A Reflection on Sequoyah Rising by Steve Russell

A Reflection on Sequoyah Rising by Steve Russell

Jennifer Lawson

As a graduate student, I was interested in many things. I had become somewhat of an expert on Native Studies, but my interests were extremely broad and I was moving away from that. I knew Steve Russell from my undergraduate years. I corresponded with him about U.S./NativeAmerican issues. He gave me reading recommendatons for my undergraduate thesis.

I heard from Steve Russell as a graduate student when he emailed me saying he was working on a book and wanted me to look it over. That’s what we do. We do that kind of thing. It seemed normal, so I did.

There wasn’t much to what he wrote, but I did recommend that he read Jeremy Waldron’s “Supersceding Historic Injustice.” That’s basically all I did.

I forgot about it and did my other work.

Later, Russell emailed me saying the book was published and that I was mentioned in it. One always wants to see how one’s intellectual help made a difference, so I bought the book and read it.

I was horrified.

In that book, Russell argues, first of all against Jeremy Waldron. In Waldron’s argument, he uses the example of a stolen car. When your car is stolen, it’s stll yours.

Russell made the claim that Native tribes were just like that. Stolen goods, being driven off.I didn’t buy it. It wasn’t a good argument.

Later in the book, Russell argues for militant nonviolence to take on, basically, the United States military. He literally says Native Americans can meet America’s nukes.

Totally insane.

What’s more, Russell even states that people who do this would be considered terrorists by The United States. That’s what really got me. People who agree with this book are, quite literally, terrorists.

Upon reading the book, I felt selected. I felt targeted. I felt pressure like I was supposed to do this.

I completely and utterly refused.

For many, many years, I refused.

I maintained contact with Russell on social media, but I didn’t do much Native Studies anymore. Thank God. I very much felt hated for being smart and white. I felt pressure to go along with some idiotic plan.

I’m a philosopher. I don’t make manifestos. I try my best to make reasoned arguments. If they are good, great. If they are not, argue against them.

I am also an activist, as many people know. But I have only taken on select activites, and even then, only briefy.

I highly doubted I could do something like lead Native Americans in some insane revolution, anyway, even if I wanted to, which I didn’t.

I come from a military family. Although I’m not always in favor of war, I know it’s beyond insane to take them on the way Russell mentioned.

This book was published with an academic press. I thought it was garbage. Certainly not academic. If this is the kind of stuff being published, academia does deserve to be attacked. Thank God I know it’s not the only stuff out there.

I don’t have any say on this really, but my hunch is that Steve Russell was a mastermind. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to punish me for giving him, well, a really good argument.

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