This article describes how the law inflects the narration of environmental conflict in William T. Vollmann’s Dying Grass (2015) and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991). By focusing on the legal common sense of settler colonialism—its emphasis on private property in land and its subjugation of Indigenous peoples to the guardianship of the state—the article explores the ways in which Vollmann’s and Silko’s novels present counternarratives to the law’s story of justified conquest. Combining a law and literature approach with ecocriticism, this article highlights the importance of the legal imagination in defining human-land relations in the United States. It demonstrates how The Dying Grass and Almanac of the Dead critique this legal imagination while also using it as a model for changing environmental politics through discourse.

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