Appointed As

Institute for Research in the Humanities


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of Wisconsin-Madison

PhD Field of Study

PhD, History and Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Dissertation Abstract

"Reckoning with the Legacy of U.S. Settler Colonialism: Treaty Claims and the Western Shoshone Quest for Justice."

My dissertation investigates the implications of the Indian Claims Commission (ICC, 1946-1978) for Western Shoshoni traditional land and treaty rights in Nevada, and by extension American Indians’ longstanding efforts to regain land that they have lost over several centuries. Instead of settling Western Shoshoni historical demands, I suggest, the ICC became deeply unsettling. It misrecognized the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863; nullified Western Shoshoni land sovereignty; legalized U.S. land ownership through a fictional theory of “gradual encroachment”; and sowed perpetual intratribal rift, bitter rivalry, and divisive sentiment. Against this backdrop, my project traces the long-standing battles of the Western Shoshoni sisters Carrie and Mary Dann for their land and treaty rights. I look at how the sisters embodied and practiced deep refusal, resilience, and resistance against the ICC politics of redress; evaded the ICC reprisals of eliminations; and provided a means of redefining the conversation around historical reparation in ways that empower Indigenous sovereignty.
Through the sisters’ case, I explain how Native American and Indigenous women exposed and challenged settler colonialism’s self-fulfilling prophecy of elimination. My approach centers on showing how the Western Shoshoni sisters creatively evaded and resisted the ICC discursive politics of elimination. In organizing, strategizing, and allying with a web of supporters, they curated their own history against the diverse efforts of erasure and the slow-motion dispossession of settler colonialism. In tracing the story of the Dann sisters, my project explains why a structure of reckoning that facilitated the creation of the ICC collapsed when Indigenous peoples began reclaiming their historical rights, prompting the federal government to develop new strategies for projecting U.S. settler colonial power in Nevada.
The Western Shoshoni sisters’ case is both a local and global story that echoes decades-long struggles for Indigenous historical land rights. Using the sisters as an example, I explain how Indigenous women broke through the colonial gridlock of racialized, gendered, and sexualized forms of violence against Native women over land. By unravelling these intricate dynamics and lines of convergence through the Dann sisters’ stories and sites of resistance, my project contributes to exposing the complexity of the teleological processes of decolonization, historical reparation, and transitional justice beyond the settler nation-state.

(Photo credit: Sara El Alaoui)