Promises are important, at least that’s what we tell our kids. In Montana and around the country, there are groups advocating that we break the promises made to our American Indian friends and neighbors. These groups, which form the anti-Indian movement, represent a systematic effort to deny legally-established rights by terminating American Indian sovereignty and culture. They feed on the public’s lack of knowledge regarding treaty rights and the negative stereotypes directed at American Indians. They strive to create fear and rancor, especially in white communities on or near reservations and in other places where American Indians survive and thrive despite America’s genocidal history.


The Montana Human Rights Network has monitored and organized against the anti-Indian movement for decades. Over the past few years, the media and public have increasingly scrutinized how right-wing extremism finds its way into the political mainstream. At the same time, the number of hate groups seems to continually rise. In this context, the anti-Indian movement is too often viewed as just another conservative movement. The reality is it belongs on the right-wing fringe, which is where it originates and why it easily overlaps with militia and white nationalist groups.

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Exploiting Historical Bigotry and Trying to Terminate American Indian Sovereignty

In 2000, the Montana Human Rights Network issued its groundbreaking report Drumming Up Resentment: The Anti-Indian Movement in Montana. The report provided the first in-depth analysis of the movement, groups, and activists seeking to eradicate American Indian sovereignty and treaty rights in the state. The Human Rights Network provided the following definition of the anti-Indian movement in Drumming Up Resentment:

 

“…a systematic effort to deny legally-established rights to a group of people who are identified on the basis of their shared culture, history, religion, and tradition. This makes it racist by definition.”[1]

 

This may have seemed a provocative statement at the time, and it was no surprise that anti-Indian activists were outraged to have their ideological purpose described as racist. The Network knew Drumming Up Resentment provided solid evidence for the definition. Even a lawsuit by an anti-Indian activist didn’t result in the Network having to change the definition or any of Drumming Up Resentment’s content. Because of the definition, the Network is often asked if national watchdog organizations and the media should categorize anti-Indian groups as

hate groups. The Network believes that should be the case.

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