This is the fourth part of my review of Stephen Lendman’s article about Russell Means’ re-proclamation of the “Republic of Lakota.”
As I was writing this, the unexpected (though not surprising) occurred: Russell Means (Oyate Wacinyapin) died at age 72 near Porcupine, Oglala Sioux Tribe (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota) early this morning, from the cancer he said he had overcome. That makes this “re-proclamation” virtually his last public act.
It is Lakota tradition not to speak ill of the dead, and I shall not do so in this article. I shall, however, judge his ideas and his claims with righteousness and honesty, and call a spade a spade. As I pointed out in the first three parts of this review, I do not know (though I may suspect) whether the words are Lendman’s or Means’ but shall point out, to the best of my ability, the truth.
In Parts 1 and 2 , I looked at a recent article by Stephen Lendman. Part 3 mostly reviewed eight broad categories of claims made concerning conditions of the Lakota nations and other AmerInd nations today. As I pointed out, while there is some substance to many of these, their advocacy is damaged by the outright lies and more subtle exaggerations which the article (and many others) is filled with. Again, Lendman’s words are in plain text, and my comments are in italics.
“Lakotan struggle began with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. They call it “fantasy” US history. France sold America 530 million Native land acres for $15 million. Lakotans owned part of it. They and other Native people weren’t consulted.”
Actually, the Lakota “struggle” began many, MANY years before that. (That is the subject for another article.) But the trials and tribulations of ALL the Akhota peoples were well-advanced LONG before there was a United States of America, or before any but a few hardy adventurers had ventured beyond the Atlantic Seaboard. As for who owned French Louisiana, THAT is a matter of some confusion. For example, it was French (government) explorers who “found” the Black Hills first, in 1742; but the Oglala did not even reach the Missouri River (from the East) until 1760. The Lakota did not “discover” the Black Hills until 1765, when Bull Bear raided the Cheyenne, Sutaio, and Kiowa who lived in, and claimed, the Black Hills and the sea of grass around it. They would not “own” them until they conquered and drove out these other tribes more than a decade later.
“They’ve been systematically ignored and violated. From 1778 – 1871, Washington negotiated 372 treaties. Their provisions were systematically spurned.”
That is what governments DO, people: they write and break treaties. Of course, the Lakota ancestors did a fair amount of treaty breaking themselves, but I admit that they are pikers compared to the Federal Government. Whether it was “systemic” or merely opportunistic is a matter of debate.
“America’s winning the West involved invading, encroaching, stealing, and occupying their lands. That’s how imperialism works. It’s the same everywhere.”
That is true – but it is NOT just “imperialism” – it is the history of humankind, from Nimrod through Cyrus and Alexander and Augustus and Mohammed and all the rest. But for every “name” there are ten thousand nameless invaders and encroachers and stealer and occupiers who were NOT “imperialists” but the usual tribesmen and adventurers and ne’er-do-wells and such. The color of their skin is irrelevant: yellow-skinned Nipponese and sons of the Middle Kingdom, black Zulus and Tutsis and swarthy Arabs and Turks and Spaniards and blonde or redheaded pale-skinned Celts and Norse and more: few of whom carried the flags of “imperial” rulers and more often than not brought DOWN empires. They cannot paint America being so blackened in this matter, when EVERY people has done this: including many of the nations and tribes of AmerInd or “Native Americans” – including the so-called Inca, the Aztec, the Anasazi, the Iroquois Leaque, and the great tribes of the Southeast (such as the Creek and Caddo Confederacies). Indeed, it is likely one or both of those (the Iroquois and Creek) may have been the reason that the Ahkota people started moving to the northwest in the 1400 or 1500s, well before Anglo-European pressures were present.
“Throughout the 19th century (and earlier), Washington engaged in military, legal, and political battles against Native Peoples. Their rights were contemptuously denied. They were displaced and exterminated. That’s how today’s America was created.”
