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International Indigenous Youth Council Banned From Powwow For Advocating For Palestine

Above photo: IIYC Instagram.

Denver, Colorado — Youth representing the International Indigenous Youth Council’s (IIYC) Oglala Lakota Chapter were told they would be banned from attending the 48th Annual Denver March Powwow if they demonstrated solidarity with Palestine. It’s one of the first documented instances where pro-Palestinian messages were prohibited at a Native American cultural event.

The International Indigenous Youth Council’s (IIYC) Oglala Lakota Chapter published a statement on its Instagram Saturday afternoon: “Denver March tried to shut youth down, we will not be silenced. We came to stand with our relatives and speak out against genocide in support of Palestine. We were turned away, if the Denver March can stay complicit in these times, their priorities are questionable. Understanding the challenge of standing up and resisting the oppressive regime we live under. However, your silence makes you complicit! From Pine Ridge to Palestine, stop the genocide. We stand with liberation, laidback and love for all Indigenous peoples across the globe fighting settler-colonialism.”

Instead, youth demonstrated with a banner that read, “From Pine Ridge to Palestine” with painted buffalos with red and green hearts outside the Denver Coliseum, the powwow venue.

The International Indigenous Youth Council was created by youth during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016. Since, it has established chapters across Turtle Island, including Chicago, Denver, Texas (Yanaguana Chapter), New Mexico, South Dakota, and Winnipeg.

It’s not the first time the chapter has been told to leave the powwow if carrying a political message though, said IIYC organizers. Back in 2016, IIYC was kicked out of the powwow for talking about Standing Rock and wearing “Water is Life” gear said a spokesperson for IIYC.

After the incident in 2016, the Denver March Powwow Committee made a rule stating that anyone wearing a political message or pass out materials that promote “resistance culture” at the powwow will be removed and banned from attending the event. Youth were going to continue with the action, but the powwow committee and security threatened to get law enforcement involved.

Many posted comments in response to the announcement, and questioned the powwow while bringing up the powwow’s beginnings. According to several sources, including the International Indigenous Youth Council, mentioned the powwow was organized to honor the Littleton Twelve and the resulting Supreme Court case, Freeman V. Morton, where the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff Enola E. Freeman, who was Mandan and Hidatsa.

“The Denver March Powwow started out as a celebration in direct response to this act of resistance so this is particularly upsetting,” wrote the International Indigenous Youth Council on its Instagram on Sunday.

Freeman, and eleven other Bureau of Indian Affairs employees in the Littleton, Colorado office filed suit against the federal agency for discrimination and cited the the agency was mismanaging millions of dollars in 1971. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor on April 25, 1974.

The Denver March Powwow began in 1974 as a youth enrichment powwow and was organized and operated by the Denver Indian Center until 1984, where it was then formally incorporated as its own non-profit organization. Since, the powwow has grown to one of the largest urban powwows in the country and is often considered as the official start of the powwow season. Today, the City of Denver issued a proclamation designating March 15-17, 2024 as Denver Native American Cultural Days in honor of the many Native Americans who make their home in the Denver area.

Comments from the Denver March Powwow committee weren’t available as of press time.

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