particular region, the American Southwest, an area rich in uranium and coal but dependent on its limited water supplies.”
—Janne Lahti, University of Helsinki, Southwestern Historical Quarterly July 2013


  1. Introduction
    Sherry L. Smith and Brian Frehner
  2. Understanding the Earth and the Demand on Energy Tribes
    Donald L. Fixico
  3. Oil, Indians, and Angie Debo: Representations of Energy Development on Tribal Lands
    Brian Frehner
  4. The Evolution of Federal Energy Policy for Tribal Lands and the Renewable Energy Future
    Garrit Voggesser
  5. Indigenous Peoples, Large Dams, and Capital-Intensive Energy Development: A View from the Lower Colorado River
    Benedict J. Colombi
  6. Uranium Mining and Milling: Navajo Experiences in the American Southwest
    Barbara Rose Johnston, Susan Dawson, and Gary Madsen
  7. Jobs and Sovereignty: Tribal Employment Rights and Energy Development in the Twentieth Century
    Colleen O’Neill
  8. “An Absolute Paragon of Paradoxes”: Native American Power and the Electrification of Arizona’s Indian Reservations
    Leah S. Glaser
  9. “A Piece of the Action”: Navajo Nationalism, Energy Development, and Metropolitan Inequality
    Andrew Needham
  10. Landscapes of Power: Renewable Energy Activism in Diné Bikéyah
    Dana E. Powell and Dáilan J. Long
  11. Cultural Sovereignty and Tribal Energy Development: Creating a Land Ethic for the Twenty-first Century
    Rebecca Tsosie

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.