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  • Writer's pictureEmily Smith

Indigenous Lives Matter: Fighting Back Against Centuries of State Violence


© 2020 Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

The increasingly visible Black Lives Matter movement has brought awareness both across the country and around the globe to the injustices and violence conducted by police against black people. While the issue of police brutality against black people is far from over, Black Lives Matter has become a well-known and recognizable movement. A lesser-known movement aiming to gain the same traction and support is a similar one: Indigenous Lives Matter. This movement, much like its predecessor, aims to raise awareness of police brutality against Indigenous and Native American peoples. Data reveals a stark bias in policing of Indigenous communities as compared to white communities; Indigenous men are incarcerated four times as often as white men and indigenous women six times as often as white women and indigenous people are the racial group most likely to be killed by the police (Lakota Law, 2015).

Native people have already faced injustices by the state in the form of land encroachment and destruction, as seen by the Dakota Access Pipeline crisis that threatened the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Frankman, 2016) but police brutality is an underreported evil that faces the Indigenous communities in the United States and beyond. The Indigenous Lives Matter movement aims to echo the sentiments of Black Lives Matter and advocate for the end of state violence towards their community. Despite the aforementioned fact that indigenous people are the group most likely to be killed by police, this phenomenon is much too often underreported both in media and statistics (Woodward, 2016). Crime and policing in the United States is far too often instinctively linked to blackness, which both unfairly correlates black people as more likely to commit crimes and minimizes injustices in policing within other racial groups. One report presented at the Western Social Science Association compared the number of articles in the top 10 newspapers in the United States that covered Native deaths by police versus African American deaths by police from May 2014 to October 2015. The findings showed that while these 10 papers featured hundreds of stories covering the African American deaths during this period, only one Indigenous death was covered extensively- Paul Castaway of the Rosebud Sioux tribe was shot by police in Denver and received a total of 2,577 words across the Denver Post. The next highest story received 515 words, in which they incorrectly identified the victim as Latino. The other indigenous deaths during this period had no coverage at all (Woodward, 2016).

This study or this post does not aim to invalidate or draw attention away from the importance of Black Lives Matter. Indigenous activists were very vocal about their solidarity with Black Lives Matter during the 2020 riots following the death of George Floyd. In fact, a key tenet of Indigenous Lives Matter is that Indigenous Sovereignty and Black Liberation go hand-in-hand (Belfi, 2020). Both movements recognize the dangers of the current system that relies on white supremacist, colonial powers and aim to dismantle the systematic racism that threatens all racial minorities in the United States and around the world. To achieve true racial equality in the world, groups cannot be left behind. Solidarity is the key to widespread liberation and justice.


Sources

Belfi, E. (2020, June 20). Native Solidarity with Black Lives Matter as Both Communities Confront Centuries-Long State Violence. Cultural Survival. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/native-solidarity-black-lives-matter-both-communities-confront-centuries-long-state-violence

Frankman, E. (2016). Indigenous People Fight Back with #NativeLivesMatter Movement | The Takeaway. WNYC Studios. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/do-native-lives-matter-most-americans

Lakota People's Law Project. (2015). Native Lives Matter - Romero Institute. Lakota People's Law Project. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://lakotalaw.org/resources/native-lives-matter

Woodard, S. (2016, October 17). Special Investigation: Native Americans Are Being Killed by Police at a Higher Rate Than Any Other Group. In These Times. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://inthesetimes.com/features/native_american_police_killings_native_lives_matter.html


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