Sovereignty is a powerful word. I believe it means more to Indian People than to anyone else in the United States. For my own refresher and further elucidation I looked up the precise meaning(s) to make sure I knew what the heck I’m writing about rather than thinking I already know and start yakking about it off the top of my head. So: sov-er-eign-ty noun 1. Supreme power or authority. A self-governing state. Okay den.
Speaking of my head I thought hey! I can use my own spirit/mind/body to describe how I understand and feel about the concept of sovereignty. My entire being is a Sovereign Nation. NO ONE tells me who/what to worship and how to do it. I have the right to an opinion on everything and I can say what I think and feel and it does not matter to me who chooses to be offended. NO ONE, especially old white men, has the privilege to legislate what I decide to do with my body. I do have to abide by some physical environmental constructs (that darn Matrix!) but no one, and I mean NO ONE has the power over me to say I can’t boogit when and where I please. It was in the early 1970’s that I first heard the word sovereignty in reference to American Indians. I was still a kid and I puzzled over it without any real comprehension as to its meaning.
A reservation was a place where a bunch of Indians lived; that much I knew and also that I had one but didn’t grow up there. I heard about ‘Indian Militants’ Wounded Knee and the American Indian Movement that all sounded kind of scary. All I wanted to do is the ‘butterfly’ dance at powwows and all I had was an ugly maxi-dress. Hai! I didn’t yet know how much my ancestors had fought for and sacrificed so that I could be here, just be here. Chii Miigwech Gichii Manidoog!
Ironically it was when we moved to the Big City that I learned the most about my own culture. It was there I met and interacted with kids from different Indian Nations, learned my first Ojibwe words and for the first time I can recall had my identity positively validated as an Indian girl publicly. I know I rant and rave about U.S. education and the blatant lies schools teach about Indians even now, but people, it’s one of the most important parts of our individual and collective lives and we need to understand that so we can continue as sovereign nations!!!
Historical fact: first the English and the French and later the United States negotiated treaties with Indians, nation-to-nation. Let that sink in. The whole of the North and South American continents were Indigenous lands. The European immigrants were violent, greedy and ruthless always wanting more land to exploit thinking we were too dumb to know what we had. Oh we knew but when facing annihilation and genocide our people had to sign treaties to survive but always made sure they retained the rights to hunt, fish and gather so that we, their descendants can continue our way of life.
Those who become educated and informed of American Indian Treaty Rights cannot be uneducated nor do they passively accept what the U.S. government or state says we can or cannot do on our own ancestral lands. Yes, we Indians have been savagely oppressed by whatever means necessary by the U.S. but that does not have to continue to be the situation. We need to fight for our children and theirs for a better life and set of circumstances.
Just now I was reading about Minnesota Chippewa Tribal members who are going to gather manoomin-wild rice in a ceded territory without purchasing a Minnesota State permit to exercise their 1855 treaty rights. The state has warned them they may prosecute and seize their manoomin and equipment. The people know that and are preparing for it but the crux of the matter is … sovereignty. There is a paternalistic lie so often repeated still that Indians were GIVEN our rights by the United States in the treaties. NO. The Chiefs’ who signed them, under great duress I add, RETAINED those rights for us.
eah I get all choked up when I hear about or witness all the historically oppressed peoples who take a stand for their humanity. They are not only refusing to be victimized any longer but putting themselves out there to be recognized. To them I say thank you and I honor your presence, integrity and courage.
See yooz in Shock-tober when I will reveal my Halloween costume…I’m thinking one of the Koch brothers. Ewwwww!!!! Demonic!