American Indians And Gun Control


Two billboards erected in Greeley, Colo., which use the historic mistreatment of Native Americans by the Federal government to make the case against gun control, have drawn fire from some residents who say the images are offensive.

According to the Greeley Tribune, the billboards bearing pictures of Native Americans in traditional dress and the words “Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you” were purchased by a group of anonymous locals.

Jim Rydbom, Greeley Tribune
Jim Rydbom, Greeley Tribune

Some people in the area say that the billboards oversimplify the plight of Native Americans to make a political point. Others, however, point out the historical ties between racism and disarmament.

A paper published last year by Professor Angela Riley, Director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center, supports the latter view in a study of the relationship between American Indians and guns:

Through a different lens, the history of Indians and guns is a story about becoming American. In colonial America, rights and obligations related to guns were often tied to race, and race, in turn, was tied to citizenship. The sovereign authority to define who was in and who was out was deployed to exclude “undesirables,” including Indians. But the extension of citizenship—for Indians, the moment came officially in 1924—marked the inclusion of Indians into the polity of the United States…

… A final, related viewpoint contemplates the history of Indians and guns as an account of racial hierarchy and social control, deeply pronounced at the point of contact and through the early years of the republic but tenaciously embedded in much of American law. This narrative reveals that the relationship of Indians and guns developed in parallel to African-Americans and guns, with both groups situated at the bottom of a racial hierarchy that facilitated oppression, noncitizen status, and subjugation. Here, as a means of extracting wealth—with African slaves, their labor; with Indians, their lands—the gun served as a tool of white privilege, forever linked to a history of violence and oppression.

There are many historical accounts that would support the legitimacy of the pro-gun argument made on the Greeley billboards, wherein Native Americans were systematically disarmed and murdered by white settlers with the backing of the American government.

Perhaps the most famous example occurred in 1890 — decades before the 1924 guarantee of Constitutional rights for Native Americans — when Federal agents murdered 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Before the Native Americans were killed by the agents of the state, they were notified that the 7th Cavalry had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.”

Later, when Sioux representatives were invited to tell their side of the story to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, this account — which is wildly different than the government approved story — was given by the Sioux leader Turning Hawk:

These people were coming toward Pine Ridge agency, and when they were almost on the agency they were met by the soldiers and surrounded and finally taken to the Wounded Knee creek, and there at a given time their guns were demanded. When they had delivered them up, the men were separated from their families, from the tipis, and taken to a certain spot. When the guns were thus taken and the men thus separated, there was a crazy man, a young man of very bad influence and in fact a nobody, among that bunch of Indians fired his gun, and of course the firing of a gun must have been the breaking of a military rule of some sort, because immediately the soldiers returned fire and indiscriminate killing followed.

This historical account, it seems, makes two points for those resistant to gun control: 1) Even when government orders disarmament and the majority obey, there is always the possibility that some will not. And 2) When one bad apple stirs the wrath of the state, it is much easier for agents of the government to react by systematically annihilating innocent people, with impunity, when they have first been disarmed.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • itriedthemall

    Offensive to whom?

    The government? – Of course!

    The American Indian? – Not likely!

    It is way past time for their story of oppression to be told and retold.

  • jdn

    Its amazing how a picture of Indians with guns became about slaves not able to have guns . Well we don’t have to worry about that anymore do we . Black gangs and criminals can kill with impunity and are protected by Americas giant race card . No matter how many children are murdered in the streets every day nothing will be said or done . It is only when a crazy white goes on a shooting spree that there becomes a deafening call for action .

    • Trav

      Very, very well said…couldnt have said it better…

  • DoingMoreWithLes

    7 billion people on the planet, you know someone is going to whine about it. Nobody seems to whine about this country’s government sticking it’s nose in every country on the planet using that same old routine of fighting terrorism. Now we have our Troops and CIA in 35 African countries. Please don’t tell me this is all about providing them “Democracy”.

  • trp878

    Right on, they’ll help just like before, -Reservations, hangings and the Trail of Tears to mention only a few.

  • Wiley2

    When government representatives claim to be doing something for our “own safety and protection”, we would all be wise to suspect and to assume that the real objective is domination, control and exploitation.

  • FreedomFighter

    As an American Indian I approve of that message have it hanging on the wall for years now.

    Laus Deo
    Semper FI

  • Wellarmed

    The Billboard was appropriate and warranted in light of the Unconstitutional legislation recently passed in Colorado. Hickenlooper needs to be arrested as well as their entire legislature and tried for their crimes against the citizenry.

  • Cam Alft

    right away its the f#*@ing race card-forget about how this regime is going to destroy the rights of the American people,kick in your door and take away your guns and in the process more than likely arrest you and put you in prison(internment camp)for an indefinate period of time!sieze your property and take your children away from you and indoctrinate them into hating you and america and the american way of life!it’s all about control,control over the people,thats what obama wants!remember,he’s a egomaniac and whatever else!he makes everything race and we hate it,so don’t make this about race!this is about rights!

    • Toy Pupanbai

      The Patriot Act has already destroyed your rights.
      Your home can be entered and searched at will!

  • RightGunner

    Here is another point about the current concept of gun control. After the law abiding gun owners are disarmed, which is easy compared to the real disarmament, the real disarmament will begin, which is the disarmament of everyone else, especially criminals.

    Consider the lesson of Boston 2013, where public and private activity was shut down, and people rounded up and removed from their house at gunpoint to allow a full search of their premises. Every person was guilty until proven innocent by the police not finding anything and allowing them to return.

    It is unclear if this effort would have ever been successful, but it was clear that a citizen did discover the culprit and provided the police his location. So what does this portend for full gun control?

    When beginning to operate full gun control to find all the guns remaining after confiscation of gun owners guns, all the non-gun-owners will have to submit to similar searches as occurred in Boston, but not to find persons but to find hidden guns. Since everyone is now guilty until proven innocent, non-gun-owners will be held at gunpoint and a thorough search of their premises will be made. If nothing is found their home’s sheet rock must be removed from the walls and the insulation torn out from the walls, and from the ceiling and the attic to make a more thorough search.

    While this police action is taking place the only free persons will be the former gun-owners, who will watch and commiserate with the current non-gun-owners until their devastated houses are returned to them to repair at their expense.

    But now everybody will breathe easier knowing there can never be a another gun crime. Except when the first one occurs, and is uncaught, the searches must begin again, and everyone is considered guilty until the police solve the gun crime, if they can. If they can’t we will probably need a full lock-down until some citizen confesses under the duress of the enhanced surveillance techniques.

    One small step for Boston, one giant leap for the Surveillance State.