Lakota Group Secedes from U.S.

By Bill Harlan, Rapid City Journal
Friday, December 21, 2007

Political activist Russell Means, a founder of the American Indian Movement, says he and other members of Lakota tribes have renounced treaties and are withdrawing from the United States.

“We are now a free country and independent of the United States of America,” Means said in a telephone interview. “This is all completely legal.”

Means said a Lakota delegation on Monday delivered a statement of “unilateral withdrawal” from the United States to the U.S. State Department in Washington.

The State Department did not respond. “That’ll take some time,” Means said.

Meanwhile, the delegation has delivered copies of the letter to the embassies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile and South Africa. “We’re asking for recognition,” Means said, adding that Ireland and East Timor are “very interested” in the declaration.

Other countries will get copies of the same declaration, which Means said also would be delivered to the United Nations and to state and county governments covered by treaties, including treaties signed in 1851 and 1868. “We’re willing to negotiate with any American political entity,” Means said.

The United States could face international pressure if it doesn’t agree to negotiate, Means said. “The United State of America is an outlaw nation, we now know. We’ve understood that as a people for 155 years.”

Means also said his group would file liens on property in parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming that were illegally homesteaded.

The Web site for the declaration, “Lakota Freedom,” briefly crashed Thursday as wire services picked up the story and the server was overwhelmed, Means said.

Delegation member Phyllis Young said in an online statement: “We are not trying to embarrass the United States. We are here to continue the struggle for our children and grandchildren.” Young was an organizer of Women of All Red Nations.

Other members of the delegation include Rapid City-area activist Duane Martin Sr. and Gary Rowland, a leader of the Chief Big Foot Riders.

Means said anyone could live in the Lakota Nation, tax free, as long as they renounced their U.S. citizenship. The nation would issue drivers licenses and passports, but each community would be independent. “It will be the epitome of individual liberty, with community control,” Means said.

To make his case, Means cited several articles of the U.S. Constitution, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a recent nonbinding U.N. resolution on the rights of indigenous people.

He thinks there will be international pressure. “If the U.S. violates the law, the whole world will know it,” Means said.

Means’ group is based in Porcupine on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

It is not an agency or branch of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Means ran unsuccessfully for president of the tribe in 2006.

Lakota tribes have long claimed that the U.S. government stole land guaranteed by treaties — especially in western South Dakota. “The Missouri River is ours, and so are the Black Hills,” Means said.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1980 awarded the tribes $122 million as compensation, but the court did not award land. The Lakota have refused the settlement. (As interest accrues, the unclaimed award is approaching $1 billion.)

In the late 1980s, then-Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey introduced legislation to return federal land to the tribes, and California millionaire Phil Stevens also tried to win support for a proposal to return the Black Hills to the Lakota.

By the way, be sure to read this powerful piece on the loss of cultural identity: “Powwow Suite.” You owe it to your soul.

Categories: First Nations, Politics, Social Justice | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Lakota Group Secedes from U.S.

  1. As an citizen of this country, as an American, I support this completely and applaud the effort regardless of the outcome.

    Cohabitation is not the same as assimilation. Far too much assimilation has taken place and far too much identity lost. Lost identity. Lost language. Lost land. Lost seeds. Lost rituals. Lost culture. Lost selves.

    May they regain all they can, all they lost, and stand as respected equals — the best they can be of who they are, not striving toward amorphism or an ambiguously defined version of what many Americans believe they should be.

  2. In response to this, I wrote Mr. Means, sent him my support, for what it is worth, and included some poems with permission for use in support as he sees fit and useful.

    I wrote, in part:

    May your people regain all you can, all you lost, and stand as respected equals — the best you can be of who you are, not striving toward amorphism or an ambiguously defined version of what many Americans believe you should be.

    I am new to this country. A second generation American, I am appreciative of the chances I have received, though can still remember being told by others I did not belong, being told I was not allowed here or there, being told by my family to fit in, assimilate, act like everyone else. What am I left with? A shallow sense of who I might have been. My children left to ask what we were and who they are.

    My family, half of it, was in Germany. The other half in Russia. My family tree looks as though a chainsaw was taken to it and two thirds lopped off in jagged anger. Land taken. Lives taken. Identities taken.

    And so, I can, in some ways, feel for what your people go through. But, I cannot imagine living with those who have done this to me. As you do. I cannot imagine seeing the land taken from me, knowing it is no longer mine. As you do. My reminders are in the past. Your’s are ever present.

    How can I help?

  3. Wonderful. Please let us know if you get any response from him.

  4. As ungermanely as possible: My esteemed father-in-law brought on holiday a dvd of ‘Beyond The Fringe’ and I thought if you hadn’t seen you would love :

  5. I am a HUGE fan of Beyond the Fringe. My favorite sketch of all time (I don’t see it on YouTube) has a group of people gathered on top of a mountain waiting for an apocalyptic wind. They do five minutes on the phrase, “Will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth,” and the audience is choking with laughter by the end of it.

  6. I think that is the ‘Secret Policeman’s Ball’ version with Rowan Atkinson: the BTF version is quite short and unassuming….

  7. indigobunting

    If I comment here, will my Sewa-designed avatar appear?

  8. Concrete Cow

    I have the episodes.

    You don’t.

    If you heard them, you’d wish you did.

    (Has this topic strayed a bit?)

  9. Serves me right for not posting anything new for so long.

    But I love the idea of an evil genius being named Mr. Tumnus, one of my favorite characters from the Narnia books.

  10. Looks like I’ll have to bring them on over.

    Along with a copy of Confederate States of America.

  11. indigobunting

    Seriously. It’s been, like, 2 months. I miss you.

  12. Nag, nag, nag.

    After a couple of months of illness, I’m just now starting to feel normal again. I imagine I’ll be able to squeak out something new pretty soon.

  13. indigobunting

    I hope so. I hadn’t realized that your illness had been so constant and lingering…

  14. indigobunting

    I’m still hankering for more on your big trip.

  15. owainfox

    Indeed sir, it is a long time coming.

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