Native Americans seek reparations in different forms: Part 1

From sovereignty to the official recognition and preservation of their ancestors’ land, Native Americans across the country talk to “Nightline” about what reparations mean for them.
13:19 | 09/23/20

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Transcript for Native Americans seek reparations in different forms: Part 1
We've all heard the stories of how America began with Christopher Columbus and the first Thanksgiving. Except that's not how American history actually started at all. More than 15,000 years before Americans ever saw this land, native-american indigenous people were spread out to each corner of this continent. In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon made the first contact with native-americans setting off land skirmishes that would land hundreds of years. During the 1800s, president Andrew Jackson decided to expand his vision of an anglo-american country, from sea to sea. A manifest destiny. Jackson authorized U.S. Troops to go on the attack. They force-marched natives out west in what we call the trail of tears. Over 4,000 cherokee Indians would die. Congress restricted native-americans to reservations. But even those lands were invaded. And the attacks would continue, even after native-americans got citizenship. That's right, native-americans were given citizenship in their own land. After natives bravely fought in World War II, the government finally decided to pay them most native-americans received somewhere between 100 dollars and $100,000 per person. Some experts say that money has not been properly managed. So where does that leave nearly 1,000 tribes of natives now? There's a spirit in the air here. Here at the far end of the trail of tears there was a promise. My great, great-grandmother walked towards that promise. Building a new life on new land. Growing up, I never thought of this as anything but home. But, as you grow older, you realize our connection to these trees and the grass out here, it was all so much bigger and more meaningful than we thought. It was ours. I'm principal chief David, and this is muskogee creek reservation. My name is Ty Dafoe. I'm from the tribal nations. I'm Karina Gould. And we are the original people of this land. Sometimes people don't stop to think that wherever you are in this country, you're on indigenous land. All the land that we are on now, all the land we call America, all the land that has allowed America to become this wealthy country that it is was I don't think there is a one size fits all for reparations for Indian tribes in the U.S. They are all unique and individual. Some people call this Columbus circle. I do not. Oftentimes, when people come here, they don't understand what Columbus has done to the native indigenous people. This statue represents murder. It represents rape. It needs to come down. it describes sense of being, and it also gives thanks to all living things, with gratitude and humbleness. It's a conversation you're having with the spirit world. I moved to New York City to be an artist. People are misinformed about what native people look like. How native people are supposed to look. There are native people on the subways. There are native people walking down the streets. Climate justice, now! Climate justice, now! Columbus, a symbol of genocide, of the oppression of indigenous peoples. A symbol like that is saying "We don't believe you." It's time for us to say no more! That is like big brother saying you do not exist. Our people have fought for generations, just to hang onto the land. There's going to be a people that are going to open their eyes and put pressure on the oppressors. Of North America. With land being stolen, language being wiped away, there was a silencing that was occurring. And it almost is strategic genocide. But what I think is important now is that our voices are heard. The indigenous people are continuously wiped away. We are at this point right now where people are in the streets, asking for the truth of history to be told. Right now we're inma looks like a parking lot to every day people. This is the west Berkley shell mound, and shell mounds for our people were burial sites, they were cemeteries. There's lots of different sites, even just in Oakland that are empty, lots that no one's taking care of. And the dream was to actually use those pieces of Folks like us, we don't have a land base, so we're homeless in our own lands. In our own territories. The United States government recognizes 574 Indian tribes. Only 300 have reservations, have land base. The trust gives us a way to take care of land and to reengage it in a sovereign kind of way, so that we can have ceremonial places, so that we can bring culture and song and dance back. I want my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren, the seven generations after them, to have what's needed on this land that has sustained us for thousands of years. Breaking moments ago. Key ruling from the supreme court today. A victory for native Americans. I was shocked. I'm still shocked that that actually happened. Finally, when it seemed impossible, a promise had been kept to our people. There are some folks who might think that treaties between our people and the United States expired. They never expire. I still get goosebumps, just thinking about that day. Because that was the day we got to celebrate. Just the one case today. Are you ready to head over? Okay, so since the supreme court ruling has come down, we are receiving numerous new cases. Another one from Tulsa county. This one is from muskogee. So we're getting them from all over. I've often said that the series of Indian treaties is like a folding napkin. This is your homeland now, but then a few years later the napkin gets folded, and the U.S. Comes to the tribes and says, you know what? You don't really need all that land. And it goes on and on until there is such little left. But what happened with the supreme court in the mcgirk case is that the original napkin that was promised to the tribe is now guaranteed again. So this is currently what is the reservation as upheld by the supreme court. However, that said, our history is very similar to the cherokee nation, to the choctaw nation, to the chickasaw nation and Seminole nation. It's notorrect when they say half of Oklahoma is Indian territory. It's not. Your jurisdiction stops with native-americans on the reservation. It hasn't really hit me yet. What's happened this year is part of history. I always consider myself living in two worlds. People still feel that Oklahoma is land of cowboys and Indians. This is the birthplace of the creek government, when it first started. Our constitution, article XVII raised all treaties shall be the supreme law of the land. And I'm hoping that the supreme court made their decision, this hopefully was based on this. People who doesn't realize that we are here, we are a nation. I am muskogee creek by blood and grew up in Oklahoma. The picture down there, there's me. I was but 3 years old, I guess. Lot of Indians and kids, they were dying. That's our great, great-grandmother that was on the trail of tears. Blisters and blisters from where they'd been walking. And they was bad, but they made it, walking. That's me up there. When I'm here by myself, I look around and see those pictures and it means a lot to me. But -- We have to protect what we fought so hard to keep.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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