|Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I like that President Obama traveled
to see Sitting Bulls 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
for Mother Earth and the resources which sustain us. It is the
original Indigenous dream. And we want you to be part of it
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 worlds 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.