March 22, 2021

BREAKING: Charges Against Nick Tilsen and Land Defenders DROPPED, NDN Collective Celebrates a Victory for the Movement

VICTORY! After months of organizing, charges against Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO, and all other Land Defenders arrested on July 3 in the Black Hills will be dropped.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 22, 2021

Rapid City, SD — Today, NDN Collective announced that the charges against Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO, and all other Land Defenders arrested on July 3 in the Black Hills will be dropped. This announcement comes after months of political pressure from grassroots groups, including petitions, social media campaigns, and local and national media coverage of the cases.

An Indigenous woman raises her fist on July 3 in the Black Hills. Photo by Arlo Iron Cloud.

In the lead-up to former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Black Hills last summer, over 200 Indigenous people and allies, including Tilsen, were met with force from the state police. Though Trump and his group were violating multiple treaties with their presence, including one through the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Land Defenders faced multiple charges. In the end, 21 Land Defenders were arrested and charged with misdemeanors, and Tilsen, charged with a combination of misdemeanors and felonies, ultimately facing up to 17 years in prison. 

“This victory and the dropped charges are a direct result of the Movement showing up and standing up for all the Land Defenders who took a stand in the Ȟesápa (Black Hills) on July 3. Tens of thousands organized, called, donated to our legal and bail fund and signed the petitions to drop these charges, and we acknowledge their invaluable support,” said Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO. 

This is a day of victory for our Movement and our People

“The fact that the State is dropping these charges reveals that these were politically and racially motivated charges to begin with, exposing both the Sheriff and State prosecutor’s ill intent to abuse their positions of power to suppress our movement and overcriminalize Indigenous people,” said Tilsen. “How do I go from facing nearly 17 years in jail, to all charges being dropped? We organized, we fought, and we backed them into a corner where there was no longer any political upside for them to continue this unjust prosecution of myself and the other Land Defenders.”

NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen walks to his first hearing after his arrest in his ancestral homelands of the Black Hills. Photo by Willi White.

“The charges being dropped represent the start of a shift in power that is not only powerful in this moment, but necessary for the future of our movements. I feel a sense of relief that organizing won today and myself, Nick and all the Land Defenders won’t have to carry the emotional burden of these charges moving forward,” said Krystal Two Bulls, director of the LANDBACK Campaign at NDN Collective. “I have so much gratitude for the thousands of supporters who prayed, donated, called, emailed, signed petitions and reached out over the past nine months. This is a wake up call for our communities. We will no longer accept racially motivated attacks on our Land or bodies, without organizing in response! We will continue to organize forward and fight for all our targeted and incarcerated Relatives!”

“This is a day of victory for our Movement and our People, and we will utilize it to catalyze our cause forward.” said Tilsen. “Thank you to everybody that prayed, called, wrote and supported is in this struggle. As we celebrate this day we recognize the Black, Indigenous and people of color and LGBTQ community  wrongly imprisoned and incarcerated still in jails across this nation. We are not free until we are all free. This is what I will continue to dedicate my life and work to is the true liberation of my people and our lands.”

Land Defenders Nick Tilsen, Krystal Two Bulls, and Nataani Means will be discussing this breaking news in a conversation on NDN Collective’s livestream show “NDN Live” on Tuesday, March 23, at 6 pm MST. The show will stream on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and will be hosted by NDN Collective Director of Communications Sarah Sunshine Manning.

###

** To book an interview, contact [email protected] **

watch “hesapa: A Landback Film”, highlighting the events of July 3. Produced by Willi white, Oglala Lakota filmmaker and NDN Collective Creative Producer.

NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

July 2022 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

Calabaza: Placing out a Spirit Bowl for Our Ancestors of the Pueblo Revolt

Brandy Calabaza

Posted 1 day ago
On this day 342 years ago pueblo communities said ‘enough’. They stood together in opposition to colonialism and fought for independence with the intention of preserving a culture bound in community, family, and traditions. The Pueblo Revolt illustrates the power we hold as Indigenous Peoples and the strength we possess when standing united in defense of our sacred lifeways.
Collective Abundance Fund Survey Succeeds in Engaging Community and Redefining Wealth on Indigenous Terms

Brandi Douglas

Posted 2 days ago
“It's a big part of how we exercise our sovereignty. One of the cornerstones of sovereign nations is economy and coming to a consensus in defining wealth is a major factor in how we reestablish our economic sovereignty.”
NDN Collective Writes to Biden, Schumer, Pelosi on Inflation Reduction Act Posted 6 days ago
“We cannot continue deferring the climate crisis to future generations. We are calling on the people in the highest positions of power to use every tool available to advance a truly just, renewable energy future.”
NDN Collective Urges Biden, Schumer and Pelosi to Decouple Fossil Fuels from Renewable Energy Expansion and to strengthen Racial Equity in the IRA Posted 6 days ago
We support the historic and meaningful steps proposed in the IRA and acknowledge the effort it has taken to get this bill back into consideration and we respectfully implore you to hold the line against any new fossil fuel projects and use every tool available to advance a truly just, renewable energy future that does not sacrifice our communities or perpetuate injustice, especially by the fossil fuel industry.
NDN Collective Gives Voice to Indigenous Issues During ‘Impact Days’ Visit to Capitol Hill

Brandi Douglas

Posted 1 week ago
NDN Collective travels to D.C. to challenge elected officials and stakeholders to engage in deeper conversation with Indigenous communities.
NDN Collective Femme-Led Protest Disrupts William Barr’s Keynote at Far-Right Catholic Church Conference in Napa

Kailea Frederick , Angelica (Angie) Solloa

Posted 1 week ago
Leading up to the Napa Institute’s annual convening, NDN Collective, alongside the greater Bay Area community, rallied to disrupt William “Bill” Barr’s keynote. Though met with violence from conference attendees, protesters sent a clear message; Fascism is not welcome.
NDN Collective Responds to Inflation Reduction Act Announcement Posted 1 week ago
“Although the current version of this new climate deal, if passed, would provide large investments into renewable energy and open up funding streams for low income and vulnerable communities, it is missing many critical solutions that Indigenous organizers have been uplifting for years."
NDN Collective Closes Out Collective Abundance Fund Survey with over 5k Responses Posted 3 weeks ago
“The community engagement phase was a success and we couldn't have done it without all the community and Tribal partners, all those that took the time to complete the Collective Abundance Fund Survey, and the guidance from our Regional Advisory Committee.”
Announcing the 2022 Cohort Of NDN Changemaker Fellows Posted 3 weeks ago
NDN Collective announces the third cohort of NDN Changemaker Fellows, comprised of 21 Indigenous Changemakers from across Turtle Island and surrounding island nations.
NDN Collective Decries Biden’s Failure to Declare National Climate Emergency Posted 3 weeks ago
“Young people, frontline, rural, Indigenous and low income communities desperately need Democrats to take bold action on the climate crisis – and while Biden’s plans are necessary, they’re ultimately not the bold climate action that we were promised and that we need to achieve climate justice.”

United like never before, we rise together—arm in arm—to equip all Indigenous Peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future. Through a holistic approach to infrastructure, funding, advocacy, movement building, and philanthropy we are fostering a world of justice and equity for all people and the planet.