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4.5: Perspectives and Future Directions

  • Page ID
    143300
    • Melissa Leal & Tamara Cheshire

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    We Are Still Here


    It is this spirit of hope, determination, bravery, courage, and ferocious love that creates resilient people and resilient recovery from loss and trauma. It is this spirit that will help American Indian people today and tomorrow.

    -Belcourt-Dittloff, 2006


    As stated at the beginning of this chapter, Native nations are sovereign, domestic dependent nations that have survived imperialism, colonization, settler colonialism, white supremacy, the doctrine of discovery and manifest destiny. We have survived acts of genocide, assimilation, boarding schools, termination, removal and relocation; and we have done more than survive, we have thrived and kept our traditions and cultures alive for over 500 years. The following discussed topics are just a few ways we have fought for our right to exist and have succeeded.

    Land, Water and Mineral Rights

    Land, water and mineral rights are often protected through treaties; but remember treaties, the supreme law of the land, can be broken and all of them have been, by the federal government. The only recourse tribes have is to take the federal government to court, through the federal justice system, up to the Supreme Court. It is a long, costly and arduous process and the Supreme Court has the ability to deny hearing a case. Previous Supreme Court Judges, like Justice Marshall, recognize the bias within the system and have written opinions about the rights of tribes and limitations. The primary point is that legal protections are set in precedence and land, water, fishing, timber and mineral rights are somewhat protected for tribes, whether they are outlined in treaties or not. If they are not outlined in treaties, they are called “reserved rights,” which are rights that were never given up through treaty. Rights to land and resources must be expressly outlined and given up through treaty, otherwise, they remain reserved rights to the land and resources that can be accessed by the tribe and tribal members.

    Federally recognized tribes today that have reservations and resources on those reservations can utilize and invest in those resources for the tribe to be financially stable and somewhat financially independent from the federal government, but there are always federal restrictions. States have also often attempted to intervene between tribes and the federal government in order to benefit financially from both entities.

    The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) passed by the U.S. Congress in 1934, encouraged tribes to take control of their “business and economic affairs” to insure a solid land base by putting a halt to the loss of tribal lands through allotment (Dawes). The IRA was a sharp change in direction in federal policy leaning towards tribal sovereignty, replacing assimilationist policies that had been in place since the late 1800’s. The IRA prohibited any further allotment of reservation lands. It also provided a way for tribes to purchase land back and place it in trust through the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. The IRA of 1934 was meant to further establish tribal self-government politically and economically. Through the IRA, Congress authorized tribes to adopt their own constitutions and bylaws. Furthermore, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to take steps to improve the social and economic conditions of Native people by adopting regulations for forestry, livestock grazing on lands in trust and/or reservation lands, assist in the creation of chartered corporations, make loans to these corporations out of a revolving fund to protect economic development of tribes, pay tuition and other expenses for Native students at vocational schools, and giving preference to Native workers for employment related to Indian Affairs. What is even more important about the IRA is that it authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire lands “within or outside of existing reservations” to be placed in trust for Native people and tribes. The key word is “trust.” Individual and tribal ownership is still an issue with the federal government and they must maintain their patriarchal, regulatory role in maintaining land for tribes.

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge

    Tribes have utilized traditional ecological knowledge for hundreds of thousands of years to sustainably manage their homelands. This knowledge ranges from the understanding of waterways to use of fire and controlled burns to replenish soils. Only recently have indigenous people actually been heard in the conversations on how to care for the land and what is called the "environment." The concept that we, human beings, are also the environment is only beginning to be acknowledged. One of the many teachings that relates to the importance of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is the 7th generation principle. Tribal peoples understand that living in this world requires that we have an understanding and respect for generations before us and also for at least 7 generations after us. This is one of the principles that helps us to understand why we need to care for the earth. The concept of 7 generations comes form the Haudenosaunee, but all tribal nations have a concept of caring for the world for future generations.


    The Peacemaker taught us about the Seven Generations. He said, when you sit in council for the welfare of the people, you must not think of yourself or of your family, not even of the generation. He said, make decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today.

    -Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation


    Sidebar - Timeline Native History in the U.S. from 1900 - 2007

    • 1934 – Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) – also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act – was enacted to decrease federal control of American Indian Affairs and increase Indian self-government.
    • 1952 - Arizona v. California litigation begins. The longest-running water rights litigation began in 1952 with the filing of an original action in the Supreme Court by Arizona against California seeking a division of the waters of the Colorado River. The United States subsequently intervened to protect federal water rights, including reserved water rights held for the benefit of five Indian tribes (for the Fort Mojave, Fort Yuma (Quechan), Chemehuevi, Colorado River, and Coocopah Indian Reservations).
    • 1964 Survival of American Indians (SAIA) formed and staged "fish-ins" to preserve off reservation fishing rights in Washington State. Those who participate in the fish-ins later help the occupiers on Alcatraz. Fishing and land rights protests continued throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
    • 1973 - United States files treaty fishing rights case in Michigan - The United States filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Bay Mills Indian Community to obtain a clear determination of the Community's right to fish in areas of Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior ceded under an 1836 treaty. Several other tribes intervened, and the treaty right was initially confirmed by a 1979 decision. After that ruling, the parties entered into a consent decree in 1985 in which Great Lakes fishery was allocated among the parties by lake, zones, species, and catch limits. After that decree expired in 2000, it was replaced by a new agreement.
    • 1977-78 the U.S. Congress passed approximately 59 laws that help redefine tribal issues regarding water rights, fishing rights, and land acquisition. Some land is returned to the tribes and issues of self-governance are further clarified.
    • 1979 - Important tribal fishing rights decision issued - In Washington v. Washington State Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Association, the Supreme Court held that, in general, tribal fishing rights under treaties that contain a phrase reserving for tribes the "right of taking fish [off reservation] at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations'' entitle tribes to "take a fair share of the available fish." According to the Court's interpretation of a series of treaties protecting tribal fishing rights in western Washington, a "fair share" allows Indians to secure as much as 50 percent of a fishing harvest, "but no more than, is necessary to provide the Indians with a livelihood--that is to say, a moderate living." Thus, Fishing Vessel and other rulings support the proposition that certain treaties create an enforceable right to take fish. This also reserves the right to protect fish.
    • 1984 - Environmental Protection Agency issues Tribal policy - The agency stated that "in keeping with the federal trust responsibility, [EPA] will assure that Tribal concerns and interests are considered whenever EPA's actions and/or decisions may affect reservation environments."
    • 1987 - Clean Water Act amended to include a provision treating tribes as akin to states - In the mid-1980's, Congress began to amend federal pollution control statutes to treat tribes like states. In 1986, Congress amended the Clean Water Act to include such a provision. In 1990, Congress included such a provision in the Clean Air Act.
    • 1988 - Wyoming Supreme Court issues important water rights decision - In 1977, the State of Wyoming began proceedings to determine all of the water rights in all of the river systems in the State. This included determining all water rights within the Big Horn River basin, which includes the Wind River Reservation inhabited by the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapahoe Tribes. The Tribes and the United States, on its own behalf for federal lands and as trustee for the Tribes, participated in the proceedings. In a landmark decision, the Wyoming Supreme Court in 1988 ruled that Congress, through the Treaty of Fort Bridger, reserved water rights for agricultural use on the Reservation. The Tribes were awarded almost 500,000 acre-feet of reserved rights with a priority date (the date the water right was established) of the Treaty. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision by an equally divided Court. Since that ruling, the Wyoming Supreme Court has also held, among other things, that the Tribes can use their water rights only for agricultural purposes, and that the State Engineer's office has administrative authority over all water rights (although the State must turn to the courts to take enforcement action against the Tribes).
    • 1999 - Supreme Court issues major off-reservation tribal hunting, fishing, and gathering rights decision - The Indian Resources Section is frequently involved in litigation protecting tribal off-reservation treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather ("usufructuary rights"). The Supreme Court's ruling in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, holding that the Chippewa retained rights on lands ceded to the United States in 1837, was a significant victory and a clear statement of tribal rights.
    • 2007 - Off-reservation tribal hunting, fishing, gathering rights settlement reached in Michigan. The United States filed a lawsuit in 1973 in order to honor and enforce commitments the federal government made to the Ottawa and Chippewa Indian Nations in the 1836 Treaty of Washington. In that treaty, the Ottawas and Chippewas ceded lands and waters that encompass much of Michigan and the Great Lakes but, in return, retained hunting and fishing rights within the ceded territory.

    Economic and Resource Development

    Tribes today are working on their futures through economic and resource development. As Native people, our best investment is in our people. Tribes uniquely understand this concept they are investing in our people through education and job placement. In fact, tribal nations require quite a bit of resources, including people power in order to maintain their existence. Tribal Councils and governments, legal systems, K-12 schools and colleges, human resources, resource management, health centers and hospitals, and so much more are required for a nation to be operational and serve its people. It is imperative that tribes take on as much responsibility for these services as possible to maintain self-determination and sovereignty and to remove as much influence from the federal government as possible because the federal government has proven time and again that it only has its best interest in mind when dealing with Native people, which has been to the detriment of Native people and our nations.

    Sidebar - Laws and Acts

    • 1988 - Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - Shortly after the Supreme Court's 1987 ruling in California v. Cabizon Band of Mission Indians, which held that California lacked authority to impose its regulatory gaming requirements on a tribal bingo operation, Congress enacted comprehensive legislation to address Indian gaming. Among other things, the statute created the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). The IGRA legislation sought to provide a statutory basis for the operation of gaming by Indian tribes as a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments. IGRA applies only to federally recognized tribes, which may conduct gaming only on "Indian lands'' within their jurisdiction. Section 20 of IGRA bars gaming on property taken into trust after October 1, 1988. There are limited exceptions to that rule, however. One is for "restored lands," under which gaming is permitted on lands taken into trust in conjunction with "the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition." Subsequent litigation handled by the Indian Resources Section has frequently concerned interpretations of the Section 20 exceptions.

    Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

    The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was passed in 1990. This legislation addressed protection of Native American gravesites and the repatriation of remains on federal and tribal lands and culturally significant objects from museums receiving federal aid. A number of states have enacted similar statutes like California and CalNAGPRA.

    Sidebar - Laws and Acts

    • 1978 - Indian Child Welfare Act - Congress passed ICWA in response to the alarmingly high rate of Native children being separated from their parents, extended families, and tribal communities.

    CalNAGPRA

    In 2001, the State Legislature passed AB-978, the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (CalNAGPRA) of 2001 (Steinberg, 2001), requiring all state agencies and museums that receive state funding and that have possession or control over collections of human remains or cultural items to provide a process for the identification and repatriation of these items to the appropriate tribes. The bill also created a Repatriation Oversight Commission with oversight authority. The intent of the legislation was to cover gaps in the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Udall, 1990) specific to the State of California.

    After the Repatriation Oversight Commission remained unfunded for over a decade, the Native American Heritage Commission (Commission) was granted oversight authority. In 2018, the State Legislature added additional Commission responsibilities under AB-2836 (Gloria, 2018), including providing technical assistance to the University of California (UC) in adopting policies and procedures adopted to expedite repatriation of remaining items in its possession.

