In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is often portrayed as an event dating from the 1620s when English colonists held a feast to thank their Native American allies for helping them start new lives in America.

But, from the perspective of many Native Americans, the holiday symbolises centuries of land seizure and the erosion of tribal cultures.

Today about 65 per cent of reservation land in the United States is owned by non-Indians, according to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Many Native-owned lands are fragmented into disjointed parcels, further disrupting tribal communities.

According to the organisation, these communities are still losing land to unfair sales by the U.S. government. The practice is permitted via legislation that allows federal authorities to remove land from Native American ownership and transfer it to federal trusts. Authorities can determine how much of the land will remain under tribal control, and then auction off the remaining parcels.

Native American activists say reservation land losses make it more difficult for tribes to maintain traditions, many of which are geographically-based and bound in their relationship to the environment. Land loss also results in lost economic and development opportunities.

Could Native Americans have their own country within U.S. borders?

In 2007, the Lakotah Freedom Delegation - a group of Native Americans led by activist Russell Means - declared sovereignty from the United States and proposed the founding of a new country known as the Republic of Lakotah.

The proposed nation would be based on territory demarcated by an 1851 land agreement made between the U.S. government and Lakotah tribal leaders. The Republic of Lakotah would cover a 200,000-square-kilometre space that is currently claimed by the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming.

The U.S. government does not recognise Lakotah or its representatives, stating that its leaders were not democratically-elected and that members are still subject to U.S. law. Lakotah would be a federation of semi-autonomous tribal groups, and governance would be based on an interpretation of a pre-European indigenous political format.

In this episode of The Stream, we speak to activist Russell Means, chief facilitator of the Republic of Lakotah, to discuss Native American land rights and the future of tribal cultures in the United States.

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These are some highlights of the conversation around the web: