Marie Mason Potts
The Lettered Life of a California Indian Activist
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
During the early twentieth century, federal Indian policy imposed narrow restrictions on the dreams and aspirations of young Native girls. Castaneda demonstrates how Marie initially accepted these limitations and how, with determined resolve, she broke free of them. As a young student at Greenville Indian Industrial school, Marie navigated conditions that were perilous, even deadly, for many of her peers. Yet she excelled academically, and her adventurous spirit and intellectual ambition led her to transfer to Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
After graduating in 1915, Marie Potts returned home, married a former schoolmate, and worked as a domestic laborer. Racism and socioeconomic inequality were inescapable, and Castaneda chronicles Potts’s growing political consciousness within the urban milieu of Sacramento. Against this backdrop, the author analyzes Potts’s significant work for the Federated Indians of California (FIC) and her thirty-year tenure as editor and publisher of the Smoke Signal newspaper.
Potts’s voluminous correspondence documents her steadfast conviction that California Indians deserved just compensation for their stolen ancestral lands, a decent standard of living, the right to practice their traditions, and political agency in their own affairs. Drawing extensively from this trove of writings, Castaneda privileges Potts’s own voice in the telling of her story and offers a valuable history of California Indians in the twentieth century.
“Terri Castaneda’s Marie Mason Potts: The Lettered Life of a California Indian Activist helps shed light on Potts’s important story, while effectively tracing her formation into an activist and national figure in Native American politics and cultural preservation…For those wanting to learn more about the roots of the Red Power movement or to gain greater insight into the national politics of Native American activism in the earlier part of the twentieth century, this book is an essential resource.”---California History
“It is impossible to share all of her meaning and importance here, but Terri Castaneda has provided us with a detailed view of Marie Potts’s life, her challenges, and her greatest successes as an advocate for California Indian people…Castaneda has given us all something to treasure.”—News from Native California
“Marie Mason Potts is a long-awaited, textured recognition of the life of an energetic and fearless Mountain Maidu woman that contributes to an emerging canon foregrounding the labor and leadership of Indigenous California women.”— Resources for American Literary Study
“Driven by the careful pen of Castaneda, Marie Mason Potts adds depth and texture to what we know within many critical areas of California Indian history and Native American history more broadly…[This] is an exceptional book, and it offers renewed promise for the possibilities of biographical study as a lens into Indigenous experiences of the early twentieth century.”—NAISA Journal