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News Release

NDN Collective

Yesterday, Indigenous climbers representing 10 different Nations from Turtle Island and Palestine were arrested for confronting the legacy of white supremacy that is commemorated every 4th of July. Climbers ascended the 100-ft Dakota Mills Grain silo and mounted an upside down American flag with "LANDBACK" written prominently across it.

NDN Collective’s LANDBACK Campaign team released the following statement:

"An upside-down flag represents being in distress and is a prominent symbol across Indian Country; we have just celebrated the Battle of Little Bighorn, and at that battle the three sister nations of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated General Custer and the 7th Calvary. In that battle, they claimed the American flag from the defeated US army. That flag belongs to us. Today, we refute the dominant narrative that the American flag represents a legacy of freedom, democracy, and equality.

"This day is nothing to celebrate for the Indigenous peoples here, or anywhere else the United States has consumed through imperialism. LANDBACK is not a metaphor, it is our present reality and our future struggle; there is no repair or justice until Indigenous peoples reclaim our land. This place, the Black Hills, represents the entire cycle of life and deserves nothing less than Return.

"Today, we stand with our people, who are in distress, to speak the truth of what the 4th of July means in Mniluzahan, or so-called 'Rapid City.' The self-declared “City of Presidents” honors the legacy of past United States leadership on one hand, while brutalizing the original peoples and caretakers of the land on the other.

"Last year, on July 3rd, we saw Indigenous peoples brutalized and arrested by police atop our own sacred site and treaty lands, the Black Hills. 21 people were arrested, including NDN Collective’s President and CEO, Nick Tilsen, who is Oglala Lakota. Tilsen is still fighting the extreme charges filed against him over a year ago, having recently filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional rights violations.

"However, we know that the system that continues to legally persecute Tilsen and others demanding justice and LANDBACK for Indigenous peoples is fundamentally unjust.

"This legacy of white supremacy is commemorated every 4th of July and is built from the same tenants of colonial violence that carry out the brutalization, repression, and unjust incarceration of our relatives in Mniluzahan and beyond. The same colonial violence is why we are currently unearthing hundreds and thousands of our children at boarding schools both in the so-called United States and in so-called Canada, which is why orange armbands are worn in remembrance. We contend that this American system, the Rapid City Police Department, and its supporters are the perpetrators of this structure of violence and it is for this reason that we aim to bring a different narrative to the forefront today.

"Our demands go beyond recognition that Mt. Rushmore, as an effigy to white supremacy created by a Kloncilium member — the decision-making body within the KKK — is desecrating our sacred place. We demand the dismantling of injustice and reparations for historic and ongoing violence. We demand the Return of the Black Hills, dignity and haven for our unsheltered relatives, justice for our people who are brutalized by police and routinely incarcerated, and justice for our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples. We demand reparations for our Black relatives whose ancestors were ___ through chattel slavery and who are persecuted by the American system today.

"LANDBACK is not a metaphor, it is our present reality and our future struggle. There is no repair or justice until Indigenous peoples reclaim our land. The Black Hills are not just a sacred place because it’s a significant cultural site, it’s a sacred place because it gives life and what is life-giving is sacred. We used to drink clean water here, harvested our medicines here, fell in love here, got married here, gave birth here, mourned our loved ones here. This place, the Black Hills, represents the entire cycle of life and deserves nothing less than Return."

Climber Quotes:

"I came here today to support and be of service to my community and relatives here and around the world. We must bring LANDBACK to the forefront, shout it out loud and claim it publicly so that we can unmask the reality that we are living across Turtle Island, something that so many people choose not to pay attention to. I want everyone to engage in what it means to demand a different reality, to undo the legacy of US hegemony" 

- Tytianna Harris, climber

"We are done with the false narratives and erasure of our very existence. On this day, we demand an acknowledgement of the origins and foundation of this co called country...genocide, slavery and stolen land. There is no repair, justice or liberation without Indigenous LANDBACK. Let today be a notice, that we will not stop until we reclaim our rightful relationship to the land. The Black Hills gives life. Anyting that gives and sustains life, is sacred. We must do everything within our power to protect all that we hold sacred.

"LANDBACK is a movement that belongs to the People. As a caretaker & protector of the Black Hills, I call on all the Indigneous Peoples of the world who have been forcefully removed from their lands - at the hands of militarism, imperialism, capitalism & corportarism - to stand and join the struggle to get our LANDBACK!"

- Krystal Two Bulls, NDN Collective's LANDBACK Campaign Director.

"This action marks a notch in the paradigm shift, one that has a long lineage, to highlight ongoing colonial violence and militarism to material demands tied to liberation. As the US continues to fund displacement and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, we highlight that the first frontier of the fight against US imperialism was and is here on Turtle Island. The fight for justice and LANDBACK is alive and well and it is growing. LANDBACK is the root of justice for what must come and it is the start of our collective demands. From Hawai'i, to Puerto Rico, to Guam, to the Black Hills, return all US-occupied lands and stop the US war machine abroad"

- Nadya Tannous, NDN Collective's LANDBACK Campaign Organizer

"Return Indigenous lands to Indigenous hands. Dismantle the systems that took our land in the first place. Because of these systems, Indigenous people are 10X more likely to be incarcerated than any white person in the state of South Dakota. Indigenous people make up 9% of the population in the state, and somehow represent 51% of all incarcerated people in the state. This is ground zero for over-incarceration for Indigenous people. This is why here and why now, to create a different future.

"I am here for Indigenous youth. The ones forcibly taken from our people in the name of the American flag, forced into boarding schools by the American flag, the ones secretly buried under the flag, the ones that are just now being found. I'm grateful for the ones like my maternal grandparents who survived these atrocities ...

"I'm doing this for the Indigenous youth of today, we love you, we're here for you. We're here to push against white supremacy & racism... to protect you until you are ready to lead. I'm here as a son of the Alcatraz Occupation like many of the relatives here who are the descendants of Wounded Knee. I'm here to pass that on to our youth like my aunt and mother who stood for us before we were born.

"I do not celebrate this flag. I recognize it as the flag of our people's murderers, as the flag of the enslavers, the thieves who stole our lands, the liars who wrote these horrors out of their history books."

-Martin Aranaydo, Climber.

About NDN Collective

NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

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