Black and Indigenous history is tied to the colonization of this land and our liberation is inherently tied together, that is why Black and Indigenous solidarity is essential.
TW/CW: mentions of state-sanctioned murder, chattel slavery, and genocide.
By Red Dawn Foster and Miski Noor
On July 3, the Lakota people stood at the base of their sacred mountains from which they were born, mountains stolen and desecrated, and they refused to move. They held the line and faced violence and incarceration as Donald Trump descended upon their ancestral lands to hold a rally and fireworks display over the granite slope carved with the faces of their oppressors. To understand why this moment has captured our collective attention and infused it with such moral clarity, we must look back and ahead, simultaneously.
In July 1968, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the homelands of the Dakhóta and Anishinaabe Nations. Founded by Dennis Banks (Leech Lake Ojibwa), George Mitchell (Ojibwa), and Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt (White Earth Chippewa) to address the twin challenges of poverty and police brutality stemming from racism, law, and policy.
52 years later, some of us were huddled around a table in Minneapolis to write the legislation we believe will deliver the promise of a city in which our communities are cared for and not brutalized by the police.
As Indigenous Peoples, we are born into a legacy of struggle and resistance, gifted the responsibility of stewardship of the land. The western way of life was never intended for us to thrive. Our worldview is at odds with the colonialist worldview in seeing the natural environment and human capital as a resource to be exploited for economic gains, and we have paid for it dearly.
Though the history books written by enslavers and colonizers would have us unaware, our stories as Black and Indigenous Peoples are threaded together through past and present, and surely, through the future as well.
Settler-colonialism is a continuous project that relies on sustained socio-economic policies that perpetuate white supremacy and maintain violence against Black and Indigenous peoples. Both genocide and enslavement built the settler-colonial nation as we know it today. Black and Indigenous history is tied to the colonization of this land and our liberation is inherently tied together, that is why Black and Indigenous solidarity is essential.
In 1877 the United States federal government, in violation of its earlier 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie with the Great Sioux Nation (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ), carried out an illegal seizure of the Black Hills. In 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had illegally taken the Black Hills. The government offered financial compensation, in the form of $105 million. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, whose reservations are located in the poorest countries in the United States, have refused the money, insisting on return of the land to their people. The settlement money is earning interest and is currently valued at approximately 1 billion dollars.
These hills are the site of our creation. The Lakota people come from this land and are born of this land. They do not claim to own it, because land ownership is a colonial project, but consider themselves stewards of the land. We are of it and it is of us.
These sacred Paha Sapa “Black Hills” are Wamaka Og’naka I’Cante, the heart of everything that is. We believe the Black Hills to be the center of the universe and when viewed from satellite images the Black Hills resembles a human heart.
When George Floyd was murdered by Officer Derek Chauvin, he called for his mother. The moment I (Red Dawn) heard him cry out for his mother as he took his last breaths, my heart was filled with so much pain thinking of my own mother, who had also lost her own son, my brother, to the hands of the police. Hearing George Floyd’s voice in that moment, I felt nothing so strongly as the need to get to her, knowing that she would need me. On July 9, mothers who have lost their children to police brutality and systemic racism marched in the streets of Minneapolis. My mother was one of them.
The US government has always gone back on its commitments to us. Be it encroachments on sovereign lands, or the false promises of equality and democracy. As I (Miski) heard that my Indigenous siblings were holding the line on their own sacred land, I felt a pull to caravan to South Dakota and add my body to their resistance, but instead stayed here to work on the ballot measure that will defund the Minneapolis PD. I know that Black and Indigenous peoples are bound together by the painful legacies of genocide and enslavement. We want justice, and for all those we have lost, we know justice will never be enough. We want real change. We want to free the land.
This story is about us, together. The forces of genocide, colonization, and enslavement rely upon false memories, name changes, and warped timelines. They rely on celebrations of enslavers, and monuments to colonizers. But we are in the middle of a reckoning that is unraveling those false histories and tearing down those monuments. The uprisings of the past few weeks have shown us that there is a hunger to tell the truth about the lands we live on, about the people who created a country from violence and genocide, and about our siblings who are murdered at the hands of racists. But most importantly, that collectively we are powerful.
This moment is potent, and some of our Ancestors foretold it. They said that when we came together, as we have done countless times in our shared history, we would change the world… Again. But this time it’s going to a complete transformation.
This prophecy is coming to pass, and we are standing here, at the heart of everything that is.
Red Dawn Foster is a member of the Oglala Lakota born for Kinyaa’áanii (The Towering House clan/Diné), Cofounder of Return to the Heart Foundation and South Dakota State Senator, representing District 27, from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Miski Noor is an organizer with the Black Visions in Minneapolis where they lead campaigns to expand the power of Black people across the Twin Cities and Minnesota.
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