Decolonization and Indigenous Liberation: The Remarkable Life and Work of John Redhouse

Photo Essay by NICK ESTES

Last Friday, April 19th, hundreds of scholars, community activists, and students gathered at the University of New Mexico to attend a symposium to honor the life and work of John Redhouse. The symposium, titled  “Indigenous Liberation and the Grounds of Decolonization” was co-sponsored by La Jicarita along with the UNM Department of American Studies, the UNM Institution for American Indian Research, the student-run KIVA Club, the UNM Program in Community and Regional Planning, and the American Studies Association’s Community Partnership initiative. American Studies professors Jennifer Denetdale and Alyosha Goldstein joined David Correia in organizing the event.

Born and raised in Farmington, NM, John Redhouse has been a life-long Indian rights activist. He was a leader of the National Indian Youth Council. He was most famously associated with the era of Red Power activism and organizing of various radical liberation groups such as Indians Against Exploitation, which operated from 1972-73 and the Coalition for Navajo Liberation in 1974 in Gallup, NM. The experiences of combatting anti-Indian border town racism in places like Farmington and Gallup were formative in Redhouse’s activism and scholarship. Today, Redhouse’s scholarship/activism centers on Dine’ liberation and decolonization movements with an emphasis on ongoing grassroots struggles against the extractive resource industries’ degradation of Dinetah’s ancestral homelands. Friday’s event focused on these aspects of Redhouse’s lifetime commitment to Indigenous and environmental activism, particularly bridging community activism with academic engagement and Indigenous nations.

The day’s events began at 8:30 AM with a series of panel presentations by scholars from UNM who work on and study indigenous liberation struggles, and concluded well after 7:30 PM. The program included individual student and faculty presentations, workshops by activist/scholars that focused on community organizing, and a conversation between Jennifer Denetdale and John Redhouse. The evening ended with a roundtable discussion centered on continuing Indigenous decolonization and liberation. Presenters included: American Studies PhD students Melanie Yazzie and Nick Estes, Anthropology Assistant Professor Cristobal Valencia, Black Mesa community organizer Nicole Horseherder, long-time Indigenous rights activist and scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Black Mesa community organizer and activist Klee Benally, La Jicarita editor-in-chief Kay Matthews, and Community and Regional Planning Program Assistant Professor Laura Harjo.

American Studies Associate Professor Jennifer Denetdale interviews Dine’ activist and community organizer John Redhouse in front of a packed house. The conversation focused primarily on Redhouse’s influence on Dine’ and Indigenous scholarship and activism and the ongoing liberation and decolonization struggles of which he remains an important figure. They sit in front of a banner announcing MASE’s (Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment) opposition to uranium mining at Mt. Taylor.
American Studies Associate Professor Jennifer Denetdale interviews Dine’ activist and community organizer John Redhouse in front of a packed house. The conversation focused primarily on Redhouse’s influence on Dine’ and Indigenous scholarship and activism and the ongoing liberation and decolonization struggles of which he remains an important figure. They sit in front of a banner announcing MASE’s (Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment) opposition to uranium mining at Mt. Taylor.
The keynote interview concluded when American Studies faculty and event organizers (left to right) Alyosha Goldstein, David Correia, and Jennifer Denetdale present John Redhouse and his wife Carol with gifts. Redhouse holds up a sand art painting from fellow activist/scholar Larry Emerson. On the chair is a Navajo-style rug woven by American Studies graduate student Venancio Aragon.
The keynote interview concluded when American Studies faculty and event organizers (left to right) Alyosha Goldstein, David Correia, and Jennifer Denetdale present John Redhouse and his wife Carol with gifts. Redhouse holds up a sand art painting from fellow activist/scholar Larry Emerson. On the chair is a Navajo-style rug woven by American Studies graduate student Venancio Aragon.
Scores of scholars and activists travelled from all over to attend the event and honor John Redhouse. Here scholar, author and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz poses with John following his keynote.
Scores of scholars and activists travelled from all over to attend the event and honor John Redhouse. Here scholar, author and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz poses with John following his keynote.
The program concluded in the evening with a roundtable panel of scholars, activists and authors who discussed John's legacy and their current work around social and environmental justice. (Left to right) Klee Benally, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Nicole Horseherder, Laura Harjo, and Kay Matthews.
The program concluded in the evening with a roundtable panel of scholars, activists and authors who discussed John’s legacy and their current work around social and environmental justice. (Left to right) Klee Benally, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Nicole Horseherder, Laura Harjo, and Kay Matthews.
Former lead singer of the punk rock band Blackfire, Klee Benally discusses the importance of ongoing struggles against settler colonialism and the continued desecration of Indigenous lands through extractive mining, tourist and resort economies, and tribal and resource industry’s collaboration in asymmetrical dispossession of Black Mesa’s Dine’ community from access to basic needs.
Former lead singer of the punk rock band Blackfire, Klee Benally discusses the importance of ongoing struggles against settler colonialism and the continued desecration of Indigenous lands through extractive mining, tourist and resort economies, and tribal and resource industry’s collaboration in asymmetrical dispossession of Black Mesa’s Dine’ community from access to basic needs.
Many of the Dine’ and Indigenous activists, scholars, and community leaders who attended Friday’s event to honor the life and work of John Redhouse  gather around John at the conclusion of the program.
Many of the Dine’ and Indigenous activists, scholars, and community leaders who attended Friday’s event to honor the life and work of John Redhouse gather around John at the conclusion of the program.
Advertisements

3 comments

  1. Thanks, Kay, for this great photo-essay. Due to a number of obligations all converging Friday I was not able to attend the seminar but I very much want to pay tribute to the life-long work of John Redhouse. Live like him!

    Mark

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s