Nick Tilsen: Redefining Democracy this Fourth of July

TRIBAL ADVOCATES FROM THE REGION BLOCK THE ROAD TO MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MONUMENT ON JULY 3, 2020. (PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Atmos Magazine, June 30, 2021

The Frontline talks to Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, on the lies we tell ourselves every Independence Day. For many Indigenous people, the holiday is a painful reminder of all America stole from them.

WORDS BY YESSENIA FUNES

Every Fourth of July, we see red, white, and blue flags blowing in the wind. We see so-called patriots grilling their burgers and hot dogs, celebrating the creation of the United States of America. However, many of us are still not free. Not the more than 2 million people currently incarcerated. Not the Black, Brown, Indigenous, and queer communities under siege by a militarized police state.

None of us are free until we’re all free.

Welcome to The Frontline, where we’re taking down July Fourth. I’m Yessenia Funes, climate editor of Atmos. Don’t get me wrong. This holiday is often a day of rest for me—a day to spend time with family and friends. However, why don’t we make it a day of resistance instead? That’s what it should become, said Nick Tilsen, the president and CEO of NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group that advocates for returning land to tribal communities. He shares his thoughts with me in a conversation about the holiday.

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