Archives For Lakota

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

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  • Climate Progress reports on efforts by an alliance of Native American nations, activists, and environmental groups, to stop the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Lakota land. Quote: “In the wake of the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statementfor the Keystone XL pipeline which sparked nearly 300 protest vigils across the country, a group of Native American communities have added their voices to the calls to reject Keystone XL. In a joint statement — No Keystone XL pipeline will cross Lakota lands — Honor the Earth, the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred announced their intention to peacefully resist the construction of the pipeline slated to cut through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.” You can read the full statement, here.
  • Amnesty International has released a statement saying “after 38 years time to release indigenous leader Leonard Peltier.” Quote: “It is time for the USA authorities to release Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Native American and leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), who has been imprisoned for 38 years despite serious concerns about the fairness of proceedings leading to his conviction. Leonard Peltier was arrested 38 years ago today in connection with the murders of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, during a confrontation involving AIM members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in June 1975. While he admits to having been present during the incident, Leonard Peltier, who in 1977 was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murders, has always denied killing the agents as alleged by the prosecution at his trial.”
  • A woman charged with the sexual abuse of children allegedly tried to silence victims by saying she was a witch, and that she would utilize spells against them if they talked. Quote: “Shocking is perhaps the best word to describe the allegations against Jessica Smith. But perhaps it also best describes her self-proclaimed job title. “Ms. Smith led the children to believe that she was a witch, a practicing witch. [She]would place hexes or spells on the children if they revealed any of the facts that had happened,” Richmond said. “Of course, these children are young and they believed her. As if what [the victims] witnessed at that point wasn’t enough, now they think someone is going to cast a spell on them.” There’s no confirmation of whether she actually adhered to some form of religious witchcraft, or if it was merely a ruse.
  • “Conscience” laws are redundant, and largely politically motivated, and even lawmakers in South Dakota realize that. Quote: “As Americans United has pointed out several times, the First Amendment already protects members of clergy from being compelled to officiate at marriage ceremonies. Why can’t a same-sex couple demand a church wedding? For the same reason that a Protestant couple can’t just walk into a Roman Catholic church and demand that the priest marry them. Members of the clergy have an absolute right to determine the parameters for the sacraments they offer. If a couple doesn’t meet those criteria, the pastor is free to show them the door.”
  • Religion Clause reports that a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in State v. Armitage says Native Hawaiians are not infringed on by making them obtain a permit to enter an island reserve. Quote: “The Hawaii Supreme Court held that the rights of Native Hawaiians are not infringed by a statute limiting entry into the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve only to those who obtain authorization to do so through a written application process.  Defendants claim they were traveling to the island to proclaim the right of the “Reinstated Kingdom of Hawaii” to the island. The court rejected defendants’ arguments that their entry was protected by the Art. XII, Sec. 7 of the Hawaii Constitution which protects the right to engage in traditional and customary Native Hawaiian subsistence, cultural and religious practices.”
A young man wears a blindfold in an initiation ritual. (Jan Sochor – GlobalPost)

A young man wears a blindfold in an initiation ritual. (Jan Sochor – GlobalPost)

  • Global Post has a photoset up focusing on Palo in Cuba. Quote: “The cultures of Cuba’s many African descendants run deep across the island. They blend with the country’s traditional Roman Catholic practices to create vibrant mixtures. Photographer Jan Sochor captures the ritual scenes here in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, in particular capturing Palo rituals. A religious practice often confused with Yoruba religion (Santeria), but distinguished by more underground practices and initiations.”
  • Is cultural Christianity dead? That’s what  R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary asserts. Quote: “There was in the center of the country — and I don’t mean that geographically, but culturally — a cultural religiosity that was, in the main, a cultural Christianity that trended in one direction for the better part of 60 to 70 years, and it had a kind of moral authority that is disappearing before our eyes.” 
  • Don’t be a jerk, don’t deface ancient rock formations. Quote: “Prosecutors have filed charges against two former Boy Scout leaders accused of toppling one of the ancient rock formations at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. State Parks officials say Glenn Taylor is charged with criminal mischief. David Hall is charged with aiding criminal mischief, another felony.”
  • Early Americans really didn’t like the Quakers much. Quote: “Known today for their pacifist and quietist ways, Quakers had an altogether different reputation in the seventeenth century: belligerent and boisterous rabble-rousers. Fueled by evangelical zeal, and asserting radical ideas for the time, the Quakers were aggressive proselytizers. As a result, they faced violent persecution in England and, to a lesser extent, in the Netherlands, where many migrated. News of their beliefs (e.g. equality for women, refusal to swear oaths, etc.) and their tactics (e.g. preaching loudly and publicly, disrupting worship services, etc.) reached the colonies before the Quakers did. Connecticut, in fact, banned Quakers in October 1656—prior to any Quakers having ever reached the colony.”
  • What’s it like being a Pagan at Penn? Pretty lonely, it seems. Quote: “Deidre Marsh, a College senior, founded Penn Wheel a semester ago in order to build a community for earth-based religions and paganism. But even in a school of over 10,000 undergraduates, Marsh has been unable to find anyone else who shares her religious beliefs.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

