Dec 29, 2014 - Unbroken: Continued Resistance to Settler Colonialism by: Matt Remle
On December 21st 1866, allied Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors dealt a devastating defeat to the United State military at the Battle of the Hundred Slain near Fort Kearny. The battle was a part of what was called Red Cloud’s war, in which Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho’s waged war against the United States for their incursion into the Powder River region in search of gold.
Leading up to the Battle of the Hundred Slain, Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors laid siege to the military forts that had been constructed along the Bozeman trail, which were built to protect gold miners seeking passage through the Powder River region to present day Montana. The construction of the military forts and presence of gold miners in the region came as a direct violation of the 1851 Ft. Laramie treaty and greatly disrupted the bison herds that were the backbone of the Plains tribes’ economies.
In response to the violation, war was waged against the U.S. military with a barrage of assaults against them and their forts. As successful battlefield victories mounted for the allied tribes a massive assault on Fort Kearny was planned.
On the morning on December 21st, ten decoys, led by Tasunka Witco (Crazy Horse) taunted the soldiers into pursuing them. Captain Fetterman, who once boasted “Give me 80 men and I can ride through the whole Sioux nation” led the pursuit with nearly 100 soldiers. Unbeknownst to them was a massive ambush laying in wait. Fetterman and his men were subsequently wiped out in what was described at the time as, “the worst military disaster ever suffered by the U.S.”
Just 10 years later, Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors would deliver an even greater defeat of the U.S. military at the Battle of the Greasy Grass, the Battle of Little Big Horn.
The resounding victory over the U.S. military led to the signing of the 1868 Ft. Laramie treaty.
Red Cloud’s War, the Battle of the Greasy Grass, are but a couple examples of Indigenous resistance to settler colonialism brought by European Christians to our homelands beginning with Columbus’s invasion and occupation of the Caribbean.
Today, this spirit of resistance to continued U.S. settler colonialism lives on. For over 500 years, European Christian settlers have sought to eliminate Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere in attempts to gain access and control over Indigenous lands and resources. This continued colonialism lives on as the colonial governments of the United States, Canada, Mexico and throughout all North, Central and South America continue campaigns to remove Indigenous populations to gain access to Indigenous lands and resources.
Alberta tar sands
The Alberta Tar Sands and its myriad of pipeline outgrowths, including the proposed KXL pipeline, are but one example of current campaigns of colonialism, as is, the recently passed 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a provision to transfer 2,400 acres of Apache ancestral lands located in the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto an Australian-English mining company.
Like our ancestors that fought during Red Cloud’s War, we continue this fight against settler colonialism and their attempts to appropriate our lands and resources and the attempts to eliminate our Indigenous identities through their campaigns of assimilation. A new era of warriors is needed to rise up against the loss of lands, resources, languages, spirituality, and the continued violence against our women and children.
The fight against assimilation is one of our current greatest battles. We now have relatives fighting on the side of modern U.S. colonial corporate expansionism throughout the globe whether through their armed services, in their board rooms, or by signing away of our remaining lands and resources. Individuals now promote Western ideals such as Western education and religion over the ancient and profound wisdom and spirituality’s of their ancestors.
While adopting some aspects of Western society is sometimes necessary, it should only ever be done so with the explicit goal of utilizing those tools to benefit our Indigenous communities and homelands.
Western settler colonialism and its drive to dominate the natural world has led us to a very real state of global emergency, not only for human populations, but also for our other relatives and our first mother, Ina Maka (Mother Earth).
It is with perhaps great irony that people from around the globe have turned their eyes and attention towards the Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere and our continued resistance to settler colonialism as a battle that is now not only about our own survival, but one that carries implications to their own survival as well.
As we continue to relearn our languages, which holds the key to unlocking how our ancestors viewed and lived with the natural world, as we strengthen our kinship relations, as we continue to reject assimilation and remember sovereignty of the self, as we remember original instructions, as we share in the songs and ceremonies of our ancestors we build upon the continued resistance to settler colonialism and towards living the lives lived by our ancestors. Lives that were marked by an understanding that all nations are relations and that we have a responsibility towards life and its continuance.
My many times Great Lala (Grandfather) Wakinyan Luta (Red Thunder) and his brothers, including Ite Omagaju (Rain in the Face), fought in Red Cloud’s War, fought at the Battle of the Greasy Grass so that their descendants nearly 150 years later could live today. It is our turn to continue in this resistance, so that in another 150 years, our descendants, our great grandchildren, can live in a time of clean air and clean water, and so that they may go to ceremonies in their traditional languages conducting their original instructions.
Matt Remle (with raised fist) at the signing of Seattle’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution.