LaDuke: Putting Our Minds Together
Monday, July 07 2014
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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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.

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