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US The week hundreds of Native Americans took over D.C.’s Bureau of Indian Affairs

14:27  24 january  2021
14:27  24 january  2021 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover refers to a protest by Native Americans at the Department of Interior headquarters in the United States capital of Washington

American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, businesses, and individuals may also own land as private property. Because the Constitution vested the Legislative Branch with plenary power over Indian Affairs , states have no authority over tribal governments unless expressly authorized by Congress.

With desks, chairs and file cabinets, hundreds of Native Americans barricaded the entrances to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in downtown Washington, just six blocks from the White House.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Members of the American Indian Movement stand guard at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in November 1972. (Harvey Georges/AP) © Havery Georges/AP Members of the American Indian Movement stand guard at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in November 1972. (Harvey Georges/AP)

It was the week before the 1972 presidential election between President Richard Nixon and Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), and the group of men, women, children, activists and elders had come to the nation’s capital in a caravan of vans, trucks and cars to demand a meeting with Nixon and top officials. They wanted to describe the poor housing, underfunded schools and health crises they faced — a result, they said, of the U.S. government’s failure to honor treaties with their tribal governments.

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Native American rights. Purpose. Pan-Indianism. The Society of American Indians (1911–1923) was the first national American Indian rights organization run by and for American Indians .[1] The Society pioneered twentieth century Pan-Indianism 6 Red Progressives. 7 Bureau of Indian Affairs .

Start studying Chapter 7: American Indians . Learn vocabulary, terms and more with flashcards, games and other study tools. Belief that a wrong had to be repaid, even if it took years, but not to a greater degree is The major problem with the Bureau of Indian Affairs dealing with Native Americans is

They called their effort “The Trail of Broken Treaties,” a nod to the forcible removal in the 1830s of thousands of Native Americans from their homelands during the “Trail of Tears.”

“We wanted them to know the conditions we lived in. We wanted them to know the downright blatant persecution of the government of Native Americans,” said Sid Mills, one of the leaders of the takeover of the bureau in 1972.

An estimated 500 to 800 Native Americans took part, taking over the four-story granite headquarters of the BIA. Their siege bore little resemblance to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. It lasted much longer — six days vs. several hours. And the Indians didn’t storm inside but rather walked in and refused to leave.

“It was a messy coalition of politics and a bunch of individuals and groups who came together under a common goal. They wanted attention to the plight of Indians,” said Paul Chaat Smith, a Comanche whose book “Like a Hurricane” chronicled large-scale Indian protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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The events electrified Native Americans , and many Native American supporters traveled to Wounded Knee to join the protest. For years, internal tribal tensions had been growing over the difficult conditions on the Pine Ridge Officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs , administrators and police

is a Native American activist organization in the United States, founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with an agenda that focuses on spirituality AIM gained national attention when it seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs national headquarters and presented a 20-point list of demands to the

Almost a half-century later, Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), 60, a member of Pueblo of Laguna, is set to make history by becoming the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, putting her in charge of the BIA.

a man wearing a striped shirt and smiling at the camera: Deb Haaland at a gathering in Albuquerque during her 2018 congressional campaign. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post) © Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post Deb Haaland at a gathering in Albuquerque during her 2018 congressional campaign. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

In 1972, the Native Americans didn’t start off planning to take over the agency in charge of handling a variety of affairs, from fishing and mineral rights to maintaining roads and bridges on reservations.

Their pursuit instead began when three simultaneous caravans set off from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. They made their way east, speaking at reservations and churches, en route to Washington with plans to present their “Twenty Points” doctrine directly to the White House.

The Indians arrived on Nov. 1, 1972. One problem: No housing had been arranged. After a night crowded in the basement of a church off 16th Street that had rats, they headed to the BIA on Constitution Avenue, asking if they could bed down in a large auditorium and use the bureau’s kitchen.

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The history of Native Americans in the United States began in ancient times tens of thousands of years ago with the settlement of the Americas by the Paleo- Indians .

Indian removal was a forced migration in the 19th century whereby Native Americans were forced by the United States government to leave their ancestral homelands in the eastern United States to lands

But one top official with the Interior Department laughingly told them the “bureau was not in the housing business and threatened to have us thrown out,” Carter Camp, a member of the Ponca tribe who was also one of the protest coordinators, recalled in the New York Times.

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Mills said they told the bureau officials: “‘That’s not going to work. This place belongs to us. It’s the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is an Indian building.’”

At the time, the BIA was housed in a building separate from the Interior Department. (It was later relocated to the Interior building.)

While the Native Americans tried to reach a deal on housing, a group of guards for the General Services Administration tried to get some of the Indians who were in a downstairs area of the building to leave, according to Kent Blansett, a Native American scholar who teaches Indigenous studies and history at the University of Kansas. But fights erupted, and some of the guards were thrown out.

Ramona Bennett, 82, a former chairwoman of the Puyallup tribe in Tacoma, Wash., who was at the occupation, recalled how leaders of the group told them to wait in the building while they tried to make accommodations for them to stay for the night. But “while we were waiting there,” she said, “we were attacked.”

