tv Native American Activism in the 1970s CSPAN December 15, 2018 9:30pm-9:47pm EST
american activism in the 1870's, including the red power movement . american history tv recorded the historyw at the western association's annual meeting in san antonio, texas. is joining us from san antonio, he is a professor of history where he earned his doctorate degree. let's talk about the red power movement. andnning in the late 60's through the 80's, what was it? it was a national toement of native americans build tribal sovereignty and advocate for the rights. government,federal argued for native issues they felt were being underrepresented during the 1960's and 70's. from thet that grew
protests of the 1960's. civil rights movement, they drew inspiration from the black power movement. they took it back to the native communities to build up where they thought they were lacking by the 70's and into the 80's. was there one moment that was a breaking point or tipping point for the movement? at first you have a gradual movement and in 1969, nativeember you have activists in san francisco, california who take over the former prison of alcatraz. they take it over for all of 1970 and halfway through 1971. they argued that they wanted the islands to be a native cultural center.
they lost their cultural center in san francisco. islandaimed the alcatraz was surplus federal property. protestged a theatric on alcatraz island. it drew national attention. the washington redskins football team sent televisions. creedence clearwater revival sent a boat with supplies. a radio station that was syndicated to los angeles, san francisco, all across the country. that was the first real movement where you had this idea of native americans getting involved, protesting publicly for tribal sovereignty for the era. point?did they have a in terms of claiming rights to alcatraz island that they said was rightfully theirs? prof. eberle: they claimed it laramiee treaty of fort
in 1868. the idea that the treaty signers were entitled to surplus federal land. the protesters claimed the surplus- alcatraz was federal land and they had the right to claim it. the legality of that was dubious. they were not signers of the treaty. many were not members of the nation that had signed the treaty. it was a basic idea they were using to highlight the fact that the u.s. government was not upholding treaty obligations. ony had kind of reneged these former promises. just kind of a way to build that in. they did not have a legal claim to the island. steve: it came to the end and maybe it was a resolution in june, 1970 one, how was it resolved? prof. eberle: by that point in time, the protesters had kind of dispersed, many had left.
1971 there was only maybe 20 people left on the island. many of them were not native. president nixon was able to send the coast guard to alcatraz. they rounded them up and took them off the island. they got some hearings with the nixon administration. they got some discussions with the government. they did not get alcatraz. it kind of just fizzled out over time. it lost a lot of the steam that it had. there was a number of issues and protesters. the leader, his daughter died. fires broke out. a series of unfortunate events under minded the occupation itself.
it brought a lot of attention to the idea and inspired a number of others to get involved in this issue of red power. thee: two years later was occupation of wounded knee. where did that take place and what happened? that took place in southwest south dakota. write down by nebraska, wyoming border. theas the sign of the -- site of the 1890 massacre. 150 indians were massacred. activists use that historical massacre toe 1890 bring back those old issues and highlight issues with the federal government. they were invited on to the with tribalto deal issues and they realized there was a lot of cultural cachet.
to wounded knee, there was a trading post, a few houses, not much there. they take it over 471 days beginning in february, 1973 -- days. issues of indian treaty rights, tribal it was a big protest. many people saw it as a parallel to vietnam. vietnam in southeast asia and then this poor reenactment of it on the pine ridge reservation. 10,000 rounds of ammunition fired into the village. two native americans die during the occupation.
