We Do Not Want the Gates Closed between Us
Native Networks and the Spread of the Ghost Dance
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Faced with the consequences of U.S. colonialism—the constraints, population loss, and destitution—Native Americans, far from passively accepting their fate, mobilized to control their own sources of information, spread and reinforce ideas, and collectively discuss and mount resistance against onerous government policies. Justin Gage traces these efforts, drawing on extensive new evidence, including more than one hundred letters written by nineteenth-century Native Americans. His work shows how Lakotas, Cheyennes, Utes, Shoshones, Kiowas, and dozens of other western tribal nations shrewdly used the U.S. government’s repressive education system and mechanisms of American settler colonialism, notably the railroads and the Postal Service, to achieve their own ends. Thus Natives used literacy, a primary tool of assimilation for U.S. policymakers, to decolonize their lives much earlier than historians have noted.
Whereas previous histories have assumed that the Ghost Dance itself was responsible for the creation of brand-new networks among western tribes, this book suggests that the intertribal networks formed in the 1870s and 1880s actually facilitated the rapid dissemination of the Ghost Dance in 1889 and 1890. Documenting the evolution and operation of intertribal networking, Gage demonstrates its effectiveness—and recognizes for the first time how, through Native activism, long-distance, intercultural communication persisted in the colonized American West.
“The scope of the work is vast, original, insightful, and impressive.”— Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“We Do Not Want the Gates Closed between Us is an achievement worthy of serious attention from scholars of Native American history, Indigenous studies, colonialism and colonial resistance, and American history more generally.”— Journal of American History
“Justin Gage’s book is an instructive and fascinating study of how Native nations waged a campaign against government tyranny, ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and murders to preserve their cultures and traditions.”— The Chronicles of Oklahoma
“Censorship and travel regulations could not prevent Wovoka’s Ghost Dance from spreading rapidly across North American reservations. Justin Gage’s We Do NotWant the Gates Closed Between Us explores the ways Indigenous communities in the late nineteenth century maintained and formed relationships, despite federal policies designed to cut off contact between reservations. Undeterred by the physical distance between them, Indigenous people used letters, newspapers, and both sanctioned and unsanctioned travel to connect and share information about the Ghost Dance… We DoNot Want the Gates Closed Between Us is a valuable resource for understanding the importance of intertribal relationships both in the spread of the Ghost Dance and Indians’ defiance of federal attempts to eliminate their nations.”—South Dakota History