'No treaty withdrawal', says Lakota elder

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Saturday, January 12, 2008 File:Lakota Freedom Delegation conference 1.jpg

The Lakota Freedom Delegation announcing their withdrawal on December 19.
Image: Naomi Archer.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The Lakota Freedom Delegation, which in December declared that the Lakota people were withdrawing from their treaties with the United States and reasserting their sovereignty as an independent state, is acting without the support of the Treaty Council, the traditional government of the Lakota, Wikinews has learned.

Wikinews spoke with Floyd Looks-For-Buffalo Hand, an Oglala Lakota Treaty Delegate and Elder, also an author and a spiritual leader in the indigenous Lakota religion, and who is also blood uncle to Lakota Freedom Delegation member Canupa Gluha Mani.

The Lakota Freedom Delegation has claimed that, while the BIA-recognized tribal governments of the Lakota have not supported them, the Lakota Freedom Delegation's authority extends from support by the Treaty Council of the Elders of Lakota as well as from the 1974 International Indian Treaty Council.

"There was no treaty withdrawal. It was three people."

"Russell Means and Duane Martin [Canupa Gluha Mani] and that lady [Phyllis Young], they do not speak for the nation. You've got to have consensus" among the eight tribes of the Lakota, he said, which the Lakota Freedom Delegation has not obtained. Mr. Hand stated that he was speaking as a tribal delegate with the consensus of the Oglala Treaty Delegation and his chief, Oliver Red Cloud.

The Lakota independence movement claims large portions of the Great Plains region of the United States

Hand furthermore called the treaty withdrawal event a "publicity stunt" and that furthermore the 1974 meeting was not authorization to act on behalf of the Lakota people. While Means, Canupa Gluha Mani, and the rest of the delegation "have free speech" and can do as they wish, he said, the Elders of Lakota "stated that they should remove themselves from treaty territory," that is, the Reservations inhabited by the Lakota. But "they're still living here" (Canupa Gluha Mani has been residing in Asheville, North Carolina since the treaty withdrawal press conference on December 19).

When asked if the above decisions represented the consensus of the whole Treaty Council, Hand stated, "we all do the same because we're all fullbloods. We all speak our own language."

Hand went on to explain, though, that the Treaty Council was planning to reconsider the Lakota's arrangement with the United States government. The Treaty Council of all eight Lakota tribes, which will meet on 28–30 January 2008, will consider whether to "sit down to negotiate" with the federal government. Members of the Lakota Freedom Delegation are expected to take part in that meeting. European-Americans, Hand said, are "not honoring" the 1851 and 1868 treaties which connected the Lakota to the United States, and noted that the Lakota were the only people to "conquer" the United States during the Indian Wars of the 19th century.

The arrangement with the United States, which he called a "contract", "handcuffs us through the federal programs". On their own, Hand said, "if we rely on a sovereign nation as a nation, relating to other nations with our economic development I think we can survive." Hand noted that one possibility under consideration was asserting the right to negotiate independently of the US government with foreign powers in areas such as airport access rights. The Lakota, he said, would charge foreign airlines half what the United States charges to make use of airports on Lakota soil. "We can be well off," he argued.

In another contradiction of the Lakota Freedom Delegation's program, Hand said that the Treaty Delegations "don't want technology on our reservation". One of his concerns was environmentalism. People of European descent are "taking too much out of Mother Earth", he said, making reference to ongoing environmental effects of uranium mining which has long been a contentious issue on the Lakota reservations. The Treaty Delegation's goal, he said, is "preserving the land and animals and letting the water remain free."

However, one of the plans of the Lakota Freedom Delegation is to install renewable energy technology on tribal land, such as solar and wind farms. This follows projects in the past, whereby wind turbines were erected on the Rosebud Reservation. Such projects would lessen dependence on foreign energy sources, as well as coincide with the Lakota's traditional respect for the environment.

Hand also expressed hope for ethnic solidarity among the non-European peoples of the world. "All the people of color in this world will go for unity and understanding and peace" if they overthrow the Europeans and establish their own governments, he said.

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