Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 10, 2018

Lakota Madonna Thunder Hawk Live from Palestine: Similarity in Indigenous Struggles

Madonna Thunder Hawk photo by Dawn DeCora

Madonna Thunder Hawk, Cheyenne River Lakota, was at the Occupation of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee. She is a longtime member of the American Indian Movement.
Madonna was among the elders at the resistance of Standing Rock camps to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Lakota Madonna Thunder Hawk Live from Palestine: Similarity in Indigenous Struggles

Article by Brenda Norrell
Censored News
French translation by Christne Prat at:

Madonna Thunder Hawk, speaking live from Palestine, spoke on the similarities of struggle for Indigenous Peoples around the world, from the Lakota in the Dakotas, to the struggle in Palestine.
Madonna said, "I specifically wanted to come on this trip. It was important for me personally."
She said after the standoff at Wounded Knee with the U.S. military, the American Indian Movement had supporters come from Palestine and Northern Ireland.
"We were young. I thought we were standing alone as always," she said.
Madonna said when they heard of this solidarity, she learned what was going on in other parts of the world to Indigenous Peoples and realized they were not alone.
She learned words like "colonialism."
Speaking on being thankful for being here in Palestine, she said, "We have the same, same issues."
"We have a people that is trying to maintain their land base."
"It is all familiar, only on a different scale, a different level."
"It was so good to go to the Bedouin Camp."
She said, like at home, the old traditional lifestyle is gone, but it is still known.
They still know it, as land based people.
She said there is ancestral memory.
"We don't need to be constantly reminded of who we are. We know who we are."
"My people were land based in the valley of the beast."
She said the last battle was at Standing Rock, and the legal battles continue.
"We were unarmed," she said of the forces that came after them.
"The legal system made us all criminals."
Now the 800 at Standing Rock arrested must deal with this.
Madonna said she reports back home to a group of elders and must be responsible.
She said she is speaking with a group of comrades here in Palestine.
When one goes in to Indigenous Peoples homelands, it is important to have respect, and keep one's eyes and ears open, she said.
She said she appreciated Jewish Voice for Peace.
"I appreciate being here, and I appreciate all of you."
Madonna said Standing Rock camp of thousands was amazing.
It started out with Indigenous who came from all over, from Alaska to South America.
"Over night, our camp tripled."
Overnight, the young white people came in droves.
She remembered sitting on the hill, Facebook hill, and watched it happening.
"The powers that be blocked off the highway."
So at night, down the one highway that was open, there would be a stream of headlights going in both directions.
Madonna said she celebrates that she was part of it, and got to see it happen.
Now, in the ongoing struggle for her people, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, she said.
"The same corporate control is around the world."
But if you are land based, you are in the process.
She said the younger ones are involved in divestment, the elders are their advisers.
When asked about taking a stand at Standing Rock, Madonna said her people automatically take a stand.
"When the call came, they went out."
This is ancestral memory, this is land based people.
Madonna describes how the buffalo were killed, the ecosystem was upset and diseases came in. "This is what brought our people to the peace talks."
"The capitalist system always operates on the spin of the dollar."
The Treaties were made nation to nation, and ratified by Congress.
"They are the law of the land."
It was a matter of survival of the people, but it was a massive land grab.
"I'm here today because my ancestors thought of several generations ahead."
The first schools were Christian schools, and the Lakota values were attacked, including the matriarchal society.
They told the people that the man was the head of the household and he could beat their wives and kids and get saved on Sunday, she said. They attacked the family.
The children were taken in forced removals, and their hair was cut, and they were dressed in military clothes.
They came for their children with teams and wagons, then trucks.
The education was forced on them.
"Learning English was forced on us."
She said she was forced to learn English in boarding school.
"You were punished if you talked your language."
Later, after Wounded Knee, they started their own school in Rapid City, South Dakota.
They wanted the children to have a safe place to be.
"We focused on gaining knowledge."
It was the first alternative school there.
Then, the regular school system began doing the same thing. "We got co-opted," by schools who had the funding to use what they were doing.
Then, the water was contaminated by the uranium mining.
Madonna said she knows the genocide.
She spoke on the hand-out mentality, as with churches paying peoples utilities.
"It weakens everybody."

Listen to more of the interview.
Madonna shares parallels between Palestine and the United States.
Madonna speaks on solidarity and how she learned from other parts of the world that they were not alone in their struggle.

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