Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Supremacy Clause, declares the treaties made with Native Americans as the "supreme law of the land”—but for over 200 years, the US government has consistently broken them. These legally binding contracts contained promises for recognizing tribes’ rights to live self-governed and undisturbed on their own land, with religious freedom; to hunt, fish, and gather natural resources; and to have such benefits as health care, education, and, in some cases, financial payments for lands previously sold to the government. We have a responsibility to honor the promises that have been made.
Indigenous communities are fighting their most important battles in recent history—battles to protect the integrity of their land and water and traditions. In 1980, after the longest running court case in U.S. history, the Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills (in what is now South Dakota) were illegally taken from the Sioux Nation. The court awarded only 106 million dollars as payment. The Sioux refused the money with the rallying cry, "The Black Hills are Not for Sale!" All across Indian country, this story repeats itself: battles over land, water, hunting and fishing rights, health care, education, and religious freedoms continue TODAY. From Idle No More's growing movement in Canada to the road blockades attempting to stop the KXL pipeline from crossing tribal lands, the treaty struggles are very much alive.
Honor the Treaties is an organization dedicated to amplifying the voices of indigenous communities through art and advocacy. We do that by funding collaborations between Native artists and Native advocacy groups so that their messages can reach a wider audience. Every shirt sold through this campaign helps support a Native artist and their work with a partner organization. All funding is channeled through The Lakota People’s Law Project (501c3).
When National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey started this campaign with artists Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena, it was not for the purpose of giving collectors something to put in a frame—it was to spread the message that the treaties have yet to be honored.
This is not a closed chapter in history. This is a living issue. You can make it visible. You can teach it. You can join the fight.