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Power and Progress on the Prairie

Governing People on Rosebud Reservation

2018
Author:

Thomas Biolsi

Power and Progress on the Prairie

A critical exploration of how modernity and progress were imposed on the people and land of rural South Dakota

The Rosebud Country, comprising four counties in rural South Dakota, was first established as the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1889 to settle the Sicangu Lakota. Power and Progress on the Prairie traces how a variety of governmental actors, including public officials, bureaucrats, and experts in civil society, invented and applied ideas about modernity and progress to the people and the land.

The Rosebud Country, comprising four counties in rural South Dakota, was first established as the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1889 to settle the Sicangu Lakota. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, white homesteaders arrived in the area and became the majority population. Today, the population of Rosebud Country is nearly evenly divided between Indians and whites.

In Power and Progress on the Prairie, Thomas Biolsi traces how a variety of governmental actors, including public officials, bureaucrats, and experts in civil society, invented and applied ideas about modernity and progress to the people and the land. Through a series of case studies—programs to settle “surplus” Indian lands, to “civilize” the Indians, to “modernize” white farmers, to find strategic sites for nuclear missile silos, and to extend voting rights to Lakota people—Biolsi examines how these various “problems” came into focus for government experts and how remedies were devised and implemented.

Drawing on theories of governmentality derived from Michel Foucault, Biolsi challenges the idea that the problems identified by state agents and the solutions they implemented were inevitable or rational. Rather, through fine-grained analysis of the impact of these programs on both the Lakota and white residents, he reveals that their underlying logic was too often arbitrary and devastating.

Power and Progress on the Prairie

Thomas Biolsi teaches Native American studies and comparative ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been conducting research on Rosebud Reservation for thirty years. His previous books include Deadliest Enemies: Law and Race Relations on and off Rosebud Reservation (Minnesota, 2007) and Organizing the Lakota: The Political Economy of the New Deal on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.

Power and Progress on the Prairie

Contents
Abbreviations
Introduction
1. The Birth of Liberalism on the Prairie, or How Not to Govern Too Much
2. Discipline and Governmentality: Civilizing Indians and Making Farmers Progressive
3. New Deal Practices: How Not to Govern Too Little
4. Making New Deal Subjects
5. Planning Who Shall Die So Others May Live: Biopower and Cold War National Security
6. Voting Rights, or How a Regulatory Assemblage Governs
Conclusion: When Stories about the Countryside Have Power
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index