  • Noted early-music performer Owain Phyfe, a long-time fixture on the Renaissance Faire circuit, science fiction conventions, and Pagan festivals like Pagan Spirit Gathering, passed away this week from pancreatic cancer. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who knew Owain, had this to say about the musician: “Thank you, Owain, for good times, friendship, & carrying on the bardic tradition with old & new songs & stories! Thank you for being part of the Pagan Spirit Gathering & Green Spirit Festival! Blessings of our Welsh ancestor Owain Glyndwr, upon you as you make your way in Annwn, the Otherworld!” You can find out more about Owain at his Wikipedia page, or this article from Renaissance Magazine. What is remembered lives.
  • How do you stop a witch-hunt from happening? In rural India, groups of women who met through micro-loan programs are banding together in solidarity to resist the hysteria that can come with an accusation of witchcraft, and have met with some success. Quote: “In one case, a woman was accused of causing disease in livestock and an attack was planned. Members of the self-help groups gathered in a vigil around the woman’s home and surrounded the accuser’s home as well, stating their case to the accuser’s wife. Eventually the wife intervened and her husband recanted and ‘begged for forgiveness.'” So how do stop witch-hunts? Empowering women seems an important first step.
  • Brian Pulliam, a racist skinhead who has been arrested in connection with a double homicide, is receiving scrutiny for his Asatru faith, which he believes requires him to drink alcohol. The story has prompted a representative of the local Asatru community in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area to speak up and clarify their beliefs, distancing themselves from Pulliam. Quote: “…his claims that Asatru requires him to consume mead for various holidays during the year are baseless. While many of us choose to drink mead or other alcoholic beverages during our celebrations, there is absolutely no requirement to do so. People whose medications won’t allow them to drink alcohol, those who are underage, and active service members in the Middle East, to name just a few examples, are capable of fully celebrating without mead.” The author, Sorn Skald, also noted that Pulliam’s racism would not be welcome in the group with which he worships.
  • The Vancouver Sun has more on the unfolding controversy over Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ move to stop the issuing of new contracts for minority-faith chaplains, including a Wiccan chaplain, because he’s “not convinced” that it is needed. Quote: “For the past six years, Wiccan priestess Kate Hansen has been visiting federal inmates across British Columbia who follow the pagan religion, guiding them in meditation and leading them in prayerful chants [...] “If they choose to scrap this, they’re denying the rights of all of these people – their access to spiritual advisement of the religion of their choice,” Hansen told Postmedia News.” For more on this situation, read my post from yesterday, and be sure to check out the comments section, which features input from a Canadian Pagan prison chaplain.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Happy Sunday! Here are few quick updates on stories that I’ve covered here previously at The Wild Hunt.

Sacred Land Sale Stopped: A week ago I reported on Lakota, Dakota and Nakota efforts to purchase the land known as Pe’ Sla, an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota, that was being sold by its owners. This was no ordinary piece of land, as one Native commentator put it:Its grounds are holy. It is our Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is our Mecca. Pe’ Sla is our wailing wall, where we are meant to pray.”  However, after a flurry of media scrutiny, and an urging for consultations from the United Nations, the land was withdrawn from auction with no comment or reason given.

“Iowa-based Brock Auction Co. planned to auction five tracts of land owned by Leonard and Margaret Reynolds on Saturday. But a message on the auction house’s website Thursday said it has been canceled at the land owners’ direction. The auction house and Margaret Reynolds declined to comment. Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation consider the site key to their creation story and are trying to purchase it because they fear new owners would develop the land, which they call Pe’ Sla. The property, which spans about 1,942 acres of pristine prairie grass, is the only sacred site on private land currently outside Sioux control.”

This is certainly a step in the right direction, and gives more time for tribes of the Great Sioux Nation to raise funds should the land eventually go up for auction. Let’s hope the request of James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is heard and a consultation with tribal nations, local, and federal government officials can take place to find a way forward so that this sacred site isn’t developed.

