The Brief, Brave Life of Larry Casuse

danny katch
6 min readMay 25, 2022

David Correia’s new book brings to life the Red Power movement of the early 1970s and the Navajo struggle for self-determination against a society that ruthlessly exploited them.

Illustration: Lynne Foster.

In today’s struggles against oil pipelines and other environmental catastrophes, Native people are at the forefront of humanity’s existential fight against climate change. This leadership hasn’t come out of nowhere but is the product of decades of radical Indigenous struggle dating back to the Red Power era of the ’60s and ’70s. Some of this history is well known but far too much is hidden. David Correia, an abolitionist organizer and professor at the University of New Mexico, is helping to uncover some of this legacy with An Enemy Such as This: Larry Casuse and the Fight for Native Liberation in One Family on Two Continents over Three Centuries.

Correia’s book is in part the story of Larry Casuse, a Navajo student activist killed in 1973 by police in Gallup, New Mexico after he had taken the town mayor hostage in a desperate attempt to close down a deadly bar. But it’s also a multigenerational saga of Larry’s family, a history of New Mexico, an analysis of Native exploitation in “bordertowns” like Gallup and a moving tribute to the spirit of a remarkable young man who has inspired some of today’s leading forces in the movement for winning back Native land and a sustainable human economy. Correia spoke with The Indypendent about the importance of the Larry Casuse story.

The Indypendent: Larry died trying to close down a bar called the Navajo Inn, which might seem odd for people unfamiliar with bordertowns. Why was this a crucial issue?

David Correia: This was about more than just a bar. The Navajo Inn became a symbol of everything that was ruthless and anti-Indian about Gallup.

Larry was really thoughtful about this. It wasn’t about protecting Native people from alcohol, but protecting Native people from the owners of the bars and from the cops. It was illegal to possess or drink alcohol on most Native reservations. There’s a complicated history to that, but what ends up happening is criminalization. The only way to drink was to go into the bordertown, but the only places they were welcome were the Indian bars, where they’d be beaten or robbed.