America’s Existential Crisis: Our Inherited Obligation to Native Nations

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America’s Existential Crisis: Our Inherited Obligation to Native Nations

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America's Existential Crisis is a historical journey and a road trip. It starts with the personal histories of two ancestors of the author. One was a lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry at the Wounded Knee massacre and died from a wound in a related action. The other was honored with a "friendship gift" from the Potawatomi, which Jeff Rasley inherited. Their stories lead into the history of the Plains Indian Wars, the 1830 Indian Removal Act, and the confinement of Native Americans on reservations. Witness accounts from participants explain how the inhumane treatment of Sioux tribes on reservations in the Badlands, and an accidental shot, turned Wounded Knee Creek into a killing field on December 29, 1890.


Jeff Rasley


The historical narrative loops back from Wounded Knee to the theft of the Black Hills from the Sioux Nation and the Potawatomi Trail of Death. The road trip proceeds through the Badlands to Devils Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and ends at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The historical narrative fast-forwards to the 1970s, when pop culture transformed “bad Injuns” into cool, stoic, and wise Native Americans. Incidents, like the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee and protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Reservation, are described. Land use disputes among the US government, commercial interests, Native tribes, environmentalists, and outdoors enthusiasts over Bears Ears National Monument and Oak Flats are explained. Major historical actors make appearances in the book, including George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, as well as militant members of the American Indian Movement, the founders of the Crazy Horse Memorial, peaceful and angry protesters against oil pipelines, Deb Haaland, the current Secretary of the Interior, and, of course, Donald Trump.

The historical journey leads into an argument that all non-Native Americans have benefited from the genocidal subjugation of Native American nations by our national ancestors. And so, we have inherited an obligation to our fellow Americans, whose ancestors were massacred and forced off their traditional lands onto reservations. The journey ends with a proposed plan to fulfill that obligation through culturally sensitive development of Native communities.