    On September 25, 2020, Governor Newsom signed AB-275 (Ramos, 2020) into law, which amended CalNAGPRA and became effective on January 1, 2021. In AB-275, the State Legislature added additional Commission responsibilities, including maintaining a list of California Indian tribes and their state aboriginal territories, adopting mediation procedures, and publishing notices of completion of preliminary inventories and summaries on the State of California Native American Heritage Commission website.

    Historical Trauma & Mental Health

    Historical trauma is multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural, racial or ethnic group. It is related to major events experienced by a particular group of people because of their status as oppressed, such as slavery, the Holocaust, forced migration, and the violent colonization of Native Americans.

    Some effects of historical trauma include: experiencing poor overall physical and behavioral health, including low self-esteem, depression, self-destructive behavior, marked propensity for violent or aggressive behavior, substance misuse and addiction, and high rates of suicide and cardiovascular disease. Acute problems of domestic violence or alcohol misuse that are not directly linked to historical trauma may be exacerbated by living in a community with unaddressed grief and behavioral health needs.

    Parents’ experience of trauma may disrupt typical parenting skills and contribute to behavior problems in children. Compounding this familial or intergenerational trauma, historical trauma often involves the additional challenge of a damaged cultural identity (Sotero, 2006).

    Considerable work has been done with communities of Native Americans, who experienced repeated massacres and traumas, including the forced removal of children to federal and mission boarding and day schools (Brave Heart, 2003). From her work with tribal communities, clinician and researcher Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart describes historical trauma as the “cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma experience” (Brave Heart, 2003, p. 8).

    Indian Health Service

    Indian Health Service (IHS) is an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes came from the special government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This relationship, established in 1787, is based on Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The IHS is the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, and its goal is to raise their health status to the highest possible level. The IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 574 federally recognized tribes in 37 states (Indian Health Service).

