The Power of John Trudell #BlueIndians

john trudell
James “Jimmy” Looks Twice in Thunderheart, played by John Trudell.


By Lara Trace (former editor of the Pequot Times 1999-2004)

It happened years ago… but I can still feel myself outside the Pequot Museum on a bench and the wind is really blowing and John is speaking about his album, and latest tour.

I knew I’d have to read what he said a few times after I listened to the tape I made.  John Trudell was deep, so deep, with level upon level of meaning in both his spoken words and lyrics.  I’d hear him, then I’d process more after a second or third listen… I can’t forget what he said about power and responsibility – you’ll read what he said in this interview.  With the next presidential election whirling around us, it’s hard not to feel powerless. But we are not powerless.

You all know John was an great actor. He was unforgettable in the movie THUNDERHEART.  (Top Photo.) I was lucky to interview him more than once.  (I spoke with him at the Honor the Earth powwow in 1999 in Wisconsin.)  John had a fiery spirit yet he was also fragile.  I felt good energy all around him; his strength was palpable.  After he lost his family, everyone wondered how he’d survive that, even years later. I don’t know how any human could survive intact after your entire family was killed by a house fire.  John did.  John mourned deeply and soared above loss.

From my notes, I was glad when Trudell explained how belief (as in religion belief) takes the place of thinking. I jotted in my notes, “Don’t believe – THINK.  We put a whole lot of energy into HOPE and BELIEF and that energy falls into a void and disappears…. You BELIEVE so you don’t have to think…… You HOPE so you don’t have to truly act – it’s a sedation (drug). Nothing changes, religion is brainwashing the consciousness of people desperate to believe…. this just puts the mind in a prison…

“Violence, terror and traumas has defeated tribal belief systems from tribal Europe thru today… and then the traumatized blame themselves….. and the beast continues to get bigger.  The answer is NON-COOPERATION and a clear thinking human being….”  Trudell didn’t waste any words.

The story I’d heard about Trudell (more than once) was he could walk into a group of angry white ranchers full of their prejudice about Indian people and they’d all walk out of the room with their arms over each others shoulders.  That was John.

Here’s what I wrote up back in 2000…


Trudell kicks off Pequot Museum concert series

Poet, activist, prophet, American Indian Movement (AIM) founder, actor and recording artist John Trudell (Santee), made a concert stop with his band Bad Dog, at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in May (2000).

Trudell uses words as medicine, so his political and poetic abilities created the new album Blue Indians, on Dangerous Discs records, released in 1999, his ninth album, produced by Jackson Browne.

“I called the album Blue Indians because there is a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide perpetrated on everyone that is poor in this country,” Trudell said. “The advance of technology has put all of us on a kind of reservation.  These are the people who can’t educate their children, or afford health care. They’ve been robbed of life, which is what happened to Native people, so in that context, we’re all Indians.”

The “spoken word” artist said he didn’t set out to be a poet or writer.  After an unspeakable tragedy took the lives of his wife, Tina, their three children and Tina’s mother, back in 1979, he started writing.  The fire that killed them was declared an accident by the FBI who declined to investigate.  This happened just 12 hours after a group marched to FBI headquarters in Wash. DC, where Trudell delivered an address on the FBI’s war against Native Americans.  He burned an American flag in protest of racism and class injustice.  To this day, Trudell believes government operatives set the blaze, “It was murder. They were murdered as an act of war.”  [READ MORE ABOUT TINA]

After 1971, Native men and women formed the national American Indian Movement, in response to the horrific conditions on reservations and the many unsolved murders.  Trudell served as National AIM Chairman from 1973-79.  During that time the FBI compiled a 17,000 page file (covering Trudell’s activities from 1969-80).

Of some 60 pages obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, describing Trudell as a major threat to national security, the memo said, “Extremely eloquent – therefore extremely dangerous.”

Writing has helped Trudell keep some sanity and continue to survive.  In 1981, he published a book of poetry “Living in Reality” and by 1982 combined music and poetry, with the help of his musician friends Jackson Browne and future collaborator Jesse Ed Davis, a Kiowa from Oklahoma.

When asked how he deals with anger, Trudell told one reviewer, “I look at it as healthy.  It’s like sadness.  There’s a reason we’re given certain feelings. I think anger is necessary to our survival and reality, but now we live in a technology reality where people are programmed not to accept their anger.  I think we can use it as fuel for clarity, focus and accomplishment.  Anger doesn’t have to be a distorting experience.”

