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Comics and Conquest

Political Cartoons and a Radical Retelling of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Rhiannon Koehler

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The untold story of Navajo and Hopi resistance and solidarity in the face of forced removal by the US government, as documented by tribal editorial cartoons.

For generations, US politicians and energy companies attempted to gain access to the coal and uranium in the Four Corners region, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet. The land on which they found billions of tons of high-grade coal in 1909, however, was reserved for the Navajo (Diné) and Hopi peoples and not accessible to extractive enterprise. Despite Diné and Hopi protests, US officials gained access to the coal-rich land...

The untold story of Navajo and Hopi resistance and solidarity in the face of forced removal by the US government, as documented by tribal editorial cartoons.

For generations, US politicians and energy companies attempted to gain access to the coal and uranium in the Four Corners region, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet. The land on which they found billions of tons of high-grade coal in 1909, however, was reserved for the Navajo (Diné) and Hopi peoples and not accessible to extractive enterprise. Despite Diné and Hopi protests, US officials gained access to the coal-rich land on Black Mesa in Arizona by purposely fabricating and fueling conflict between the Diné and the Hopi.

In Comics and Conquest, historian Rhiannon Koehler documents the story of this conflict through an engaging analysis of historical Navajo and Hopi editorial cartoons. Despite the false narrative that the conflict was driven by inter-tribal animosity and that the subsequent forced removals of thousands of Indigenous peoples were part of a plan to keep the peace, the cartoons that Koehler shares reveal a rich history of artistic activism and Hopi-Diné solidarity against this land grab. The content and claims featured in political cartoons published in the tribal newspapers Qua'Toqti and the Navajo Times in the late 1960s and early 1970s were some of the most critical tools for both coping with the threats of industry and exposing the history of exploitation as it carries on into the present.

The conflict, popularly known as the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, was presented in mainstream media as an egregious threat to US interests. Acutely aware of their land's value and the minerals and other resources on it, Diné and Hopi political cartoonists used their medium to assert their protest and agency, identify the true instigators of the dispute, and expose and counter the myth that the conflict had intertribal origins. Koehler shows how tribal activism and media ultimately resulted in international recognition of the harms perpetrated by the federal government on Diné and Hopi soil.

Reviews

Reviews

The absurdities of settler colonialism are cast into sharp relief in this compelling study of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute. By adroitly unpacking the cartoons that both Hopis and Navajos created to ridicule US government policy, Rhiannon Koehler has produced a work that is at once humorous and devastating.

Comics and Conquest explores the history of the Diné and Hopi land controversy through the lens of political cartoons. Especially in this age of multimodality, Koehler's analysis using visual rhetorical tools makes a fresh and timely contribution to the scholarship.

Koehler argues that Congress bowed to mining interests when it mandated the relocation of thousands of Navajos from land partitioned to the neighboring Hopis. Even those who think federal policy was primarily shaped by less malign influences will be impressed by this polemical, well-written account of a tragic conflict.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421447421
Illustration Description
1 b&w photo, 40 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Beginning: Interdependence and Independence in the Four Corners Region, 1540-1868
2. Divide and Conquer: Misinformation and Manipulation across Dinétah and Hopituskwa
3

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Beginning: Interdependence and Independence in the Four Corners Region, 1540-1868
2. Divide and Conquer: Misinformation and Manipulation across Dinétah and Hopituskwa
3. Fourth World Activism: Editorial Cartoons in the Navajo Times and Qua'Töqti, 1964-1973
4. Discourse and Discord: The Conversation between the Navajo Times and Qua'Töqti, 1974
5. Activism in the Aftermath: Protest and Politics, 1974-1998
Conclusion
Appendix. Drawing Humor: A Conversation with Jack Ahasteen
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Rhiannon Koehler

Rhiannon Koehler (CHICAGO, IL) is a historian and writer. She has published in American Indian Quarterly, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and the Journal of Arizona History. She has worked in higher education and in creative direction and has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.