Canupa Gluha Mani speaks about Lakota Oyate, Lakota freedom

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's now been three weeks since the four-person Lakota Freedom Delegation declared that the Lakota people were withdrawing from their treaties with the United States and, though small, the movement still proves controversial: two U.S.-recognized Lakota tribal governments have rejected the Delegation's authority outright with at least one tribe stating it will consider the Delegation's, now Lakota Oyate's, proposal. The rest of the tribes have remained silent.

The central figure the movement has been Canupa Gluha Mani, a longtime activist whose tactics have led repeatedly to his arrest and imprisonment — most recently in June 2007, when Canupa Gluha Mani was one of six arrested who participated in blockading a road in Nebraska to keep outside alcohol from entering his dry reservation where it is banned. Wikinews talked to Canupa Gluha Mani about the movement and Lakota Oyate in an exclusive interview.

Canupa Gluha Mani (left) at the Lakota Freedom Delegation's December press conference in Washington. Russell Means is in the background.
Image: Naomi Archer.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Also called Duane Martin Sr, Canupa Gluha Mani prefers to be referred to as just that, "Canupa Gluha Mani"; it means "He walks as he protects the pipe", though much of the meaning is lost in translation between English and the delicately-nuanced Lakota language. Canupa Gluha Mani prefers to speak in this, his native tongue — he "hates" that the English language has become the everyday language of the Lakota, and decries the extinction of many indigenous American languages — but uses English fluently and earthily.

Canupa Gluha Mani talked about the Cante Tenza, the Strong Heart Warrior Society, which he heads and which forms the paramilitary force of Lakotah. The society, an okolakiciye or warrior society, originated in the Black Hills. He told the following story: Four warriors in the hills ran across a coyote and gave it chase. And as the coyote ran he turned into a Lakota man, and in his changing the man left four objects: a rattle, a drum, a lance, and a tomahawk with which the Lakota people could be defended. Canupa Gluha Mani is a warrior leader, and his position with relation to the treaty council which traditionally governs the Lakota is "whip-man", loosely "sergeant at arms" — that is, he enforces order and decorum when passions grow heated during tribal discussions.

The authority of the Lakota Freedom Delegation, he says, comes not from the BIA-recognized governments but rather from the "people who understand treaties", i.e. the treaty council, from among the Seven Sister Bands of the Lakota. This traditional government is based on the idea of "staying quiet and listening to the people who have answers", the "itacans" or expert headmen.

Canupa Gluha Mani also endorsed Naomi Archer, who has acted as Lakota Oyate's liaison; indeed, as the Lakota Freedom Delegation prepared its trip to Washington DC he called in Naomi Archer, who though of non-native extraction is his adopted sister and a fellow Cante Tenza member, to handle media support. "I support the understandings of what she's saying", he said, referring to a previous interview with Archer which revealed an apparent split between Russell Means and other members of the Lakota Freedom Delegation. "She as an individual has integrity." However, the previous interview missed nuances and the perceived gap between Lakota Oyate and Russell Means' Republic of Lakota is not so great. "There's no division here....it's communication, that's all. We can always get past this."

With regard to Russell Means, who has declared himself Chief Facilitator of the Republic of Lakotah, he said, "I've worked with my uncle Russell Means in positive venues. And I'm still behind him, I have love for him;" He emphasized the familial bond between himelf and Means, noting that Means had adopted him as a nephew. However, "the Lakota have to be recognized." It was "genocide", he said, that of all the races of humanity, American Indians are not represented at the United Nations.

On the subject of Lakota activist Alfred Bone Shirt, who organized the Lakota Oyate's first freedom celebration and information meeting on Saturday, 5 January but has since made comments attacking the legitimacy of Canupa Gluha Mani, Naomi Archer and Lakota Oyate, Canupa Gluha Mani had this to say. "I have nothing to do with Mr Bone Shirt, nothing against him". He also noted that Lakota Oyate had respected Bone Shirt's call to take down invitations for donations, but expressed a wish that Mr Bone Shirt would make the same call to any other website inviting donations to Lakotah.

The traditional decision making process within the Lakota, he said, was informal discussions among the women of the Lakota rather than pronouncements and declarations. Ideas like western forms of government — referencing the "Republic" — and the use of the English language were part of the reason for both the misunderstanding of the dispute between Russell Means and Canupa Gluha Mani and the Lakota's problems: "It's hard for Indian people to adapt to this modern lifestyle....It's white teaching that cause Indian problem....leave us alone....This country has not learned a thing about its own First Nations people."

US governing of Lakota has led directly to the economic and social decline of the Lakotah people, he argues. Canupa Gluha Mani noted that the life expectancy for Lakota men is only 44, and that alcohol and drug use are epidemic, as are infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. But revival of the Lakota has to be not just economic to improve the circumstances of the people, but cultural too: "Our language is at stake right now" but the US government-backed institutions like the Tribal Police are just "the second coming of the white man's cavalry".

Canupa Gluha Mani is on record as saying in a previous interview that "we'll probably get killed for" withdrawing from the United States. Now, he is tight-lipped on the future, and when asked about the possibility of a confrontation with the US will only say that "anything's plausible."

And if the United States government leaves the Lakota alone? "Then we can take our practices forward in good will." Canupa Gluha Mani, who is married to a woman of European descent, says that the traditional American Indian lifestyle can coexist with the western lifestyle, but "every wound has to heal". "We can be self-sufficient. We can govern ourselves." Having withdrawn from the outstanding treaties with the United States, will Lakota Oyate make a new arrangement with Washington? "That has yet to be exonerated." Lakotah continues to seek international recognition; although no country has declared recognition for Lakotah, he is "confident with the Bolivians" and also noted a positive response from the "Bulgarian freedom fighters" pressuring the US to recognize Lakota independence.

Canupa Gluha Mani then addressed the Lakota people directly. "What needs to get out there is, I love my people....This is your dream come true. That's what the symbolic meaning of Lakotah is. It's called freedom. Hoka hay."


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