Health activist and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills sat down with Tracy Rector of Longhouse Media to share his thoughts on his support for the Standing Rock movement in their protection of water and their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Born on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, he is a part of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. Mills won the Olympic Gold Medal for the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
“Understanding true history is essential to our healing as indigenous people,” he says.
Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny, Mills explains, were central Christian ideologies that “justified legal theft of our land” during the colonization and creation of the United States of America. Moreover, the principles of the Doctrine declared Indians didn’t have “souls.” This, he said, “justified legal genocide.” In 1823, the Supreme Court adopted the Doctrine of Discovery in Johnson v. McIntosh, an underpinning that can still be felt in today’s decisions.
“Standing Rock took the first stance of victory to start the dialogue by defeating, in a sense, the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, treaties signed/treaties broken, and the second chapter [of America] leading into slavery,” said Mills.
Back in August, he visited the water protector camps and made a statement of support, expressing his respect and appreciation of all their efforts. This was before they were beset with dogs, mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, and other weapons wielded by a militarized police force. Much has happened since then, and in the interview below, Mills elaborates on what has transpired.