    Politics and Activism

    Sidebar - Timeline Native History in the U.S. 1955 - 1985

    • 1955 - Indian Long-Term Leasing Act enacted. In 1955, Congress passed legislation that extended the maximum terms of mineral and grazing leases approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
    • 1958 - Congressman secures Interior Department moratorium on Indian land sales. During the termination period, large amounts of tribal land were lost. In 1958, Senator James Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs persuaded the Interior Secretary to halt further Indian land sales pending a study. The study that was subsequently prepared showed that the termination policy had been "disastrous" in its implementation.
    • 1959 - Eisenhower's Interior Secretary speaks out against termination. Interior Secretary Fred Seaton signaled the end of the termination era when he stated that it is "absolutely unthinkable. . . that consideration would be given to forcing upon an Indian tribe a so-called termination plan which did not have the understanding and acceptance of a clear majority of the members of the affected tribe."
    • 1961 - President Kennedy appoints Stewart Udall as Interior Secretary. The appointment of Stewart Udall led to the creation of a special task force on Indian affairs. The Task Force recommended that the termination policy be abandoned. Two members of the Task Force subsequently were appointed to lead the BIA, and under their leadership, BIA expanded reservation services.
    • 1961 - Tribal representatives endorse self-determination. Representatives of numerous tribes issued a "Declaration of Indian Purpose" which stated that Indians "want to contribute to their own personal tribal improvements and want to cooperate with their Government on how best to solve the many problems in a businesslike, efficient, and economical manner as rapidly as possible."
    • 1961 - the Nations Indian Youth council (NIYC) organized following the American Indian Charter Convention in Chicago to encourage greater self-sufficiency and autonomy of Native Nations.
    • 1964 - was the first landing at Alcatraz. Five Sioux Indians claimed the island under the Fort Laramie 1868 Treaty enabling possession of surplus federal lands. They occupy Alcatraz for four hours, calling for the island’s transformation into a cultural center and an Indian university.
    • 1965 - LaNada Boyer (Means-War Jack) relocated to San Francisco as part of the BIA Relocation program. She rejected that program as a form of termination, the federal government’s series of laws and policies intended to assimilate Native Americans into the American mainstream and became active in the Mission District which had the largest concentration of Native people in the city where she participated in the formation of the larger pan-Indian movement that flourished in urban centers.
    • 1968 Summer - United Native Americans (UNA), a pan-Indian organization, is founded in the San Francisco Bay Area to promote self-determination through Indian control of Indian affairs at every level.
    • 1968 July - the American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in Minneapolis to protect the city’s Native community from police abuse and to create job training, housing and education programs.
    • 1968 - LaNada Boyer (Means-War Jack) became the first Native American student to enter the University of California at Berkeley. It was at UC Berkeley that she helped to form the Native American student organization.
    • 1968 - President Johnson urges end to termination and endorses self-determination. In an address to Congress, President Johnson proposed "a new goal" for federal Indian programs that specifically endorses self-determination and gives "an opportunity [for Indians] to remain in their homelands, if they choose, without surrendering their dignity; an opportunity to move to the towns and cities of America, if they choose, equipped with the skills to live in equality and dignity."
    • 1968 - Indian Civil Rights Act - Congress enacted the Indian Civil Rights Act to ensure that the provisions akin to those in the Bill of Rights applied to tribal governments.
    • Spring of 1969 - the Berkeley Campus Chapter of UNA joined the Third World student strike which became the catalyst for the creation of the first Native American Studies program and the Department of Ethnic Studies. Leaders of the effort were LaNada Boyer (Means-War Jack), Patty Silvas, Carmen Christy, Horace Spencer, Richard Oakes, and Jack D. Forbes. The Native American Student Alliance was formed from this and planned the 1969 Alcatraz occupation. Other plans were being developed on other California college and university campuses. Forbes drafted a proposal for a College of Native American Studies to be created on one of the University of California campuses. The State Legislature endorsed the idea.
    • October of 1969 - the American Indian Center in San Francisco burned down. It had been a meeting place that served 30,000 Indian people with social programs. The loss of the center focuses Indian attention on taking over Alcatraz for use as a new facility.
    • 1969 - The Native American Student Union brings together Indian college students in a California Conference. Leaders included Dennis Turner, Lanada Boyer (Means-War Jack), and many others.
    • November 20, 1969 - 14 Indians landed on Alcatraz. The next day 80 to 100 Indians of 20 tribes occupy Alcatraz Island to set up an Indian Cultural Center. By November 28 about 400 Indians were on the island. They defy the federal government and set up permanent occupancy for 19 months. Native American college students are intricately involved in this occupation.
    • December of 1969 - members of the American Indian Movement, led by co-founder Dennis Banks, arrived at Alcatraz. After two weeks, they returned to Minneapolis bringing new ideas about confrontational activism and land seizures as a tool to confront the federal government’s Indian policies.
    • March 14, 1970 - Indians began occupying BIA offices. Many occupy the Littleton, Colorado BIA office to protest anti-Indian employment policies of the Bureau.
    • 1970 - Self-determination without termination announced - President Nixon announced a new direction in federal Indian policy when, in a special message to Congress on July 8, 1970, he condemned the forced termination of Indian tribes. He reiterated the federal government's responsibility to Indians but also proposed new policies to encourage Indian independence and self-determination.
    • September 1970 - 50 Indians from different tribes in the U.S. climbed to the top of Mount Rushmore and announced they were "taking over", until 123,000 acres of Indian land that was unjustly taken for a gunnery range in World War II is returned.
    • November of 1970 - AIM painted Plymouth Rock red and occupied the Mayflower replica on Thanksgiving Day.
    • June 11, 1971 - the fifteen remaining Alcatraz occupiers were escorted off the island by U.S. marshals and FBI agents officially ending the 19 month and nine-day long occupation.
    • July 4, 1971 - AIM stages a Fourth of July counter-celebration by occupying the Mount Rushmore National Monument.
    • 1972 - after an 11 year effort, the Alaska Native Claims Movement negotiates a large land claims settlement giving Alaska Natives 44 million acres of land and $962.5 million. This act becomes a model for struggling Indigenous movements around the world.
    • November 1972 - AIM organized the Trail of Broken Treaties; more than 2,000 Indians went to Washington on the eve of the presidential election to president Nixon with a 20 point program. They occupy the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters for seven days, demanding that the U.S. recognize tribal self-determination.
    • 1973 - Menominee Restoration Act is enacted, marking the first restoration of a terminated tribe. It "reinstated all rights and privileges of the tribe or its members under Federal treaty, statute, or otherwise which may have been diminished or lost." Numerous other tribes were subsequently restored.
    • 1973 Wounded Knee II - when members of the Lakota Sioux tribe with the help of AIM on the Pine Ridge Reservation attempted to have Dick Wilson, the BIA backed head of the tribal administration, impeached, they received resistance from the federal government, which wanted to keep him in power. Led by Russell Means, AIM seizes control of Wounded Knee (site of the 1890 massacre) and the perimeter is placed under siege for 71 days. More than 500,000 rounds of ammunition are fired into AIM’s bunkers. Two Indians and two FBI agents were killed. Nearly 1,200 people were arrested. The end of the standoff is negotiated on May 7, with the federal government’s promise that Native American grievances will be addressed. Native Americans attend one meeting with White House Representatives and are promised congressional review of their concerns and a second meeting, but no further meetings take place.
    • 1973-76 - the three years following Wounded Knee II are referred to by Native people as the "Reign of Terror" as the FBI carries our intensive local surveillance, makes repeated arrests, harasses local tribal members and institutes legal proceedings against AIM leaders and supporters on the Pine Ridge reservation. The Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOON’s) affiliated with the BIA, backed by Dick Wilson control the reservation with an iron fist and often shoot first, asking questions later. The FBI does not attempt to interfere. During this time 61 homicides among AIM supporters are reported; many are never investigated.
    • 1974 - Supreme Court ruled that federal relationships with tribes are political, not racial, in nature - In Morton v. Mancari, the Supreme Court held that the federal government's special treatment of Indians is political and non-racial when it "can be tied rationally to the fulfillment of Congress' unique obligation toward the Indians." Subsequent decisions have both reaffirmed the holding and made clear that it applies to the federal government's dealings with Indians generally. For example, in United States v. Antelope, the Supreme Court held in 1977 that "[f]ederal regulation of Indian tribes, therefore, is governance of once-sovereign political communities; it is not to be viewed as legislation of a 'racial' group consisting of 'Indians.'"
    • June 26, 1975, two FBI agents enter Jumping Bull Ranch where a large number of AIM supporters were invited to protect the Jumping Bull elders. A shootout ensues and the two FBI agents are killed. One of the AIM defenders, Leonard Peltier, is later captured in Canada. He is extradited and convicted of murder by an all white jury. Activists continue to campaign for his exoneration and release while Peltier serves two consecutive life sentences in federal prison.
    • 1975 - Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act - Congress enacted the ISDEA to permit tribes to contract with the federal government to provide certain federal services and programs to tribal members.
    • 1977 - AIM sponsors talks resulting in the 1977 International Treaty Conference with the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland.
    • February 11-July 1978 - Indian participants embark on the "Longest Walk" from Alcatraz Island to Washington D.C. to symbolize the forced removal of Indians from their homelands and to draw attention to continuing problems. The action challenges the backlash movement against Indian treaty rights. They present a manifesto to the Carter administration.
    • 1980 - The Supreme Court rules that the U.S. owes the Lakota Sioux interest from 1877 payment as compensation for taking the Black Hills, originally part of Indian lands. The Lakota reject the payment, hoping to reclaim the Black Hills from the U.S.
    • 1985 - An AIM security camp is established on Navajo land near Big Mountain, Arizona to support the traditional Dine elders in their resistance to forced relocation.

