Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crimes Against Humanity on US Soil?

Forget US government bail-outs, presidential appointments, scandalous Illinois politicians, the stock market, or US consumer indexes... just for a moment... and contemplate this thought: The United States has grossly failed in Native American Policies.

A fate which in America means worse than being a black slave of old, being a Native of America. It is an identity that, even today, draws the ire of most Americans. Indians, especially those living on the US concentration camps, called reservations, are labelled as drunks, people who need to be "Americanized", or who have otherwise been cast aside to be warehoused on the reservations. It is the great tragedy of US history - and of US current!

In late November, I reported on a declaration of emergency coming out of the Lakotah areas of SD, after the state's US government declared emergency for the entire state, but did not send aid to the most impoverished and most harshly affected areas of the state - the Lakotah Reservations, namely Pine Ridge. Similarly, others' reports of this internal call for aid resulted in relief to the area, and the accounting for many of the missing or stranded elderly Sioux. The lack of state response is another echo of failed policies with regards to the Native Peoples.

I had to ask myself the question - What is the root cause of the failed policies in the US with regards to the Native American people? So to start, I would like to propose a question to my readers - generically, how do you view native americans? I say generically, because when I say Indian or Native American, is your first thought a reservation Indian, an Indian in picturesque head-dress, rich with culture, or in poverty as a part of the anti-culture?

I view native people, and their culture, very favorably. Just as I believe that Europeans and other old-worlders are unique because they embrace their own regional cultures and traditions, Americans have a unique identity in the ability to embrace not just their European (or other) culture, but to also embrace the culture of the natives on whose land they now call their home. For instance, over the last 20 years, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest has seen a resurgence in embracing the cultures of the pacific coastal natives. It is celebrated in a culture that has become uniquely "northwest", and has opened a celebration of the once persecuted tribes, teaching history and culture to children - both on and off reservation. It has become a unique regional identity. Such an openness in the Northwest has allowed tribes to openly teach their traditions, culture, and language - doing so, for the first time since settlement, with pride and basic human dignity.

The same can largely be said for the Navajo - whose culture is openly embraced by locals and those throughout the region - most notably for their art and beautiful traditional jewelry.

Unfortunately, the embrace of the Native Cultures stops there... In fact, in regards to the Sioux, there is still a policy of racial persecution, extermination of culture and language, and the disregard for basic human dignity... the very definition of Crimes Against Humanity.
In public international law, a crime against humanity is an act of persecution or any large-scale atrocity against a body of people, and is the highest level of
criminal offense.

Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum states that crimes against humanity "are particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human
or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings.
They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government
policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy)
or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a
de facto authority
The Sioux were the main target/adversary of the US' "Indian War" in the plains - a policy of invasion, occupation, murder, and forced imprisonment aimed at exterminating the Indian Culture, and the Sioux resistance to foreign persons destroying their food source, stealing their rightfully owned precious metals and other natural resources, and directly violating treaties signed with the US (Laramie 1851, 1868). The Sioux fought the US because they had broken their treaties... The US fought for the idea of Manifest Destiny. Such acts are considered Crimes Against Humanity by the ICC:

For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the
following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack
directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political,
racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The
crime of apartheid;
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

Of course the common answer is that the Indians are free to live on or leave the reservations - and their poverty is of their own free will - therefore the Persecution is self imposed.

This is the very mindset that reinforces continued crimes against human dignity! And it is the thought of many or most Americans - as is reflected in our policies.

The very existence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is a teeter on the brink of Apartheid - considering the fact that Indian Nations are free and sovereign, but are regulated by the US government. It is an agency which disallows the ability for Native Tribes to encourage ownership and private property economic growth on the reservations - as lands are held "in trust" for the tribe... forced socialism, forced poverty for those on the reservation.

In UNITED STATES v. SIOUX NATION OF INDIANS, 448 U.S. 371 (1980), The SCOTUS determined that the US government had wrongly taken Sioux land through acts of Congress after the 1868 Laramie Treaty, and in violation of such treaty, demanding just compensation for the land taken under Amendment 5 of the US Constitution. The Sioux refused, and continue to refuse payment for the lands - demanding, instead, for the return of lands protected by the treaty with the United States - outlining a free and independent nation for the Sioux.

Under a Free and Independent nation, Sioux would be free to operate independently from US regulations and taxation (though they are currently free from taxation - businesses within Sioux Lands would be freed from US Corporate Taxes) creating tax havens similar to Switzerland, Private Property and land ownership would be regulated by the tribe and not held in "limbo trust" by the US government - this would allow entrepreneurship to take root, not limiting their ability to casinos and liquor. The opportunities are endless, and the Republic of Lakotah movement is working to advocate for the free market investment in such a free and independent nation, as promised by the treaties (and acknowledged by the courts).

Where some argue that reservations should be eradicated, land placed on the free market, and Indian assimilation finally be complete (Kevin Tracy), I argue that the US live up to the treaties, respecting the sovereignty of the Native peoples (especially the Sioux which have held to not accepting a dime of payment for their land, furthering the case that they hold in that their land was illegally taken) - in doing so, the United States would be ending a centuries old violation of crimes against humanity, and finally making good with the original inhabitants of this great land.

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