It Ain't Easy Being Indian: September 2015


riceywild-web.jpgSovereignty 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!