Yesterday was the 4th of July. A day known around the world as signifying the day that the USA became independent from Britain back in 1776. That is, for white people at least. What came after this so-called independence was a number of treaties with Native American tribes in order to implement ‘Manifest Destiny’; a rouse to further colonize and destroy the Indigenous population in the states.
Treaties such as the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 recognized the Indigenous people’s right over the land and the areas in which the white man could enter or live in and which they could not. Unsurprisingly though, many of the treaties made with indigenous peoples were quickly ignored and broken. When Native Americans took actions and resisted the mistreatment of such treaties, they were decimated. As a result, reservations were created to further isolate these people from mainstream American society. These spaces are known among the community as Prisoner of War camps with infertile lands and poisoned water supplies.
A turning point in Indigenous history is the massacre of Wounded Knee in December of 1890. Here men, women, and children were slaughtered for preforming a Ghost Dance meant to rid them of the settlers, who had up until this point not only massacred and raped their people but also brought contagious illnesses with them and ruined their land. In United States history, no ‘battle’ has since received more congressional medals for bravery than was awarded to the soldiers who committed the massacre of Wounded Knee.
Another major part of the Fort Laramie Treaty was the ownership of the Black Hills, commonly known for the part of it that is now called ‘Mount Rushmore.’ As per this treaty, the United States recognized all of the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people. The Black Hills are therefore sacred to the Sioux People, considered to be the womb of Mother Earth and the location of ceremonies, vision quests, and burials. At first, the settlers really did accept that the Black Hills belonged to the Sioux nation, primarily the Lakota People. However, with the discovery of gold the Fort Laramie Treaty was basically thrown out the window. Subsequently, the Lakota people were then threatened and bullied into selling their share of the Black Hills, but, of course, they did not sell their sacred land. A new treaty was enacted in 1877 in which only 10% of the Lakota men signed out of fear that their family would not be able to have food. It’s important to recognize that during this time, the US government was actively caging in many Indigenous populations across the US plains, keeping them away from fertile hunting grounds. And, as a result, enacting further oppressive measures or hardships onto the native population – in a sense stealing the rug from right under their feet – which is an unfortunate theme that we see throughout all of US history.
Almost immediately after finding gold there the Black Hills were butchered with the faces of the men who had actively committed and awarded acts of genocide and pillage against the native population; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. This was met with condemnation from the Lakota Nation as a sacrilege to their sacred site.
Fast forward to 2020, US President Donald Trump is due to go to the Black Hills in order to celebrate Independence Day. As a part of this event, fireworks were to be set off, sparking fears of potentially destroying the natural wildlife and causing fires in the area as its dry climate is prone to wildfires. These concerns were met with protests and sit-ins by Indigenous Peoples, who were incidentally met with a violent response. Tear Gas was used on peaceful protestors and numerous arrests took place in an effort to ensure ‘the safety of the people’ attending the Presidents event. Yet, no one at the event was even required to wear masks or practice social distancing – so, who are they really trying to protect? What are their priorities? Let it also be known that Trump has delayed proper Covid-19 support for many Native populations, including the Lakota nation, which still has rising infection rates.
On a day of ‘independence’ it is important to recognize who this land belongs to, first and foremost. I am not a Native American but a 1st generation immigrant living in Britain with parents from India and Pakistan. Our resources were taken, but in the USA and Canada, resources are still being extracted and their lands are still being used for capitalistic gain. Every single day. Certain memorials, and Indigenous cultures in general, are disrespected, objectified, and commodified in this country. So take today tp read up on the history of the Lakota Nation, educate yourself, and, if you can, donate to the bail fund.
Donate to the bail fund here.