Indigenous Updates: Idle No More, Sacred Sites, and Wounded Knee

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 1, 2013 — 7 Comments

I’d like to start off this Friday with some news items from Native and indigenous communities that may be of interest to readers of The Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt has always urged respectful solidarity with Native and indigenous causes, seeing many of their struggles and interests as overlapping with our own. I’m hoping that Indigenous Updates can become a semi-regular round-up feature here, much as Pagan Community Notes and Unleash the Hounds has.

Pagans and Solidarity with Idle No More: The Wild Hunt has reported before on Pagan involvement in the Idle No More movement, which largely centers on issues of treaty rights and sustainable development for First Nations peoples in Canada, but has also broadened into other areas and issues as well. Claire “Chuck” Bohman, a seminarian and Reclaiming Witch who has spent time and practiced solidarity with the Idle No More movement, has written a helpful guide for Pagans interested in participating with Idle No More.


“We must learn to follow the leadership of first nations people. This is a movement led by First Nations people. Those who are most directly impacted by decisions made by people in power must be leading this movement. Part of how colonization and white supremacy works is by instilling in white people the belief that their opinions and voices are more important than others. Too often, I have seen white people get involved with justice struggles led by people of color and quickly begin speaking loudly and often in meetings and decision making processes. Part of being an ally is learning how to be a follower. This is not our movement to lead, this is a movement in which we are to follow. This is not to say that our voices are not important or that we should be silent. Just check yourself as you get involved and keep checking yourself. We must be humble, connect with the earth, and listen to our brothers and sisters.” 

I recommend reading the whole thing. There’s also a more general version written by Bohman at Tikkun Daily. Updates on Idle No More can be found at their official site.

The Ongoing Fight To Protect Sacred Sites: This site has chronicled several fights over the preservation of sacred sites, an ongoing issue in Indian country, where encroachments and construction on sacred lands are often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). As such it can be a highly-charged political issue, with the latest flashpoint being protests from American Indian activists and tribal leaders over President Barack Obama’s nomination of Lynne Sebastian to serve on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). Sebastian has worked with mining companies to give paid testimony that would allow them to mine on contested lands, something that understandably makes activists nervous about her placement on a government preservation council.

Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona.

Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona.

Suzan Shown Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute, has paid attention to Sebastian’s Quechan and Pechanga dealings, telling Indian Country Today Media Network that tribal consultation was sorely lacking in this nomination process. “If anyone in ACHP or the White House had consulted even a tiny bit, they would have learned of Native experiences with Lynne Sebastian,” she said. “Now they will have to assure her recusal from all deliberations and decisions on Native issues and we will have to monitor microscopically future ACHP vacancies and consultation on them.”

 Meanwhile, Native activists are trying to stop mining development in the Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona, saying that “the destruction and desecration of Apache lands” needs to stop.  The National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution opposing the land transfer for mining. All part of the ongoing, often unseen, struggles to protect the last pieces of sacred Native lands, often controlled by our government rather than tribal nations. 

40th Anniversary of Wounded Knee: February 27th of this year saw the beginning of the 40th anniversary of the Wounded Knee occupation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A 73-day standoff that pushed AIM (American Indian Movement) and Native issues to the forefront, part of a larger movement advocating greater sovereignty for American Indian tribes, an end to government-backed corruption in tribal governments, and demands that existing treaty agreements be respected.  National newswires like the Associated Press paint a mixed picture for how far things have progressed for the Pine Ridge Reservation and American Indian rights in general in the last 40 years.

[Faith] White Dress and others gathered Wednesday to remember the fatal 71-day standoff. During gunfire to mark the anniversary of the start of the occupation, she said the Oglala Sioux Tribe is still struggling. “Unemployment is so high and the oppression is still so bad,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to take violence. It’s going to take a gathering to determine how to bring jobs here. We need libraries. We need more of our children to have a better future.”

For those who want to learn more about the Wounded Knee stand-off the PBS documentary “We Shall Remain” has a good run-down of the events. For Native perspectives 40 years later, see this round-up at Indianz, this post from Last Real Indians, this video of the anniversary, photos from Censored News, and more. As seen by Idle No More, and ongoing activism, the struggle continues.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    You do well to keep us in touch with First Nation developments.
    Something else new in Indian Country is an added provision in the just-renewed Violence Against Women Act, that empowers tribal courts with jurisdiction over non-natives accused of raping Native women. Heretofore federal courts have had this, and they’re so clogged they can’t process such cases; now they will be prosecuted.

    • Rhoanna

      To clarify, it’s not so much the courts being clogged, but a lack of resources in prosecutor’s offices & law enforcement. And a lack of will, often enough as well.

  • I was at the Forward on Climate rally a couple weeks ago in D.C. and many leaders from the Idle No More movement spoke. Those were the only speeches given that day that left me in tears. Solidarity from a WV pagan.

  • Malaz

    In speaking about Native Rights and Wounded Knee, we would be remiss, as a community if we did not mention Warrior/Shaman Leonard Peltier

    who is still in prison for a crime the guvt has yet to prove he committed.

  • I find it odd how ‘Indian’ is still pervasive in the USA, as it is a major misnomer. Indians are from India and the biggest reason why it still persists is because it is the term used in Law – which needs addressing like how it was done in Canada. Here in Canada the preferred term is First Nations, and it is a fair descriptor that is open to the differing peoples on these lands. “American Indian” tribes might well be better described along the lines of “Turtle Island” tribes if not First Nations when it comes to North America. “American Indian” has been used to describe the indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, originating from USA scholars. A name that most of these peoples strongly disagree with. I suggest using different descriptors that are more accurate. Such as using a specific tribe’s name when appropriate instead along with the region the peoples are from. The simplest route for a large number of various peoples is to refer to the region they are in or from i.e. the indigenous peoples of the great lakes region. Speaking in this way is seen as more respectful than ‘Indian’ by many as it is not arbitrary and conforming. The indigenous peoples of North America may have a lot in common, but the peoples have a lot of differences too which when using conforming words like ‘Indian’ gives the view of being the same. This is problematic when each have different issues that want addressing and when the USA/Canada addressing one problem get all huffy when another needs addressing thinking that its the same people asking. The people of each region have different needs and desires, making this easier to see with more accurate descriptors would greatly aid in this.

  • This is fantastic – learning from and solidarity with Indigenous peoples is really important to me as a Pagan. I look forward to further Indigenous Updates!

  • a good background interview with three activists: