Native Americans take to the streets in Lincoln to demand their voice be heard

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Despite city leaders moving forward with a development near a sacred sweat lodge, Native Americans and supporters came together Wednesday to say the fight is not over.

The group took down their teepees at Snell Hill, where the city has approved the development of hundreds of homes, but they say they’re not giving up.

“We decided to come off that hill, not because we are giving up, absolutely not, because this work needs to continue in the community,” said Erin Poor, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

“We are here to ask you to stand with us,” she said.

The area they want to protect is near Highway 77 and Pioneers Boulevard.  The land is next to Wilderness Park and too close, the protesters say, to sacred ground and one of the oldest sweat lodges.

One of the Native leaders told Channel 8 that they have reached out to a few lawyers who are experts in treaties.  They also said the Otoe-Missouria tribe is planning on coming here and is in conversations to see if this land could be made part of its sovereign land.

A person collecting signatures at city hall on a completely different topic found himself joining the movement.

“I could say I found my family out here, my national roots,” Nathaniel-Paul said. “I’m Cherokee and Sappony. Someone told me there is a march coming down here. I asked if I could join, and she said absolutely. I just felt like family, I just felt a part.”

Another protester brought his 6-year-old son to help strengthen his cultural ties.

“Kind of what we are all about is not only trying to get change for what is going on right now, but to educate and teach the next generation about why this is so important, and why we have to do this,” James Rivera said.

Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins came out to shake hands with protesters.

“We’ve been speaking to the tribe, or the group, and trying to really come to a resolution to this,” she said. “Today is a great day for them because they get to voice their concerns for what’s happening, but also, it’s everyone’s right, and so we are just here to facilitate that.”

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird was present for a moment of the walk.

Asked for comment, she referenced her earlier statement, which said in part:

“The City will continue to listen to community concerns, then use thoughtful zoning policies and the Comprehensive Plan to help neighbors find meaningful ways to live and grow together.”

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