In May, the band played songs from the album Blue Indians, while Trudell spoke his poetic lyrics.  About promoting the album, he said later, “We don’t tour like other bands.  We hit the road sometimes for a week, or several weeks.  It’s more practical for us.”

I met John at LCO in 1999
I met John at LCO in 1999 and he signed it!

In concert, Trudell referred to humans as being mined, like resources, such as minerals, and reminded us we are indeed composed of the earth’s materials.  After the concert, he explained the effects of mining humans, “The feeling of powerlessness that this society has, I think is a result of mining humans because the people do feel powerless.  I think no clear, coherent thinking people, would accept as normal the conditions that they have to accept.  So, the only reason I can see that people would accept the inequities, are because they feel powerless to deal with them.  The powerlessness may disguise itself as rage, or racial hatred, or sexism, it may disguise itself in many ways, but basically the common thread is a feeling of powerlessness among the people.

“That means all the aggressive attitudes basically get internalized.  I think that’s the obvious result of being mined as an individual.  If they are being real with themselves, no pretending, no justification or rationalization, how many people feel that they have any real power?

“How many people feel powerless to deal with situations put in their life?  It’s got to do with perceptional reality.  If you use our intelligence as clearly and coherently as we can, I think we’d understand that we are not necessarily powerless.  But we don’t know how to relate to power, or recognize it, therefore we don’t know how to exercise it.”

And, Trudell said we can’t accept this idea of being mined because we can’t recognize it or see it.

“We’re not taught about our personal relationship to power.  We’re not taught about our relationship to the Great Spirit.  Recognizing power is what you have to do.  When you recognize it, you exercise it.

“You can’t take back what they have already taken but you can stop the taking of your power, once you recognize it.”

On the importance of prayer, John said he prays for balance.  “Prayer is often a misused word.  There are people who pray for things to make them happy so I don’t know if they’re really praying.  Then there are people who pray for the welfare of others.  Some people don’t pray so much for their own individualized ego, but understand that prayer is a way of thinking in harmony with the Creator.  Praying is a way of participating with the Creator.

“Prayer that is based upon thought and feeling, then that prayer is participating.  Prayer that is based upon need and emotion, that prayer is not participating in a synchronized manner, because it’s based on the ego’s need and emotion.”

“Responsibility is the way to fulfillment, when one recognizes and exercises their responsibility, this is how one is to be free.  It’s a way of reconnecting with power for us as humans.”

On his own life, Trudell said, “I see as clearly as I can. The objective is for me to be as real to myself as I can possibly be.  The more real I can be to myself, the more real maybe I can be to other people.  It’s a challenge.”

(Published in the Pequot Times.)

trudell truth trudell_no sense


We lost John in 2015.

Indian Country Today on John Trudell Legacy

This entire post is relevant to this quote:

Clarke quote




Native Americans in newsrooms #NativeLivesMatter

“It is no secret that Washington faces a serious debt problem, but last time I checked, it was not because we are spending too much on Indian housing, healthcare or education.  It is not because we are spending too much on addressing the scourge of diabetes in Native communities, improving crumbling infrastructure or creating jobs in Indian Country.  It is not because we are spending too much supporting Native American veterans who put their lives on the line to defend our nation, or creating economic opportunities for Indian youth. It is profoundly hypocritical that the United States, year-after-year, decade-after-decade, does so little to honor its trust responsibilities to Native peoples.  It’s time for real change.” – Bernie Sanders READ MORE


By Lara Trace (Independent Voter)

The above quote is from Bernie Sander’s website on his stance on our government’s trust responsibilities to tribes.  Bad thing is: most people don’t even know or care that tribes exist in 2016.

I’ve mentioned on this blog I worked at News From Indian Country (1996-1999).  When I started working as a journalist, there were just two Native American-owned-operated national print newspapers. TWO!  (There are still two and more online news outlets now*.)  At that time, in the mid 90s, I was one of 350+ Native journalists and a member of Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). Very few of my friends worked at a mainstream newspaper like USA TODAY or the New York Times.  I knew two Native men (John and Charlie) who held those prestigious jobs and neither are writing for those newspapers in 2016.

