Johnny Cash and the AIM Movement

There have been quite a few celebrity advocates for the AIM movement over the years, but one that is little known as being an advocate for AIM is Johnny Cash.  Johnny Cash was always known as a rebel, and didn’t always act in ways that everyone agreed with.  But, by releasing his album in 1964 Bitter Tears caused him to receive some of the greatest backlash he would ever receive.  He was one of the first big celebrities to take a stand for American Indian rights.  Some even stating that it is the earliest and most significant statement about Native issues.

Early on in his career Johnny Cash knew he wanted make an album dedicated to the struggle of Native peoples.  His support for American Indian peoples stems from growing up in Arkansas, around a large Native population.  His family struggled with poverty not unlike the Native Americans; however, programs like the New Deal helped his family progress out of poverty.  However, he looked at his Native neighbors and saw no such progress with them.  Solely because they didn’t receive federal aid like his white family did.  He was so entwined in Native American culture and issues that he often claimed to be Native; however, refuting these statements later on.  Cash’s strong ties to the Native American community caused him to act on their behalf.  Speak against the mistreatment of American Indians in our country.  He decided to raise awareness about these issues the only way he knew how, through music.  So he released the album Bitter Tears containing 8 powerful songs all containing messages about the struggles of Native Americans in the United States.  However, only two of the songs rising to the top. Bitter Tears and The Ballad of Ira Hayes carried the album reaching the top of the charts.  Even with the success of these two songs, he received wicked backlash from the album itself.  Almost costing him his career.

When he released the album many radio stations refused to play the songs.  In response to this he wrote them a letter stating ” DJs, station managers, owners etc.  Where are your guts?  Ira Hayes is strong medicine.  So is Rochester, Harlem, Birmingham, and Vietnam.”  Even though Cash was deeply disappointed of the opposition of his album he continued to play songs from it in every concert after.  Even singing Ira Hayes for Richard Nixon when another song was requested.

Like many after him, Cash was a relentless supporter and advocate, of the AIM movement.  Spurring support from others like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Steve Earle.  His compassion, love, and respect for Native peoples caused him to stand up for what he knew was right.  Regardless of the impact on his reputation.  We can learn many lessons from Mr. Cash.  Standing up for what you believe in is one of them.

Social Movements Role in Society

Social movements have a complex, yet crucial role in society.  Social movements come about when there is a common issue that a group stands up for. Social movements can be highly organized like the National Rifle Association or semi-spontaneous like the Women’s march. They have a common goal of raising awareness and usually have some agenda in mind. That agenda could be simply raising awareness, or accomplishing some kind of greater change. Whether that change be in legislation or just a change in the way people think.

Social movements are a prime example of our first amendment rights. Being able to practice free speech, organize peaceful protests and having the power to make a difference in our government are all great privileges of living in our country.

Social movements have achieved many great things like women’s rights, the civil rights movement, the american indian movement has come a long way, and even  the Lakota at the Dakota access pipeline.  They may not have stopped the pipeline, but they raised great awareness and mustered great support for the AIM movement and the Lakota people.

Social movements role in society is not necessarily to achieve an agenda or solely change laws.  Social movement’s role is to allow people the opportunity to come together, speak their mind, and make people aware of an issue that is close to their heart.  They can practice their constitutional right, while making a difference in the world they live in.  Just because their main goals aren’t met or nothing was achieved on their “agenda” does not mean the social movement was not successful.  For a social movement to be successful, all they have to do is make someone aware of an issue, that they were not aware of before.


The Native American Tribes of the Middle Peninsula

For my next post I decided to write about a place that is very special to me, the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.  Now I grew up here, and am fairly familiar with the rich Native American History of this area.  Especially with Pocahontas’s birthplace being just 45 minutes from my house.  I have always been relatively educated about historical Natives in my area, but did not have much knowledge on the current tribes that reside on the Middle Peninsula.  So for this post, I decided to do a little bit of research and share it with y’all.

There are currently 5 state recognized Native tribes on the Middle Peninsula and one Federally recognized tribe.  The state tribes being the Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Eastern Chickahominy.  The only federally recognized tribe being the Pamunkey.

The Pamunkey Tribe is located in King William County on the Pamunkey River.  It contains 200 members and the reservation consists of 1,200 acres.  Only 36 members live on the reservation, with a majority living in the surrounding area.  Archeologists, historians, and anthropologists put Native occupation of these lands back 10-12,000 years.  With the Pamunkey land base being established as early as 1658.  The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7  council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years.  These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws.  The Pamunkey Tribe was recognized by the Federal government in 2015.

The Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County on the Mattaponi River.  It contains 450 tribal members and the reservation consists of 150 acres.  Like the Pamunkey the reservation can be traced back as early as 1658.  With their decedents inhabiting the area up to 12,000 years ago.  Only 75 members live on the reservation, but most members live in the surrounding area. The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7 council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years. These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws.

The Upper Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County and contains 575 members.  The tribe owns 32 acres where they currently hold events and plan to develop a tribal center.  These lands are not given by the state as a reservation, but purchased by the tribe.    On their 32 acres sits the Sharon Indian School, which is the only public Indian school building in Virginia.  It is no longer an active school, but is still used for tribal meetings and cultural gatherings.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Upper Mattaponi were referred to as the Adamstown band due to high number of tribal members with the last name Adams.  In the early twentieth century, during a nationwide native cultural revival, Adamstown band took on the name Upper Mattaponi Tribe.  Their tribe has been trying to gain federal recognition since the 1990s.

The Chickahominy Tribe (nicknamed the “Turtle Clan”) is located in Charles City County and is associated with the Chickahominy River.  It contains 840 tribal members and their tribal grounds sit on 110 acres; however, these are not reservation lands given by the state.   These are grounds purchased by the tribe to perform ceremonial gatherings and tribal meetings.  Every year they hold a Fall Festival and Powwow at their tribal center.  Their government consists of elected officials containing a chief and two assistant chiefs, as well as 9 other tribal council members.  The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1996.

The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe is located in New Kent County and  contains 164 tribal members.  They own 41 acres that they plan to build a tribal center and museum on in the future.  They currently hold meetings at Tsena Commocko Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe shares historical roots with the Chickahominy Tribe splitting off  from the tribe in 1910, due to travel inconveniences and political reasons.  Tribal government consists of an elected chief, assistant chief, and seven council members.  Office positions are held for four years without term limits.  The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1990.

This is just a snippet of information about the culturally rich Native American Tribes located in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.  All the tribes are trying to improve for the future, while staying culturally rooted in their past.  These tribes have been here for hundreds of years, and without a doubt I know they will be here for hundreds more.

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