    Alcatraz, AIM and Wounded Knee

    wall with phrases painted in red: "Indians Welcome" "United Indian Property" and "Indian Land'
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): “San Francisco (CA, USA), Alcatraz, Barracks -- 2022 -- 3087.” (CC BY-SA 4.0; Dietmar Rabich via Wikimedia Commons)

    In October of 1969 the American Indian Center in San Francisco burned down. It had been a meeting place that served 30,000 Native people with social programs. The loss of the center focused Indian attention on finding a new location. Taking over Alcatraz for use as a new facility was one idea that took fruit. After all, the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie includes a provision for tribes to reclaim Native lands that were stolen by the federal government and used as military posts, forts, prisons, etc. and Alcatraz is a decommissioned federal military prison that closed because the expenditures to run the facility were too high.

    On November 20, 1969, 14 Indians landed on Alcatraz and began the occupation. The next day 80 to 100 Indians from 20 different tribes landed on Alcatraz Island to set up an Indian Cultural Center. By November 28, 1969 about 400 Indians were on the island. They defied the federal government and set up permanent occupancy for 19 months until they were forced out by the armed federal marshals, FBI agents, and special forces police on June 11, 1971.

    Alcatraz was an important start to the next series of events bringing national recognition to Indian issues. Native American college students who were intricately involved in the occupation, fueled the development of Native American Studies/American Indian Studies at San Francisco State and Berkeley; the creation of the Native American Studies department at UC Davis; and the establishment of DQ University, the first tribal college in California, located at an abandoned Army Telecommunications center and government surplus land near Davis, California (Frank-Cardenas, 2019). Please take a listen to Radio Free Alcatraz - by John Trudell.

    In December of 1969, members of the American Indian Movement, led by co-founder Dennis Banks, arrived at Alcatraz. After two weeks, they returned to Minneapolis, bringing new ideas about confrontational activism and land seizures as a tool to confront the federal government’s Indian policies.

    The American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 in an effort to stop police harassment of Indians in the Minneapolis area. Borrowing some tactics from the Vietnam war protests of the era, AIM soon gained national notoriety. However, many mainstream Indian leaders denounced the youth-dominated group as too radical. In 1972, a faction of AIM members led by Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier sought to close the divide by making alliances with traditional tribal elders on reservations. They had their greatest success on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, after a group of young white men murdered a Sioux man named Yellow Thunder. Although Yellow Thunder’s attackers received only six-year prison sentences, this was widely seen as a victory.

    Wounded Knee was the site of two conflicts between Native people and the U.S. Army and later the FBI. On December 29, 1890 the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under BigFoot, a Lakota chief, near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. The U.S. Army brutally murdered approximately 300 Native women, elderly men and children. Historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876 (History.com Editors, 2022).

    Again in 1973, brutal murders were happening again on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Members of the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee for 71 days to protest conditions on the reservation. Two FBI AIM’s growing prestige and influence, however, threatened the conservative Sioux tribal chairman, Dick Wilson. When Wilson learned of a planned AIM protest against his administration at Pine Ridge, he retreated to tribal headquarters where he was under the protection of federal marshals and Bureau of Indian Affairs police.

    Rather than confront the police in Pine Ridge, some 200 AIM members and their supporters decided to occupy the symbolically significant hamlet of Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre. Wilson, with the backing of the federal government, responded by besieging Wounded Knee.

    During the 71 days of the siege, which began on February 27, 1973, federal officers and AIM members exchanged gunfire almost nightly. Hundreds of arrests were made, and two Native Americans were killed and a federal marshal was permanently paralyzed by a bullet wound.

    The leaders of AIM surrendered on May 8 after a negotiated settlement was reached. In a subsequent trial, the judge ordered their acquittal because of evidence that the FBI had manipulated key witnesses. AIM emerged victorious and succeeded in shining a national spotlight on the problems of modern Native Americans.

    The troubles at Wounded Knee, however, were not over after the siege. A virtual civil war broke out between the opposing Indian factions on the Pine Ridge reservation, and a series of beatings, shootings and murders left more than 100 Indians dead. When two FBI agents were killed in a 1975 gunfight, the agency raided the reservation and arrested AIM leader Leonard Peltier for the crime. In 1977, Peltier was convicted of killing the two FBI agents and sentenced to life in prison. To this day, Peltier’s supporters continue to maintain his innocence and seek a presidential pardon for him (History.com Editors, 2022; American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council).

    Standing Rock - Protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

    Description in text
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): No DAPL protesors outside San Francisco City Hall, 2016. (CC BY-SA 4.0; Pax Ahimsa Gethen via Wikimedia Commons)

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) is a photo of Dakota Access Pipeline protestors standing in front of San Francisco City Hall which has "NO DAPL" sign projected onto the building.

    The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a $3.78 billion dollar project to build a 1,200 mile pipeline, was announced to the public in June of 2014. In September of 2014, DAPL representatives met with Chairman Archambault and the entire Standing Rock Tribal Council to discuss the proposed project, which would cut through the Tribe’s historic treaty lands, sacred sites, and cross the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation. The Tribe made its overwhelming objection to the proposal absolutely clear to DAPL representatives, and promised to fight them if they proceeded in the proposed location. Here is an excerpt from the transcript from that Sept. 30th meeting:

    And just before you get started on the project, I want you to know and understand that we recognize our treaty boundaries, our Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and 1868, which encompasses North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota. Because of that we oppose the pipeline. We have a standing resolution that was passed in 2012 that opposes any pipeline within the treaty boundary. So just so you know coming in, this is something that the tribe is not supporting. This is something the tribe does not wish. Even though it's outside of our 1889 federal boundaries, we still recognize our treaty boundaries (David Archambault, Sept. 30th Meeting between DAPL and Standing Rock Tribal Council).