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
Minnie Two Shoes, By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

I recall when my Assiniboine Sioux friend Minnie Two Shoes did a brief stint as a journalist at the Duluth News Tribune.  We worked together at News From Indian Country (NFIC).  Minnie helped found the Native American Press Association in 1984, which became the Native American Journalists Association in 1990. She edited two magazines: Native Peoples and Aboriginal Voices when I knew her.  I drove Minnie to the hospital in Hayward when it was first discovered she had breast cancer.Minnie Two Shoes died in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 9, 2010 after battling cancer.[9]

Minnie was among the leaders and founders of the American Indian Movement. Yep, those warriors like John Trudell!

Minnie, John Trudell and Paul DeMain, founder of NFIC, made an indelible impact on me.  I credit them for teaching me crucial things I could never learn from books or in a classroom.   I met many fantastic Native journalists when I belonged to NAJA over the years.  (NAJA AWARDS 2002) And I admit it was their influence that I am a publisher now at Blue Hand Books because the majority of journalists I know (and knew) are also great writers writing great books, not just news articles for tribal newspapers.

Now imagine this: The population of Indian Country in 2010 was 2,553,566.  That number is growing.  It’s not a huge population but it is noteworthy in the respect that state by state, very little is taught about Native people, or our history, or our ancestral territory or treaty rights, which can breed contempt among non-Indians, and even worse, breed racism.  When I traveled to Pine Ridge in the early 90s, I was told South Dakota citizens were known and feared for their racism toward tribes—to me that was appalling, unreasonable and actually very dangerous.  At one time it was said that Canada was more racist but that depends on who you’re talking to… This kind of hate is like a virus that spreads from one generation to another.  The American Indian Movement was instrumental is bringing awareness of hate crimes and many unsolved murders happening in the 1970s involving Indians being killed by non-Indians across the USA.

If more non-Indian people understood history, it would definitely transform and diminish these hateful attitudes.  With good consistent writing about tribes in mainstream newspapers, then perspective could shift attitudes and create unity and respect, which is sadly and sorely lacking today.



I posted here about my time in Pine Ridge and interviewing Leonard Peltier and John Trudell.  And I mentioned how I found out that my relative’s nephew Allen Locke was murdered by police.

*FMI: NativeWeb Resources: Newspapers – Native & Indigenous

National Native News daily podcast:  HERE


The following story is KEY to any discussion about Native Americans in news rooms and across Indian County. We need good stories and websites and newspapers who give accurate reporting and reflect the truth.

Police kill Native Americans at almost the same rate as African-Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 1999 and 2013, an average of .29 per 100,000 Native Americans were killed by police, compared to .3 per 100,000 for blacks and .11 per 100,000 for whites. “America should be aware of this,” argues Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer and a leader of the Lakota People’s Law Project, which runs a publicity campaign called Native Lives Matter. But for the most part, America is not aware of this.

That may be changing, albeit slowly, as both mainstream media and Native American-run digital outlets begin to cover American Indian issues more robustly.

“We’re not necessarily focusing on the shadows and the sadness,” says Jason Begay, a Navajo who grew up on a reservation and runs the Native News Project, “but on how people are persevering.”

Tristan Ahtone, a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma who often reported for Al Jazeera America, won a following among Native Americans and others for writing about new topics, such as how one tribe is invoking treaty rights to stop another oil pipeline, the rethinking of the militant American Indian Movement that grew up alongside the Black Panthers in the 1960s, and an international indigenous basketball tournament. His approach: “Stop looking at Indian Country as a foreign place with foreign people doing foreign things. It keeps us apart from each other, and reinforces the idea that these people are different, that they’re victims, that they’re helpless. They get covered when there’s doom, gloom, or there’s blood. The cumulative effect is that you’ve got communities that are isolated from the rest of the country and generally distrustful of journalists, and that just creates a continuing cycle.”

Ahtone is one of only a handful of Native American journalists. There are 118 self-identified Indian journalists working at U.S. daily newspapers, according to 2015 data from the American Society of News Editors. That’s .36 percent of all U.S. newsroom employees.  Native American activists say there need to be more newsroom internships and training programs for aspiring Native American journalists.


And I’ll leave you with this quote about diversity in writing and publishing:

“You will be tokenized. Even when you get to write about your own experience of being a minority in America—you know, even that can be turned against you. Are you going to be used later on as leverage against an accusation of racism? Will you then be seen as a collaborator? In most cases the answer is yes….

