The great American Indian leaders of the 19th century were freedom fighters. Tecumseh, Osceola, Sitting Bull and Red Cloud all resisted U.S. government encroachment to remain in the places that defined their tribal identity and sovereignty. They fought to continue practicing their religious and cultural customs and to maintain their livelihoods through hunting, fishing and bearing arms.
But by the mid-20th century, American Indians became the most regulated ethnic group in the country. The U.S. wanted Indian land, and government coercion and paternalism were the hallmarks of federal Indian laws, policies and court decisions that suppressed Indian freedom and sovereignty. The landmark 1823 Supreme Court case, Johnson v. McIntosh, invalidated Indian land title to America. Indians were not even plaintiffs in this case, much less represented.
The U.S. government proceeded to solve its "Indian problem," by establishing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which oversaw virtually every aspect of Indian life. The feds enacted the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Dawes Act of 1887, resulting in massive tribal land loss and the upheaval of Indian life and self-governance. Under the U.S. policy of forced assimilation, Indian boarding schools prohibited speaking tribal languages, cultural and religious practices, and attempted to erase tribal histories.
Despite these historical injustices to its Native inhabitants, the U.S. is still the motherland of domestic tribal nations, and American Indians have honorably served in the U.S. military at high rates.
Today, freedom is at stake in our homelands again. The greatest threat to freedom in America today is the radical left — the Democratic Party. Ironically, the Democrats and radical left will use the same tactics to control American life that the feds once used to subdue Indian country. Just as the feds did with Indians, they will subdue U.S. citizens through laws and the courts under the premise that they know what is best for you.
They are poised to use the coronavirus and climate change as pretexts to disrupt American livelihoods, religious practice, health care, diet, 2nd Amendment rights and your children’s educations. But they have added rioting, looting, property destruction and terrorism to their arsenal. They want to control the way you think, live and behave. They want to dispirit you into conformity.
All freedom-loving Americans must be vigilant to threats to infringe upon our liberties. American Indians know first-hand what it’s like to have freedom and nationhood stripped away. Perhaps that is why the most revered ideal to Indian people is nationhood, and the most important work occurring in Indian country today is tribal nation rebuilding.
Tribal governments have made tremendous strides in recent decades in self-governance, land reclamation, tribal language revitalization and educational self-determination through the tribal college movement, which has spawned 37 tribal colleges and universities since 1968.
More than 300 treaties exist between the U.S. and Indian nations. Because of this treaty relationship, a strong and free United States is in the best interest of domestic Indian nations.
Ultimately, the love of freedom unites the U.S. and Indian nations. We have all come too far to go backward to the oppressive socialist agenda of today’s Democrats.
Lorraine Jessepe, of Topeka, is an American Indian Studies scholar with an emphasis in Sovereignty. She is a member of the Native American Journalists Association and a tribal citizen of the Oneida Nation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.