The Spider’s Web
The Spider’s Web
Mass Incarceration and Settler Custodialism in Indian Country
The chapter situates Native American incarcerations within a long history of broken treaties, circumscribed sovereignty, land theft, forced removals, reservation and boarding school confinement, and economic and cultural paternalism. The framework that the chapter offers is one centered on what the author calls “settler custodialism,” where the root of Indian incarceration runs through the reservation system. The chapter locates Native American prisoner resistance within a longer trajectory of struggle against settler colonialism that has drawn on traditional ties to land, family, tribe, and community. The rising consciousness of the American Indian Movement (AIM) is linked directly to the incarceration of two of its principal founders, Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt. From AIM’s police patrols to the Alcatraz Island prison takeover, the radicalization of the Red Power movement had more to do with its encounter with the carceral state than has been previously recognized. The chapter concludes that the prison also served as a blunt instrument to dismantle the Red Power movement when many of its leaders were incarcerated following the 1973 Wounded Knee operation.
Keywords: Native American incarceration, Settler custodialism, Reservation system, Prisoner resistance, Settler colonialism, American Indian Movement (AIM), Wounded Knee, Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Red Power
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