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Monday, August 26, 2013

50 Years Ago in Washington DC...

This week, Washington D.C. marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest demonstrations for freedom held in our nation’s capital. People from all over the United States gathered together to speak of civil liberty, civil rights and economic freedom for all.  1963 was a big year for not only the civil rights movement, but for many minority groups looking to Washington for new and better representation. As I wrote in a post for the National Museum of the American Indian blog, the election of John F. Kennedy represented a new hope for the blazing of 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) converged on Washington, DC as well for a meeting with President John F. Kennedy.  The group of tribal leaders, headed by NCAI President Walter Wetzel (Blackfeet), was in DC trying to persuade Congress to enact legislation that would require the consent tribal leadership before states could assume jurisdiction over reservations. 

NCAI President Walter Wetzel (Blackfeet), second from the right, meets with JFK March 5, 1963.
National Congress of American Indian Records (NMAI.AC.010) [P34169]
You can read President Kennedy’s remarks that day on the UC Santa Barbara American Presidency Project website.

NCAI President Walter Wetzel (Blackfeet) speaks in the Rose Garden, March 5, 1963.
National Congress of American Indian Records (NMAI.AC.010)
These photographs, from the records of the National Congress of American Indians, represent just one moment in the long history of Native American organizations coming to Washington, DC to stand up for their rights.

Rachel Menyuk
Archives Technician, NMAI Archive Center

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