Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State

Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State

Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State

Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State

Synopsis

Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State illuminates the ways in which Kiowas on the southern plains dealt with the U. S. government's efforts to control them after they were forced onto a reservation by an 1867 treaty. The overarching effects of colonial domination resembled those suffered by other Native groups at the time- a considerable loss of land and population decline, as well as a continual erosion of the Kiowas' political, cultural, economic, and religious sovereignty and traditions. Although readily acknowledging these far-reaching consequences, Jacki Thompson Rand sees the root impact of colonialism and the concomitant Kiowa responses as centered less on policy disputes than on the disruptions to their daily life and to their humanity. Colonialism attacked the Kiowas on the most human, everyday level- through starvation, outbreaks of smallpox, emotional disorientation, and continual difficulties in securing clothing and shelter, and the Kiowas' responses and counterassertions of sovereignty thus tended to focus on efforts to feed their people, sustain the physical community, and preserve psychic equilibrium. Offering a fresh, original view of Native responses to colonialism, this study demonstrates amply that Native struggles against the encroachment of the state go well beyond armed resistance and political strategizing. Rand shows that the Native response was born of everyday survival and the yearning for well-being and community

Excerpt

While working on this project I read Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. Levi was an Italian Jew caught in the Nazi net near the end of World War II. He spent ten months at Auschwitz, surviving to see the allied forces liberate the death camp and later writing a stunningly detailed account of life within its walls. Auschwitz was a place of unimaginable horrors, but even there, prisoners developed social organization, an economy, habit, and practice, crafting a version of day-to-day life. the prisoners' daily routines, carried out against a backdrop of genocide, required them to experience simultaneously death and creation, exploitation and human connections, self-interestedness and shared values. Levi's attention to the painful details of the Jews' practices and routines within Auschwitz illustrates the significance of small measures. the practices of Levi and his fellow prisoners constituted a means of self-preservation. Separated from Levi and others' experiences, we possess the luxury of using small measures as a lens into the lives they constructed, preserving their humanity under a regime that saw them as inhuman.

Consider Levi's description of the strategic nighttime rituals of men who shared the tight physical spaces of the prison dormitories. Nights in Auschwitz were dominated by dreams that released desolating grief, interrupted every few hours by the need to relieve oneself of the watery soup served from the camp's kitchens. the nightly procession to the common bucket became a performance of “obscene torment and indelible shame.” the bucket bound the men in their mutual misery, but also called for calculation and foresight cultivated by experience.

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