Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands

Zoltán Grossman (Author) Winona LaDuke (Foreword by)
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Often when Native nations assert their treaty rights and sovereignty, they are confronted with a backlash from their neighbors, who are fearful of losing control of the natural resources. Yet, when both groups are faced with an outside threat to their common environment--such as mines, dams, or an oil pipeline--these communities have unexpectedly joined together to protect the resources. Some regions of the United States with the most intense conflicts were transformed into areas with the deepest cooperation between tribes and local farmers, ranchers, and fishers to defend sacred land and water.

Unlikely Alliances explores this evolution from conflict to cooperation through place-based case studies in the Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, Northern Plains, and Great Lakes regions during the 1970s through the 2010s. These case studies suggest that a deep love of place can begin to overcome even the bitterest divides.

Product Details

University of Washington Press
Publish Date
June 20, 2017
6.0 X 8.9 X 1.0 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

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. Find out more at https: //sites.evergreen.edu/unlikelyalliances.


This text offers itself as a pragmatic guide, and, as such, its ideology tends to privilege finding immediate solutions for the crises it addresses. This immediacy is fitting, of course. Ecological threats aren't the kind of thing that can wait to be resolved. Unlikely Alliances is also, ultimately, a hopeful text, one that celebrates a kind of progress in these alliances.

--John Gamber "Transmotion "

The most valuable contribution of Grossman's detailed study is that it provides a useful guide for building alliances against environmentally destructive projects and evaluating what strategies have been successful, and which ones have not worked so well, in defending rural land, resources and cultures.

--Al Gedicks "Race & Class "

Unlikely Alliances is particularly salient in a contemporary context of both political gridlock and increasing environmental threats. With specific attention to each rural context, Grossman acknowledges complexity and the dynamic intersecting factors that allow Native/white alliances to thrive or, conversely, to erode and dissolve. The lessons he offers from rural Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nevada, and beyond support the place based work of constructing collaboration across lines of historic conflict.

--Native & Indigenous Studies Journal