LaDuke: Putting Our Minds Together


I like that President Obama traveled

to see Sitting Bull’s people at the Standing Rock Reservation [in

June]. He is the third sitting president to visit a reservation.

After all, our ancestors signed treaties with your ancestors and

great nations should reaffirm these relationships for our common

good, as should we as people.

There were some strong words said by

many. Those words were in Lakota as well as English. Eyapaha Chase

Iron Eyes, of Standing Rock, had some very interesting things to say.

An attorney, as well as a traditional representative, Iron Eyes

talked with depth about many issues which are skirted in the media.

Iron Eyes talked about the l868 treaty, a treaty of peace between the

Lakota Nation and the U.S., which reserved large parts of the Dakotas

for the Lakota nation. The treaty has been violated, and the US

Courts have upheld that the land was illegally taken, with a huge

payment offered for the Lakota – now amounting to around a billion

dollars. It sits in the bank, because the Lakota still believe in the

treaty and their land.

“We have a Creator given right to

live, die and be buried in our sacred Black Hills,” Iron Eyes told

Obama, reflecting the continuing position of the Lakota people, that

the Black Hills needs to be returned and suggests, that” a

practical solution,” can be found. For instance, co-management,

transitioning to Lakota management of the millions of acres of

national and state parks in the Black Hills region would be a good

step. (Remember that Lakota and Mandans like Gerard Butler, former

superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Park and now supervisor at

the Badlands National Park, have some experience). And, also

remember, that the Lakota have thousands of years of management

experience in the area. “The U.S. did not give the Sioux nation any

rights,” Iron Eyes said, “We reserved to ourselves specific

rights. We never gave up the right to govern ourselves and to exist

under our spiritual instructions in our territory.”

The 1868 treaty also included the so

called “bad man clause” of Article One that states, “… If bad

men among the whites … shall commit any wrong upon the person or

property of the Indians, the United States will … proceed at once

to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the

laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for

the loss sustained … ” This clause is reflected in the recently

approved Violence Against Women Act (2013/ The law allowed the

prosecution of non Indian sex crimes perpetrators who commit these

crimes on the reservation. The treaty could also be applied to

polluters in Lakota territory, like those companies discharging

fracking fluid on the roadways.

The United States agrees that “(land)

… ,is, set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and

occupation of the Indians herein named … ” In turn, the Lakota ,

“ … withdraw all opposition to the construction of the railroads

… not attack any persons at home, or travelling, nor molest or

disturb any wagon trains, coaches, mules, or cattle belonging to the

people of the United States, or to persons friendly therewith … ”

The Lakota also agreed to, “ … never capture, or carry off from

the settlements, white women or children … ” Ironically, it turns

out the opposite is true, as the state of South Dakota, has removed

perhaps 10,000 Native children from Indian homes, despite the Indian

Child Welfare Act. In short, not abiding by agreements, has put us

all in a bad situation, morally and legally.

Iron Eyes talked about Obama hoping

that Native people can be part “… of the American Dream.” He

suggested, “We have our own America Dream that is different than

the consumption and procurement of material wealth … without regard

for Mother Earth and the resources which sustain us. It is the

original Indigenous dream. And we want you to be part of it … That

is if we recognize the common humanity that we share with every other

… being that shares a spiritual relationship with the cosmos.”

Iron Eyes talks about this economy to “ … provide food security

for our nations, national security and, renewable energy.” And, in

the larger sense, talks about “ There is enough to provide for all

of us. But not enough to provide for all of us in the global

consumerism and neo-classical economics.”

I think that there is some very good

wisdom on Standing Rock and that President Obama knew where to go to

hear something, perhaps a bit outside of the Washington paradigm. In

that, it reminds me of the words of one of the world’s greatest

military leaders and philosophers, Sitting Bull. He said, “Let us

put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our

children.” He was right.