Breaking the Iron Bonds
Indian Control of Energy Development
It is, perhaps, not well known that Indian people own about one-third of the country's western coal and uranium resources, as well as vast quantities of oil and natural gas. In the early 1960s, lurid news accounts about the Black Mesa strip mine in Arizona and the manipulation of the Navajos and Hopis shocked the American public, Indian and non-Indian alike. The mine became a symbol of the exploitation of Indian people and Indian resources to satisfy the nation's energy demands. In this book, Marjane Ambler explores the strides that both tribes and individual Indian mineral owners have made since that time, gaining crucial control over oil, gas, coal, and uranium development on their lands.
Breaking the Iron Bonds focuses on the quiet revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. It traces the steps taken—both forward and backward—as tribes and individual Indian mineral owners asserted control over energy development, from monetary returns and water rights to off-reservation development and environmental regulations. In a final chapter, the author describes how some tribes have taken over some wells completely or joined with corporate partners to direct development. Ms. Ambler, who has covered these issues for fifteen years as a journalist, offers firsthand accounts, numerous interviews with major players, and lively descriptions of the heroics of some Indian leaders.
“An exhaustive and seminal study of a pivotal epoch in contemporary Indian history. Skillfully, Ambler describes patterns of corporate exploitation, BIA indifference, fickle federal policies, perennial congressional investigations, and development of energy resources for tribes. This book will endure as a major reference on the legal evolution of tribal control over natural resources.—”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“An important addition to the growing literature on Indian self-rule.”
—Montana, the Magazine of Western HistorySee all reviews...
“A lucid and informative account of the struggle for effective control of tribally held energy resources-oil and gas, coal, and uranium—in the mountain west of the United States. . . and a telling interpretation of ethnic conflict within the national economy during the past three decades.”
—The Chronicles of Oklahoma
“A well-researched, readable, and comprehensive overview.”
—Journal of American History
“Provocative and rich. . . . An original commentary on tribal energy resource management-and a basic primer for public historians on native-American issues and their significance in the twentieth century.”
—The Public Historian
“This is an important and useful study that suggests optimism concerning Native Americans’ future.”
“A balanced perspective and brilliant synthesis of issues, personalities, and events. . . . Superlative history.”
—Michael Lawson, author of Dammed Indians: The Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux
“Ambler is a fair and impressively lucid observer of contemporary Indian affairs. She understands the real and potential impacts of energy development on tribal cultures and reservation life, and she is outstandingly knowledgeable about Indian backgrounds.”
—Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., author of Now That the Buffalo’s Gone
“Ambler is one of the few non-Indian writers writing about Indians who is able to do so without being maudlin, charitable or condescending. She writes straight from the heart.”
—Tim Giago, publisher of the Lakota TimesSee fewer reviews...
Much of the writing about American Indian issues has focused on either policies adopted by federal government or on the results of those policies on a single reservation. By contrast, this book shows the effects of tribal and federal energy policies on fifteen western reservations and untangles the complicated legal and technical issues.