Something for the Thankstaking weekend. I’ve put together this timeline from a variety of sources.
Indigenous Resistance, 1960s-Present
When most settlers think back to the conquest of the territory that now makes the United States and Canada, most of them think that the end of the so-called “Indian Wars” as the end of it, officially happening sometime around 1890. In that year some 300 unarmed Lakota men, women & children were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
From this period until the 1950s, Native peoples were largely pacified & controlled by the colonial settler states. Indian children were stolen from their families and thrown in schools in an act of genocide. Their cultures, languages and spiritual practices were annihilated by the white supremacist schooling in an effort to, by any and all means, assimilate Indians into white settler society.
Militant police action did continue though. In 1924 Canada violently suppressed the traditional government of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, one of the few remaining traditional Indian governments in the wake of the Indian Act.
For the most part however the protests of Indians consisted of lobbying the government for better treatment. In the 1950s things began to change. Largely inspired by the Black Civil Rights struggle in the U.S., Indians in both Canada and the U.S. also began organizing. In the south west, Native students began organizing, while in the Northwest, coastal Natives began asserting their treaty rights to fish. The Prairies and the Kanien’kehaka (gun-ya-geh-haw-ga), or Mohawks, of Québec lead the charge in this new militancy.
This movement was the first to occur outside the official sactioned band & tribal council system set up by both U.S. & Canadian governments (Indian compradors). This early movement established a the basis for a grassroots network of conscious Indians opposed to colonization, and who were committed to maintaining their traditional culture & values, much of which had been lost in the forced schooling of Indian children. This informal network formed the basis for the next phase of resistance which took off in the 1960s.
Its no historical mystery that the 1960s was a period marked by rebellion and a revolution on a global scale. Taking inspiration from the fierce resistance of the Vietnamese people against U.S. invasion & occupation, the Cultural Revolution in People’s China and the widespread revolt of students and workers in Europe, new social movements emerged, including the Black Panthers, the Chicano Movement, and the women’s, students, queer liberation and anti-war movement.
It is from this period that the current Indian resistance movement more or less emerged. In the 1980s things began to quiet down, but then Oka in 1990 exploded, reviving the movement for the last 20 years. This last 35-year period therefore forms an important part of our history as a movement.
At Kahnawake (ga-na-WAH-gay), a traditional Kanien’kehaka Singing Society is formed, which would later become the Mohawk Warrior Society. They begin to take part in protests & re-occupations of land. As well, a protest & blockade of the Seaway International Bridge (demanding recognition of Jay Treaty), at Akwesasne, ends with police attack & arrests of scores of Mohawks.
The American Indian Movement, a Warrior Society of urban Indians, is formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Inspired by the traditional Warrior Societies of nations like the Mohawk, and taking cues from the serve the people programmes of the Black Panthers, AIM establishes a community centre, and provides help to Indians in finding work, housing and legal aid. It also helps to organize early protests, and establishes a copwatch patrol. Although the most well known, AIM was just one part of a broad Native resistance movement that emerged at this time (sometimes referred to as Red Power). Other important groups to emerge out of this period are United Native Americans and United American Indians of New England.
The event that really kicked things off, the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The occupation was largely in response to the U.S. Federal Government’s policy of Termination, which eliminated tribal status. The two guinea pigs for the policy, the Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon, suffered terrible social and economic consequences. The action would last 19 months and be the first Indian protest to receive national & international media coverage. Thousands of Indians participated in the action, most coming from urban areas and searching for their identity.
AIM protests disrupt the re-enactment of Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, gains national attention & helps AIM to expand. United American Indians of New England declared US Thanksgiving Day a National Day of Mourning. It becomes an annual protest.
In Pennsylvania, unknown persons break into FBI office and take many classified documents. These revealed the existence of the Bureau’s Counter-Intelligence Program. COINTELPRO, as it was known, set up surveillance and organized repression against progressive social movements in U.S. The program initially targeted the African-American movement, especially the Black Panthers, but would later also turn its eyes on the Red Power Movement. It used imprisonment, assaults and lethal force to enforce the established order
AIM and many other native groups organize the Trail of Broken Treaties. The TBT is a caravan that travelled from the west coast to Washington, D.C. When the caravan of several thousand activists arrived in Washington, government officials refused to meet with them. In response The Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters is occupied for 6 days. Extensive damage is done to the property and thousands of files taken.
