"The Sleeping Red Giant”: The International Indian Treaty Council and the Politics of Indigenous Internationalism

Nov 30, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

The formation of the International Indian Treaty Council by the American Indian Movement in the aftermath of the 71-day siege on Wounded Knee in 1973 marked a radical transformation of Indigenous politics. While many histories mark the decline of Red Power in the 1970s, in this talk, I show how the movement imagined new global Indigenous political identities beyond the racial ideologies and exclusionary politics of the nation-state. I trace the Treaty Council’s collaborations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Third World liberation movements to gain Indigenous peoples’ recognition at the United Nations and to imagine American Indians in relation to other colonized and oppressed nations.

The Treaty Council carried out several important human rights missions, such as a mail exchange program for U.S. citizens and diplomats taken hostage by Iranian students during the 1979 Iranian Revolution and providing fact-finding investigations in Nicaragua about the Sandinistas’ treatment of Miskito Indigenous people. The United Nations bestowed several commendations on the Treaty Council for its work, legitimizing American Indian traditions of diplomacy in the eyes of the world. Above all, however, the Treaty Council imagined itself a liberation movement uniting American Indians and fighting for the international recognition of Indigenous Peoples. 

Nick Estes (he/him) is an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance (Verso, 2019). Estes co-hosts The Red Nation Podcast.