Thursday, April 24, 2008

Update on Lakota - Dim Echos of the Ghost Dance

In December of 2007, I reported on a story in which the Oglala Sioux of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation had claimed that they were breaking their treaty with the government of the United States.

I have since been following this story looking for some sign of movement on either side (Sioux or US).

A summary of the background is that the Sioux announced a withdrawal from the Laramie Treaties, which are Supreme Law as defined by the Constitution Article VI, and announced that they wish to reestablish control and sovereignty of their land... as outlined in the map (notice that Lakota is a very large section of 5 US states. The Bureau of Indian Affairs ignored the declaration of continued independence, and stated that rogue Indians will be jailed. It was very much a scene out of 1880! The second installment, discussing International Attention, can be found HERE.

Little attention has been given to the situation as of late, but something very important happened: The US has given in... sort of.

The beginning of the end of the free Sioux was a Massacre at Wounded Knee. The new beginning of the Sioux is fueled by the echos of the Ghost Dance (a Sioux dance believed to help bring the Sioux lands back together entirely).

The fight of the Oglala (true) Sioux in the Pine Ridge Reservation with the US government has been over the systematic theft of Sioux lands over time, in violation of the Treaties between the US and the Sioux (which defined the above shown land as Sioux territory).

And though there has not been much fanfare, the United States has begun putting land back into the trust of the Sioux. There is a national park called the "Badlands" in the Dakotas, which was seized from the Sioux during the Great War period (first and second world wars) and used as munitions proving grounds. The Federal Government and departments in charge of the national parks has begun the process of returning the south badlands back to the Sioux.

It is hardly possible to determine the motive behind the United States' reasons for returning the land. The article in which I found the the story claims that it is a "funding" issue... but with a $3 Trillion federal budget, I doubt that funding has much to do with it. I am willing to bet that this was part of a "peace offering" between the Oglala Sioux (who are gaining the trust of the land) and the Federal Government. And it is being done quietly so as not to embarrass the US.

It’s an apparently unprecedented set of proposals that, at least symbolically, would represent a reversal of the centuries-old tradition of land grabs by the U.S. government [against native tribes].
This reunification of the Sioux land is a first step, and is an historic occasion. It is a far cry from the total return to Lakota, and it falls short of the return of the Black Hills (sacred Sioux Land, and home of Mt Rushmore) which is the goal of the Oglala activists.

The Sioux in the area of the reservations struggle with the United States highest suicide rates, dropout rates, alcoholism, and other symptoms of a broken society in extreme poverty. They have never truly seen themselves as part of the Western Society as the US developed around it, and have been plagued with extreme repression throughout history. As they begin the reunification of their lands, they are being trusted to take the steps to heal... heal within their society, and work with the US to begin to heal the broken heart of the Indian Nation.

The echoes of the Ghost Dance dimly roll through the South Dakota Badlands... but it is my hope that the echoes of the Ghost Dance will begin to be shared with the drumming sounds of the Sun Dance... a time of rebirth, renewal, and peace amongst all tribes of the earth.

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