The New Revolution has started. The second Civil Rights Movement. On this 4th of July, I’d like to ponder about our “freedoms”.
Native Americans quite often get left out of the debate on Civil Rights. Our movement came after The Civil Rights Movement with the onset of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the late 60s but didn’t find it’s footing until the 1970s.
The occupation of Alcatraz Island in from 1969-1971 lasted 19 months. It was a stand to against the government. It involved getting the government to acknowledge the Fort Laramie Treaty which was eventually recognized by the Supreme Court in the 1980s.
Native Americans have been fighting this government since it’s inception. We have been discarded and overlooked for centuries. We are registered and tagged like show ponies and have to prove our blood quantum to qualify as a “real Indian”. Nobody else in the United States has to prove who they are. We are the indiginious population and we have to prove that we belong here.
Our land does not belong to us. We are treated like children. Our land is held in trust by the government when it suits them. We do not own our land. We can only rent our land. We can work out deals with the government about mining rights and water rights through treaties but we usually do not come out of it on top. Treaties are broken.
The previously mentioned Fort Laramie Treaty entitled The Great Sioux Nation (which is made of several tribes) the Black Hills forever. This treaty was promptly broken when gold was discovered in the Black Hills and the Natives were forced off their sacred land. They could no longer hold ceremonies in their sacred space. Custer was one of the people who cleared the way for the gold prospectors to come in and rape the land.
The government had their way with the broken treaty and further broke it by claiming the Mount Rushmore. They damaged the mountainside. Scarring it with “tribute” to their society on sacred land that did not belong to them.
The tribes went to court and sued for the government to honor the treaty. The US Supreme Court stated that the US Government did not honor the treaty and the land belonged to The Great Sioux Nation. The problem was, the government offered money and the tribes wanted the sacred land back. It is one of the longest and standing legal battles in the US. The tribes refuse to settle and the pot of money is well over billions of dollars.
These tribes could use this money. They are desperate for money for healthcare, jobs and infrastructure but the Black Hills is more than money. It is life and blood of the people. There is no dollar amount that can be put on this land.
We are always thought of last. We are a second thought. We were considered savages when the Declaration of Independence was written. We were not considered as people. We were not considered citizens until 1924. Natives suffered the same as African American people when it came to voting. We are still subject to that problem.
Recently, a number of Natives were not allowed to vote due to the fact they do not have a street address but only a post office address. Many Natives who live on reservations live in rural areas and do not have physical addresses. They were not or will not be allowed to vote. This is 2020. Not 1950.
We are not as free as everyone else. Yes, many of us celebrate the 4th of July. There’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s take a moment to to understand that Native Americans are still not free. We are held by the government with strings attached to eventually wipe us out by our blood quantum. Our land is not ours and land that is ours is stolen and not honored.
Happy 4th of July.