They’re Killing the River: The TVA, Environmentalism, and Native American Activism

Water helped to sustain life in Cherokee towns for thousands of years. But mere subsistence didn't give communal life its meaning. For that, the Cherokees consistently returned to, and renewed, oral traditions and practices. In working to halt the construction of the Tellico Dam, Cherokees tapped into those traditions with the goal of ensuring a sustainable future for the next seven generations of Cherokees.

Lecture Description

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cherokee people led an environmental movement. Their objective was to stop the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from constructing the Tellico Dam along a sleepy section of the Little Tennessee River. This lecture explores the forgotten history of Cherokee resistance to dam construction. As the lecture reveals, that resistance focused not only on efforts to “save the Little T” but inspired a generation of Cherokee people and their allies to work together in a bid to prevent the TVA from flooding thousands of years of Cherokee history and culture.


American Indian Environment and Natural Resources

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