An Analysis of the Maetrum of Cybele Case: Earlier this month I reported on how Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, lost their exemption battle before the New York State Supreme Court. Catskill’s lawyer intimated to a local paper that he “does not expect much protest from pro-pagan groups now that a judge has carefully analyzed the evidence.” That lawyer may have spoken too quickly, as the Maetreum seems fighting mad, not cowed, though Pagan attorney Dana D. Eilers (author of “Pagans and the Law: Understand Your Rights”) doesn’t seem convinced that the Maetreum would be able to turn this decision around on appeal.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“Is this, as some claim, a case of deep discrimination? On its face, it does not appear to be so. It appears to be a stand-up analysis of facts presented at trial. Were these all the facts presented at trial? One would have to review all the exhibits accepted into evidence and read the transcript of all the testimony in order to be sure. Wil this case be appealed? That is yet to be seen. What will the fate of the Matreum be if it is appealed? Appellate courts do not like to second-guess the fact finding entity (whether it be a judge or a jury) on appeal. The appellate court will be entitled to review the entire record, however, and not just the facts which Judge Platkin found to be determinative. This fight may not be over.”

I don’t think this fight is over as the Maetreum feels that the judge analyzed the evidence through a lens that delegitimized practices he didn’t understand. Quote: “Charity is not charity, prayer, meditation and spiritual activities are not religious, duties of clergy clearly spelled out are not spelled out, activities every week and formal ones every two weeks are “irregular”, some mythical standard of number of regular congregants was not met.  We are a “legitimate” religion but actually exist to wrangle a tax exemption (not legitimate)  I am personally a liar with no actual evidence provided to justify saying that.” The real question will be if the Maetreum can afford to take this fight to the next level. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted of further developments.

A Dogwood Blooms at COG’s Grand Council: About a week ago I wrote my analysis of Wiccan/Witchcraft organization Covenant of Goddess (COG), having just returned from their annual Grand Council. However, while I managed to say quite a bit in my piece, there was lot I didn’t include. Most memorable was a brief audio interview with several members of the Dogwood Local Council, which covers Georgia and Alabama. A truly vital example of how local councils work within their community, I would like to share that audio with you.

You can download the file, here. It’s only twelve minutes long, and there’s some background noise, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom, history, and good conversation packed into it. I hope you’ll check it out.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

What happens when sacred lands go up for sale? That is the situation faced by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people as Pe’ Sla, an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is being sold by its owners. Though long in private hands, tribes had been allowed access to perform necessary ceremonies, and this is now in question with the sale. In addition, the government of South Dakota is planning on paving a road right through the middle of the site, a move that is seen as sacrilegious. In response, a last-minute campaign to raise funds to purchase the land has been launched, but with only a few days to go they are still far short of their million-dollar goal.

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has designated $50,000 for the purpose of purchasing Pe’ Sla land.  By contributing to the effort of all the Sioux Tribes, we aim to purchase at least some of the tracts, if not all.  Many of the Sioux Tribes continue to exist in poverty and do not have a thriving casino-based economy as the media may have portrayed.  Yet we continue to fight for what is sacred, because it matters!”

Ruth Hopkins, writing for Indian Country Today, puts the importance of this land in context.

“Like many other Indigenous groups, our ceremonies are tied directly to the Universe and the natural cycles of Ina Maka (Mother Earth). Therefore, it only serves that Pe’ Sla, a location in the heart of the Black Hills that serves as a basis for our star maps, is also a sacred site where ceremonies must be observed each year. According to our beliefs, these rituals must be performed to keep the Universe in harmony and preserve the well being of all, Native and non-Native alike. You see, to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota, Pe’ Sla is not merely prairie. Its grounds are holy. It is our Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is our Mecca. Pe’ Sla is our wailing wall, where we are meant to pray. The danger of the Oceti Sakowin losing Pe’ Sla is real, and imminent. Should Pe’ Sla pass into the hands of someone other than us, it’s highly likely that it will be developed. The State of South Dakota has expressed that it wants to use eminent domain to build a road right through the heart of Pe’ Sla. Development of Pe’ Sla would effectively cut off our access to it, and spell its destruction as a sacred site.”

Point of fact, this land was illegally taken from the Great Sioux Nation, and they have refused a settlement award (currently nearly 600 million dollars) for it because that would legally terminate demands for that land’s return. Native tribes across the country have been working for years to reclaim land that was taken from them in the name of greed or “integration,” and even when lands are “safely” in the hands of the federal government, that is no guarantee that the wishes of American Indian tribes will be respected.

