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AFC to Host Symposium on Native American Civil Rights

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Sitting Bull
Lakota holy man Sitting Bull, or Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake in Standard Lakota Orthography (ca.1831 – December 15, 1890), provided spiritual leadership to the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors who prevailed at the Little Big Horn, but was later killed by Indian Agency Police on the Standing Rock Reservation. He is an icon of native peoples’ resistance to colonialism and the struggle of native peoples for civil rights. The photo is by David Francis Barry, 1885. The photo links to its catalog record for more information.

To launch the annual International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries and Museums, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC) and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM) present a symposium. Titled Civil Rights, Identity and Sovereignty: Native American Perspectives on History, Law, and the Path Ahead, it will take place on Sept. 10, 6:30-9:30 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium, located on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Attendees can register and print tickets via the free Eventbrite mobile app for iOS or Android devices or via this link at

Featured speakers include prominent names in Native American jurisprudence, legislative and business affairs, historical research and creative expression. They range from jurists and business leaders to academic historians to storytellers. A full schedule and list of presenters can be viewed here.

The symposium is the final event in the AFC’s 2015 public program series Many Paths to Freedom: Looking Back, Looking Ahead at the Long Civil Rights Movement. Since 2014, the series has featured scholars, activists, educators and artists who have addressed a range of topics on the theme of civil rights and historic and contemporary struggles for freedom, social justice and equality. It has covered not only the well-known 20th-century civil rights movement for African Americans but also the activism of other cultural and ethnic communities.

An exhibit of historical documents illuminating the legal and legislative aspects of the symposium, through artifacts that relate to sovereign Native American nations and their interactions with the United States federal government, will be on display in the foyer of the Coolidge Auditorium for the duration of the symposium.

Tipi with sign “American Indian Movement” on the grounds of the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. Photo by Warren K. Leffler.  The photo was taken in 1978 during the “Longest Walk” march, in which several hundred American Indian activists and supporters marched for five months from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to protest threats to tribal lands and water rights. The picture links to its catalog record for more information.

Several hundred American Indian activists and supporters march for five months from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to protest threats to tribal lands and water rights.

The presenters will also be available to sign copies of their books, which will be on sale in the lobby after the program concludes.

The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums is an international non-profit organization that maintains a network of support for indigenous programs, provides culturally relevant programming and services, encourages collaboration among tribal and non-tribal cultural institutions, and articulates contemporary issues related to developing and sustaining the cultural sovereignty of Native nations. A key component of its educational outreach and service initiatives is the International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums, which is annually held in various locations across the United States.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s first established federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the U.S. and around the world.

We hope to see you at this event!


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