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Civil Rights, Sovereign Rights

The civil rights and Native rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s changed America. Both campaigns were driven by a thirst for justice, freedom, and respect. But the two had different philosophies.

The civil rights movement had the goal of full inclusion of African American citizens as self-sufficient, self-sustaining members of American society. The Native rights movement had a dual goal—achieving the civil rights of Native peoples as American citizens, and the sovereign rights of Native nations. Native activists fought against dispossession, racism, poverty, and violence, but they also focused on protecting treaty rights and keeping Native tribes distinct.

African-Native American people bridged the gaps between these two movements, bringing people from both movements together and showing that they were all part of the same struggle.

The Longest Walk, 1978

The Longest Walk, 1978

Solidarity between African Americans and Native Americans grew with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, whose goals were closer to the nationalism espoused by American Indian Movement activists. Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights.

Courtesy David Amram