Pe'Sla in the Black Hills (Photo:South Dakota Magazine/Bernie Hunhoff)

Pe’Sla in the Black Hills (Photo: South Dakota Magazine/Bernie Hunhoff)

The protection of Native sacred lands is an ongoing issue in Indian country, encroachments and construction on sacred lands often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). For some politicians it seems very plain there is no such thing as sacred land at all. However, we know there are consequences and a price to the eradication or desecration of sacred ground, whether it is Tara in Ireland or the peaks in Arizona. We can only hope that some sort of reprieve emerges, and this holy site isn’t developed and destroyed. We have to ask ourselves what sort of nation, culture, are we, that blithely moves forward in destroying indigenous holy sites in the name of commerce while screaming about “religious freedom” on somewhat flimsy (and politically motivated) pretexts. When you sell a people’s sacred ground, what dignity or honor is left, what claim do we have to be human beings?

For updates on this issue, see the site Last Real Indians.

A have a few items that just can’t wait till Saturday! Starting with a rather awful editorial from The Chicago Tribune’s “The Seeker” blog that seemingly equates tolerance towards Pagan soldiers within the military with a look-the-other-way atmosphere that led to the horrendous Fort Hood murders.

“Fast forward to 1999, when an Austin, Texas newspaper published photos of a Wiccan ceremony at Fort Hood. Theologically conservative Christian clergy joined with indignant Congressmen to protest the Army’s acceptance of Wiccan practice. As reported in Hannah Rosin’s contemporaneous account for The Washington Post, these clergy threatened to disrupt the protests, going so far as to call on Christians not to enlist or reenlist in any branch of the military until Wicca was banned from military posts. But the Army brushed off the threatened protests. Again, according to the Washington Post article, Fort Hood spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Santos said at the time that as long as a religious minority does not interfere with discipline, the military will help it find an off-base leader and a place to practice its beliefs … in light of the fact that the Army and various government agencies appear to have disregarded warning signs about the shooter’s contact with religious radicals who have since praised his murders, a tragic irony bubbles to the surface: might the emphasis on religious inclusion and interfaith acceptance have allowed the sinister to walk, undaunted, disguised as the spiritual?”

It is hard to tell what, exactly, author Tom Levinson is suggesting. That the military should be less accommodating to religious minorities? That only certain faiths should be allowed or tolerated? That their fair treatment towards Pagan soldiers inevitably led to these shootings by a disturbed Major Nidal Malik Hasan? Frankly, using the story of the Fort Hood Pagans in conveying his “tragic irony” is insulting to the Pagan men and women who serve, and have served, in the military. Already several Pagans and Pagan vets have spoken out against Levinson’s badly-thought-out piece with more, no doubt, to come.

The James Arthur Ray sweat-lodge death saga continues to have repercussions. While the police investigation is still ongoing, the Lakota Nation has filed a lawsuit against Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center for fraud and the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”.

“In the aftermath of the tragedy at Angel Valley Retreat Center, where an incompetently conducted “sweat lodge” held by Californian self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three participants, political steps are being taken by several native people across the United States. While local Indians from Arizona are forming a Council for Indigenous Traditional Healing to reclaim native ceremonies, the Lakota tribe of North and South Dakota has filed a lawsuit against the United States, the state of Arizona, James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center.”

This issue seems to have truly galvanized some tribal nations and activists, leading to actions that could have long-standing repercussions in the often tense relations between Native peoples and New Age communities. Meanwhile the daughter of one of the victims wants Ray behind bars and is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. So it looks like only a matter of time before Ray is brought before a judge. Hopefully before his next “spiritual warrior” retreat, scheduled for September 18-23rd.

In a final note, blogger Rob Taylor has alerted me to a group of anti-pedophile activists who have allegedly uncovered the identity of a Wiccan man who brags of his sexual involvement with children and until recently was advertising for a coven on Witchvox.

“He is Wiccan and participates in and goes to Wiccan festivals in which he likes to view children running around naked.”

It seems Witchvox (or the person in question) may have removed the listings since word went out at the beginning of November, as they are now gone. Sadly, there isn’t a picture, or further outside confirmation, so we have no way of telling who exactly this man is at public gatherings (as he could no doubt use a variety of aliases if he wanted). I was planning use this information within the context of a longer investigation of predators within the Pagan community, but I felt it was important to pass this information along now if it could potentially help parents and children be safer at gatherings. As always, be careful, do your own research, and leave law enforcement to law enforcement officials.

That’s all I have for now, have a good night, see you tomorrow.

Back in mid-December a small group of American Indian activists gained national press by declaring that the Lakota Sioux would be withdrawing from all treaties with the United States.

“December 20 – Lakota Sioux Indian representatives declared sovereign nation status today in Washington D.C. following Monday’s withdrawal from all previously signed treaties with the United States Government. The withdrawal, hand delivered to Daniel Turner, Deputy Director of Public Liaison at the State Department, immediately and irrevocably ends all agreements between the Lakota Sioux Nation of Indians and the United States Government outlined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties at Fort Laramie Wyoming.”