“Hiring is a crucial step, but it is reformist. It’s not going to really fix anything, just sand off the rough edges, right? Because there is far more concern about appearing racist rather than not doing racist things. It’s not just a publishing thing. What else can I say but dismantle capitalism? And I don’t know that anything radical enough to do that wouldn’t hurt a lot of the people that we are trying to save. Barring world historical change, I don’t see really anything happening but a new paint job. It is systemic racism for a reason, it’s so essentially wound up with the system upon which everything is built.  You can ameliorate it.  You can palliate it.  But you can’t cure it.  This is what I sound like when I’m optimistic.” —Tony Tulathimutte, novelist, Private Citizens

READ MORE (top graphic)

My writing on this blog (and publishing new books here) is my humble attempt to broaden perspectives about Indigenous People/American Indians/First Nations… Thank you all for reading and following this blog! You matter to me! xoxoxo


Author Peter Matthiessen, Chronicler of Leonard Peltier, Walks On

Associated Press
Author Peter Matthiessen, who championed the story of Leonard Peltier and Indian country in his work, walked on due to leukemia at age 86 on Saturday April 5, 2014.

Author Peter Matthiessen was a champion of Indian rights, not least of all for his controversial In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI’s War on the American Indian Movement (Viking Press, 1991) and the prophetic Indian Country (Viking Press, 1984).

But as the writer and the teacher of Zen Buddhism would no doubt tell us, it was truth he had been championing all along. And he did so with rigor until the very end. On April 5, 2014, when Matthiessen walked on at age 86 due to leukemia, his latest book—which he himself had said could be his “last word”—was about to be released. The “haunting and bewildering” novel In Paradise, as the Washington Post described it, does no less as it “ventures to Auschwitz to confront the Holocaust.”

The novel grew out of the author’s week at the Nazi death camp on a Zen retreat designed for participants to pay homage, pray and meditate in memory of the victims who had perished there. And he felt that the truths that emerged from the experience could only be presented in a fictionalized format.

Not so, of course, with his works that focused on Natives. The truth Matthiessen unearthed was hard-hitting enough that one of the books, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, was in litigation for eight years while those who did not like some of what he had to say waged a legal battle to keep it off bookstore shelves. In the end, though, the detailed examination of the American Indian Movement and the trial of Leonard Peltier that was shown by Matthiessen to be “based on widespread fraud and government misconduct,” as The New York Times noted in its review back in 1983, persevered.

“In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is one of those rare books that permanently change one’s consciousness about important, yet neglected, facets of our history,” wrote reviewer Alan M. Dershowitz in The New York Times. It is an effort that is still under way today as Peltier, given consecutive life sentences after his 1977 murder conviction on the killing of two FBI agents, remains in prison.

Soon after that would come Indian Country, equally scathing in its indictment of the environmental, cultural and psychological damage that centuries of European occupation have wrought. Matthiessen spent time with the Miccosukee Seminoles in Florida; the Hopi and Navajo in Arizona; the Eastern Cherokee in Tennessee and North Carolina, the Mohawk on the St. Lawrence River in New York; the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow and Wind River Shoshone, members of the Black Hills Alliance in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota; and California tribes including the Chumash, Yurok, Karuk, Pit River Nation, Western Shoshone and Paiute. The resulting book provides insight not only into the hurt being inflicted on Turtle Island’s First Peoples but also the injury that those who are attempting to eradicate them inflict on themselves.The author of 33 books—the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction—was profiled in an article in The New York Times Magazine printed just a couple of days before his death. “Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing” does not discuss his connection with American Indians, though it does mention his reporting on the infringements upon Indigenous People’s lands and the environment in general, worldwide, and alludes to the folly of continuing along that path. Matthiessen’s words would seem to be common sense, yet the same battles are still being fought today.

“It isn’t enough to admire Indian teachings; we need them,” he wrote in the introduction to Indian Country. “We belong to this earth, it does not belong to us; it cares for us, and we must care for it. If our time on earth is to endure, we must love the earth in the strong, unsentimental way of traditional peoples, not seeking to exploit but to live in balance with the natural world. When modern man has regained his reverence for land and life, then the lost Paradise, the Golden Age in the race memories of all peoples will come again, and all men will be ‘in Dios,’ people of God.”



