Reading Group

The Relentless Business of Treaties bookcover

The Relentless Business of Treaties: 
How Indigenous Land Became U.S. Property
by Martin Case

The Relentless Business of Treaties: How Indigenous Land Became U.S. Property explores the economic and political motivations of those who, on behalf of the United States, negotiated and signed treaties with Indigenous nations. A public panel discussion on February 20, 2020 among C̣aƞte Máza (Neil McKay), Becca Gercken, and author Martin Case offered perspectives on the historical experience of Native American nations to frame the book and raise questions for exploration.

Panelists discussed how treaties were crafted to benefit the signers, and how they replaced a kinship-based and communal relationship to land with new ways of defining the relationship as property, subject to transaction and individual ownership.


Resources for Reading Groups

Below, please find questions, chapter introduction videos, and additional links to further the discussions in your groups.


Questions for Reading Groups

Before reading the book, consider:

  • What do you know about U.S.-Indian treaties? What is important about these events, based on what you already know? What is their legacy?
  • Estimate the amount of time (measured in minutes) that you have spent in actively learning about U.S.-Indian treaties. Include both formal education and conversations that truly informed your understanding.

After reading the Introduction and each of the six sections of the book:

  • Was any of the information in this section new to you? If so, what?
  • Did any of the information in the section surprise you?

  • What 2-3 ideas or points do you think the author wants readers to walk away with?

  • How does the content of the section challenge or confirm what you know about U.S.-Indian treaties and the history of U.S.-Indian relations?

  • Does the historical information in this section resonate with what you know about society and systems in the U.S. today? 

  • Does the historical information in this section challenge or otherwise change what you know about society and systems in the U.S. today?

Video Chapter Introductions by Author Martin Case

Additional Resources

  • Bde Maka Ska — a project about restoring a local lake’s name; the Dakota village and the lake’s name restoration is celebrated and explored with Dakota voices through digital media (a Minneapolis Parks and Recreation and Minneapolis Public Arts project)
  • Native Land Territories, Treaties, and Languages — a community-powered resource that can help you begin to identify what Native land you are on, and which languages may be spoken there
  • Why Treaties Matter — a comprehensive and thoughtful exploration of treaties and land theft in Minnesota. For our area, we recommend you begin by reading about the 1805 and 1837 land cession treaties with the Ojibwe and Dakota, and the 1851 Dakota land cession treaties; Martin Case, the author of The Relentless Business of Treaties, was a key participant in the development of this resource
  • Invasion of America — a searchable, interactive map (with video) map showing the treaty associated with where you live; a project of  
  • Reclaiming Native Truth — a national effort to foster cultural, social, and policy change by empowering Native Americans to counter discrimination, invisibility, and the dominant narratives that limit Native opportunity, access to justice, helath, and self-determination; a project to explore unprecedented areas of research, and dispel America’s myths and misconceptions that impact Native peoples within American society 
  • The On Being Project’s Land Acknowledgment & Resources — a whole host of resources dedicated to Native American culture and history in Minnesota, as well as on the practice of land acknowledgment