Native American Civil Rights

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Native American Civil Rights 100 Years Ago” by Gretchen Cassel Eick.

Zitkala-Sa, c. 1920. Image from the Library of Congress.

Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin), c. 1920. Image from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Native Americans in the 1910s faced devastating poverty and governmental policies that favored whites who wanted water and land resources. Prevalent racial attitudes depicted Native Americans as a vanishing race that must assimilate or die out, or incompetent to manage their own resources. To combat these prejudices, the Society of American Indians lobbied Congress, promoted Native American achievements, and educated white Americans through articles and cultural performances. Gretchen Cassel Eick’s presentation discusses how activists like Charles Eastman and Zitkala-Sa (Getrude Bonnin) fought back with words and organizing to stop hostile policies and attitudes toward Native Americans.

“Most Americans know about wars between cowboys and Indians,” said Eick. “But what happened after the wars ended and America’s first people were consigned to poverty and isolation on infertile land?”

Gretchen Cassel Eick

Gretchen Cassel Eick

Gretchen Cassel Eick is an historian and professor emeritus at Friends University in Wichita. She has researched and published an article on Native American activism. Her book, Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-1972, won three awards and sparked museum exhibitions and commemorations of the 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in, the first successful student led sit-in in the United States that desegregated Rexall, the largest U.S. drug store chain.

You can bring Gretchen Cassel Eick’s “Native American Civil Rights 100 Years Ago” or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at) for more information.