Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Who were the major leaders in the Red Power movement?

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The Red Power movement came to the forefront in the late 1960s. As its name indicates, it sought justice for Native Americans (often characterized as "redskins") and took its cue from black civil rights and power movements. It chiefly sought the restoration of land to Native American tribes, to instill Native American pride, and to end police brutality against Native Americans.

Influenced by the turmoil and upheaval of the youth culture of the late 1960s, the Red Power movement was largely a youth movement. One important leader was Vine Deloria, a Native American professor and activist who in 1969 published the book Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. He was executive director of the National Congress of American Indians and fought for Native American fishing and land rights in Washington state. He is said to have originated the term "Red Power."

Another activist in the movement was Lorelei Decora Means, a Native American who participated in the occupation of Wounded Knee. Raised on Nebraska's Winnebago Reservation, she became an activist at a young age as she opposed the way she was raised, which she believed cut her off from her native heritage.

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During the 1960s, there were major leaders who were household names in the push for black rights, for women's rights, and for the rights of Hispanics.  There were no leaders in the Red Power movement that came to have the same degree of renown as Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez.

The two men who are most often mentioned as leaders of this movement are George Mitchell and Dennis Banks.  Another name that is sometimes mentioned is the scholar Vine Deloria who wrote a book entitled Custer Died for Your Sins.  A man named Richard Oakes was the main spokesman for the group that occupied Alcatraz.  Of course, none of these men has anything like the name recognition of King or Malcolm X or Betty Friedan.

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