Professor Digs Into Family History To Tell Story Of Native American Activism

March 21, 2018

By Rachel Grad 


Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud, will be released by University of Nebraska Press in December, 2018.


Released in December 2018, Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Bender Cloud is the first family-tribal history that focuses on the lives, activism, and intellectual contributions of Henry Cloud (1884–1950), a Ho-Chunk, and Elizabeth Bender Cloud (1887–1965), an Ojibwe.  The Clouds are not just groundbreaking intellectuals of the past, but are also the grandparents of the author, UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Professor Renya K. Ramirez.

Using Perceived Identity To Challenge Colonialism

Henry Cloud and Elizabeth Bender Cloud both grew up amid settler colonialism that attempted to break their connection to Native land, treaty rights, and tribal identities. Mastering ways of behaving and speaking in different social settings and to divergent audiences, including other Natives, white missionaries, and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, Elizabeth and Henry relied on flexible and fluid notions of gender, identity, culture, community, and belonging as they traveled Indian Country and within white environments to fight for Native rights.

Elizabeth fought against termination as part of her role in the National Congress of American Indians and General Federation of Women’s Clubs, while Henry was one of the most important Native policy makers of the early twentieth century. He documented the horrible abuse within the federal boarding schools and co-wrote the Meriam Report of 1928, which laid the foundation for the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Together they ran an early college preparatory Christian high school, the American Indian Institute.

Standing Up To Colonial Power shows how the Clouds combined Native warrior and modern identities as a creative strategy to challenge settler colonialism, to become full members of the U.S. nation-state, and to fight for tribal sovereignty. Renya K. Ramirez uses her dual position as a scholar and as the granddaughter of Elizabeth and Henry Cloud to weave together this ethnography and family-tribal history.

Renya K. Ramirez (enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) is a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. She is the author of Gender, Belonging, and Native American Women: The Activism of Sarah Deer and Cecelia Fire Thunder and Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond—book was finalist for American Studies Association Lora Romero First Book Prize.  She is executive producer, co-producer, screen writer, and co-director of the film Standing in the Place of Fear: Legacy of Henry Roe Cloud.

  • Standing Up To Colonial Power is now available from the University of Nebraska Press.

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