In February of that year Raymond Yellow Thunder is killed by settlers in Gordon, Nebraska. His murderers are only charged with manslaughter, and were then released without bail. AIM organized several days of protests and boycotts, and succeeded in having actual murder charges laid against the settlers. The police chief fired. Yellow Thunder is from Pine Ridge, and this incident helps build a stronger relationship between AIM and traditional Lakotas on the reserve.
Another Indian, Wesley Bad Heart Bull, is killed by another racist settler, this time in South Dakota. Again the perpetrator is only charged with manslaughter. On February 6, an AIM again protests against this kind of injustice. In Custer, SD, the protests cause the courthouse erupts into riot. Police cars and buildings are set on fire. 30 people arrested.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, large numbers of police and US Marshals are deployed to counter the activities of AIM and traditionalist Lakotas opposed to the corrupt tribal president Dick Wilson. With the aid of U.S. government funing Wilson established a paramilitary force known as the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, called GOONs by AIM and its allies.
In a period beginning in this year and ending in 1976, some 69 members or associates of AIM were killed by the GOONs, BIA police and FBI agents in and around Pine Ridge.
Angered by the ongoing repression and violence, some 200 AIM memebers, supporters and traditionalist Lakota warriors begin an occupation of Wounded Knee on February 27. The government responds with a 71-day siege during which two Natives were shot and killed (Buddy Lamont & Frank Clearwater). The siege ends on May 9.
At Kahnawake in September, the Mohawk Warrior Society evicts non-Natives from the over-crowded reserve. This leads to armed confrontation with Québec police in October. Warriors begin to search for land to re-possess.
A group of traditionalist Mohawks, along with veterans of the Wounded Knee occupation, begin an occupation of Ganienkeh in New York state. The warriors retake land and engage in an armed standoff with state police. Eventually, negotiations result in Mohawks taking a parcel of land in upstate NY (in 1977). Ganienkeh, a community run in accordance with ancient Six Nations tradition, continues to exist today.
In Canada, the Native People’s Caravan, modelled after Trail of Broken Treaties takes place form September 14 to 30, and heads from Vancouver, British Colombia to Ottawa. It ends with riot police attacking 1,000 Indian activists at Parliament Building.
Armed roadblocks and occupations occur at Cache Creek, British Colombia, and Kenora, Ontario.
Perhaps the most famous incident of the period: the shootout at Oglala. At Oglala, on the Pine Ridge reservation, the FBI botched a raid on an AIM camp. The failed operation ends with 2 agents killed along with 1 Native defender (Joe Stuntz-Killsright). The FBI launched one of the largest man hunts in US history for AIM suspects afterwords.
Elsewhere, in Wisconsin, the Menominee Warrior Society occupied the abandoned Alexian Brothers novitiate building in Gresham, Wisconsin. The occupation lasted thirty four days and, when it ended, many leaders of the occupation faced criminal indictments and trials.
In February, the body of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mik’maq from Nova Scotia, Canada, and member of AIM, is found on the Pine Ridge reservation. Aquash was one of the most well known female members of AIM, a veteran of the BIA occupation and Wounded Knee. Despite an initial cover-up by the FBI, an independent autopsy finds that Aquash had been executed with a bullet in the back of the head. The FBI or GOONs are primary suspects. To this day no one knows for sure who killed Anna Mae, and her death has been used to tear the movement apart, with some fingering others within AIM, and others the government.
Two suspects in the FBI deaths at Oglala (Dino Butler & Bob Robideau) are found not guilty on grounds of self-defense. A third suspect, Leonard Peltier, is captured in Canada. Using false evidence, the FBI have Peltier illegally extradited to South Dakota.
The trial of Leonard Peltier ends with his conviction of murder and imprisonment for 2 life terms. His conviction is based on FBI fabrication and withholding of evidence. Peltier remains in prison to this day, one of the longest held Prisoners of War in the U.S.
On June 11, some 550 Québec Provincial Police raid Restigouche, a Mik’maq reserve of 1,700. Riot police carry out assaults and search homes for evidence of ‘illegal’ fishing. This is in response to complaints by white fishermen that the Mi’kmaq take more than their fair share of fish. This is despite the fact that the white fishermen take order of magnitude more fish than the Indians.
Over 200 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), including riot & Emergency Response Teams, raided the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake. They claimed they are searching for illegal cigarettes. In response Warriors seized the Mercier Bridge, a vital commuter link into Montreal, part of which runs through the Kahnawake reserve.
