Photo by Steve Northup.
Steve Northup, NF ’74, is a former staff photographer for United Press International, The Washington Post, and Time magazine. This photograph, taken in 1972, is currently on display at the University of Texas at Austin in the "Photojournalism and the American Presidency" exhibit.
The American Indian Movement had marched on Washington and gone to the Bureau of Indian Affairs building to seek redress from broken treaties. The meeting didn’t go well, and the Indians seized the building, chasing out bureaucrats, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, administrators, typists, guards, the whole lot. The building emptied, and the Indians took over. There was construction going on across the street on a State Department Annex, and the lads went there and collected lengths of steel-reinforcing bar to use as lances. Chair bottoms, once detached, served as shields. Mimeograph machines were taken up to the roof and placed on the parapets to further dissuade any storming of the building. The U.S. flag the fellow is wearing came down from the flagpole atop the roof of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
I was working in the Time bureau, just a few blocks away, and spent a lot of time on the scene. The pictures were made with a small bag of old Leicas, on film, seriously old time. The photographs won first prize in the White House News Photographer contest that year for the best black and white picture story.
The building was held for six days, then abandoned and left in a serious mess. My favorite graffiti was a quotation from Chief Red Cloud: "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."