This week, social media has been set ablaze with a series of videos and images capturing a group of high school teenagers mocking a Native American man marching for indigenous rights in Washington D.C. If you’re wondering what the indigenous movement is all about, here’s what you need to know.
What exactly is the Indigenous Peoples Movement?
Generally speaking, an indigenous peoples movement refers to any native population (beyond just Native American communities) seeking legal, political, and cultural recognition in a given country where that group feels underrepresented.
It’s also the name of a grassroots initiative, recently created by indigenous populations around the world, seeking greater representation from their respective nations. This initiative is supported by larger organizations like the Sierra Club (a group devoted to environmental causes).
What is the Indigenous Peoples March?
On January 18, supporters of the Indigenous Peoples Movement planned to march together in Washington D.C, hoping to bring attention to issues of police brutality, corporate greed and government power (among others) affecting some indigenous nations, according to the group’s statement.
Recently, Native American communities have been severely impacted by decisions made by the current presidential administration. These decisions include the construction of the Dakota Pipeline, polluting water sources for the Standing Rock Sioux community in North Dakota, and the ongoing government shutdown, affecting Native Americans who are federal workers and rely on its funding.
Currently, two Native American tribes are also suing the Trump administration over the approved construction of another pipeline, Keystone XL, that would cut through ancestral and sacred lands for the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.
The Indigenous Peoples March was planned for the same day as the March for Life rally—a pro-life organization.
What does this have to do with the U.S.-Mexico wall?
Within the context of the videos capturing the confrontation, it’s not obvious how this relates to the wall, but building a border would impact at least one Native American nation whose land would be cut in half.
Since 2006, the Tohono O’odham Nation, a nation that stretches from Arizona to Mexico, has been permitted to cross the border at three separate points. A wall would effectively stop their ability to pass back and forth.
“It would be as if I walked into your home and felt like your home was not safe, but I want to build a wall right smack in the middle of your home and let me divide your family,” Verlon Jose, a vice chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation told NPR. “It is putting a blockage into our way of life, into things that we’ve been doing for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
How can I help?
If you’d like to help, you can donate directly to the Indigenous Peoples Movement on their webpage.
A scholarship fund has also been set up via GoFundMe on behalf of Nathan Phillips, the Native American man at the center of discussion. All proceeds will go to the American Indian College Fund, a charity that supports scholarships for Native Americans seeking higher education.