    From the very start of the process, the Tribe repeatedly and vocally expressed its concerns about damage to sacred sites, risks of oil spills, and the Government’s heightened responsibility to ensure that the Tribe’s treaty rights were protected. DAPL construction began in June of 2016.

    DAPL was designed to transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day underground from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline is buried nearly 4 feet deep in most areas under agricultural lands but is also situated under Lake Oahe which is one water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and surrounding communities as well as the Missouri River. The Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article II of the Fort Laramie Treaty, which guarantees the "undisturbed use and occupation" of reservation lands surrounding the proposed location of the pipeline. The pipeline was completed in April of 2017 and became operational in May 2017.

    What was unique about Standing Rock and the DAPL protests is that tribal members from all across the world came to be a part of this historic moment. Several hundred Water Protectors began to show up at the Oceti Sakowin camp. The North Dakota state police along with law enforcement from several other states militarized and moved in to forcibly remove protestors camped on tribal land.

    Armed with batons, weapons and dressed in riot gear, law enforcement were flanked by US military tanks as they moved in to remove and arrest the Water Protectors. Water hoses were used in freezing weather, guard dogs, rubber bullets and tear gas were employed against non-armed, non-violent Water Protectors, many of whom were elders. The United Nations even called for a halt in construction of the pipeline arguing it could threaten the health and well-being of Native Americans. The United Nations further condemned the violent response to the Water Protectors by local law enforcement accusing them of unjustified and excessive force in their increasingly militarized response.

    For fear of further risk of injury or death, it became clear to the Standing Rock tribal chairman that the Water Protectors needed protecting themselves and that this battle would be one for and won in the courts. He asked the Water Protectors to leave the camp and continue the fight from the safety of their homes. Water Protectors went home but many had sustained life long injuries and legal bills for warrants for their arrests that they will never be able to pay, so many are serving prison time instead, charged with felonies that will prevent them from voting in upcoming elections.

    The Dakota Access Pipeline construction which was halted under the Obama administration due to public pressure, but was resumed and completed under the Trump administration, recently leaked 84 gallons of oil in April, 2022. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is still fighting in court for the shutdown of DAPL before irreparable damage is done. To date, the Biden administration has done nothing to help shut down DAPL (Earthjustice, 2023).

    Shasta Dam

    Shasta Dam is the fourth highest dam in California and its 4.55 million acre-foot reservoir is the largest in the state. The dam captures water from three rivers; the upper Sacramento, McCloud, and Pit, blocking migratory fish access and affecting downstream flows in the process. Constructed and operated by the U.S. Bureau of

    Reclamation, the Shasta Dam and Reservoir is the cornerstone of the giant Central Valley Project (CVP), which provides irrigation and drinking water for much of California’s Central valley and areas just south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

    In 2015, the Bureau of Reclamation identified a plan with the greatest level of National Economic Development (NED) benefits as one including an 18.5-foot rise of Shasta Dam, which would increase water storage capabilities behind the dam by about 13% (The Facts about Raising Shasta Dam, 2021).

    This plan was advertised to improve conditions in the Sacramento River for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead and increase the state’s overall water supply reliability, but would have disastrous effects on the Winnemem Wintu and Hoopa Valley Tribes.

    Tribal leaders warned that the dam raise will inundate many of the sacred cultural sites not already covered by the waters of Shasta Lake. They also oppose the dam raise because it is designed in conjunction with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build peripheral tunnels. The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species, as well as the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The “habitat restoration” proposed under the plan would also take huge areas of fertile Delta farmland out of production. Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk, referring to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, emphasized, “Farms in the desert are killing our water systems. The selenium pollution of the water is only the tipping point, only an indicator of what is coming. Everything is threatened if the water is not allowed to go to the sea. And the rainfall that falls in the desert is as the Creator has intended,” she said. She noted how the Bureau claims one of the two reasons for the dam raise is to provide a larger cold water pool to “restore” the salmon. “However, the cold water pool in place now hasn’t created more salmon,” Sisk said. Sisk emphasized that the loss of salmon will result in a huge catastrophe for fish, people and the planet (Winnemem Wintu say no to Shasta Dam Raise, Town Tunnels, by Dan Bacher September 27, 2013 - Center for World Indigenous Studies cwis.org).

    David Martinez, Winnemem Tribal Member, pointed out the solution to restoring the salmon is not raising the dam and building the twin tunnels, but to provide passage over Shasta Dam so the winter run Chinook salmon can once again ascend the McCloud River to spawn. “A half mile channel between Dry Creek and Cow Creek can allow the salmon to migrate upriver for a lot less money than the billions it will cost to raise the dam and build the tunnels,” supposedly to “restore” salmon, he noted (Winnemem Wintu say no to Shasta Dam Raise, Town Tunnels, by Dan Bacher September 27, 2013 - Center for World Indigenous Studies cwis.org).

    Sisk said, “We want our salmon back and we want access to participation in the process as a viable community. In their environmental impact report, they list everything we have as ‘archeological’ sites. However, that’s where we dance – that’s where we bring our girls across the river in the puberty ceremony. To make room for the reservoir, the BOR stole our lands, destroyed our salmon run, and submerged our burial grounds and sacred sites. Many Winnemem were left homeless, and we still have yet to receive the ‘like lands’ that were promised to us in the 1941 Indian Lands Acquisition Act, which authorized the stealing of our land” (Winnemem Wintu say no to Shasta Dam Raise, Town Tunnels, by Dan Bacher September 27, 2013 - Center for World Indigenous Studies cwis.org).

    In November of 2020, the Trump administration finalized the Shasta Dam raise plan which has led to federal funding being released to the state of California to continue the work. Protests continue (Bahouth, 2020; Bureau of Reclamation, 2022).

    Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit Movement

    A participant at the Greater Than Fear Rally Rochester Minnesota with a red hand painted across her face
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Protestor, 2018. (CC BY-SA 2.0; Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons)

    Violence against Native women contributes to the highest rates of assault, domestic abuse, sexual violence, abduction and human trafficking, murder and obliteration from society’s consciousness and collective memory. Native American/Indigenous women are assaulted, raped, abducted, trafficked, murdered on a scale unimaginable among any other ethnic group on this continent. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Movement (MMIW) or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Movement (MMIWG2S) is an Indigenous grass roots effort to restore identities in the public sphere, to show their faces and give them voice. It is a way to let them, their spirits, and their loved ones know that they are not forgotten, that they are remembered, they are loved, they are needed, they are missed and mourned.

    The imprint of a red hand over the mouth has become the symbol of the growing MMIW movement. It stands for all the missing sisters whose voices are not heard. It stands for the silence of the media and law enforcement in the midst of this crisis. It stands for the oppression and subjugation of Native women who are now rising up to say #NoMoreStolenSisters (Native Hope, 2022).

    In April of 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the formation of a new Missing and Murdered Unit (MMU) within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) to provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The MMU will help put the full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases and marshal law enforcement resources across federal agencies and throughout Indian country (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2021).

    The BIA’s MMU website posts critical information about missing and murdered individuals, including case profiles that can be easily shared via social media, as well as ways to submit tips that could help investigators solve cases and give families closure (Indian Affairs).

    Landback Movement

    LANDBACK is a movement that has existed for generations with a legacy of organizing and sacrifice to “get Indigenous Lands back into Indigenous hands” (LANDBACK, 2021). The LANDBACK Campaign is a mechanism to connect, coordinate, and amplify this movement and the communities that are fighting for LANDBACK.

    The closure of Mount Rushmore, return of that land and all public lands in the Black Hills, South Dakota is the cornerstone battle. Not only does Mount Rushmore sit in the heart of the sacred Black Hills, but it is an international symbol of white supremacy and colonization. To truly dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, we have to go back to the roots. Which is putting “Indigneous Lands back into Indigenous hands” (LANDBACK, 2021).

    LANDBACK is a political framework that allows us to deepen our relationships across the field of organizing movements working towards true collective liberation. It allows us to envision a world where Black, Indigenous & POC liberation co-exists. It is a political, organizing and narrative framework from which work is done with purpose and conviction. “It is bringing our People with us as we move towards liberation and embodied sovereignty through an organizing, political and narrative framework” (LANDBACK, 2021).

    LANDBACK is about “reclaiming everything stolen from Indigenous peoples: land, language, ceremony, food, education, housing, healthcare, governance, medicines and kinship” (LANDBACK, 2021).

    Did you know that you can purchase land and donate it to the local tribe whose land it initially belonged to and who may still reside on or near that land? The Secretary of the Interior will put that land in trust for the tribe. So what are you waiting for?

    Indian Education

    In 1975, the United States Congress enacted the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, Public Law 93-638. The Act declares that the Congress recognizes a Federal obligation to be responsive to the principle of self-determination through Indian involvement, participation, and direction of educational and service program. Prior to the passing of the Act, the Amendment of 1974 added two sections to Part B, to provide the authority to fund special teacher education programs and issue fellowships to Native American students in graduate and professional programs.

    Sidebar - Laws and Acts

    • 1971 - DQ University, in California, was one of the first six tribal colleges and universities in the United States, all of which were founded between 1968 and 1972.
    • 1972 - Indian Education Act enacted - Congress enacted the Indian Education Act providing increased federal aid for Indian education.
    • 1975 - The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act gives native American control in administering federal programs and services to their communities.

    As stated earlier in this chapter, education for Native people in this country has been an act by the federal government of assimilation and genocide. Our communities and tribes are still grieving from the large numbers of murders and mass graves found at many of the Boarding School sites. Many tribes and Native Parents have advocated for and started their own Indian Education programs where they work in K-12 schools to support Native students. Besides providing for the physical resources of educational materials like notebooks, paper, pencils, backpacks, rulers, erasers, protractors, etc., tutoring, cultural programming, connection to traditional ecological knowledge and language revitalization programs are some of the resources Indian Education provides. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to be in community with other Native people whether it be from the same tribe or different tribes.

    A report, "From Boarding Schools to Suspension Boards," written in 2019 by the Sacramento Native American Higher Education Collaborative and CCEAL Contributors Dr. J. Luke Wood and Mohamed Qas reveals the long term ramifications of the boarding schools (Springer, et al., 2019):

    You can access the PDF of the report "From Boarding Schools to Suspension Boards: Suspensions and Expulsions of Native American Students in California Public Schools."

    These high numbers of suspensions are horrendous; especially since we know that early experiences in education affect whether or not a student continues on to college and in California we have seen a massive drop, approximately 50% in Native student enrollment especially at the Community College level.

    The Sacramento Native American Higher Education Collaborative of which the authors of this chapter are members, has been working since 2015 on obtaining funding to establish the Native American Student Support and Success Program (NASSSP) with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. This student services program is similar to Umoja and Puente, but focuses specifically on Native American College student recruitment, retention and success by providing services and guidance to Native students. The program was recently funded this year (2022) for five years, for up to 20 community colleges to participate.

    Cultural and Language Revitalization Movements

    Across Indian Country there are many tribes and Native organizations working to bring back Native languages from the brink of extinction, or as we like to say in language revitalization circles "wake them up from sleeping." It can be very difficult to find any living speakers for many of our tribal languages, let alone teachers to instruct our youth and their parents who want to learn. In California, for example, there is an organization called Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS). This organization has been essential for many tribal groups attempting to revitalize their tribal languages. AICLS developed and hosts the Breath of Life Archival Institute for California Indigenous Languages.

