Bobbie Conner: American Policies of “Divide and Conquer”

Bobbie Conner (Cayuse/Nez Perce/Umatilla) talks about divide and conquer tactics used in American federal policy. 1:35.

Bio: Roberta “Bobbie” Conner is the executive director of the Tamástlikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, Oregon and has been so since 1998. She is a 2007 recipient of the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award and was inducted into University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication’s Hall of Apollute achievement in 2013. She was also the 2007 recipient of the Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.


“American federal policies have been enormously successful with divide and conquer tactics. And the idea that we’re on different reservations and closely related and fighting over things and saying this is ours and that’s yours is one of the most destructive things in our whole social fabric in the Columbia River Plateau because we all know we’re all related. We were intermarried long before Lewis and Clark came, because we don’t marry close relatives, it’s taboo to marry a first, second, third cousin. And so because of those taboos we were heavily intermarried and most people who lived on the river spoke more than one language. They were multi-lingual. As well as sign language and Chinook Jargon later on. And so the consequence of what has happened to the river and the river people is that we’ve become chopped up and segregated and separated with both physical and artificial constructs that have nothing to do with our historic lives. And our ancient culture. And thousands of years of being related has been disrupted in the last two hundred years by these divide and conquer tactics and they are some of the most harmful, hurtful things to I think to the Indian spirit.”

Related Content