The ongoing national conversation regarding police brutality and systemic racism in policing has rightly been focused on African Americans, who are disproportionately the victims of police violence.
However, Native Americans “suffer the most adverse effects of a criminal justice system which consistently reifies itself as structurally unjust,” according to a report by the Lakota People’s Law Project.
“Proportionally, Native Americans are the most likely racial group to be killed by the police,” says the report.
Meanwhile, Native American men are imprisoned at four times the rate of white men, and Native American women at six times the rate of white women.
Despite the frequency with which Native Americans suffer from police brutality and the unjust legal system, they are “routinely ignore[ed]” in the public discourse on such topics, the report said.
Notable cases of police brutality against Native Americans involve individuals like Joseph Finley Jr. of Ohio, Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket of Oklahoma, Allen Locke of South Dakota, and Loreal Tsingine of Arizona.
In light of these incidents, activists Akicita Sunka-Wakan Ska and JR Bobick created the Native Lives Matter campaign in 2014. The group’s Facebook page can be found here.
Similarly, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 to raise awareness about police brutality against and systemic issues of poverty among Native American individuals.
And, there was a notable Native American presence at the protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mn, the Washington Post reports.
For example, demonstrators waived the flag of AIM and wore the organization’s shirts, jackets, and vests.
Similarly, Native News Online reports that Native Americans have showed up in large numbers to support the Black Lives Matter protests of the past month.
Earlier this month, Levi Rickert, reporter for Native News Online, spoke with Goodblanket’s mother, Melissa. She said she watched part of George Floyd’s funeral.
In regard to the nationwide protests following Floyd’s death, Goodblanket’s mother was pleased that the media and the public are paying attention to state-sponsored violence against Blacks and Native Americans.
She added, “Finally for the first time, people are waking up and for that I am grateful that people are waking up and standing together…It is for the greater good for all living beings…that’s what is on my mind.”
Rickert explained that Native Americans and Blacks are disproportionately the victims of police brutality and the unjust criminal justice system.
“That is why the Blacks Lives Matter protests resonate across Indian Country,” Rickert wrote.
Michael Gelb is a TCR News Intern.