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Monday, April 25, 2016

What happened to the Native American population during the civil rights movement?

The short story is that First Nations People (FNP) have been “social justice warriors” since first contact - so our "Civil Rights Movement" has been in place for over 500 years.

First it was about "keeping peace" (see Pocahontas, Massasoit, and Tisquantum/Squanto), not being enslaved (see Caribbean/Arawak, Pequot, Apache), and "keeping lands and way of life" (see reservations, Trail of Tears, “urbanization programs”).  FNP’s reaction to the colonial idea of “manifest destiny” encroaching upon land and culture lead to “Indian” wars, desire to educate our own children (see “boarding schools”), practice our own spirituality (see missions/missionaries), and avoid genocide (see programs to kill people and culture, like Jeffrey Amherst’s small pox infected blankets).

After the success of the African American Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s, many groups used similar language and the legal system to forge ahead with their own civil rights concerns (every group has particular issues for their own group), including ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and DOMA (LGBT rights).  FNP organized in the early 1970s (see AIM, American Indian Movement) and used strategies, such as nonviolent protest (see Ceasar Chavez) and occupation (see Alcatraz, 1971 and Wounded Knee, 1973), to gain awareness and a voice.

What follows is everything else - Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA 1968), also called the Indian Bill of Rights (granted freedom from double jeopardy as a special relationship exists which creates a particular tension between rights granted via tribal sovereignty and rights that individual Natives retain as U.S. citizens), the right to educate our own children (see the National Indian Education Association NIEA 1969), the right to practice our “religions” (see “Ghost Dance” and American Religious Freedom Act 1978), keep out ceremonial objects/ancestor’s bone (see NAGPRA, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 1990), create/sell our own art (see Native American Arts and Crafts Act 1990),, ability to define ourselves and own identity (see “blood quantums” imposed by U.S. government, as well as U.S. Census 2010 and multi-tribal/racial status of American Indians).  These are just samples and don’t include voting, traveling, land, fishing/hunting rights, fights, and laws.

There are also other (more current) things to consider like current health and medical issues (including mental illness, drug/alcohol use), self-determination/sustainability, having clean water and no pipelines running through our territories, and the elimination of stereotypes (sports/school “mascots”) with accompanying inclusion of accurate FNP information, history, culture, and contributions.