April 4, 2008

Indians and Energy:
Exploitation and Opportunity in the American Southwest

An SMU symposium will examine the volatility of energy development on American Indian lands — a story that contains elements of exploitation, paternalism and dependency as well as social, economic and political empowerment.

Indians and Energy postcard
Krys Boyd of KERA Public Radio's Think interviewed symposium organizer Brian Frehner. Hear the interview(45 min)

"Indians and Energy:  Exploitation and Opportunity in the American Southwest" is sponsored by SMU's Clements Center for Southwest Studies and will feature academic experts from around the U.S. at a daylong gathering on Saturday, April 12, at McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall on the SMU campus. Speakers will focus on power production on tribal lands, related environmental, sovereignty and employment issues, and federal energy policy.

Large percentages of the nation's oil, coal and uranium resources are drilled or mined on American Indian lands in the Southwest. Regional weather patterns also have created opportunities for solar and wind power. The symposium and the book of essays it will generate will provide historical context for energy development on American Indian lands and provide a platform for ideas that may guide future public policy. Collectively, the presentations will make the case that the American Southwest is well suited for exploring how people have transformed the region's resources into fuel supplies for human consumption.

Presentations will include:

  • Understanding the Earth and the Demands on Energy Tribes
  • A Piece of the Action: Navajo Leadership, Energy Development and Decolonization
  • Power to the Indians: The Production and Use of Electricity on Arizona's Reservations
  • Indigenous Peoples, Large Dams, and Capital Intensive Energy Development: A View from the Lower Colorado and Lower Snake Rivers 
  • The Evolution of Federal Energy Policy for Tribal Lands
  • Landscapes of Power: Environmental Activism and Renewable Energy in Indian Country
  • Jobs and Sovereignty: American Indian Workers and Industrial Development in the Twentieth Century 

Symposium organizers are Sherry Smith, SMU professor of history and associate director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies; Brian Frehner, Oklahoma State University assistant professor of history and former Clements Center fellow; and James F. Brooks, director of the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe.

Attendees may register online at or call 214-768-3684.  Walk-ins are welcome at the 8:15 a.m. registration and the first session begins at 9 a.m. April 12.

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