Fight the Power: 8 Contemporary Heroes and Leaders of Native Resistance

Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, has been fighting for Native justice for decades.

Fight the Power: 8 Contemporary Heroes and Leaders of Native Resistance

As we have been highlighting Native resistance fighters from the 1500s to the 1800s, it was brought to our attention by many of our readers that we should also highlight contemporary leaders and heroes.

Specifically we were told, “resistance fighters are not just living in the past, and we have many resistance fighters living today.” This is a sentiment to which we agree wholeheartedly.

So, here is a list of 8 modern-day resistance fighters who certainly deserve to be recognized.

Suzan Shown Harjo

An advocate for American Indian rights, Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, has worked for decades in the fight for Native justice. Helping in the recovery of more than a million acres in Native lands, fighting for national policy and teams to drop Indian mascots since the 1960s, Harjo has been a true leader of Native resistance and appropriately deserves the first mention.

Photo by Paul Morigi/AP Images for The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

Guest curator Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, at the entrance to the “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and the American Indian Nations” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on September 16, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Harjo is also the guest curator and general editor for “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nation,” a 2014 exhibit and book at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Winona LaDuke

A former Green Party vice-presidential candidate alongside Ralph Nader, an internationally acclaimed author, orator and activist, and graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities with advanced degrees, Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), is a stoic fighter for Native land and environmental rights. Fighting on such social battlegrounds as GMO awareness, the Keystone XL Pipeline and more, LaDuke deserves well-deserved recognition for her life’s contributions to Indian country.

Vincent Schilling

Winona LaDuke and her sister sit on horseback at the beginning of the Keystone XL Pipeline protest, which took place in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2014.

Oren Lyons

As a traditional Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, and a member of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (the Haudenosaunee) Oren Lyons has traveled all over the world advocating for environmental justice and treaty recognitions neglected by the U.S. government. As a member of the Red Power Movement he played a role in such events as “The Trail of Broken Treaties,” a caravan that challenged the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Lyons is a true leader of the resistance.

Oren Lyons and Sen. Daniel Inouye holding the two row wampum belt in 1987.

Tom Goldtooth

As one of the leading movers and shakers that fight for environmental and economic justice, sustainable development and effective economic systems, Tom Goldtooth (Navajo/Dakota) is the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the most influential Native non-governmental organizations in the country. Not satisfied at the work one might suspect a director would need to do behind a desk, Goldtooth is more often than not seen at the front lines of his organization’s grass-roots rallies for environmental justice. He was recently at the front of the line of the People’s Climate March in New York City.

Ben Powless

Indigenous Environmental Network leader Thomas Goldtooth speaking at the UN.

Michael Bucher

Able to trace his ancestry back to the Trail of Tears, Michael Bucher (Cherokee) is an award-winning reactionary folk-rock musician who consistently delivers a message of justice in Indian country. With such music as “Sacred Ground,” which details the desecration of sacred sites and burial mounds, “Dirty Water,” which describes the use of sewage water on the sacred San Francisco Peaks, Bucher is a consistent message bearer to those who need to understand more about Indian country.

Vincent Schilling

Michael Bucher, Cherokee, is an award-winning musician.

Ray Halbritter

As the fight against the offensive Redskins mascot has grown over the years, one of the most notable advocates against the use of the team name and mascot is Oneida Nation’s representative Ray Halbritter. In addition to meeting with key members of the NFL and Washington Redskins team, he was also behind creating ChangetheMascot.org. Halbritter has shown himself to be a force for #CHANGETHENAME. Feel free to use all caps for that hashtag. Halbritter is also the publisher of Indian Country Today Media Network.

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You!

Indian country has shown itself as a whole to be an incredible force on the world’s stage of social media. When Gwen Stefani and No Doubt released their controversial video “Looking Hot,” when Sonic posted a racially charged sign referencing the Chiefs, with the Redskins issue, Indian country social media is there to set people straight. When a hipster wears a headdress or high school students brandish racist signs, Indian country social media is there.

Whether Twitter users are using #ChangetheName, #AbolishColumbusDay or #NDNPride, Google+ is seeing growing communities like the Native American Community or NOACA (Natives of America, Canada and Alaska) and YouTube is teaching our true history, or parodying it with groups like the 1491’s—we are making a huge difference—keep up the great work, the world is watching!

Buffy St. Marie

As an activist and artist who for decades has brought attention to the issues most Americans wanted to keep quiet about, American Indians, Buffy St. Marie (Cree) brought a musical message to the masses with protest songs like “Universal Soldier” and “My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying.” In addition to her protest songs, St. Marie also appeared for five years on Sesame Street and in an industry shake-up breast-fed her son on the show.

Buffy St. Marie has been bringing attention to American Indian issues for decades.

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