The NDN Covid-19 Response Project Click here

July 9, 2020

Indigenous Land Defenders Released from Jail After Mt. Rushmore Trump Visit, Prosecutor Launches Campaign of Charges Against Them

Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and NDN Collective’s President and CEO, faces excessive charges for leading protest to protect Black Hills and close Mount Rushmore

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2020

Rapid City, South Dakota — On Monday, July 6, NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen, the last land defender of 20 arrested on July 3 in Keystone, South Dakota, was released by the Pennington County Jail for protesting Trump’s visit to “Mount Rushmore” in the Black Hills. Tilsen, long-time Indigenous rights advocate and one of the action’s leaders, now faces a slew of trumped-up charges. 

Peaceful protestors at the event, like racial justice protesters across the country, faced excessive force from local police — ordered by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom — who escalated the situation quickly, with pepper spray and by pushing land defenders back with a line of police in riot gear. 

Indigenous land defender in the Black Hills. Photo by Willi White.

Tilsen released the following statement on his release and charges: “I was arrested for engaging in a peaceful protest on land that belongs to my people, the Lakota people and Oceti Sakowin. ‘Mount Rushmore’ was carved into stolen land, our sacred Black Hills, by a KKK sympathizer, and we demand that the U.S. government return this land to its rightful owners. The charges against me are false and driven by white supremacy.”

Tilsen now faces up to fifteen years in prison for participating in the protests, while the other 19 Indigenous and non-Indigenous land and treaty defenders face misdemeanor charges. No police officers have been charged for their assault on innocent Land Defenders and Indigenous people on their own land. 

Land Defenders in the Black Hills. Photo by Willi White.

“NDN Collective is calling on Pennington County to drop the charges against Nick Tilsen and every land defender arrested on Friday, July 3rd,” said Sarah Sunshine Manning, NDN Collective Director of Communications. “We also call on members of Congress to close Mount Rushmore immediately and open an inquiry into returning these lands back to the Lakota people. The Black Hills are guaranteed to the Lakota and Oceti Sakowin in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and according to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, treaties are the supreme law of the land — higher than any other law.” 

On July 9, the Supreme Court ruled that nearly half of Oklahoma is Indian land, citing treaties signed between the U.S. government and Creek Nation. 

“This ruling gives further credence to the Lakota demanding that the Black Hills be returned to their rightful and legal ownership, and that all charges be dropped against Lakota people taking a stand in their own lands,”  says Tilsen. “Giving land ownership back to Indigenous Nations is not far fetched; In fact, it’s legal, it’s moral, and it’s an absolute necessity to dismantling white supremacy.”

Indigenous women defending land and treaty rights in the Black Hills. Photo by Willi White.

Style note: in line with Indian Country Today’s style guidance, we refer to individuals defending the Black Hills as land and treaty defenders. From Indian Country Today: The Black Hills, where Mount Rushmore is carved, are unceded territory per the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and acknowledged by a 1980 Supreme Court ruling in the United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians.

###

Read and watch Nick Tilsen’s Statement upon release from Pennington County Jail.

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.

Media Contact:

Sarah Sunshine Manning
NDN Collective Director of Communications
sarah@ndncollective.org
(605) 791-3999

July 2020 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.

Recently published on NDN

Posted 9 months ago Alcatraz Canoe Journey: Honoring 50 Years of Indigenous Resistance and Persistence

Jade Begay

"If we work to reframe Alcatraz as a symbol for Indigenous sovereignty and reposition it in people’s psyche that way, it could be a very powerful thing, especially for people who are so often forgotten overlooked and marginalized like Natives in America."
Posted 2 weeks ago NDN Collective Responds to Brutal K9 Attack on Native Man in Rapid City
NDN Collective calls out excessive use of force by South Dakota Highway Patrol with K9 unit deployed on Native man and overall systemic violence against Indigenous people at the hands of law enforcement.
Posted 3 weeks ago “Today we mourn, tomorrow we fight”: NDN Collective Honors the Legacy of John Lewis
NDN Collective honors civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis and calls for honoring his legacy with renewed commitments to fight injustice
Posted 3 weeks ago Washington Team’s Mascot Change Long Overdue, We Must Eliminate All Racist Portrayals of Indigenous People
The recent announcement of the Washington football team's name change is generations in-the-making, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to the elimination of racist and stereotypical representations of Indigenous people.
Posted 4 weeks ago Nick Tilsen Statement Upon Release from Arrest: "We have to act in courage and in bravery."
NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen was among 20 Land Defenders arrested while protesting Trump's visit to Mount Rushmore. After being detained for three days, he shared this statement.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Announces Black Hills Bail and Legal Defense Fund Following Mt. Rushmore Arrests
Following arrests of Indigenous Land Defenders blocking the road to Mount Rushmore on Friday, July 3, NDN Collective announces a bail and legal defense fund.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Calls for Closure of Mount Rushmore and for the Black Hills to be Returned to the Lakota
In the lead up to President Donald Trump's visit to Lakota lands, NDN Collective calls for the closure of Mount Rushmore as a national monument.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Announces the Radical Imagination Grant for Six Indigenous Artists
The NDN Collective Radical Imagination Grant will provide six Indigenous artists in the United States or U.S. Territories with $50k to radically imagine a new future, a better normal, and a more just world for all people and the planet.
Posted 2 months ago NDN Collective on Honoring Juneteenth: a Time for Action and Collective Liberation
In honor of Juneteenth, NDN Collective calls upon relatives and allies to take action and make personal commitments to unlearning the untruths of American history while learning the real truths of our past and present.
Posted 2 months ago Joint Statement: NDN Collective, IllumiNative, and Native Organizers Alliance call for justice for George Floyd
Indigenous organizations NDN Collective, IllumiNative, and Native Organizers Alliance call for justice for #GeorgeFloyd and an end to systemic racism
Posted 3 months ago Biden to stop KXL pipeline if elected- VOTE! and hold him to his word
NDN Collective calls for mass mobilization with voting in response to Joe Biden's announcement that he would stop the KXL pipeline if elected.
NDN Collective
317 Main St #1
Rapid City, SD 57701
P: +1 (605) 791-3999
E: info@ndncollective.org
© 2020 NDN Collective. All rights reserved.