Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Andrew H. Fisher

Committee Member

Betsy Konefal

Committee Member

Frederick Corney

Committee Member

György Ferenc Tóth


This project examines the intellectual discourses and ideas that underlined and shaped Native American transnational activism and indigenous global cooperation during the Cold War. It explores Native activists’ use of the political realities of the Cold War and existing concepts, such as the United Nations’ (UN) human rights agenda, as frameworks for their strategies and demands for treaty rights and sovereignty. By using existing concepts and international mechanisms, Native Americans expanded their presence on the international scene, securing a permanent place in the UN, from which they worked to redefine the meanings of individual human rights and international law to include collective rights and indigenous sovereignty. This dissertation also traces the ideas of shared historical (and contemporary) experiences with colonization and subjugation among indigenous peoples that gave impetus to a global indigenous cooperation and the rise of the global indigenous movement. Transnational work brought Native activists into a closer contact with other indigenous peoples but also numerous non-Native supporters, diverse liberation movements, and their ideologies. Native intellectuals examined these European-based ideologies, such as Marxism, and their merits and practical application for the struggle for indigenous rights. This study follows some of these discourses and discussions about Native intellectual sovereignty as a part of the struggle for Native rights and political sovereignty. By concentrating on the intellectual discourses among both radical and moderate Native activists, this project shows the influential role ideas and their circulation played in shaping Native strategies and transnational activities, expanding our understanding of Native activism in the second half of the twentieth century.



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