Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rosebud Lakota Facing Many Challenges

Tribal leaders in the northern Great Plains said that actor and activist Russell Means has accurately portrayed the federal government's broken promises to America's indigenous peoples. But when Means and a group of fellow activists announced late in 2007 a Lakota withdrawal from all treaties with the U.S. government, they were not representing the Lakota and other Sioux tribes of the area, the leaders said.

Means and a delegation called the "Lakota Freedom Delegation" convened a press conference on Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C., where they declared the withdrawal and presented a 7-page document titled ''Lakotah Unilateral Withdrawal from All Agreements and Treaties with the United States of America'' to the State Department.

The President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Rodney Bordeaux (pictured above center), said Russell's group was not authorized to speak on the tribe's behalf: ''They're individuals acting on their own. They did not come to the Rosebud Sioux tribal council or our government in any way to get our support and we do not support what they've done.''

The Rosebud Sioux have around 25,000 enrolled members with between 15,000 and 20,000 people living on or near its 900,000 acres of trust land, Bordeaux said. The tribe's reservation once comprised 3.2 million acres, but the land was expropriated through the Homestead Act, the Allotment Act and other ''legal'' mechanisms that successfully robbed indigenous peoples of their lands.

Bordeaux said that ''Russell made some good points. All of the treaties have not been lived up to by the federal government, but the treaties are the basis for our relationship with the federal government and also the basis for the trust relationship to our lands. We're trying to recover the lands that were wrongfully taken from us, so we are going by the treaties. We need to uphold them."

"We do not support what Means and his group are doing and they don't have any support from any tribal government I know of. They don't speak for us.''

Means claims that his group has liberated the land and established the ''Republic of Lakotah,'' legally according to Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The republic is currently governed by a ''provisional government" which is negotiating with ''foreign investors'' to develop energy resources.

Means said, "There's enough wind coming from North and South Dakota to power electricity in every city in the U.S. forever; so, consequently, we are now in negotiations with investors who are going to want to immediately put up windmills and solar because the sun shines on the Lakota in the northern Plains over 300 days of the year."

Gary Garrison, Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesman, said that the group's withdraw from treaties with teh US Governement "doesn't mean anything" because "these are not legitimate tribal governments elected by the people. These are just groups who don't have a government-to-government relationship with the federal government." Garrison added "the group's claim to be acting according to the law is their interpretation."

Joseph Brings Plenty, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said, "What has been said by these individuals has been talked about from dinner table to dinner table since I was a young kid; but the thing is, these individuals are not representative of the nation I represent. I may agree, I may disagree, but they have not gone out and received the blessing of the people they say they are speaking for."

"Unless a person lived here, you couldn't see the day-to-day, the way we live and how our lifestyle has been lowered... The document they took referred to what the U.S. government has failed to do in the treaties. Our funds have been cut and it's been crisis management from year to year. There's always a justification as to why the funds and obligations of the treaties aren't being met. There's no justification from our tribes' point of view. Maybe not enough people understand what happened to our relatives,'' referring to David Stannard's 1992 book, "American Holocaust." Perhaps the actions of Means' group has at least served to raise awareness of the the Federal Government's betrayal of tribal peoples.

Source: Indian Country News

The people living on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota have seen a rash of teen suicides and attempted suicides in recent months. To read about that, go here.

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