Though not as well known as the U.S. military campaigns against the Apache, the ethnic warfare conducted against indigenous people of the Colorado River basin was equally devastating. In less than
twenty-five years after first encountering Anglos, the Hualapais had lost more than half their population and nearly all their land and found themselves consigned to a reservation.
This kind of post- and neo-colonial scholarship is the clear future of indigenous studies. And if more of it is as good as Shepherd's book than not, we can look forward to a new, more complex and intellectually satisfying phase in our understanding of what we have lost—and what yet remains.
book focuses on the historical construction of the Hualapai Nation in the face of modern American colonialism. Drawing on archival research, interviews, and participant observation, Jeffrey Shepherd
describes how thirteen bands of extended families known as The Pai confronted American colonialism and in the process recast themselves as a modern Indigenous nation.
Shepherd shows that
Hualapai nation-building was a complex process shaped by band identities, competing visions of the past, creative reactions to modernity, and resistance to state power. He analyzes how the Hualapais
transformed an externally imposed tribal identity through nationalist discourses of protecting aboriginal territory; and he examines how that discourse strengthened the Hualapais' claim to land and
water while simultaneously reifying a politicized version of their own history. Along the way, he sheds new light on familiar topics—Indian-white conflict, the creation of tribal government, wage
labor, federal policy, and Native activism—by applying theories of race, space, historical memory, and decolonization.
Drawing on recent work in American Indian history and Native
American studies, Shepherd shows how the Hualapai have strived to reclaim a distinct identity and culture in the face of ongoing colonialism. We Are an Indian Nation is grounded in Hualapai
voices and agendas while simultaneously situating their history in the larger tapestry of Native peoples' confrontations with colonialism and modernity.