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) for myself to make sure I know 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. If I like you I will warn you well beforehand.
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 publically. 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 Minn. 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.
Yeah 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!