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

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

October 2021 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.

Posted 6 days ago NDN Collective Celebrates Buffalo Release with Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Wolakota Regenerative Buffalo Range & Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wolakota Buffalo Range, a project of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), the economic development arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is the largest Native owned and managed buffalo range in the world.
Posted 7 days ago ‘Racist and Irresponsible’: NDN Collective Responds to Math Teacher’s Mockery of Native Americans in Classroom Lesson
“This type of derogatory behavior by an educator is a prime example of the continued racist attitudes Indigenous people have experienced in educational systems that began with Indian boarding schools. Our Indigenous students need healing from the trauma inflicted by these ongoing racist practices. That begins with a curriculum that reflects the language and culture of the students being served."
Posted 7 days ago Revitalizing the Buffalo Nation and Building an Indigenous-led Economy for the Sicangu Lakota

NDN Collective Climate Justice Team

The Wolakota Regenerative Buffalo Range and Wildlife Sanctuary is a triple-bottom-line project that is creating profit, helping people, and benefiting the planet.
Posted 3 weeks ago NDN Collective Celebrates Restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante
"Today’s restoration proclamation is a promising step toward respect for Indigenous people, our connection to and the sovereignty we have over our land, and is a necessary step toward building a better nation-to-nation relationship with tribal governments in the U.S. There is still so much more work to do."
Posted 4 weeks ago Wearing Orange to Heal, to Remember, and Build Collective Power: NDN Collective Honors Orange Shirt Day

Sarah Sunshine Manning

On Orange Shirt Day, we honor all of the children who suffered unimaginable pain and devastation in boarding and residential school systems. At NDN Collective, we remember them today and every day, and we lift up their spirits– survivors who are still with us, and the countless loved ones and children in the spirit world who never made it home.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Statement of Condolence: Honoring the Life of Marie Randall Brushbreaker
In honor of a beloved Lakota matriarch and Land Defender who stood up for Mother Earth.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Launches Book at NY Climate Week, ‘Required Reading’ Calling for Bold Climate Action and Indigenous Climate Solutions
NDN Collective announces the official launch of the organization’s first book curated by the NDN Climate Justice Campaign. ‘Required Reading: Climate Justice, Adaptation + Investing in Indigenous Power’ is a practical guide for seasoned politicians and grassroots advocates alike to establish equitable and meaningful solutions to the climate catastrophe.
Posted 1 month ago 'We Matter': Native Youth Join the Fight Against Indigenous Erasure in SD State Education Standards at March, Rally and Solidarity Actions Across the State

Brandi Douglas

Hundreds participate in the Oceti Sakowin March for Our Children, demanding education equity and resignation of numerous SD public officials for complicity in Indigenous erasure
Posted 2 months ago Supporting & Honoring Our Youth: NDN Collective 2nd Annual Backpack Giveaway Draws Hundreds

Brandi Douglas

Students receive school supplies, NDN swag, free COVID-19 vaccines, and sign-up for the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy, opening Fall 2022
Posted 2 months ago NDN Collective Holding March for Youth, calling out Indigenous erasure in newly proposed SD social studies standards
Action to oppose the recently proposed updates to SD’s social studies standards by Governor Noem and the South Dakota Department of Education and uplift demands for inclusive, historically accurate education for all students in South Dakota
NDN Collective
408 Knollwood Dr
Rapid City, SD 57701
P: +1 (605) 791-3999
E: info@ndncollective.org
© 2021 NDN Collective. All rights reserved.