Indigenous Resistance, from the 1960s to 2006
Indigenous Resistance, from the 1960s to 2006
By Warrior Publications
KNOW YOUR HISTORY!
By 1890, Native armed resistance to European colonization in N. America had ended. That year, some 300 unarmed Lakota men, women & children were massacred at Wounded Knee, S. Dakota. At this time, virtually all Native peoples were confined to reservations, where systematic assimilation was applied (the church, residential schools, band councils, etc.).
From this period until the 1950s, Native peoples were largely pacified & controlled. Their protests consisted of lobbying the government for better treatment. These were most often led by chiefs & councilors, whose careers were based on government salaries & maintaining the colonial system itself.
Then, in the 1950s, inspired by the Black Civil Rights struggle in the southern US, Natives also began organizing for civil & treaty rights. In the southwest, Native students began organizing. In the Northwest, coastal Natives began asserting their treaty rights to fish.
This movement was the first to occur outside the ‘official’ band & tribal council system set up by both US & Canadian governments. This early movement established a grassroots network of Natives opposed to colonization & committed to maintaining traditional Native culture & values. This network formed the basis for the next phase of resistance: the 1960s.
The 1960s was marked by global rebellion, inspired by the fierce resistance of the Vietnamese people to US invasion & occupation. Within the US itself, new social movements emerged, including the Black Panthers, Chicano, women’s, students, and anti-war. It is from this period that the current Indigenous resistance movement emerged. This last 35-year period therefore forms an important part of our history as a movement.
The American Indian Movement is formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Modeled after the Black Panthers, AIM establishes a community center, provides help in finding work, housing or legal aid, organizes protests, and conducts a patrol to monitor police conduct. Although the most well known, AIM was just one part of a broad Native resistance movement that emerged at this time (sometimes referred to as Red Power).
At Kahnawake, a Mohawk Singing Society is formed, which would later become the Mohawk Warrior Society. They begin to take part in protests & re-occupations of land. As well, a protest & blockade of the Seaway International Bridge (demanding recognition of Jay Treaty), at Akwesasne, ends with police attack & arrests of scores of Mohawks.
Occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The action would last 19 months and be the first Native protest to receive national & international media coverage. Thousands of Natives participate, mostly urbanized & searching for identity. Alcatraz serves to inspire Natives across N. America, and many more occupations of land begin at this time.
AIM protest & disruption against re-enactment of Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, gains national attention & helps AIM to expand.
COINTEL-PRO: In Pennsylvania, unknown persons break into FBI office & take files revealing Counter-Intelligence Program of surveillance & repression against social movements in US. Program includes imprisonment, assaults and lethal force. By 1973, AIM would become primary target of FBI COINTEL-PRO.
AIM & other native groups organize the Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan from the west coast to Washington, DC. When the caravan of several thousand arrives in Washington, officials refuse to meet. The Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters is occupied for 6 days, with extensive damage and thousands of files taken.
Raymond Yellow Thunder is killed by settlers in Gordon, Nebraska, in February. His killers are charged with manslaughter & released without bail. AIM organizes several days of protests & boycotts, & succeeds in having murder charges laid and the police chief fired. Yellow Thunder is from Pine Ridge, and this incident helps build a stronger relationship between AIM & traditional Lakotas on the reserve (urban-rural).
Wesley Bad Heart Bull is killed by a racist settler in S. Dakota. Police charge the killer with manslaughter. On February 6, an AIM protest at Custer, SD, courthouse erupts into riot. Police cars & buildings are set on fire, with 30 people arrested.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in S. Dakota, large numbers of police & US Marshals are deployed to counter AIM & Lakotas opposed to a corrupt tribal president, Dick Wilson. With government funding, Wilson established a paramilitary force known as the GOONs (Guardians of the Oglala Nation).
From 1973-76, some 69 members or associates of AIM were killed by GOONs, BIA police & FBI agents on Pine Ridge.
Angered at the ongoing repression & violence, some 200 AIM & Lakota warriors begin occupation of Wounded Knee on February 27, a 71-day siege during which two Natives were shot & killed (Buddy Lamont & Frank Clearwater). The siege ends on May 9.
At Kahnawake in September, Warrior Society evicts non-Natives from over-crowded reserve. This leads to armed confrontation with Quebec police in October. Warriors begin to search for land to re-possess.
The occupation of Ganienkeh in New York state begins, when Mohawks (along with veterans of Wounded Knee ’73) retake land & engage in armed standoff with state police. Eventually, negotiations result in Mohawks taking a parcel of land in upstate NY (in 1977). Ganienkeh continues to exist today.
In Canada, the Native People’s Caravan (Sept. 14-30), modeled after Trail of Broken Treaties, heads from Vancouver, BC to Ottawa, Ontario. Ends with riot police attacking 1,000 Natives at Parliament Buildings.
Armed roadblocks & occupations occur at Cache Creek, BC, and Kenora, Ontario.
Oglala Shootout. At Oglala, on the Pine Ridge reservation, a botched FBI raid on AIM camp ends with 2 agents killed along with 1 Native defender (Joe Stuntz-Killsright). FBI launch massive hunt for AIM suspects.
In February, the body of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mik’maq from Nova Scotia, Canada, is found on Pine Ridge. Aquash was one of the most well known female members of AIM, a veteran of the BIA occupation & Wounded Knee. Despite an initial cover-up by the FBI, an independent autopsy finds that Aquash had been executed with a bullet in the back of the head. The FBI or GOONs are primary suspects.
