Contemporary Indigenous Activism

Contemporary Indigenous Activism

Contemporary Indigenous Activism

This week has been crazy busy. I gave my first college presentation and it was the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve had since I got here. It was for my Contemporary Indigenous Activism class and was part of the course’s public scholarship. What added to my nerves was my entire class being seniors, the two exceptions being me and a junior. Scary stuff. I am so glad that it’s over.I’m also extremely impressed with my classmates and their care for their research topics. Topics spanned from language revitalization to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). The topics centered around the class themes of tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, decolonization, and Indigenous resurgence. I have to say that when I first came to Carleton, I was worried I’d be the only one worried about issues in Indian Country. However, I am so relieved to know my peers are allies to Indigenous peoples, and are more than willing to educate themselves on these topics.

I am also so thankful for my professor Meredith McCoy. She led this course beautifully. From an outside perspective, she offered such great guidance for students who did not know how to approach sensitive topics in class. She encouraged discussion around these topics and understood that her students all had different levels of experience with Indigenous communities.

Contemporary Indigenous Activism has been my favorite course this term. I was skeptical of it at first, because it was my first time learning about topics surrounding Indigenous peoples outside of an Indigenous setting, and I was worried that topics wouldn’t be shown through the eyes of Indigenous people and our voices wouldn’t be heard. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I highly recommend this course to Carleton students, because it’s necessary to know the struggles Indigenous people face, especially when you occupy Indigenous land.

Here is what I had planned on saying in my presentation about help with math homework Canoe Journey to Alcatraz. (Though I cannot say that I said it all because my nerves were too high.):I’ll be discussing Indigenous resurgence, which is defined by Leanne Simpson as a radical and transformative reinvestment in Indigenous knowledge and lifeways that imagine Indigenous futures through an active present. Indigenous communities practice resurgence today, to the extent that they wish, and do so to protect traditions for future generations. One way this is being done is in the Bay Area. Canoe Journey to Alcatraz seeks to revitalize canoe culture within the Indigenous peoples of the Bay and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Alcatraz Occupation.

The Alcatraz Occupation occurred on November 20th, 1969 and lasted nineteen months, one of the most organized demonstrations from Native Activists. Native College students took the lead, two of the most prominent leaders being Richard Oakes, a Mohawk from San Francisco State that served as spokesperson for Occupiers, and LaNada War Jack, a Shoshone Bannock female leader who led occupiers from UC Berkley.

The main catalysts of the Occupation were the destruction of the American Indian Center, the demonstrations of the civil rights movement, and the aftermath of the termination and relocation policies.

* To explain, termination targeted tribes that the federal government labeled “ready to survive on their own” and entailed shutting down reservations and disregarding the sovereignty of said tribal nations. Under relocation, Indigenous peoples were encouraged to relocate to urban cities, with the promise of employment and stability but were instead met with hardship.The Occupation drove significant positive change to federal government policy. In 1970, President Nixon delivered a speech stating, “The time has come… for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.” Under self-determination, tribes now were able to reorganize their governments in ways that were beneficial for their people. The Occupation also established new strategies for Indigenous Activism, those being multi-tribal collaboration and massive media attention.

Today, Indigenous activists are carrying forward the political and cultural gains won as a result of the Occupation through the Canoe Journey to Alcatraz. Interactions with the water are vital to the life of Indigenous peoples. Resurgence of canoe culture allows Indigenous people of the Bay to make their connections to the water stronger and do so in resistance to the settler colonial state. Canoes symbolize a promise for a better future for the people of the Bay, and allows them to stand in solidarity for self-determination, sovereignty, and culture.

Below are some of the posters that describe terms I used in this post. (Credit to Kira Roberson, Harry Matthiasson, Jen Fonder, and myself for posters).

Zia is a first-year student from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Though, despite growing up among the 19 Pueblos, her tribe is the Canim Lake Band from British Columbia, Canada. She is interested in studying Biology and, hopefully, giving back to her people while bridging the gap between the medical field and Native communities. Aside from academics, she loves watching re-runs of The Office and Parks and Rec and keeping up with the latest music from Aminé, Brockhampton, Rex Orange County, Omar Apollo, GoldLink, and many more. Meet the other bloggers!

Indigenous Resurgence

Tribal Sovereignty

Treaty Rights



Native Nations

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