Nick Estes: Red Power

CJ Trowbridge


Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 6: Red Power

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 5, Red Power

            The Red Power movement is the name for a broad range of native social justice and freedom movements. (Estes 149) One organization under this umbrella was the American Indian Movement, a militant vanguard organization which fought for native rights. (149) This is the group which went on to occupy Alcatraz. This spawned a surge in native justice movements around the country. (149)

We Will Remember Survival School is another organization under the Red Power umbrella which specialized in teaching native people important survival skills. (149) Other groups include Woman of All Red Nations and the International Indian Treaty Council. (149) Native people continued to be subjected to the white imperial ethnostate’s policy of extermination and displacement until many were forced off of reservations altogether. Once they reached academia, it led to a surge in new studies and education programs focused on native history and culture. (149)

Aim branched out at this point to form community policing organizations which protected native communities forced into urban landscapes. (149) These urban native communities grew in strength and power until they had a strong voice on the global stage. Then they were able to speak truth to the power that oppressed them and demand fair treatment and an equitable position in the modern society. These demands have continued to fall on deaf ears in the white imperial ethnostate. (152) As we saw in the Vice series, this is not the case elsewhere including Canada, where native people are treated with far more dignity and inclusion by the government.

As time went on, more and more treaties were violated, ignored and discarded as the policy of extermination and displacement went on. The official policy of the white imperial ethnostate shifted during the civil rights movement. (165) The FBI started a program called COINTELPRO for infiltrating and dismantling civil rights organizations include Red Power organizations. (168) The FBI went on to murder Red Power activists and even frame others by planting evidence to secure convictions. (169)

In the words of both Malcolm X and MLK (Who was also targeted by the same FBI counter-justice COINTELPRO group that was murdering Red Power activists and framing others for crimes they did not commit) the real threat is not the KKK member but the white moderate who stands by indifferent to injustice. As Estes points out, liberalism took over the charge against Red Power after the civil rights movement. (171) Mass incarceration became a new favorite tool in the now centuries-old policy of extermination and displacement of native people. Millions of people have been incarcerated in the years since, mostly nonwhite, and far more than any other country. (171)