United Tribes NewsProtesters try to Stop Lewis and Clark
Out in the cold for a reason
22 October 2004
Story and photos by Dennis J. Neumann, United Tribes News
BISMARCK, ND - They stood in the cold drizzle to protest the opening of the Circle of Cultures, the national Lewis and Clark signature event October 22. Traditional songs, speeches, prayers and signs greeted Lewis and Clark re-enactors, tourists and college students on the University of Mary campus south of Bismarck.
A group calling itself the "Stop Lewis and Clark Resistance Group" shunned the warmth of indoors to bring an alternative view to gatherings that commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark 200 years ago. In September, some members of the group had confronted re-enactors and demanded they turn back at similar events in South Dakota.
"This is a commemoration of genocide," said Victorio Camp, Pine Ridge, S.D., one of the organizers. "We're here to talk about the truth and bring education to the people of America about what happened since Lewis and Clark."
The group numbered about two-dozen and included students. According to organizer Deb White Plume, Pine Ridge, SD, some had been training for this for the past 15 years.
The protest was triggered, said White Plume, when Lewis and Clark re-enactors entered treaty territory following the path of the Missouri River.
"We don't believe in the Louisianan Purchase," said White Plume. "We believe this is our territory by treaty. We believe the treaties should be honored and we're going to continue to protest until they are."
Some members of the Bismarck-Mandan Native American community supported the effort. United Tribes Technical College provided meals and a place for sleeping, and hosted an informational meeting the night before attended by the local sheriff and others involved in the signature event.
Discussions about providing a place on the signature event agenda for protesters proved unnecessary when Camp said he wasn't about to join the event.
"I will not join Lewis and Clark to tell my story," said Camp at the information meeting. "We're here to stop Lewis and Clark. I want them to turn around and go home."
On behalf of the University of Mary, Carole Barrett, assisted the group with logistics of the protest, including an indoor location to warm up. Small groups of students stopped and talked to protesters, fulfilling class assignments and enlivening campus discussions about the signature event.
Indoors, during the opening ceremony, Tex G. Hall, Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman and president of the National Congress of American Indians defended the right of the "brothers and sisters outside" to protest. They're concerned with the loss of land, health problems of epidemic proportion, and poverty and unemployment rates much higher than the national average, said Hall.
After three hours in the rain, the protesters packed up the rally without incident and left to attend a prayer ceremony of their own, away from the college campus.
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