Reservations and Renewed Resistance

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Battle of Wounded Knee


The reservation system, set up by the U.S. government, destroyed the native people. The Bureau of Indian Affairs institutionalized the theft and manipulation of native land and systematically stripped the native peoples of their culture, religion, language, and way of governance. Mission schools specifically saw their purpose as “civilizing” and ”Christianizing” the children and making them patriotic U.S. citizens.

Decades of this system led in the 1970s to an eruption of protests and demonstrations on the part of the native people and their allies to reclaim the civil and human rights and economic development that the United States took from them. Takeovers at Alcatraz and Wounded Knee galvanized native peoples into a new resistance struggle. The ecological awakening during that period, continuing until today, sparked a renewed interest in the indigenous way of life, including their culture, religion, and view of the earth.

On November 9, 1969, seventy-eight native people made a predawn landing on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The takeover was extraordinarily dramatic and focused world attention on Indian protest. By November 30, nearly six hundred Indians, representing more than fifty tribes, were living on the island. Their numbers decreased drastically in later months, as the U.S. government cut off telephones, electricity, and water in the hope that they would leave altogether. But the Indians were unyielding. They incorporated themselves as Indians of All Tribes and remained until they were forcefully removed a year and a half later.

-Chronicles of American Indian Protest, 310; Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 226-233; Bill Zimmerman, Airlift to Wounded Knee, 42-48.


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Facilitating Respectful Return

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