Friday :: Dec 21, 2007

About that Lakota secession...


by Turkana

Google the words "Lakota" and "secede," and watch the fun. It's an exercise in hysteria.

The story was first reported yesterday morning. The best version I've seen is an Agence France-Presse report, on the News Australia website.

THE Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the US.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,'' long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department and said they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the Federal Government, some of them more than 150 years old.

The group also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and said they would continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas.

The article mentions visits to foreign embassies, declarations that old treaties with the U.S. are invalid, and the intention to issue passports and drivers' licenses, and to live tax-free. It sounds radical and exciting, and the perfect response to the Bush Administration's having made the United States an international pariah. In other words, lots of people are going to want to impute great significance to this declaration. There's just one little problem.

Russell Means is a legendary activist. That's a given. That's also why many people seem to think this means more than it does. What they should be asking themselves is this: whom does Russell Means represent? By what authority are he and his fellow activists declaring independence. Because this is where we get back to reality.

As former American Indian Movement activist Meteor Blades explained:

It's mostly about Russell Means ...

...doing something without tribal authority or more than minuscule support from the Lakota people. Not that the complaints aren't real enough. But this kind of action, by tradition, can only be taken with consent of the tribe. That has been the underlying foundation of legal action by the Lakotas since the first lawsuit was filed in 1921. Without consent, Means is no different that the "chiefs" who signed treaties in the 1850s and '60s without the OK of their people.

Ah, there's the rub. Tribal authority. Which Means doesn't have.

Meteor Blades also provides this link, to Suzan Shown Harjo's Mantle of Shame, in Indian Country:

Russell Means - for his mid-December announcement in D.C. that he is unilaterally withdrawing the Lakota Sioux from treaties with the United States. News flash to Means: treaties are made between nations; you are a person and not a nation; you are not empowered to speak for the Great Sioux Nation; as an individual, you can only withdraw yourself from coverage of your nation's treaties. (Means is the same Oglala Sioux actor who tried to beat domestic violence charges by challenging the sovereign authority of the Navajo Nation to prosecute him - he took it all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.)

So, just because something sounds like what we want something to sound like, let's not automatically assume that it actually means what we want it to mean. Russell Means has no more right to declare independence for the Lakota than I do for Oregon or California.

Turkana :: 4:40 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!