50 Years Ago in Washington, D.C.
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.
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.
This post also appears on the Smithsonian Collections Blog.