    Starting in 1995, AICLS has partnered with the University of California at Berkeley to run the one-week biennial Breath of Life Language Restoration Workshop for California Indians. The objective is to assist the participants in exploring and utilizing the vast archives of California Indian languages and materials for their own efforts in language reclamation. There are lectures and workshops on linguistics to help them learn how to understand the written materials and bring them back into spoken language.

    Each language group is paired with a linguist who works with them intensively throughout the week, and archivists in the museums, libraries and departments housing the materials are on hand to orient the participants and help them explore the archives. As they become familiar with the available materials, participants start focusing in on a project of their choice, which is presented to the group at the end of the week. Through social events during the week and staying together in the dorms, participants often find inspiration from fellow language activists and develop useful connections.

    The “Breath of Life” concept has spread. AICLS members helped organize the “National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages” in Washington D.C., first partnering with the Endangered Language Fund, and later with the Myaamia Center and the Smithsonian Institution. Now there is a “Breath of Life 2.0,” an advanced workshop for experienced Breath of Lifers to teach them how to make a database to organize and use efficiently the materials they found in university and museum archives or have in their own collections. This workshop was held at Miami University in Ohio in 2019, and was held at the University of Oregon in 2020 (AICLS, 2020).

    One example (there are many) of a language program that has worked tirelessly and been successful in California is that of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Patwin language. The Patwin language was spoken in many tribal communities in the southwest area of the Sacramento River. After acts of genocide and forced assimilation, it is considered one of the worlds most endangered languages. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has focused extensively on learning the Patwin language. Their website describes this process:

    Language is beating heart of our identity and crucial to the survival of our culture. But for generations, our words and syntax were outlawed. Criminalizing the Patwin language was central to the strategy of challenging our people’s existence.

    By 1997, with only one documented fluent speaker of Patwin, our language was listed as one of the most at-risk languages in the world by the United Nations Atlas of Endangered Languages. That one fluent speaker—the late Bertha Wright Mitchell (1936-2018), affectionately known to many as Auntie Bertha—is responsible, more than any other single person, for enabling us stay connected to our language and our culture today.

    Auntie Bertha was a basketweaver and a culture bearer for our Tribe, mentoring many of our citizens in traditional ways and ceremonies. Starting in 2006, she worked with the now-credentialed language teacher Leland Kinter to teach Patwin to our children at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Academy and to our adult citizens at the Cultural Department, planting the seed for the current language-learning programs.

    In 2012, our primary language teacher and current Tribal Treasurer Leland Kinter earned the American Indian Languages Credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Since then, the Tribe has published a Patwin dictionary and grammar book. Our iTunes database of Patwin words and phrases includes more than 8,000 entries. We launched a Patwin language website for Tribal Citizens, and we are now working on a history curriculum for the Academy, which we plan to share with other California schools. Just as the criminalization of our language was a weapon for denying our existence, the revitalization of our language is a powerful tool for the perpetuation of our sovereignty (Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, 2023).

    Hip Hop and American Indians

    Hip Hop is powerful; it carries healing gifts and magic. Native Americans use specific songs and dances in rituals to heal people, to define identity, and to understand relationships between people and the environment. When people do not have access to these songs and dances, they seek alternative songs and dances that heal, identify, and define relationships using different methods. Hip Hop reflects social changes and transforms society. For Native Americans, being able to negotiate your status in the United States is significant because there are so many stereotypes of who is Indian and who is not and what it means to be Indian. With music, especially Hip Hop, a person or a group of people can self- situate themselves and create new identities. When we look at Hip Hop with a critical gaze, we realize that its intentions are to show us where we come from and how resilient we are as people. Music, dance, storytelling, and art are all aspects of Native American culture (and Hip Hop culture) that teach a person how to live in balance and how to make decisions for the future.

    Hip Hop tells the story of people who have faced severe trauma, poverty, marginalization, genocide, slavery, and colonization and have survived it with eminence and pride. Native Hip Hop artists use Hip Hop in many ways but, more often than not, they use Hip Hop as a means to re-claim their history and to remember the strength of their people. The creators of Hip Hop, Black artists and youth from New York and the Caribbean developed a musical genre with elements that can be called "indigenousisms." Embedded in the kick and the snare, in the hip and the hop, we can see, feel, and hear their homelands (pre-colonial Africa and then even the colonial Americas). With this blood and body memory, they created what is now considered American music styles. As Amiri Baraka writes about the Blues, the same can be written about Hip Hop. What a marvelous amalgamation of sound and movement!

    Indigenous Hip Hop artists use Hip Hop to express themselves and more amazingly, Hip hop has been used to revitalize language (check out Tall Paul's song titled Prayers in a Song) and fight against the exploitation of the land (check out the song Oil for Blood by Frank Waln). One of the most popular groups, Snotty Nose Rez Kids (based in Vancouver, Canada, originally from Kitamaat Village) have used Hip Hop to tell their tribal stories, share their language, give love to their matrilineal culture, and fight against the status quo. Snotty Nose Rez Kids remind us that all of those things that make us beautiful - indigenous "things" like beaded caps, shells, turquoise, and copper are more than just bling (check out the song Boujee Natives by Snotty Nose Rez Kids).

    In California, we have multiple Hip Hop artists. Richie Ledreagle inspires youth and the community by collaborating with artists all over Turtle Island. His music tells us to smile and to love our lives but his real impact is in how he brings the American Indian music community and represents his Miwok culture (Check out the song "I will Remain" with fellow California Native (Pomo) Stewie G. featuring Calina Lawrence).


    This page titled 4.5: Perspectives and Future Directions is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Melissa Leal & Tamara Cheshire (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .