Later this month, Indigenous activists will hold a rally in Tampa to honor an occupation that defied the U.S. government and ended in bloodshed.
In 1973, around 200 Native Americans took over Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where hundreds of their ancestors were brutally massacred 83 years earlier as genocide was enacted upon their people.
For more than two months, members of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the militant activist group the American Indian Movement (AIM) maintained the occupation, to the ire of U.S. Marshals and the FBI.
The Natives demanded that the U.S. government stop violating treaties they had agreed to, but were instead met with aggression. Armed law enforcement surrounded the area and tensions escalated. From March through April of that year, several volleys of gunfire had been unleashed.
By the end of the occupation that May, two AIM members were dead, and a U.S. Marshall was left paralyzed.
“Undoubtedly the liberation of Wounded Knee shocked the world and ensured the world knew American Indians were still alive and resisting,” FIA wrote in a statement about the event.
On Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA) will host an event to remember the original massacre and the occupation of 1973.
The group will hold the commemoration at Columbus Statue Park in South Tampa, a site that Natives have protested against for over 30 years.
The gathering will honor the history of Wounded Knee, but also to shine light on the contemporary issues that Natives are reckoning with, both nationally and locally.
FIA wants Tampa’s statue of Columbus—at the intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and Platt Street—be removed because for Indigenous people, Columbus represents genocide, slavery and pedophilia. But for three decades local leadership has ignored the demands.
After a protest last year, two Indigenous men were charged with misdemeanors by the Tampa Police Department
for allegedly vandalizing the statue, which was covered with removable fake blood toward the end of the gathering.
“The City of Tampa has doubled down on its symbolic support of the genocide of Indigenous peoples by protecting the Columbus statue at all costs,” FIA wrote.
The group is calling for those charges to be dropped.
Also last year during the Indigenous Day of Mourning, known to many as Thanksgiving, FIA members arrived at the statue to hold prayer, but the city had erected a fence around the area.
FIA said that the fence was a violation of the federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act
, which says that any site classified as a ceremonial site by Natives shall be accessible to for ceremonial purposes.
During the event, FIA will also honor Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán. The Indigenous environmentalist was killed by law enforcement earlier this year during a raid on activists who are trying to stop Atlanta’s “cop city.” Terán was killed under highly suspicious circumstances and shot at least 13 times by police.
Family, friends and activists who were close to the activist claim Terán was murdered in cold blood
Terán’s killing, along with other current issues such as the movement to regain stolen Native land, also referred to as “Land Back” will be discussed during the event.