Hmm. This is amusing, since Washington DC did not become the capital of the United States until 1800. Although there were a few battles between the young nation and the various AmerInd nations east of the Mississippi between 1776 (also the year that the Lakota finally defeated the Cheyenne and their allies and stole the Black Hills from them), most were a direct result of alliances between various tribes and the Americans and British and Spanish (plus a few holdovers from the French). It is, as I’ve already pointed out, a common situation in history: look at the Welsh, the Highlanders, the various tribes of Eire (Ireland), the Basque, the many lost tribes of modern Switzerland and the Balkans, the Maori and Abos, and the Canaanites, among others. By the way, it is impossible to count the treaties broken over the centuries.
There is no need or time to go through all of these treaties – suffice to say it was a travesty of diplomacy, not the least of which was that the United States created bogus “governments” to even have someone to “negotiate” and sign the treaties with. The same can be said of the so-called laws – the various Acts of Congress which ignored the Constitution, basic fundamentals of liberty, and simple dignity.
“The 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie was systematically violated. So were provisions of all other treaties. From 1866 – 1868, Washington let the Bozeman trail go through the ‘Heart of the Lakota Nation.’”
“It was a short cut to Montana’s gold fields. Military forts were built on stolen land along its route. Doing so violated 1851 treaty provisions. Battles ensued. Washington negotiated peace. The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty followed. Native People thought they won. Victory was pyrrhic and illusory.”
“The Supreme Court’s 1883 ex parte Crow Dog decision made no difference. The Court recognized Lakotah freedom and independence. It ruled that tribes held exclusive jurisdiction over their internal affairs. It didn’t matter.”
“The transcontinental railroad facilitated development, land and resource theft.”
“In 1885, Congress passed the Major Crimes Act. It extended US jurisdiction into Lakota territory. The same year, the last of the great buffalo herds were exterminated. At one time, they numbered 60 million. Native People relied on them for food.”
“In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act (the Dawes Act). It ended communal ownership of reservation lands. It distributed 160-acre “allotments” to individual Indians. Tribes lost millions of acres. Wealthy ranchers exploit them today.”
Quite a joke, that – “wealthy ranchers” by whose standards? Most American ranchers and farmers in the former Lakota lands – indeed, ALL of Russell Means’ Republic of Lakotah, are nearly as much on a reservation and with as little – indeed, LESS – liberty as their AmerInd neighbors and friends. Yes, there are some wealthy ranchers – just as there are some wealthy Lakota. (And sometimes they are the same people.)
“In 1888, Congress began prohibiting Indian Spiritual and Prayer Ceremonies. It was part of destroying Native culture. In 1891, a Commissioner of Indian Affairs was authorized. It was to assure Native People obeyed white man’s laws.”
More bogus history. While it may have had something to do with “obeying white-man’s laws,” the first Commissioner of Indian Affairs was actually appointed in 1832 – 59 years earlier. And the first AmerInd to be appointed commissioner was Ely Parker in 1869. (Ely was an engineer, a Seneca veteran of the War Between the States and a brigadier general in the Union Army. He was also an officer in the 2nd US Cavalry during the Indian Wars; and he married a Sackett. History is strange. Obviously, this little bit of information does not support the contentions of either Lendman or Means. I could not find any record of a Congressional ban on ceremonies in 1888, however; but it was about the same time that Congress once again prohibited Utah from statehood until the LDS Church (theoretically NOTHING to do with state government – wall of separation and all ) banned polygamy. “Native culture” wasn’t the only one being destroyed. (Oh, and by the way, Comanche chief Quanah Parker (a half-breed) continued to have at least five wives until his death in 1911 – long after Congress had forced the “Mormons” to give up plural wives – whose culture was being destroyed when?)
“Many more abuses followed. In Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903), the Supreme Court extralegally recognized near absolute plenary congressional power over Indian affairs.”
“It let US authorities steal tribal lands and resources freely. They did so on the pretext of fulfilling federal responsibilities.”
“Doing so abrogated fundamental indigenous rights unilaterally. The ruling was used to violate hundreds of treaties. Like other Native Peoples, Lakotans were grievously harmed.”