one of the major events of the red power movement. at the 1973 oscars, he declined the award and sent up a native american and she highlighted it and said we cannot accept this because of the issues of treaties and native american representation. is going on, we should pay more attention to that. zenith of redajor power. steve: in the 1970's, you talk about alcatraz, we talk about wounded knee, five years later was the longest walk. it started in san francisco and at thep here in,, national mall. what happened there? was. eberle: there anti-indian pieces of
legislation going through trying to abolish native rights. to abolish reservations in a summit respect. lobbyists were against them. they were going to stage a protest from san francisco to washington. bring the issues and come to theirgton, d c, planted teepees on the national mall. they asked for a meeting with jimmy carter. harder declined it -- carter declined it. if you hundred americans -- native americans gathered on the national mall. the indian religious freedom act passes congress. appearance onir the national mall brought that to fruition. able to bet to be passed and signed into law by president carter. steve: was this part of the
national dialogue in the 1970's? keep in mind it was pre-cable news, pre-social media. did it get a lot of attention in television and in print? prof. eberle: yes. at wounded knee in particular you had all of the major national news networks. the american indian movement understood the importance of playing up these national television appearances. when the tvsaid news leaves us the government will come in and we will have an other wounded knee. it got an incredible amount of attention in the 1970's. throughout it was this regular appearance on national news, "new york times" and "washington post" regularly covered throughout the decade. steve: you talk about the indian what was the act,
debate like on capitol hill and how quick were they to resolve some of these issues? prof. eberle: both of those were long, simmering debates. religious freedom, many cases you can take that back to the 1800s. both of them were introduced into congress by south dakota senator. they make it through congress relatively quickly at least in terms of how legislation moves at some point in time. the point for many cases was overwhelming a lot of people. at that point they were shocked that native religions were technically outlawed. you could not practice religion, even in 1978. activists pointed to this and when they make these arguments, a lot of people look at it and
theit is 1978, we have first amendment. you are telling me religious alimony's -- ceremonies are technically illegal? yes. they walked back some of these but it was still formally illegal. by the end of the 1970's people said we need to resolve these so they passed relatively quickly with pretty overwhelming support. steve: can you give us a summary of your presentation? my presentation this year is looking at the issues of jim jones and the people's temple. being involved in the famous white night massacre. i'm focused on what happens before that with the involvement of jim jones and the native american community in san francisco. he gets involved with activists like dennis banks. he sees it native activism in
san francisco as a way to build up his aggressive -- progressive politics within the community. jones was always a complicated figure. he claims native heritage. he wants to be involved in it native issues because for him, that is the progressive. that is the liberal politics of san francisco at that point. he gets involved and starts to move to jonestown. thelees the issue -- leave country after the issues with the irs. he starts to use these ideas of native heritage and persecution amongst native americans as a way to build a persecution complex for the church. native americans were persecuted, jim jones, the people's temple are persecuted as well. unfortunate to an conclusion in guyana with the
massacre of 900 americans. he lays out the idea that we have reached the end of the line. there is no hope for us. native americans were in his view white doubt. a obviously were not but he makes the idea that there is no hope for us or for the native americans. interesting at this understudied era and the connections they make. of theses that some new religions in the 1970's raise and how they worked with native americans. steve: yet it is relatively recent in terms of native 50 years ago. are you able to talk to primary sources in terms of oral history? there are a number of people. unfortunately, as i was finishing up the dissertation, you had a lot of people who did pass away. dennis banks passed away last
year. generation that was involved in a red power are starting to pass away. there are a copious amount of oral histories that you can use and that i have used and want to use a lot more of. it is something that many cases is a relatively new thing. 40 years ago for them is still in some cases pretty wrong. it is a touchy subject and working with them is something you'll have to approach with great caution. some it is too recent to go into. steve: why did you decide to delve into this topic? course myle: i took a first semester of masters, native american history was the first thing that popped out to
me. i was always interested in vietnam. i was doing the course and i happened to look at stuff on the occupation of the wounded knee. they are all calling it a bad reenactment of vietnam. that is a series of movies come out in the early 70's that are playing on these issues of native rights and u.s. government issues. which like soldier blue was a reenactment of 1880 indian issues but at the same time was a parallel to vietnam. all these weird connections between native americans and in vietnam drew my attention. and gotted to dig in interested in red power and was a very complex subject. , conflictingideas narratives. it was kind of an interesting
topic. something that has been covered but a lot of people skim the top and there is a lot there. it seemed like a fruitful area of study for me. steve: we appreciate you sharing your expertise. eberle teaches at oklahoma state. joining us from san antonio, thank you for being with us. weekend american history tv brings you 48 hours of unique programming. exploring our nation's past. to view our schedule and an archive, visit c-span.org/ history. the raiders stopped here at historic south park in the early morning hours of august 21, 1863. they gathered here and traveled in the town and proceeded to destroy lawrence. up next, we will take