Sacred Land Film Project Timeline

All around the Earth, decade after decade, indigenous people protected sacred places and resisted when sites were threatened. Explore key events and look for patterns in this important history.

1788-04-26 07:22:09

Colonists claim Australia using terra nullius doctrine

Doctrine of terra nullius, no one’s land, was used by British colonizers to claim the right of occupancy of Australia by ignoring the 50,000 years of aboriginal occupation. The doctrine was upheld until the 1992 Mabo v. Queensland decision overturned it and recognized native title to land.

1823-11-06 19:25:19

Doctrine of Discovery

The Supreme Court uses the Catholic Church's Doctrine of Discovery to invalidate Native American claims to or possession of land. Chief Justice John Marshall invoked the Doctrine that holds that title to lands lay with the government whose subjects traveled to and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. It was used for collusive lawsuits that resulted in lands being taken from Native Americans. Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823) and two related Supreme Court cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), comprised the Marshall Trilogy.

1838-09-09 00:00:00

Trail of Tears forced removal of Native Americans

After gold was discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia, the Cherokee were uprooted from their homelands in the final Trail of Tears forced removal of Native Americans. Starting with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee people (including mixed-race and black freedmen and slaves who lived among them) were forcibly removed from their traditional lands in the southeastern U.S. and relocated farther west. State and local militias forced them to march to their destinations. An estimated 4,000 people died from exposure, disease and starvation along the way.

1851-09-09 00:00:00

Cottonwood Treaty

Signed by Shasta County Native Californians ceding a vast territory to the United States in exchange for a 35-mile by 35-mile square reservation along the Sacramento River. The California legislature lobbied against the treaty preventing ratification of any of the 18 treaties signed “in peace and friendship” by tribes throughout California. Instead of establishing the reservations called for in the treaties, Congress ordered the building of forts to house soldiers to protect the whites from the Indians, and the establishment of military Indian reservations to house Indians. The unratified Cottonwood Treaty was found locked in a closet in Washington, D.C., many years later.

1851-09-17 00:00:00

Fort Laramie Treaty

Between the United States and representatives of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations. The treaty sets forth traditional territorial claims of the tribes as agreed among themselves.

1874-09-09 00:00:00

Custer finds gold in Black Hills

A military expedition led by George Armstrong Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills and set off a gold rush. Encroachment on Lakota sacred land and Fort Laramie Treaty violations led to the Black Hills War of 1876 in which Custer was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25-26, 1876.

1883-03-07 06:47:54

Indian Religious Crimes Code

The Indian Religious Crimes Code was promulgated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Indian Courts to prohibit Native American ceremonial activity under pain of imprisonment. Interior Secretary Henry Teller’s guidelines ordered discontinuation of dances and feasts, and steps to be taken regarding medicine men, “to compel these impostors to abandon this deception and discontinue their practices, which are not only without benefit to them but positively injurious to them.”

1889-11-07 00:00:00

Norel Putis letter to President Harrison

Native elders from the Mt. Shasta area send a letter to the U.S. president asking for justice and the return of land taken from Wintu and Yana people of northern California caused in part by failure to ratify 1851 Cottonwood Treaty.

1890-12-01 00:00:00

Ghost Dance unites Native Americans

The Ghost Dance, based on the traditional Circle Dance, was a new religious movement adopted by many Native American tribes. It was part of a vision of being "taken up into the spirit world” experienced by the Paiute prophet Wovoka. He said that practice of the dance would reunite the living with the spirits of the dead, and bring peace, prosperity and unity to native peoples throughout the region. The practice spread, unifying and giving hope to many Native American tribes. This Bureau of Indian Affairs feared Wovoka's prophetic message would ignite an "uprising" among Sioux warriors who had fought and won at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The BIA called for U.S. Army troops to be sent to the reservation. They decided to arrest Sitting Bull to slow the Ghost Dance Movement, but the arrest resulted in Sitting Bull's murder by the troops. Sitting Bull’s murder was one of the triggers leading to the Wounded Knee Massacre.

1890-12-29 00:00:00

Wounded Knee Massacre

Treaty violations, the arrest and killing of Sitting Bull and growing resistance in the form of the Ghost Dance triggered the December 29, 1890 massacre of as many as 300 Lakota men, women and children by the U.S. 7th Cavalry. Ongoing treaty violations and threats to the sacred Paha Sapa (Black Hills), Mato Tipila (Devils Tower), and Matho Paha (Bear Butte) led to an occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement in 1973.

Sacred Land Film Project Timeline

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