• February 29th, 2024
  • Thursday, 10:38:11 PM

Tackling Racism Across Turtle Island


Tokata Iron Eyes


Racism is alive and well in America. As we enter Black History Month and Super Bowl week, let’s take a quick inventory. Racist place names still exist all over the map. This year’s big game will be played between the Kansas City Chiefs (a name appropriated from Native culture) and the San Francisco 49ers (a name celebrating miners who colonized the westernmost portion of Turtle Island). Meanwhile, the right wing keeps talking about a “border crisis,” because its stock in trade is stoking fear of the other (mostly Black and Brown People).


That’s why it’s up to all of us to do whatever we can to promote justice for all BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) right now. We must be the good guys, build a coalition through people power, and direct our representatives to make changes. In that spirit, if you have not already done so, please take our action to rename racist and other offensive place names, then share it widely with your networks.


We must be the good guys, build a coalition through people power, and direct our representatives to make changes.


I am happy to report that some of our tribal leaders are doing their part. This week, following xenophobic comments she made about potentially supplying razor wire to keep people from crossing the United States’ southern border, the Oglala Nation banned South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Again.


I hope you’ll agree with Oglala Nation President Frank Star Comes out when he says that mostly Indigenous people seeking a better life “don’t need to be put in cages, separated from their children like during the Trump administration, or be cut up by razor wire furnished by, of all places, South Dakota.” (As a reminder, Lakota Law lent media support to the Oglala Nation a few years back when it first told Noem to stay away because of her support for the since-defeated Keystone XL pipeline.)


I’m grateful that people like you and other organizations are also taking a stand. Since we launched our action to change offensive place names, several good things have happened. Thanks to outreach from our social media coordinator Nadia Brewer, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York co-sponsored our campaign. And Lily Joy Winder of People, Not Mascots gave her support, quotes for our press release, and a video for social media.


Finally, we’ve also heard back directly from the Interior Department’s Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names. They told us to keep the messages coming and route your emails to them. They are maintaining a list and looking into next actions. So let’s take heart and remain vigilant, despite all the problems we still face. Change may sometimes happen more slowly than we’d all like, but — thanks to the activism of justice heroes like you — we can and we will make a difference!


Wopila tanka — thank you for standing tall for what is right!



Tokata Iron Eyes is a Spokesperson and Organizer with The Lakota People’s Law Project.