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“They started coming in through the doors and beating people with clubs,” Bennett said. When police in riot gear arrived, some Native Americans started to block the entrance doors. The protesters said police tried to smash the windows to get in.

“We said, ‘We’re not leaving,’ ” Mills recalled. That’s when “they surrounded us with police, and then it became an occupation.”

Some bureau employees were allowed out, while others opted to stay. Police surrounded the building and snipers took up posts on the Interior Department building across the street.

“It was scary, but we were strong,” Bennett said.

Soon, a banner went up across the facade of the building that read “Native American Embassy.” Some Native Americans put up a tepee on the front lawn, calling the property their “liberated territory,” according to “Like a Hurricane.”

Government officials desperately wanted them out. At one point, they offered the group a larger auditorium at a nearby federal building where there would be cots, showers and canteens set up for cooking. But when a few Native Americans went to check out the accommodations first, before moving everyone, they found the doors were locked.

Pietro Liberi et al. sitting at a table: Native Americans engage in a drum session in the Bureau of Indian Affairs auditorium in 1972. (Geoffrey Gilbert, courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection, © The Washington Post) © Geoffrey Gilbert/DC Public Library Washington Star Collection, © Washington Post Native Americans engage in a drum session in the Bureau of Indian Affairs auditorium in 1972. (Geoffrey Gilbert, courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection, © The Washington Post)

Native Americans spent days in the building going through — and taking — files that raised questions about unfair deals on land, water, fishing and mineral rights. Others took artifacts, pottery and artwork that they said belonged to tribes.

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Suzan Shown Harjo, 75, who is Cheyenne and Muscogee, recalled her time as a radio journalist covering the occupation for a New York station, WBAI-FM, in a piece on the 30th anniversary. She said, “Indians were camped all over the building, busy with security and other tasks, but mostly reading documents.”

“Everyone talked about the thick carpeting, leather couches and chairs, running water and indoor plumbing that were more comfortable and modern than most Indian homes.”

Taking over the building, Harjo said, was significant because it was the “stand-in agency for everything the federal government had done wrong to Indians. It was the stand-in for massacres. It was the stand-in for removal acts.”

GSA officials, at one point, proposed ending the takeover by tunneling into the building and “surprising the attackers.” But Nixon “ruled against an assault and in favor of restraint,” according to “Like a Hurricane.”

Determined to avoid bloodshed before an election, the government sought a court order to clear the group from the building. The court set a deadline for the Native Americans to be out, but an hour before it went into effect, a judge ordered a two-day extension to give government negotiators and the Native Americans more time to reach a deal.

Inside, some Native Americans broke off table legs to make clubs and wrapped knives onto pieces of broken furniture to make spears because they feared an attack by law enforcement or military police.

At one point, Harjo said, someone yelled into a bullhorn that the building was going to be blown up. Eight months pregnant, she and her husband, who was also a radio journalist, ran down the stairs, past bottles of flammable liquids with cardboard wicks.

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Outside on the steps of the building, Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota who was a leader in the American Indian Movement group, lit a long fuse to a molotov cocktail and said, “It’s a good day to die.” Several people, including Harjo’s husband, put out the fuse.

Harjo said Oren Lyons, who was a faithkeeper of the Onondaga tribe, told Means: “You can’t kill the people and destroy all those records. This is only a battle, not the war.”

Leonard Garment, acting special counsel to Nixon who was involved in negotiating with the occupiers, described the precarious situation in a 2007 interview kept at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. He said that with the nearness of the election, plus “a lot of craziness, anger, and a lot of children, babies … it was all the ingredients of a great tragedy.”

Then he realized that one of the obstacles to an agreement was that the Native Americans had no cash to get home.

Eventually, Garment said, he called officials at the Treasury Department and told them: “Get me some money so I can get bus tickets for all these Indians.”

The occupation ended the day after Nixon won a landslide victory and after Garment arranged for $66,000 in cash to help the Native Americans with travel expenses.

Government officials accused the group of causing thousands of dollars in damage — a charge many of the Native Americans denied. As part of the agreement, the government said it wouldn’t prosecute the Native Americans who had occupied the federal building.

In their book, Smith and his co-author Robert Allen Warrior, an Osage, called it “the most important act of Indian resistance since the defeat of Custer at Little Big Horn, yet after all the vows of victory or death, everyone agreed to leave in exchange for gas money home.”

Still, for many of the Native Americans involved in the occupation, it felt like a success.

“The most important thing we won was to have brought to the world the condition of our people,” Vernon Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement, said in a Washington Post article from that time.

“This is our country,” Bellecourt said. “This is our land. We have the right to live and thrive.”

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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Native Americans have long had good reason to distrust the Department of Interior. But their increasing political clout may mean that things are changing. Native Americans, the original inhabitants of this continent, have not been well represented in the federal government. Just four Native Americans — a record — served in the last Congress; including Haaland, just six serve in the new Congress. Elevating Haaland to the Cabinet could have consequences for politics and policy alike.

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