In northern Alberta, the Lubicon Cree began road-blocks against logging and oil companies devastating their territory & way of life. A logging camp and vehicles are damaged by Molotov attacks. The struggle of the Lubicon continues to this day, now with the added threat of even greater ecological destruction and health effects at the hands of the Canadian Oil Sands.
In Labrador, Innu activists began protesting NATO fighter-bomber training at a Canadian military base. Many Innu were arrested during the blockade of runways.
The Oka Crisis. Over 100 heavily-armed Québec provincial police raided a Mohawk blockade at Kanesatake/Oka on June 11. In an initial fire-fight, one cop is shot & killed. Following a 77-day armed standoff began. Eventually it came to involve 2,000 police and 4,500 Canadian soldiers, deployed against both Kanesatake & Kahnawake. The Oka Crisis inspired solidarity actions across country, including road and rail blockades and sabotage of bridges and electrical pylons.
During protests against the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ invasion of the Americas in October, dozens were arrested in Denver, Colorado. In San Francisco, riot cops fought running battles with protesters, who set 1 police car on fire and disrupted an official Columbus Day parade & re-enactment of his landing.
The Zapatista Rebellion begins. In Chiapas, Mexico, armed rebels of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation launched their New Year’s Day offensive, capturing 6 towns and cities. Comprised of Indigenous peoples, the EZLN declare war on the Mexican state and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In response, the government deployed 15,000 soldiers and killed several hundred civilians in attacks. Since 1994, the Zapatistas have continued to gain widespread support and sympathy throughout Mexico and the world. Along with Oka, the Zapatista uprising helps to inspire and drive 20 years of resurgence in the Indian movement in North America.
Two major events took place this year in Canada. The first is in Ipperwash, Ontario, were an unarmed protest and re-occupation ended with Ontario police opening fire on the protesters. They kill one Indian, Dudley George, on September 6. The re-occupation had begun in 1993. The land, originally the Stoney Point reserve, was taken by the government during the second world war for use as a temporary army base. After the killing of Dudley George, the government admitted the peoples claims were justified. The second incident is the month-long siege that occured at Gustafsen Lake in the south-central Interior of British Colombia. It began after a settler attempted to evict Secwepemc sundancers from their traditional ceremonial grounds. Some 450 heavily-armed RCMP ERT, with armoured personnel carriers from the Canadian military, surround the rebel camp.
The Native Youth Movement, a militant grouping of largely urban Indians inspired by the original AIM, founded a chapter in Vancouver, British Colombia. It was inspired by the year-long trial of Gustafsen Lake defenders, held near Vancouver. NYM soon began attending conferences, organizing protests, distributing information, etc. In April, NYM carried out 2-day occupation of BC Treaty Commission offices.
The NYM branch in Vancouver carried out 5-day occupation of BCTC offices in April, and a 2-day occupation of Westbank band offices in Okanagan territory. Both of these are actions against treaty process.
The NYM branch in Vancouver helped members of Cheam band, located near Chilliwack British Colombia, assert their right to fish on the Fraser River. NYM Warriors wear masks and camouflage uniforms. They also carry batons to deter Fisheries officers, who routinely harassed Cheam fishers. As a result of this the NYM forms security force. This later took on a life of its on and became the Westcoast Warrior Society.
In May, members of the St’at’imc nation established Sutikalh camp near Mt. Currie, British Colombia, to stop a massive ski resort from being built on an untouched alpine mountain area.
At Burnt Church, New Brunswick, Mi’kmaq fishermen again attempted to assert their treaty rights to fish lobster in September & October. They were again met with repression from hundreds of police and fisheries officers. Members of Westcoast Warrior Society participated in defensive operations.
In October, Secwepemc established the first Skwelkwekwelt Protection Center to stop expansion of Sun Peaks ski resort, near Kamloops, British Colombia. Over the years, some 70 people are arrested and charged as a result of protests, roadblocks & re-occupation camps.
In May, a Secwepemc NYM chapter was established. A 2-day occupation of government office in Kamloops occured to protest selling of Native land.
In July, over 60 RCMP with ERT raided Sutikalh after a 10-day blockade of all commercial trucking on Highway 97. Seven persons are arrested.
In December, Annishinabe in the northern Ontario community of Grassy Narrows began to blockade logging companies from destroying their traditional territory. The blockade becomes one of the longest in recent history, continuing through to the present, and directed primarily against Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi corporations.
