Girls Matter: A Native Lives Matter Rally at the Capitol

Native Lives Matter will be holding a “Girls Matter” rally at the Minnesota Capitol this Friday, May 22, at 11:30 a.m., part of the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth. According to the announcement:

We will have a Rally & Round Dance @ the Capitol in Recognition of our Girls. Guest Speakers, Drum, Songs & Letting all our Girls Know They Matter! Incarceration is Not a Solution & Together We Can Find Alternatives!

Jingle Dress Dancers are invited: Please Join The Red Solidarity Shawls for this Event.

This Day in History: The Homestead Act Opens Land to Settlers–and Massive Encroachment on Native Lands

May 20, 1862: On this day in 1862, President Lincoln signed the first of the Homestead Acts which let settlers claim up to 160 acres of federal land at minimal cost. Many of us learned the positive aspects of the Homestead Act in our history classes–but not the impact it had on Native peoples.

The blog U.S. History Scene summarizes the Homestead Act’s upside this way: “Prior to the act, the U.S. government auctioned or sold public land in large lots that ordinary citizens could not afford to buy or manage. The Homestead Act ambitiously shifted land ownership and development towards average American citizens.” So the Homestead Act reflected the American Dream: If you are willing to work hard under tough conditions, you can stake your claim to a small chunk of land and make it in America.

And according to Wikipedia, the Homestead Act was initially proposed by northerners supporting a “Free Soil” policy, an effort to get individual farmers to own and operate their own farms (as opposed to Southern slave-owners.)

However, the Homestead Act created an ever-growing demand for land among settlers. Again quoting from the U.S. History Scene:

As land was claimed and turned into private property, arriving settlers aggressively encroached on Native American territory, and began to agitate for the expansion of territory into sovereign Native land. The Indian Appropriations Act (1851) relegated Indians to reservations in the West. For Indians, reservation life was restraining, and the land Natives were forced to occupy were often too small to raise animals or hunt on and not viable agriculturally. Still, many settlers believed that Indians had gotten the choicest land, and pressed for their availability to claim. … [Culminating in the Dawes Act of 1871] The government responded to this crisis in favor of the white settlers and land speculators, stripping Indians of the last semblance of sovereignty they had …]

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