Remembering Tina Manning-Trudell (Paiute-Shoshone)

PHOTO: Tina Manning (left) John Trudell and their children

Tina Manning-Trudell was a Paiute-Shoshone water rights activist and wife of John Trudell, Chairman of the American Indian Movement.

Manning was the daughter of Arthur and Leah Hicks Manning. Her father had served as the tribal chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation. She attended the University of Tulsa, where first she met John Trudell.

She was killed, along with her unborn baby (Josiah Hawk), three other children – Ricarda Star, Sunshine Karma, and Eli Changing Sun – and her mother in an arson attack on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in northern Nevada on 12 February 1979. Her father survived the fire but was badly burned. The attack took place less than 12 hours after John Trudell had delivered a speech in front of FBI headquarters during which he burned a United States flag.

On February 12, 1979, Trudell lost his wife, Tina Manning and their three children, and his mother-in-law Leah Hicks-Manning in a suspicious fire at the home of his parents-in-law on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada. His father-in-law Arthur Manning survived. He was a member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe‘s tribal council who was working for treaty rights. Opponents included the local tribal police chief and the BIA superintendent, John Artichoker. Leah coordinated social services at the reservation. Tina had been working for tribal water rights at the Wildhorse Reservoir. Opponents of her campaign included officials of the local BIA, Elko County and Nevada state officials, members of the water recreation industry, and local European-American ranchers.[5] Other activists have also speculated whether there was government involvement behind the tragedy.[6]

Source: wikipedia

FOOTNOTE: What happened to John’s family, their murder was never investigated by the government. No one was ever prosecuted.  I met and interviewed John a few times and I do know that many in the American Indian Movement (AIM) were targeted by CO-INTEL PRO – and to kill his family would have dis-empowered the movement, to destroy John, to create fear, all to break him. They did break him (and other Indians) but not in the way you might think.  I will continue to cover history on this blog as well as adoption trafficking…. Lara/Trace

“I Am Not a Leader”: Russell Means’ 1980 Mother Jones Cover Story

In a provocative piece, the American Indian Movement activist lashed out at European “death culture” and the left.


cover image

Editor’s note: This article originated as a controversial speech given at the Black Hills International Survival Gathering on the Pine Ridge Reservation in July 1980. A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Russell Means was perhaps the most outsized personality in the American Indian Movement, beginning with the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. He also had an acting career beginning with his role as Chingachgook in Last of the Mohicans. He died Monday morning at age 72.

The only possible opening for a statement like this is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate thinking”: what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.

So what you read here is not what I’ve written. It’s what I’ve said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I’m more concerned with American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it’s a marginal sort of concern. It’s very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that’s a person’s individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to how to proceed. (You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people. There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin—which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota—or, more precisely, of Oglala, Bruleě, etc.—and of the Dine, the Miccosukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.

(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met “Indio,” from the Italian in dio, meaning “in God.”)

continue reading…

Note from Trace: The adoption of American Indian and First Nations children would be part of this expansion of the European mindset via assimilation via adoption by non-Indians. The cultural genocide was intended to wipe out our thinking and make us white. But the Indians I know who were adopted have said “Our Blood is Loud” no matter who adopted us…


New COINTELPRO is same old targeting of American Indians and environmental groups

By Brenda Norrell

Anonymous hacked the files of Stratfor global security firm, revealing that a photo of the 1973 Occupation of Wounded Knee was a focus of US spies in November.

The photo and Indian movements were on a website of the Deep Green Resistance, which US spies focused on, as they targeted the Occupy Austin movement and the Indigenous role in the Occupy, and DeOccupy, movements. The private Stratfor worked together with Texas DPS to infiltrate the groups. The results, as the emails reveal, were false reports. As usual with US spy files, the hacked e-mails of the security firm reveal a distortion of facts, misinformation, unreliable informants, confusion, and self-serving exaggeration that keeps funds flowing to security firms and intelligence operations. The e-mail, released in what Anonymous called a “teaser” of more to come, is signed by the Watch Officer for Stratfor and states:

Early on in the Occupy movement, they got the group to support somedocument called, “Indigenous Struggle Solidarity Statement” callingAustin an occupied territory. It includes a picture of armed nativeAmericans.Posted by Brenda Norrell– January 28, 2012 at 1:56 am

Read more:

Forced Sterilizations, Racist Terror, and the Native American Uprising of 1972-1973

by Steven Argue (Feb 3rd, 2013)

[Photo: Native American rancher, Raymond Yellow Thunder, in 1972 was attacked by racists, stripped from the waste down, and forced into an American Legion bar where people made fun of him, forced him to dance, and put cigarettes out on him.  Raymond was then taken out back, beaten nearly to his death, and stuffed into the trunk of a car where he died.  Before AIM became involved, two of the white murderers of Raymond Yellow Thunder, Melvin and Leslie Hare, were charged with assault and battery and released without even needing to pay bail.]

