Native Lives Matter: Police Killing Native Americans at Astounding Rate

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Image Credit: Student Put in Paddy Wagon, Light Brigading

July 15, 2015; Mother Jones

A recent report by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports that Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Native Americans make up almost two percent of those killed by police though they are only 0.8 percent of the population. While police kill young black men more than any other group, they kill Native Americans at a higher rate.

As with African Americans, these killings are not isolated from the larger problem of police and societal violence, as this devastating article in Counterpunch discusses in the particular context of New Mexico, which in 2014 had the highest rate of police killing in the country. That article reports that “according to a 2003 study by the New Mexico Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Native people experience ‘acts of ethnic intimidation; threats of physical violence, assaults, and other potential hate crimes’ as part of everyday life in border towns like Gallup, Farmington and Albuquerque.”


Chase Iron Eyes is an attorney with the Lakota People’s Law Project in South Dakota, which published a report called “Native Lives Matter” early this year. He says that the DOJ needs to address police violence against Native Americans.

“You can tell they’re shooting out of fear,” he said. “If it’s not out of hate, for some reason they’re pulling the trigger before determining what the situation actually is. Something does need to happen. Somebody does need to take a look and we need help.”—Ruth McCambridge

  • Chelsea

    Can I get more information about that picture, if you have any? Just curious as to what reason the cop says she has for arresting that young woman.

    This information = disturbing, but not surprising. This country does not care about its Native people.

    • Shafaq Hasan

      Hello! This is actually a picture from a protest at Marquette University from April, so it would have been an arrest made at the demonstration. Here are the rest of the pictures in the album:

      • Chelsea

        Thanks very much! I just did a search of the image on Tineye and didn’t find anything. I appreciate you linking to this for me.

        Edit: “Some protesters sat down in the street — locking arms near 16th and Wisconsin. Police arrested four of the demonstrators — two men and two women. They were arrested for disorderly conduct.”

        Yeah. Sounds about right. Absolutely nuts that our right to protest doesn’t seem to be a right whatsoever.

        • Matma Candy

          You would do better to direct your complaint at the subject of the protest and not complain about the rule of law you seek to uphold by protesting abuses under color of law. Civil disobedience can be a useful form of protest, but those who engage in civil disobedience need to have the moral, emotional and mental maturity to appreciate the guidelines offered by early practitioners.

          People who block streets know you they are disrupting civil order and must do so with compassion and understanding toward those they confront for their own purposes, no matter how high the moral ground from which they mount their campaign.

        • Multnomah

          Civil disobedience will land people of all colors in jail. African American and Native American/First Nations, Latinos, and people of other colors are treated differently according to the statistics of harm done to those specific groups. We have institutionalized a justice system where bias towards some groups is different from ‘white people’ This is true in Canada too, the United States policy for dealing with First Nations peoples and people of other colors was adopted by Canada. So as I see it if you have a group of white guys who develop legislation and policy that will reflect the views of the world from a white view point. Currently in the US, we have old white men predominately Christian who are developing legislation and policy some are so extreme they don’t believe in science as a method to solve problems, deny climate change, seem to not believe that women have the right to vote and enforcement of equal pay for equal work is completely ignored. Do not let politicians divide us or media in the US or Canada. Protect all peoples rights, demand judicial system change and use social media to tell the story as well investigative journalists, email and phone your representatives within the system and put the pressure on issues’. Use art, tell the story, use film and pressure groups make sure you have legal advice on what your rights are before a protest and respectfully make a statement I’m sitting down to use my civil rights. Respect police, they have a job to do some are not doing it properly get your camera’s out take pictures. None of us are anti-government but we want effective government. We need representation by all branches of government, to particularily protect people of all colors from oppression. Get those representatives to talk about a plan not a sound bites, talk is cheap action plans are needed. When one group of human beings is oppressed we are all oppressed.

  • the jury

    I agree with the article but feel it leaves out the WHOLE picture.

    What about the WHITE lives that are slaughtered?
    About the WHITE LIVES that are FED UP with the crimes, and being victimized?

    Whites are victims TOO!
    of crimes (caused by the such people you speak of in which those lives do matter!)

    • Hondo

      Apparently the moderator of these comments is white. My reply to your racist comments was deleted. You are the white over-privileged problem.

      • ruth

        yes I am white but we check and approve the comments between other tasks so you simply got ahead of me. I thought the comment (above) you were responding to was off the wall but I approved it because it reflects an attitude that creates an environment where such systematic state violence can occur. As for your comment you accused me of not approving, I still cannot but only because it calls the guy a name and we have a policy about that because it can get out of control quickly.

      • a mere skeptic

        I don’t think it’s fair to label jury’s comment as racist. All races suffer casualties as result of police violence. While it is not as extreme for some, it still happens and those lives still do matter. I understand that it is necessary to raise awareness about the lives of minorities who are lost, but we can’t discount the deaths of other victims on the basis of skin color.

