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MPR’s Marvin Granger interviews Native American advocate Ada Deer about Native American struggles, rights, and the confrontational actions taken to draw attention to broken treaties.


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SPEAKER 1: The Indian people are no longer going to remain silent in the face of injustice. President Nixon and his July 8, 1970 message stated that the Native Americans are the most isolated and deprived minority group in this country. Groups such as AIM and other groups are taking action to correct some of the injustices. And I think that this is very symbolic of the frustration, and the rage, and the anger that Indian people feel toward these injustices.

Some of the incidents, some of the reactions are based somewhat on impulse reaction to the moment. But I think if we look at events now in the past several months that apparently, at this point by violence, by confrontation, it's the only way that you can get the attention of the press and the American public. I feel that it would be helpful if we could work in negotiation and work through persuasion. But if we look, again, at the events in the past several years for example, the Watts Riots and so on, it seems that this is the way that one gets the nation's attention.

AIM has said that they are ready, they said at Cass Lake that they were ready for a violent confrontation, if that was the only way that they could get serious attention, a negotiating mood out of the government. What was your what was your reaction, [? Aida, ?] to the occupation and the damage that was done to the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington? Do you think that was a constructive thing to do?

Well, first of all, I'd like to make it clear that I support the concept of the Trail of Broken Treaties. We all know that there have been countless treaties with Indians that this government has broken, it has not kept. I thought the idea of a national caravan to call the nation's attention to the broken treaties was an excellent one.

And if we look at the accounts that are starting to come out now, the demonstration was planned as a peaceful demonstration. But then when people arrived in Washington and met with a number of insensitive people in the government, people that didn't understand, that weren't, again, ready to listen, the situation got out of hand. And I feel that it was unfortunate that the extent of damage occurred that did.

However, at this point, it would be presumptuous to say exactly what the results will be. I know that there is serious discussion going on now in the government, both on Capitol Hill and in the administration. And we think that there will be some serious changes brought about in the whole area of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the relationship of the federal government to the Indians. And time will tell exactly what the results will be.


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