For Native American Liberation through Socialist Revolution!
(Part 1) Forced Sterilizations, Racist Terror, and the Native American Uprising of 1972-1973
By Steven Argue
Currently, there are roughly 5.2 million Native Americans in the United States.  From the beginnings of European colonization they have suffered genocide and theft of land.  On the small tracts of land left to Native Americans they suffer 70% unemployment.  One out of every four Native Americans is officially living in poverty.  29.9% of Native Americans have no health insurance.  Many Native Americans on reservations still lack running water and electricity.  Native Americans are three times more likely to be homeless than are non-Natives.  Life expectancy for Native Americans in South Dakota is 65.99 years while it is 80.79 years for whites in the same state.  Native American infant mortality is nearly double what it is for whites, with Native American infants 1.7 times more likely to die than white infants in their first year of life.
Poverty and neglect is common on reservations.  For instance, on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota median income is $2,600 to $3,400 a year, unemployment is 83-85%, 97% of people are below the federal poverty line, housing is of poor quality and scarce, and there is a lack of commercial infrastructure, technology, and industry to provide any income.  Life expectancy on the reservation is 48 years for men and 54 years for women.  Radioactive contamination from uranium mining is blamed for an epidemic of cancers and miscarriages on the reservation.
Native Americans are also subjected to environmental racism and, as a result, suffer increased cancers and other problems inflicted on their economy, health, and environment.  For instance, in 1997 the Clinton / Gore administration abandoned 1993 rules directed at controlling paper mill dioxin pollutants.  That dioxin is being dumped into rivers where contaminated fish are eaten by Native American residents of reservations.  Radiation is also a problem.  For instance, Navajo, Ogallala Lakota, Nez Perce, Hopi, South Piute, Spokane, Western Shoshone, Yakima, Colville, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispell, Umatilla, Klickitat, and Cherokee reservation lands and waters have all been horribly contaminated by uranium tailings and other nuclear wastes.  For example, radioactive waste was disposed of across the ground on Cherokee land, supposedly as fertilizer.
In 1973, when traditional Indians of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the town of Wounded Knee, all of these conditions existed, and much worse.  Native American women suffered rampant forced sterilization by the government.  Native children were sent to boarding schools where they suffered many injustices, including beatings for speaking their native languages.  In addition to being subjected to continued genocide, Native Americans were among those being drafted and commanded to carry out the American War in Vietnam.  Violence against Natives in the United States, including rape and murder, was so prevalent in some areas that Natives avoided even driving through certain towns.  In addition, in the movies, the hero John Wayne murdered Indians while racist stereotypes prevailed.   While the struggle for the rights of Native Americans is far from complete, the heroic struggles of AIM members and allies helped remedy some of these problems.
Today AIM has been splintered and nearly destroyed through a combination of FBI sponsored death squad murders, police violence, FBI violence, frame-ups, infiltration, disruption, and a tactic known as “snitch jacketing”, where FBI infiltrators create animosity, distrust, and violence by accusing loyal members of being FBI.  From that violence, and still existing infiltrators, the FBI has done much to destroy the unity and reputation of AIM.  Before considering such accusations, one must become familiar with AIM’s accomplishments and the murderous enemy they were up against.
AIM’s Exposure of Forced Sterilization
One of AIM’s first big successes was in exposing the U.S. government’s genocidal policy of forced sterilization.  Documentation of the policy was discovered and exposed by AIM when they occupied and trashed the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for a week in 1972.  The sterilizations were carried out with federal funding by the Indian Health Service (IHS) through coercion or without the knowledge or consent of the victims.  As documents revealed, this forced sterilization program was carried out by the IHS under the leadership of the BIA.
Sterilizations would be carried out without consent while performing other procedures, like appendectomies, or, in other cases, women would be falsely convinced of the need for hysterectomies.  In other cases, coercion was used, with healthcare professionals demanding sterilizations in return for future health care needs or keeping their children.  Women were lied to in other ways as well, like being convinced that hysterectomies were reversible.  Full blooded Indians were particularly targeted.
A 1974 study found that 42% of Native American women of child bearing age had been sterilized.  And, not surprisingly, the Bureau of Census Reports documented a steep decline in Native American births between 1960 and 1980.
Native American women were not the only victims.  Similar government programs have been uncovered that targeted Blacks, Latinas, and the poor in a number of states, including 20,000 women who were sterilized in the state of California.  The United States carried out similar programs internationally.  For instance, the Peace Corps carried out sterilizations of Quechua Indian women in Bolivia without their knowledge or consent.  In Peru, the brutal U.S. backed government of Alberto Fujimori carried out 300,000 forced sterilizations of Quechua women between 1996 and 2000.
In 1975 the U.S. Congress, for the first time, passed laws making the use of federal funds in carrying out forced sterilizations and forced abortions illegal.  In 1976, the U.S. government, through the General Accounting Office, admitted to a policy of forced sterilization directed at Native American women.  In 1988, the U.S. government, for the first time, adopted the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide which prohibits “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as…imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group…”
Many people think that eugenics fell out of favor in the United States after Adolf Hitler’s infamous go at it, but the practice was alive and well in the United States up until at least the mid-1970s.  AIM’s exposure of these crimes, found out through occupying enemy territory at BIA headquarters in 1972, was a first step towards the apparent elimination of the policy in the United States.