        Each person who is unjustly killed is worthy of outrage. We’re all human beings and therefore police violence against the innocent hurts and affects us all. We’re arguing semantics. All human lives matter.

        • KT Corbin

          @a mere skeptic, then raise awareness for white victims if you feel your voices need to be heard as we are trying for our groups. Don’t try blindsiding with guilt. Minorities have to stand against blatant abuse since no one else is standing for minorities. Once we succeed in helping ourselves, we can then reach back to help others. But yes, all lives do matter. Join the fight, don’t judge!

    • midmind

      1) The article DID give context for Black/Native Lives Matter (“these killings are not isolated from the larger problem of police and societal violence….” An article must necessarily focus/narrow its subject somewhat. If you feel overwhelmed by the problem discussed in the article or seek to ignore it for other reasons, just feel that feeling and abstain from “but there are other/bigger/worse/… problems that I can about.”
      Also, you may want to get a grip on the “too” bit because it is IMPLIED when you hear Black Lives Matter (too).

  • Appledude

    This is a two-way street – relationship between the two groups needs to be addressed – if you are threatening to a police officer, they have to decide very quickly what to do – if they don’t act aggressively enough – they are very likely not going home alive that night – there kids no longer have a parent –

    • Hondo

      My sister’s brother, a proud Native American, was shot to death by the police last month. He was defending a pregnant woman who was being physically beaten by said police. What about the parents that no longer have a kid? This is a two-way street, one you are seeing through your rose-colored glasses.

    • cyber

      Police officers carry guns and are allowed to use tons of other weapons so I think the relationship between Native Americans and the police is pretty clear. Who is the police supposed to defend, civilians or only themselves? Native American kids lose their parents far more frequently than children of cops do.

    • thanatos8285

      And who decides whether or not they were threatening? Oh, the guy with the gun decides? Well isn’t that convenient? They’re the trained ones. They’re the ones who are supposed to assess risk accurately, deescalate situations, and protect the rights of citizens, including due process.

      Yeah, maybe that means they don’t make it home that night. Guess what? That’s the job they signed up to do. That’s an occupational hazard of being a cop. If they aren’t willing to risk their lives, they should find other professions, not shoot first and ask questions later.

  • Allison Shaw

    Shooting out of fear? Hell no, the cops are shooting Natives out of sheer hatred and because they’ve been able to get away with it for the past 200 years or so. As light-complected as I am, I’ve been on the receiving end of police harassment when I lived out west and believe me, if you’re Native, you have a bulls-eye between your eyes and shoulder blades, and one on your ass. If you’re female, you also have one between your legs because cops will rape you and call their buddies to join in on it.

    • You mean they have been able to get away with killing us since 1492. You are hated if you are Native in this occupied territory called the US. They don’t like Natives at all… this is from real time lived experience as an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibway) of mixed heritage.

  • Hondo

    By, “fast dying habit”, do you mean, one that has been spun by mainstream white liberal media in a way that makes white people sitting at home watching TV feel better?

  • Bill Parent

    Paddy Wagon. Um. Let’s change that to police van, ok?

  • Michael Howard, Dayton Alumni

    Change is surely long overdue regarding equal protection under the law in The United States of America.

  • Birkolator .

    Native People and all invited to Million Man March October 10th in D.C. United for action.

  • Michael Blake

    how about all human life matters cops are out of control. we need to get rid of the police unions and prosecutors that do not want to do there job.

  • Ray Krueger

    A line in the story, “… potential hate crimes’ as part of everyday life in border towns like Gallup, Farmington and Albuquerque” suggests flagrant hyperbole since none of those cities is closer than 100 miles from the Mexico border. Farmington is only a few miles from both Colorado and Utah.

  • Kenny

    Where I live, Yakama Rez in South Central Washington, the Toppenish-Wapato-Yakima City police routinely beat down NDNs. They have been filmed doing this to NDNs, and sued, and still get away with it. Meanwhile they just get emboldened and beat down NDNs using MMA tactics, tasers, and even after they handcuff an NDN they continue to beat on them after they have been tased 2-3 times! It’s just a matter of time till they start actually killing NDNs here also. The violence, hatred, and racism against us escalating with each new case of brutality is committed and nothing is done about it.

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  • JR

    I agree with Allison Shaw. Even though fear may be a factor, hate comes first and hate is the main ingredient that makes killing another person in cold blood seem okay. And that same fear comes from their guilt of hating this group of people: I hate you so I fear that I will/want to harm you.

  • Robert Vance

    What about crimes? If Native Americans are committing crimes at low rates, and getting killed by police at high rates, then there is a REAL problem! What are the numbers like?

    • thanatos8285

      If you think that’s relevant, you don’t understand what a problem is. There’s something called due process. It doesn’t matter if every single one of them was committing a crime. The job of police is not to execute any and all citizens who may or may not have committed a crime. Unless they were behaving in a way that clearly put lives at risk, there is no justification for killing them. So is that what you’re going to go with? That every one of them was doing something to endanger lives?