While the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline brought the issue to the forefront of mainstream media, Native Americans have a long history of protest and resiliency. The past 200 years alone have seen John Ross and his Cherokees fighting against the Trail of Tears and other forms of violent relocation. Chief Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse fought to protect their people, their way of life, and their land. In the 1960s, the American Indian Movement worked to revitalize their communities and advocate for important changes. (Dennis Banks, co-founder of AIM, passed away earlier this year on October 29.) These are just a few examples of the rich history and important contributions that Indigenous People have made to the United States.
November is both Native American Heritage Month and also Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day in 1970, AIM members staged a protest and took Plymouth back from the Pilgrims. In honor of their efforts and Indigenous resilience throughout history, here are four progressive organizations continuing the fight for rights and recognition.
Indigenous Environmental Network
The Indigenous Environmental Network has been part of the Indigenous activist community since 1990. Incorporated under the Indigenous Educational Network of Turtle Island, the American based non-profit grew from a national meeting of different leaders and activists. Their mission is ‘to Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination & exploitation by Respecting and Adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law.’ Keep up with the latest environmental issues and find out how you can help on their website.
Lakota Children’s Enrichment
Operating on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Lakota Children’s Enrichment works to provide opportunities for children and young adults. They offer leadership training and programs for those on the reservation, and educational resources specifically for those off the reservation. An organization that is truly governed by the needs on the reservation, their projects continue to evolve to meet the needs of their community. Read about all of their accomplishments and upcoming projects on their website.
American Indian College Fund
The homepage for the American Indian College Fund states that only 13% of Native Americans have a bachelor’s degree. Since 1989, the organization has been working to increase that number. They cite having provided over 119,000 scholarships since their founding and work with 34 different tribal colleges and universities. Visit their website and read inspiring stories from their scholarship recipients.
Red Eagle Soaring
Located in the Seattle area, Red Eagle Soaring uses theater and Native American traditional arts to help youth work through issues and embrace their identity. Their programming line-up includes year round productions and a summer camp option. For over 20+ years, the organization has helped to produce over 150+ shows and reached an innumerable amount of students. The organization works to build a strong internal community and give their students the confidence to participate in the wider Seattle community. Check out their upcoming performances and projects on their website.
For more information about the history of AIM, including Dennis Banks’ involvement, I recommend Like a Hurricane by Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior or In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen. Also see the First Nations Development Institute reading list or the National Congress of American Indians for further resources.