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August 28, 2013

50 Years Ago in Washington, D.C.

NCAI.JFKpic
Walter Wetzel (Blackfeet). president of the national Congress of American Indians, speaks in the Rose Garden. Washington, D.C., March 5, 1963. National Congress of American Indian Records (NMAI.AC.010)

This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest demonstrations for freedom held in our nation’s capital. The 1963 March on Washington brought people from all over the United States together to speak of civil liberty, civil rights, and economic freedom for all. 

1963 was a big year for not only the black civil rights movement, but for many other minority groups looking to Washington for new and better representation. As I wrote in another post for the National Museum of the American Indian blog, the election of John F. Kennedy represented hope for the blazing of a new frontier of cooperation between the U.S. government and Native American tribes.

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NCAI President Wetzel, second from the right, meets with JFK. Washington, D.C., March 5, 1963. National Congress of American Indian Records (NMAI.AC.010) [P34169]

Earlier in 1963, leaders from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) also convened in Washington, D.C. They gathered there for a historic meeting with President John F. Kennedy. The group of tribal leaders, headed by NCAI President Walter Wetzel (Blackfeet), were in the capital trying to persuade Congress to enact legislation that would require the consent of tribal leadership before states could assume jurisdiction over reservations. You can read President Kennedy’s remarks that day on the website of the UC Santa Barbara American Presidency Project.

These photographs, from the records of the National Congress of American Indians, represent just one moment in the long history of Native American leaders and organizations coming to Washington, D.C., to stand up for their rights.

—Rachel Menyuk, archives technician, NMAI Archive Center

This post also appears on the Smithsonian Collections Blog.

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Comments

The American fight for Freedom gives a lot of us Indians hope and optimism. We have grown up on the courage of Martin Luther King and in these times of despair here, we seek solace and inspiration in his words and actions.

Even though we are stated as a free country, a number of shackles still bind us as a society and economy. Freedom isn't mere freedom from dictators, it is more of freedom from our own thorns and boundaries which sadly have inflicted many a wound on India.

My Regards,

Bhavya

I didn't know all of this. Thanks for share.

Yes, right before they shoot Kennedy. This is the saddest moment in US history, I think they buried freedom that day.

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