The continuity of sovereignty through dynamic resistance: Lee Murray Hanover, To Remain Near the ‘Water Ditch’: Paiute Sovereignty and United States Settler Colonialism, Owens Valley, California, 1870-1937, MA Dissertation, UNLV, 2018


Abstract: This thesis argues that Owens Valley Paiute sovereignty manifested itself both inherently and adaptively from 1870 to 1937. Sovereignty is an historically contingent term that reflects how nations deploy power to retain control over their communities and provide self-determination within economics, politics, culture, and society. This thesis illuminates Paiute sovereignty through the Peoplehood model, explaining how Paiute sovereignty existed at the moment of their creation, when Coyote placed them next to the Water Ditch—Owens River—and told them to spread throughout but never leave their homeland, the Owens Valley. This inherent mandate allowed Paiutes to adapt Coyote’s stipulation to remain in the Water Ditch to varied manifestations of settler colonialism. United States representatives and citizens attempted to erase Paiute existence in the valley through capitalist assimilation forcing Paiutes from seasonal round work to stationary wage work; U.S. map makers eliminated Paiute oral tradition and bounded geographies and claimed their homelands; literary authors supported the myth of the vanishing Indian to naturalize settler ownership of Paiute lands; and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) representatives first tried to remove Paiutes from the valley, and then attempted to eliminate Paiute identities and rights to water. Paiutes did not become dependent on settler economies; instead, they adapted wage work into their economic lives and identity to retain control over their communities. Paiutes deployed anthropological research to resist mapping erasures and explain a Paiute bounded mental geography. Paiutes worked for and with colonial literary writers, but more importantly told stories of their survival, resistance, and future as Owens Valley Paiutes. Lastly, Paiutes used congressional committees and deployed their community representatives to resist the LADWP’s water politics and remain in the “Water Ditch” on federally protected Paiute reservations.

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