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The Oglala Sioux Tribe sides with Palestine on the Gaza Strip

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux Tribe is now one of a handful of Native nations in the United States to call for a ceasefire in Gaza after a resolution was presented to the council by the Oglala Lakota Chapter of the International Indigenous Youth Council.

The resolution, which passed 14-to-1, calls for state and federal representatives to advocate for fuel, water, food and supplies to be allowed into Gaza, to cease military aid to the Israeli government and for an immediate cease-fire.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking because of the lack of education on what’s going on over there. We didn’t know where our tribal leaders would be at,” said Mato White Plume, Oglala Lakota and a member of the Youth Council. “But they supported us using our voices and speaking out, which let us know that they understand.”

Oglala Lakota Youth Council representatives and community members delivered several speeches in support of the resolution, many comparing the treatment of Palestinian people to that of Lakota people by European settlers.

“We are the descendants of America’s genocide, and we’re still trying to heal from what they put us through. So when this genocide against Palestinians began in October, we felt it was crucial for all Indigenous people to stand with them and speak out against what’s happening,” White Plume said.

Recently, many have seen a large red, black and green painted banner waving at different Indigenous events, including the Lakota Nation Invitational in December. The banner reads “From Pine Ridge to Palestine,” and was made by the Oglala Lakota Chapter of the International Indigenous Youth Council. The banner also caused the group to be expelled from the Denver March Powwow March 15, one of the largest competition powwows in North America.

“That was really disheartening. The Denver March Powwow was founded out of resistance for the [Bureau of Indian Affairs],so they turned away from their roots,” White Plume said. “We asked them to share their policy that justified this, but we didn’t receive a response.”

The Denver March Powwow’s Powwow Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2016, at the height of the No DAPL Movement, several Palestinians came to North Dakota to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline, White Plume said. Oglala Lakota Youth Council members referenced this act while urging the tribal council to support a cease-fire in Palestine.

Part of the resolution requested President Frank Star Comes Out advance a similar resolution to the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, the Coalition of Large Tribes, the National Congress of American Indians and the U.S. Congress.

“This resolution wouldn’t have passed without the Oglala Lakota Chapter of the International Indigenous Youth Council,” said Charlee Brewer, an Oglala Lakota citizen and a local activist. “Their months-long activism made this happen, and I’m just really proud of them. I’m grateful that they allowed Carrie [Twiss] and I to come and share letters of support.”

Since Israel launched its assault on the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ attack of Israeli citizens on Oct. 7, over 30,000 Palestinian people – mostly civilians – have died. Food, water, medicine and other supplies are barred from entering Gaza through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

Several Native Nations and Indigenous activist groups have issued statements condemning the violence in Gaza and calling for a ceasefire.

The Yurok Tribal Council, Winnemem Wintu Tribe in California and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians have all passed similar resolutions. Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren stated he would be releasing a statement in Dec. 2023, but has not yet followed through.

The Oceti Sakowin Treaty Council, which represents the 49 tribes within the traditional Oceti Sakowin Nation, unanimously passed a similar resolution presented to them by Honor the Earth, an Indigenous activist group.

NDN Collective was among the first activist groups to publicly call for a ceasefire in Oct. 2023, and has published several statements in support of Palestine since 2021.

“These past few months its been an honor to organize teach-ins and hold up banners at public Native American events across the country to raise awareness and build support for our Palestinian relatives,” White Plume said. “So when we got our tribal council to stand behind us and call for a ceasefire and an immediate end to the illegal occupation, it was a good day.”

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