From Alcatraz to Standing Rock: Indigenous Resistance Has Always Been About Sovereignty
In 1970 my family took a car trip to the Colville Indian reservation in Washington State, driving over 1,000 miles from our home in Los Angeles to visit our Indian family. We passed through San Francisco, which at the time was the site of one of the earliest American Indian activist struggles, the Alcatraz Island occupation. Although I was only twelve and didn’t fully understand the relevance of the times I was living in, television images of young militant Native activists at Alcatraz, the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, and Wounded Knee in 1973 were permanently etched into my teenage brain. An impressionable youth, my identity as a mixed-blood urban Indian was shaped by those times and events, laying the foundation for my life as a Native artist, scholar, and writer.
The resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place at Standing Rock right now is the most significant political event in Indian country since those struggles of the early 1970s, and there was no way I was going to miss it. I managed to carve out a few days and take a side trip to Standing Rock during Thanksgiving weekend, with a story assignment in my role as a journalist at Indian Country Today Media Network.