In September, RCMP, including Emergency Response Teams and Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), raided the homes of West Coast Warrior Society members on Vancouver Island. They were allegedly searching for weapons.
In April, homes of NYM members were again raided, this time in Bella Coola and Neskonlith, by RCMP including ERT. This time the cops took computers, address books & propaganda.
In January, Mohawk warriors surrounded the Kanesatake police station after band chief brings in outside police forces to crackdown on political opposition. Over 60 police were barricaded inside station. Chief’s house and car are burned.
In June, RCMP INSET, along with Vancouver police ERT, arrested members of West Coast Warriors Society, for making legal purchase of firearms. Rifles and ammunition were seized in the bust. Shortly after, the West Coast Warrior Society was disbanded by its members. They cited the ongoing repression of them by the police.
In January, members of the Tahltan in northern ‘British Columbia’ occupied the band office in Telegraph Creek in opposition to band’s involvement with mining and oil & gas corporations. In July they began blockading roads being used by construction machinery, and in September fifteen Tahltans including elders were arrested by the RCMP. The Tahltan continued their campaign, including blockades, through 2006 and 2007.
On April 20, over 150 Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) attempted to forcibly remove a blockade at the Six Nations reserve territory near Caledonia, in southern Ontario. They violently arrest 16 Indians, using physical assaults, pepper spray & tasers. The Ontario Provincial Police are forced to withdraw however, as hundreds of Six Nations members converge on the site. More blockades were erected in the area, including on Highway 6, which consisted of burning tires, vehicles and dismantled electrical pylons, and mounds of gravel. A train bridge was also burned down. The next day on the Tyendinaga reserve, a Canadian National Railway line was blocked, cutting off a major freight and passenger line. The Six Nations members originally began their blockade to stop a housing development on land they claimed belongs to them. The blockades and land reclamation continue for over a year, with numerous conflicts with settlers and police occurring, as well as sabotage.
In July, Grassy Narrows Annishinabe protesters, along with members of the Rainforest action Network, blockaded the Trans-Canada Highway. Several persons were arrested.
On March 6, a massive Olympic flag that was being flown at the Vancouver City Hall was stolen just as a delegation from the International Olympic Committee arrived to inspect the city’s preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics. A few days later, as the IOC tour ended, the Native Warrior Society released a communiqué claiming responsibility for taking the flag, including a photograph of three masked members standing in front of the Olympic flag and holding a Warrior flag. The group claimed the action in honour of Harriet Nahanee, a Native elder who passed away after being sentenced to two weeks imprisonment for taking part in a 2006 blockade of construction on the Sea-to-Sky highway in preparation for 2010.
This year also saw the attempt by a group of Lakota leaders to move for the unilateral withdrawal of the Lakota from the Treaties of 1851 and 1868 as permitted under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, of which, the United States is a signatory. Their proposed independent nation is called the Republic of Lakotah.
Across Canada the so-called Olympic “Spirit Train” was met with disruptions and protests at its stops by Native warriors and their non-Native allies. Across Canada other preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics, set to take place on unceded Indian land, were disrupted by protesters.
The Mohawk Nation branch of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at Kahnawake filed a formal complaint about the construction of Super Highway 30.
The land reclamation effort at Caledonia by the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy entered its third year with the warriors showing no signs of backing down. It continues to be ongoing to this day.
Warriors of the Mohawk Nation branch of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy at Akwesasne – which straddles Ontario, Québec and New York State – expelled Canadian border guards at a crossing with the United States which passes through their territory, seizing control of the border station.
Native warrior, American Indian Movement leader and political prisoner Leonard Peltier is again denied parole by the colonial government in the United States. His next parol hearing will not be until the year 2024.
In February Native warriors gathered with anti-capitalists/anti-imperialists, feminists, environmentalists and other social justice advocates to fight back against the Vancouver Winter Olympics which took place on unceded Coast Salish territory.
In July people in Oka and the nearby Mohawk community gather to remember the resistance at Oka and to protest the ongoing attempts to marginalize the Mohawk people and take their land.
The Canadian Federal Government uses an obscure part of the 1900 Indian Act to forcibly strip the Barrie Lake Algonquin of their traditional government, and replace it with a Band Council subservient to Ottawa. The Barrie Lake people meet this with stiff resistance.