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Indigenous People for Black Lives Matter

Today as I write this article the world is mourning Daunte Wright, a young Black man whose life was taken by a Minnesota police offer. The officer who shot him during a routine traffic stop claims that she mistook her gun for a taser. Over the past several years, the cries of “Black Lives Matter” have echoed in gatherings across the country, and American citizens are demanding changes in the US law enforcement system and other systems that contain racist policies that consistently privilege white people over people of color.

As Indigenous people, these acts of violence feel all too familiar. Another life lost is met, yet again, with lines of police and national guard members, upholding and defending the institutions and systems that continue to take the lives of people of color.

The parallels between the Black Lives Matter Movement and movements for Indigenous Sovereignty are interconnected. Standing in solidarity with and joining Black and Afro-Indigenous relatives in breaking down systems grounded in oppression and racism have the potential to liberate all of us one day.

At the core of the Black Lives Matter movement is the mission to rid the United States and the world of white supremacy. White supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to people of color. White supremacy also includes systems, like the US educational system, that support this belief.

Through slavery and continued oppression, America has been built on the backs of our Black relatives. In the beginning, the founding fathers of the US wrote the words “All Men Are Created Equal” in the Declaration of Independence while at the same time owning slaves. It is not surprising then that US systems, such as the US criminal justice system, would contain racist policies and ways of operating that privilege white people over people of color.

This structural racism reveals itself in ways that also impact Tribal communities and Indigenous people. For example, Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) is an epidemic, because the US criminal justice system and the US court system is built on racism. Native American and Alaska Native women experience violence at disproportionate rates (in part because of how we are portrayed in popular media), but also because of the federal policies that impact Tribes’ ability to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of violence against Native women. This means many victims and their families are unable to seek justice. This further contributes to the problem of MMIP. It is also an example of the US government not respecting the sovereign authority of Tribes as independent nations to make decisions about the how they govern and protect their people on tribal lands.

MMIP, Land Back, Water is Life, and other Indigenous movements share the same overall goal as the Black Lives Matter movement, which is breaking down and eradicating white supremacy and removing racism from our institutions (like schools) and systems (like the US educational system).

Indigenous Sovereignty and Black Liberation are intertwined. There will never be one without the other, because the main culprit in both are systemic and institutional racism rooted in white supremacy. When we can change these racist institutions and systems, both Black lives and Indigenous Sovereignty will be honored and upheld.

There are many ways to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter:

Author: Tamee Livermont is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Her passion and interests lie in advocacy to create healthier, safer communities for generations to come. She is pursuing a career in medicine and policy. In her free time she is an advocate for equity and justice, hikes, and quilts.

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