Two suspects in FBI deaths (Dino Butler & Bob Robideau) are found not guilty on grounds of self-defense. A third suspect, Leonard Peltier, is captured in Canada. Using false evidence, the FBI have Peltier extradited to S. Dakota.
The trial of Leonard Peltier ends with his conviction & imprisonment for 2 life terms, based on FBI fabrication & withholding of evidence. Peltier remains in prison to this day, one of the longest held Prisoners of War in the US.
On June 11, some 550 Quebec Provincial Police raid Restigouche, a Mik’maq reserve of 1,700. Riot police carry out assaults & search homes for evidence of ‘illegal’ fishing.
Over 200 Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including riot & Emergency Response Teams, raid Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, searching for illegal cigarettes. Warriors seize the Mercier Bridge, a vital commuter link into Montreal.
In northern Alberta, the Lubicon Cree begin road-blocks against logging & oil companies devastating their territory & way of life. A logging camp & vehicles are damaged by Molotov attacks.
In Labrador, Innu begin protesting NATO fighter-bomber training at Canadian military base. Many Innu are arrested during blockades of aircraft runway.
Oka Crisis. Over 100 heavily-armed Quebec police raid a Mohawk blockade at Kanesatake/Oka on June 11. In an initial fire-fight, one cop is shot & killed. A 77-day armed standoff begins, involving 2,000 police and 4,500 Canadian soldiers, deployed against both Kanesatake & Kahnawake. The Oka Crisis inspires solidarity actions across country, including road & rail blockades & sabotage of bridges & electrical pylons.
During protests against the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ invasion of the Americas in October, dozens are arrested in Denver, Colorado. In San Francisco, riot cops fight running battles with protesters, who set 1 police car on fire & disrupt an official Columbus Day parade & re-enactment of his landing.
Zapatista Rebellion. In Chiapas, Mexico, armed rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation launch their New Year’s Day offensive, capturing 6 towns & cities. Comprised of Indigenous peoples, the EZLN declare war on the Mexican state and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In response, the government deploys 15,000 soldiers & kill several hundred civilians in attacks. Since 1994, the Zapatistas have continued to gain widespread support & sympathy throughout Mexico & internationally.
At Ipperwash, Ontario, an unarmed protest & re-occupation ends with police opening fire and killing Dudley George, on September 6. The re-occupation had begun in 1993. The land, originally the Stoney Point reserve, was taken by the government during WW2 for use as a temporary army base. After the killing of Dudley George, the government admitted the peoples claims were justified.
A month-long siege occurs at Gustafsen Lake in south-central Interior of BC, after a settler attempts to evict Secwepemc sundancers. Some 450 heavily-armed RCMP ERT, with armoured personnel carriers from the Canadian military, surround the rebel camp.
A Vancouver chapter of Native Youth Movement is established. It is inspired by the year-long trial of Gustafsen Lake defenders, held near Vancouver. NYM begins attending conferences, organizing protests, distributing information, etc. In April, NYM carries out 2-day occupation of BC Treaty Commission offices.
NYM Vancouver carries out 5-day occupation of BCTC offices in April, and a 2-day occupation of Westbank band offices in Okanagan territory (both actions against treaty process).
NYM Vancouver helps members of Cheam band, located near Chilliwack BC, assert their right to fish on Fraser River. NYM warriors wear masks & camouflage uniforms. They also carry batons to deter Fisheries officers, who routinely harass Cheam fishers. As a result of this, an NYM security force is formed, which would later become the Westcoast Warrior Society.
In May, members of the St’at’imc nation establish Sutikalh camp near Mt. Currie, BC, to stop a massive ski resort in an untouched alpine mountain area.
At Burnt Church, New Brunswick, Mi’kmaq fishermen assert their treaty right to lobster fish (in September & October) and are met with repression from hundreds of police & fisheries officers. Members of Westcoast Warrior Society participate in defensive operations.
In October, Secwepemc establish first Skwelkwekwelt Protection Center to stop expansion of Sun Peaks ski resort, near Kamloops, BC. Over the years, some 70 people are arrested & charged as a result of protests, roadblocks & re-occupation camps.
In May, a Secwepemc NYM chapter is established. A 2-day occupation of government office in Kamloops occurs to protest selling of Native land.
In July, over 60 RCMP with ERT raid Sutikalh after a 10-day blockade of all commercial trucking on Highway 97. Seven persons are arrested.
In September, RCMP, including Emergency Response Teams and Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), raid homes of Westcoast Warriors on Vancouver Island, allegedly searching for weapons.
In April, homes of NYM members are raided in Bella Coola & Neskonlith by RCMP including ERT. Police take computers, address books & propaganda.
In January, Mohawk warriors surround Kanesatake police station after band chief brings in outside police forces to crackdown on political opposition. Over 60 police are barricaded inside station. Chief’s house & car are burned.
In June, RCMP INSET, along with Vancouver police ERT, arrest members of Westcoast Warriors making legal purchase of firearms. Rifles & ammunition are seized. Shortly after, the WWS is disbanded by its members, citing police repression.
In April, Six Nations land reclamation near Caledonia, Ontario, is attacked by Ontario Police, who are forced back. This sets in motion more blockades of roads & highways, resulting in months-long confrontation that continues into summer. Hundreds of settlers protest the Six Nations reclamation and threaten to attack it. In some areas of Canada, solidarity blockades of roads, highways & trains are carried out by Natives. Government later recognizes claim of Six Nations to disputed tract of land & buys it back from corporate developer.