“Their sacred Black Hills were stolen. So were valued resources on them. Lakotans want back what’s rightfully theirs. Their ancestors thought the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty granted them victory. They were wrong.”
“Yet in 1904, even after Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, some believed the Treaty was ‘the only instance in the history of the United States where the government has gone to war and afterwards negotiated a peace conceding everything demanded by the enemy and exacting nothing in return.’”
“Until the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, Native People got what no one had the right to deny them in the first place. In fact, rights afforded them nominally never existed in fact.”
Again, this is only part of the tale. There are many (like Ely Parker and Stand Watie and Quanah Parker (no relation to Ely) and tens of thousands who DID vote and own property and exercise all the other rights of American citizens. But to do so, they gave up the bribes and all the rest that Congress so “generously” bestowed on them in treaties and laws. Unlike too many, who allowed themselves to be cozened into selling their liberty. The 1924 Act is one of several early acts creating so-called “group” rights instead of individual rights. (By the way, it should also be pointed out that the FIRST “Native American” US Representative and Senator, Charles Curtis of Kansas (Kaw, Osage and Pottawatomie) was first elected to Congress in 1892 (and five more times), and was then elected at least three times to the Senate from Kansas BEFORE this 1924 act passed. But perhaps that helped him get elected as Vice President of the United States in 1928.
“The entire history of Native People in America reflects horrific struggles lost. From 1492 to today, they experienced promises made and broken. Disenfranchized [sic] people remain. Most are bereft of hope.”
To be expected, when they put their hope in government. At the same time, millions more are NOT enrolled (or don’t bother to tell people that they are) and able to live normal lives, fighting for their liberty along with the rest of us. It is those trapped on reservations or in Indian communities in the big urban areas (little more than extensions of reservations, whether we are talking Rapid City or Pierre or Minneapolis-Saint Paul or Denver or Los Angeles) that are MORE disenfranchised than the other 300 million of us. And we have ALL experienced horrific losses and broken promises: not just AmerInd or blacks or Asians but Southerners and Westerners and the sons and daughters of Volga Germans and Danes and Scots and more.
“On reservations or assimilated, they’re out of sight and mind. Once they lived peacefully on their own land. White settlers changed things. Western civilization destroyed their way of life. There’s nothing civilized about it.”
Now we are back in “Lo, the poor Indian” maudlin weeping. For most (not all, by any means, but especially for all the Ahkota and virtually all the Plains and most of the nomadic Southwestern tribes: Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Shoshone, Comanche, all the Apache, Kiowa, and many more, WARFARE was THE essential part of life: there was no “lived peacefully on their own land.” Centuries, if not millennia, of warfare, of fighting over hunting land and then grazing land, water, cropland, sacred lands, sources of stone and metal, are the heritage of AmerInd, as they are of Scots and Irish and English and German and Vietnamese and African Americans. White settlers changed a lot, but they did not introduce warfare to a peaceful and loving people. As for civilization – well, that too is what civilizations do: they destroy other cultures: the Romans destroyed Carthage – and its civilization. They destroyed Syria and Egypt and THEIR civilizations. They destroyed the Celts and the British and the proto-civilizations of Britain and Gaul and Iberia. Just as the Maya and the Aztec destroyed the tribes (nations) of most of MesoAmerica and their civilizations, and Chinese and Japanese did to Koreans and Taiwanese and Vietnamese, and Mongols and Muslims did the nations and civilizations of India. This is NOT new and NOT unique, however wrong it may be.
“They’re either ignored, mocked, or demonized in films and society. They’re called drunks, beasts, primitives, and savages. America always was a white supremacist society.”
Are we not here talking about the Media? Hollywood? Are they less to blame than Congress? Means has been part of THIS little niche of “civilization” for decades. But again, AmerInd are not alone: we can add MANY various groups of Americans and others who have been subject to this sort of thing – and MANY of them were predominantly or completely white: Southerners, German-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, LDS (Mormons), and on and on and on. America is a “supremist” society, but color is just one way of keeping count.
