In the sci-fi short, The Sixth World, filmmaker Nanobah Becker poses the unthinkable: Diné people on a space mission to colonize Mars. Yet, in Becker’s telling, colonizing Mars is not a linear journey into a post-apocalyptic future, but is instead part of a genre of indigenous futurism and “decolonizing encounters.” Ezra Rosser’s A Nation Within follows a different temporality. Moving from “past to present to future,” Rosser offers a rich history of a Nation that emerges in relation to perhaps the most central, kindred actor for Diné futurism: the land itself.
In his prodigious A Nation Within, Ezra Rosser identifies numerous moments throughout Navajo Nation history that would have benefited from more robust consultation. The Diné’s forced march to Bosque Redondo, the arbitrary sheep stock reduction, and harmful strip mining all point to a lack of tribal input and an overabundance of federal paternalism. In the scheme of federal Indian law, however, consultation is a relatively new and underdeveloped framework that fails to reflect the extensive amount of governmental decision-making that impacts Tribal interests.
Native Nations in the United States are stronger today in many respects than they have been in the past 250 years. Despite much growth, however, tribes continue to experience the instability that comes from the ruptures of colonialism and must work to recover, rebuild, and revive the cultural lifeways that make them who they are as Indigenous Peoples. This presents a significant governance challenge for many Indian nations in the modern world. This struggle is, in many ways, at the heart of Rosser’s provocative deep dive into the remarkable experience of the Navajo Nation in A Nation Within.
Demand for land and natural resources has fundamentally shaped both the development of the Navajo Nation government and the relationship between the tribe and non-Indian interests. In this post, Ezra Rosser kicks off a symposium on his recent book, A Nation Within, by offering a brief look at this history, and suggesting that Diné have the power to assert even greater control over the reservation.