Racist Terror, Government Impunity
In 1972, Native American rancher, Raymond Yellow Thunder, was attacked by racists, stripped from the waste down, and forced into an American Legion bar where people made fun of him, forced him to dance, and put cigarettes out on him.  Raymond was then taken out back, beaten nearly to his death, and stuffed into the trunk of a car where he died.  Before AIM became involved, two of the white murderers of Raymond Yellow Thunder, Melvin and Leslie Hare, were charged with assault and battery and released without bail.
This was par for the course in South Dakota where, despite murderous violence against Native Americans being common, no white had ever been convicted for murdering a Native American in South Dakota’s entire history.  Whites faced the same impunity for their racist terror against Native Americans in South Dakota as occurred against Blacks in the South.  In South Dakota, racists freely kept signs up on their bars, stores and restaurants saying, “No Dogs or Indians Allowed”.  The capitalist state was allowing the same kind of racist terror as had occurred in the south under the semi-fascist rule of KKK death squads working with local police, courts, and the Democrat Party.
Protesting for justice for Raymond Yellow Thunder, 4,000 Native Americans marched on the town of Porcupine and took it over for four days. After AIM protests, criminal charges were upped from the meaningless charges of “assault and battery” to three people being charged with second-degree manslaughter and a fourth charged with false imprisonment. The Hare brothers were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.  For the first time in South Dakota’s history, whites did time for murdering a Native American.
While a year’s sentence is obviously insufficient for kidnapping, torture, and murder, this punishment by the U.S. government marked the end of a 200 year open season on the lives of Native Americans.  The last time there had been any justice for the murder of Native Americans in South Dakota was in 1876 when warriors of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho nations, led by Crazy Horse, defeated Custer’s forces at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Custer was killed along with 267 of the Indian murdering soldiers under his command.  Custer and his forces were involved in an ongoing genocide against Native Americans.  This included Custer’s attack on a Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 27, 1868 where Custer’s forces slaughtered 100 Cheyenne men, women, and children, burned their village, and slaughtered 800 horses.  At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer had it coming.
Part of the reason Crazy Horse brought a unified force of Native Americans together against the U.S. military was the fact that he could see what was coming for the future of Plains Indians as a stream of devastated Native American refugees flowed into the Dakotas from Minnesota.  In Minnesota it was open season on Native Americans.  Mass murder included the hanging of 38 Native Americans in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862.  It was the biggest mass hanging in U.S. history.  Abraham Lincoln actually gave it his official OK.
This author grew-up in Minnesota.  I was taught in elementary school that there had only been one hanging in Minnesota’s history, the hanging of a woman, and it was botched.  Minnesota patriotism was instilled in us as we were taught that this was why Minnesotans got upset with the death penalty early on and abolished it.  As usual, America’s propagandistic history treated Native Americans as non-people, and by the way it was written, the Mankato mass hanging of 38 people never happened.
In 1973, of all places, a town named Custer, South Dakota became the next horrific ground zero in the struggle against racist murder.  The incident started at Buffalo Gap, South Dakota when a 22 year-old Native American, Wesley Bad Heart Bull, tried to order a drink at a bar.  For this “crime”, the whites in the bar dragged him out and beat him.  One person involved, a white businessman named Darold Schmidt, said, “I’m going to kill an Indian” before he stabbed and killed Wesley Bad Heart Bull.  Despite witnesses to this premeditated murder, Schmidt was charged with second degree manslaughter and released on a $5000 bond.
Wesley’s mother, Sarah Bad Heart Bull, called in AIM.  A court hearing on the case was being held in Custer and AIM brought 200 people.  All but four of the people supporting Wesley were denied entrance to the court by cops in full riot gear.  Cops attacked protesters, Native Americans fought back, grabbing the swinging night sticks from the cops and giving back what the cops had attempted to deliver.  Fed up with the racist police violence and lack of justice, people ran to a gas station where they got gasoline to make Molotov cocktails.  With these they burned down the courthouse, chamber of commerce, and two police cars causing $2 million dollars in damage.
Darold Schmidt pleaded guilty to Second Degree Involuntary Manslaughter and served one day in jail.  For trying to enter the courthouse, Sarah Bad Heart Bull, was struck by police in the face with a baton and she served a five month sentence on a charge of assaulting an officer.  AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means were convicted on charges of inciting a riot.  In reality, it was a brutal and racist system that incited that riot.
It was the audacious action in Custer, combined with festering anger over a multitude of injustices that helped serve as an inspiration for the next action, the 73 day armed occupation of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
Today, as the propaganda campaign has intensified against everything done by AIM, including Wounded Knee, it is important to review the gains Native American people made, in large part as a result of the sacrifices made at Wounded Knee.   Wounded Knee woke many Native Americans up to a struggle for their own survival, woke the majority of Americans to the continued existence of Native Americans as an oppressed people who deserved support, and put the U.S. government in a position of desiring those sorts of situations to go away, granted, partly through the brutal repression that took place, but also through granting concessions.
Don’t miss the next parts of this series,  (Part 2) The Historic Gains of the Wounded Knee Occupation by subscribing free to Liberation News
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“IndiVisible” history of African Americans and American Indians