“Rich powerful elites run it. Native People and most others don’t matter. They’re systematically used and abused. They’re not served. It’s the American way.”
Aha! At last “most others” are mentioned. If we are to beat on America, we must then beat on the rest of the world even more. Can you name ONE NATION on this planet where there is not strong evidence that “rich powerful elites” are in charge? Where too many people, whether they are nine-year-old girls or two-month-old babies or eighty-year-old elders, are NOT used and abused?
Thus ends Lindman’s tirade, but I am not yet done with my rant.
Russell proposes a solution that history has shown is NOT a solution: to create another government, a government built on the same lies as the government it is seceding from. (Lies such as “treaty rights” and “group rights” and “the world owes me a living.”) He wants to do what a hundred different countries in Africa and Latin America did: throw off their “colonial oppressors” in favor of “homegrown” oppressors. Because Lakota land was once stolen, he thinks that the Creator has given him a right to steal the land of other people. Because Lakota were (and are) abused and neglected and mistreated and used, he figures that it is someone else’s turn to be abused: the 95% Non-Lakota and the 90% Non-AmerInd of his would-be Republic.
Lendman wants America’s evil to go away, and I think he may understand that when that happens, America’s good will ALSO go away. Too many nations have little BUT evil, and their good (which I shall presume to assume that all have something of) is not even close to balancing the evil. Even in the blood-soaked history of the United States, there was a lot of good. Compare it to the final defeat of Carthage, the subjugation of New Spain, conquest of the Russian steppes, or even the pacification of Ireland to see that the process and results could have been much worse. Consider the Final Solution of the 1940s or the Ugandan experiments of the 1970s. Or the Balkans of the 1990s. For that matter, consider the Modoc or the Seminole or the California coastal tribes as compared to the Lakota for examples of even more evil outcomes.
The Republic of Lakotah is stillborn. The only hope for such a nation is found in the complete collapse of the United States AND anything resembling a major power in the rest of the world, for otherwise, the Lakota are likely to exchange one elite for another – and one not constrained by “treaty rights.” Perhaps in a sufficiently protracted war between the states or civil war something (much MUCH smaller than Means’ dream) might find a niche, but Pine Ridge and Rosebud are neither the Alps nor the mountains of Ararat or the Himalayas. Indeed, they are better tank country than the North European Plain. And by even raising a peaceful flag of rebellion, Means may have sealed the death warrant for his people, by making it expedient to ensure that they do NOT try to rebel against whichever faction in the civil war holds the territory and surrounding area.
Sadly, Lendman and Means seem to belong to that group of people who are so smitten with the magic of words and legal actions that they believe someone will just roll over and play dead. Just as those who know that just the right words will save them from ever paying income tax, or get real silver for paper money at face value, or get rid of lawyers, they keep on coming up with more ideas that just don’t work.
It is really so much more simple than Lendman or Means imply. Liberty requires that those who enjoy it or want it must be able to defend themselves and their liberties, on an individual basis, in voluntary cooperation with others – not because they are all members of the same tribe by ancestry, or because they have the same skin color (not that THAT is an issue any more for any of the Lakota nations) or because their ancestors were slaves (or slavers) or spoke the same language. Liberty is given of God, but He expects man to defend it and take it back when it is stolen. But that defense has to be done in the right way, with honor and truth, and not with lies, taking freedom away from someone else. In that, perhaps, Russell Means has been most cruelly betrayed by that Western Civilization that he and Lendman so despise and condemn, because that is the false liberty of ancient Greece and Rome: that SOME people must be slaves so that others can be free.
It is time to look ahead to individual liberty and freedom and justice for all because we ARE free. I have no doubt that one day there may be a REAL “Republic of Lakota” (or better yet, “Oyate Wolakota Lakota” – United Lakota Nation) with little or no government except that of voluntary cooperation between free people regardless of heritage or any other characteristics – but it will come from people working together for liberty and not because some would-be messiahs claim that they represent the ancestors or anyone else with the intent of lording it over others and paying back past misdeeds.