Nick Estes: Liberation

CJ Trowbridge


Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 8

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 7. Liberation (pages 247-258) 11 pages

            The chapter begins by discussing the way the story of Custer has been twisted and misrepresented. In reality, native people were gathering together to celebrate the new year. Custer saw it as an opportunity to exterminate them en masse and attacked the peaceful gathering. The natives killed the attackers and were labeled as the villains of the story. (Estes 213) Modern history books often mention the conflict but fail to explain what happened and why, often painting the true victims – native people – as somehow being responsible for the fact that they were targeted for extermination, simply because they survived the unprovoked attack.

Estes says, “Ancestors of Indigenous resistance didn’t merely fight against settler colonialism; they fought for Indigenous life and just relations with human and nonhuman relatives, and with the earth… What does water want from us? What does the earth want from us? Mni Wiconi—water is life—exists outside the logic of capitalism. Whereas past revolutionary struggles have strived for the emancipation of labor from capital, we are challenged not just to imagine, but to demand the emancipation of earth from capital. For the earth to live, capitalism must die.” (219) I feel like this is a critical point which is so often missed in activist movements. We can’t just react in defense; we must also fight to actually be what we are without our oppressors and those who want to exterminate and displace marginalized people. This was an amazing book, and this final argument from Estes brings it all together and shows us where to go from here.