The radical history of the Red Power movement's fight for Native American sovereignty
After centuries of broken treaties and racist U.S. policies, Indigenous activists launched a bold—and controversial—campaign for justice.
From the civil rights movement to women’s liberation to protests against the Vietnam War, the 1960s and 1970s were an era of consciousness-raising and protest. And among those activists were members of one of the United States’ most marginalized groups: Native Americans.
Native Americans had borne the brunt of discriminatory policies, discarded treaties, and systemic injustice ever since the United States was founded in the late 18th century. Through the Red Power movement, Indigenous activists challenged those practices—and cultivated a sense of pride in their communities—as they demanded sovereignty and self-determination.
Throughout the country’s first hundred years, the U.S. government signed more than 350 treaties with Native American nations. In these treaties—many brokered under duress—Indigenous people ceded their ancestral lands to