Charles Trimble: Racism still alive and growing in Indian Country
I appreciate the emailed responses I receive about my published columns, even when the writers are critical of my expressed opinion, or even of my person or personality as perceived by them. Often, I am enlightened by critical responses, and have apologized – twice in subsequent columns – for inaccuracies or insensitive comments. However, some responses are upsetting when they seethe with bigotry and hatred.

My most recent column, “Racism in Indian Country,” in and Lakota Country Times brought some interesting comments. Some writers told of their experiences with racism at the hands of other American Indians, and some argued my point on the recent Cherokee disenfranchisement of the black Freedmen from their Tribe. Some said I was courageous to even broach that subject and express my problems with it.

Only one especially hateful and hate-filled email was unabashedly racist. This came from a man named Richard Boyden (and I appreciate the fact that he gave his name because the Internet is filled with cowardly types who snipe at their prey anonymously). Below, I present his e-mail verbatim, bad grammar and misspelling and all, and I answer his comments item by item. Nothing in his e-mail is omitted.

The Dr. Shonda that Boyden refers to is Shonda Buchanan, a professor of English at Hampton University. Here’s what I wrote as a lead-off in my column that apparently turned Boyden on: “I read a very interesting and moving column by Dr Shonda Buchanan, whose ancestry includes Choctaw blood, titled ‘Being a Black Indian at a Chickahominy Pow Wow.’ She tells of an interesting custom or regulation at the Chickahominy Pow-Wow that allows only persons carrying a ‘tribal card’ to participate in the dances. Not having such a card as she danced, three Indian men, presumably of the Chickahominy Tribe, very rudely accosted Ms Buchanan, and the circumstances she described suggest racism rather than tribal pow-wow rules or custom.”

Boyden: “Dr. Shonda's web page and profile at where she teaches expresses ZERO INDIANNESS! In other words...she chooses to be BLACK...NOT Indian. Her writings and what she teaches is ALL BLACK!”

Response: First of all, Dr. Shonda teaches English. There are Native Americans, I’m sure, who teach English or American history, which itself if mostly about European colonizers of the continent. I don’t think that one can deduce that these people prefer to be whites over Indians because they are teaching white language or history – they are scholars, and generally not racists.

Boyden: “So tell me...what in the black culture is there that is compatible with Native American culture? And in spirituality? Curious what you can share with me and educate me so that I can see the ‘light’!”

Response: I think that there is much in American black culture and modern American Indian or indigenous culture that are mutually compatible. First of all, there is tragic history: both peoples were enslaved, and both peoples were considered sub-human, or even non-human. Both peoples had their traditional cultures stripped from them, and both suffer from being deprived of the cultures, as is shown in the societal disarray in both cultures. Eradication and removal policy options were considered for both peoples. But, of course, the most important “compatibility” is that of the brotherhood of their humanity.

Boyden: “Historically...there is NOTHING that blacks have contributed to the historical struggle and genocide of American Indians...unless I am missing something. Buffalo soldiers received 15 Medals of Honor for tracking down and killing Indians or leading the WHITES to do the same. The black interpreter which translated the words of Crazy Horse from Lakota to English...was said to have purposely mistranslated his words which in the end was directly connected to his assassination. The 9th and 10th Coloured Calvary...all blacks...were with the 7th Calvary at Wounded Knee and more then likely brought with them 2 of the 4 Hotchkiss gattling guns/cannons that shredded to pieces 150 of the 300 bodies of Big Foots people which were "never buried" or identified because they were in to many pieces. NONE of the BLACK soldiers there did one thing during or after the slaughter on behalf of Big Foots people. In fact they made up a RED SKIN SONG to honor the massacre.”

Response: First of all, not all black people were Buffalo soldiers, a small percentage of the black population of men ever served in the Black cavalry units, although many served in the defense of this country, even when the military was segregated.

Keep in mind that there were also many Indian scouts who led whites to find Native villages, and were involved in attacking those camps, including Wounded Knee.

However, there were no Black troops involved in the massacre at Wounded Knee. They arrived at Pine Ridge late at night on the day of the massacre. The day after the Wounded Knee massacre, in what is recorded as the “Skirmish at Drexel Mission,” the 9th Cavalry (colored) arrived in time to save the 7th Cavalry Troop under Col. Forsythe, who were pinned down in a canyon miles west of Wounded Knee by Lakota snipers. Several cavalrymen were killed or wounded there, but there were few Indian casualties, if any.

Frank Grouard, who mistranslated Crazy Horse’s words, was born in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) of Hawaiian mother and French father. But even if he were Negro, his treachery should not condemn his entire race.

Boyden: “The black congressional caucus has voted against most American Indian legislation...against the Cobell settlement...tried to terminate Indian Nation sovereignty using the "fake freedmen free lunch Indian" agenda...ALL OF THEM VOTED AGAINST THE CHEROKEE...while at the same farmers got 50k plus in a law suit using STOLEN INDIAN LAND...and Obama pimped for them...racist dog that he is.”

Response: I’m not familiar with the Black Caucus’ actions relative to Indian legislation these days. In my time with NCAI in the 1970s, we found black congressmen and senators largely supportive of Native American issues.

I don’t agree with your depiction of President Obama as a pimp for anybody, or as a racist dog. But you have a right to your opinion of him.

Boyden: “And lastly...this poor Shonda "wannbe"...has not said or addresses the "nigger"...I mean REDSKIN usage by HER BLACK PEOPLE in sports... So...your article leaves OUT the most important facts of RACISM...and that is BLACKS are the ones who HATE Indians present day and historically. They bring drugs on the rez...the gang life/death style, the fornicating copulating like rabbits male agenda where young Indian woman are abused and treated like whores by their own. BLACKS are the ONLY race that PIMPS and abuses and whores out young First Nations Girls and American Indian girls in Canada, MN, WI, SD as documented by a MN Native Women's Group who did a survey on PIMPS. And...more then likely...the BLACK PIMPS are involved the in death and disappearance of many young First Nations and American Indian girls and women. Also...Africans/blacks also contribute to the HIGH Hiv/Aids rate...35-40 percent in Rapid City and on Pine Ridge.

“I could care less about poor Shonda...she is a FAKE who is NOT Indian any more then I am...

“Either you are black or you are Indian...her choice is obvious by nature of who she identifies with in personal, social, and academic life.”

Mr. Boyden ended his tirade with “Have a nice day!”

This is frightening. Racism is alive and growing; and it concerns me because, as is invariably the case, it will be turned on Native Americans and other “people of color.”

Charles “Chuck” Trimble, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-1978. He is retired and lives in Omaha, NE. He can be contacted at and his website is

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