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American Indian Movement of Colorado

Spirituality • Self-determination • Solidarity • Sobriety
Colorado AIM home page

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Our response to Indian Country Today article.

Last week, Indian Country Today ran an op-ed entitled "Vernon and Columbus: Improving the dialogue on genocidal truth"
full article

This is our response to that op-ed.

For immediate release – 18 October 2004
Contact the American Indian Movement of Colorado at: 303-871-0463

As the Leadership Council and the Elder’s Council of the American Indian Movement (AIM) of Colorado we would like to commend Indian Country Today for it’s column praising Vernon Bellecourt for his outstanding work on Columbus Day. We say that we’d like to, but we can’t. You see, the information in the column is absolutely false and inaccurate. Even a cursory glance at ICT’s own article, in the same issue, reveals that Bellecourt was no part of Transform Columbus Day events in Denver, this year or any year. Allow us to set the record straight.

Colorado AIM and our allies began the campaign to dismantle Columbus Day in its birthplace (it originated in 1905 in Colorado) in 1988. For the four years leading up to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, we engaged in a variety of public education campaigns, including changing school curricula, participating in public debates, pursuing media campaigns, and confronting the Columbus parade. In 1991, Russell Means, Ward Churchill, Margaret Martinez and Glenn Morris were arrested, and later acquitted by a jury, of blocking the parade. In 1992, Colorado AIM mobilized over 3500 people in Denver to confront the parade. The parade organizers ultimately cancelled their racist escapade, and Colorado AIM and our allies celebrated the greatest indigenous victory against Columbus revelry in the country that year. For more information on this history, visit our website at www.coloradoaim.org, or the Transform Columbus Day website at www.transformcolumbusday.org.

Vernon Bellecourt has never been in Denver to protest Columbus Day, and he certainly has never lifted a finger to support the efforts of Colorado AIM (and the Transform Columbus Day Alliance) to eradicate the racist holiday in its birthplace in Denver. Bellecourt was nowhere within a thousand miles of Denver when Colorado AIM and our allies stopped the parades in 1991,1992, 2000, and this year, when 250 people were arrested. The fact that Bellecourt would attempt to take credit for our fifteen years of organizing in Denver, clearly reflects on the kind of opportunistic, duplicitous and dishonest person that he is. Colorado AIM is not associated in any way with Vernon Bellecourt, or his private corporation, National AIM, Inc. for precisely this kind of behavior.

When your editorial stated that Bellecourt “continues in the tradition of an early Russell Means,” you exposed your own ignorance of events in Denver, and of Means’ and Bellecourt’s record on this issue. Not only has Russell been arrested three times in Denver for protesting Columbus, including for pouring blood on the Columbus statue (the charges ultimately were dropped), but Russell with us in Denver this year, and stood in the street with us against the “Convoy of Conquest.” Carrie Dann of the Western Shoshone resistance was there, the protesters of the Lewis and Clark re-inactment were there, but Bellecourt was MIA (missing in action) when the Denver riot squad and SWAT team moved in to arrest us.

As your editorial implies, however, this issue is much larger, and of much greater importance than whether Vernon Bellecourt gets credit for our work in Denver. Much more urgently is the question of how the celebration of Columbus Day, and the Columbus legacy continue to disenfranchise, dispossess, and ultimately destroy indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. The Western Shoshone have their backs against the wall – with the U.S. government poised to close the final chapter in the theft of 24 million acres of Shoshone territory, in violation of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The U.S. continues to lie and destroy documents in the multi-billion dollar trust fund case, an outrage that no racial or ethnic group in the U.S.(other than American Indians) would be forced to suffer. Indian people continue to lose a higher percentage of cases at the U.S. Supreme Court than any other litigant group – including convicted felons seeking appeal. That is part of the legacy of Columbus. The ideology of the Bush administration in Iraq today is the legacy of Columbus and of the Indian Wars of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, at places like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee.

Those are some of the reasons why we got arrested in Denver on October 9th, and why we refuse to allow anti-Indian displays and celebrations to proceed unimpeded in our own homeland. We will continue to confront Columbus Day, and what it represents -- the celebration of colonialism and genocide – at every opportunity. We ask you all to join us next year in Denver, the 100th anniversary of the holiday, when we drive the final nails in the coffin of the holiday, in its birthplace. We are inviting indigenous peoples from around the hemisphere to join us – Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, Zapatistas from Chiapas Mexico, indigenous peoples from the Arctic to Amazonia, are all expected in Denver next October. We will be here, young and old, northern and southern, indigenous and non-i9ndigenous. We invite you to come to Denver, too, where you should expect to make history with us, but by no means should you expect to see Vernon Bellecourt here.
Elders' Council Representatives
Tink Tinker (Osage) (Coordinator) • Russell Means (Oglala Lakota) • Yank Bad Hand (Oglala Lakota) • Lillian Fobb (Seminole) • Joe Locust (Cherokee) Vivian Locust (Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne) Margaret Red Shirt Tyon (Oglala Lakota) • Ida Bear (Ho-Chunk) • Logan Bear (Omaha) • Norma Williams (Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne) • Thomas Allen (Sac and Fox) • Mary Ann Allen (Northern Arapaho) • Virgina Allrunner (Southern Cheyenne) Helen Red Feather (Oglala Lakota) Robert Cross (Oglala Lakota) Charles Bear Robe (Oglala Lakota)
Leadership Council Representatives
Tink Tinker (Osage) • TroyLynn Yellow Wood (OglalaLakota/ NorthernCheyenne) • Ted Roy (Meskwaki/Anishinabe) • Mona Roy (Meskwaki/Anishinabe) • Robert Chanate (Kiowa) • Glenn Morris (Shawnee) • Reid Zephier (Oglala Lakota) • Vicci Anderson (Diné) • Ward Churchill (Ketoowah Cherokee) • Jennifer Williams (Sicangu Lakota) • Carol Barry (Chickasaw) • Josh Dillabaugh (Cheyenne River Lakota) • Michelle Wolf (Cheyenne River) • Brenda Jenkins (Omaha) Tony Beltham (San Carlos Apache/Oglala Lakota)
Youth Council Coordinators (Shades of Red youth empowerment group) Serena Roy (Meskwaki/Anishinabe/Cheyenne Rive Lakota) - Timberwolf Running Wolf (Cheyenne River/Oglala Lakota) – Bear Black Elk (Oglala Lakota)


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