By ICTMN Staff (January 16, 2012)

Longest Walk
courtesy David Amram
Solidarity between African Americans and Native Americans grew with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, whose goals were closer to the nationalism espoused by American Indian Movement activists. Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights. (Caption information courtesy

African Americans and American Indians can both tell tales of historical injustice—but to what extent do those tales overlap? Often quite a bit, as demonstrated by IndiVisible, a traveling exhibit created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

IndiVisible looks at the multi-dimensional relationship of the two groups. While the exhibit emphasizes the ways in which African Americans and Indians have common cause — with such apt exhibit sub-headings as “Stolen People on Stolen Land” and “United in Common Struggle” — it is also unafraid to deal with points of contention. The exhibit discusses intermarriage, blood quantum, the notion of “passing” as another race, and the ongoing drama surrounding the Cherokee Freedmen.

On a day when America celebrates the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s apt to consider the commonalities in the parallel quests for Native and civil rights during the 1960s and 1970s. The page “Civil Rights, Sovereign Rights,” on the exhibit’s website offers simple and insightful analysis:

The civil rights and Native rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s changed America. Both campaigns were driven by a thirst for justice, freedom, and respect. But the two had different philosophies. The civil rights movement had the goal of full inclusion of African American citizens as self-sufficient, self-sustaining members of American society. The Native rights movement had a dual goal—achieving the civil rights of Native peoples as American citizens, and the sovereign rights of Native nations. Native activists fought against dispossession, racism, poverty, and violence, but they also focused on protecting treaty rights and keeping Native tribes distinct. African-Native American people bridged the gaps between these two movements, bringing people from both movements together and showing that they were all part of the same struggle.

IndiVisible is showing at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, through March 18; on February 9, it will begin a six-month run at the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. For a schedule of future stops, consult the website’s Tour Schedule.

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