Since that announcement, not a single tribal government or council has come forward to support the Lakota Freedom campaign (now calling itself the “Republic of Lakotah”), and Native reaction in the press has been mixed at best.

“Means and his group are not saying anything new, said Joseph Brings Plenty, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “What has been said by these individuals has been talked about from dinner table to dinner table since I was a young kid; but the thing is, these individuals are not representative of the nation I represent. I may agree, I may disagree, but they have not gone out and received the blessing of the people they say they are speaking for,” Brings Plenty said.”

Now news has come out that Lakota Freedom spokesman Russell Means “hijacked” the organization and its website in order to pull his treaty-withdrawal stunt.

“Russell Means has gone on to announce the formation of a “provisional government” of the “Republic of Lakotah” with himself as Chief Facilitator, as well as to promote the establishment of a bank and a utility company for the country. Despite the claim Means has made, Naomi Archer, liaison of Lakotah Oyate stated to Wikinews that Means took control of the organization and hijacked it and its website on December 29. Archer also said that Lakotah Oyate or the delegation are not a government entity and do not make decisions for the Nation. “The legitimate actions of the Lakota people are not determined by one person [Russell Means] or even one group, but by the [Lakota] people themselves,” added Archer … Means is acting without having consulted the other elders of Lakotah…”

It is becoming increasingly clear that Russell Means is only speaking for Russell Means, and isn’t leading some sort of large grass-roots popular movement on Lakota Sioux land. As I have stated before, no matter where your sympathies lie, movements like the one Means purports to lead can come only with a (visible) mandate from the masses you claim to represent. At this point Means seems on a collision course for a stay in prison.

“But the bottom line is when they begin the process of violating other people’s rights, breaking the law, they’re going to end up like all the other groups that have declared themselves independent–usually getting arrested and being put in jail”

But perhaps self-martyrdom is what Means is actually seeking.

Lakota Freedom?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 21, 2007 — 9 Comments

There is quite a bit of buzz over a Lakota delegation publicly announcing their withdrawal from treaties, and declaring their independence from the United States.

“December 20 – Lakota Sioux Indian representatives declared sovereign nation status today in Washington D.C. following Monday’s withdrawal from all previously signed treaties with the United States Government. The withdrawal, hand delivered to Daniel Turner, Deputy Director of Public Liaison at the State Department, immediately and irrevocably ends all agreements between the Lakota Sioux Nation of Indians and the United States Government outlined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties at Fort Laramie Wyoming.”

I was rather shocked by the news, until I did a bit of digging. It seems this might be more publicity stunt than mass-movement of indigenous Americans. Hardly a peep from leading Indian news sources, and the chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has publicly stated that they have no desire to join a breakaway movement. In fact, there seems to be almost no mainstream support from the Lakota Sioux tribes.

“…there were no tribal presidents in the group which made the announcement, no one from the top ranks of any of the Lakota Sioux tribes. The timing with the LNI was curious. Russell Means has been known to stage public events to get his message out, and there are some Lakotas who don’t feel Means speaks for them.”

In fact, there seems to be some rather harsh criticism of Lakota Freedom ringleader Russell Means from within his own community. Indian Country Today columnist Suzan Shown Harjo has “awarded” him a “Mantle of Shame” for 2007.

“Russell Means – for his mid-December announcement in D.C. that he is unilaterally withdrawing the Lakota Sioux from treaties with the United States. News flash to Means: treaties are made between nations; you are a person and not a nation; you are not empowered to speak for the Great Sioux Nation; as an individual, you can only withdraw yourself from coverage of your nation’s treaties. (Means is the same Oglala Sioux actor who tried to beat domestic violence charges by challenging the sovereign authority of the Navajo Nation to prosecute him – he took it all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.)”

So while I always encourage solidarity with indigenous groups, until this declaration of “freedom” gains more traction from activists and elected leaders within Indian Country, I would caution representing this as the majority opinion from within the Lakota Sioux territories. Their actions don’t seem to be legally binding. The Lakota haven’t withdrawn from their treaties, only a handful of activists claim it to be so. In fact the Lakota Freedom group has already moved to demonize any Indians who may not agree with their methods.

“‘I want to emphasize, we do not represent the collaborators, the Vichy Indians and those tribal governments set up by the United States of America to ensure our poverty, to ensure the theft of our land and resources,’ Means said, comparing elected tribal governments to Nazi collaborators in France during World War II.”

So no matter how attractive politically this may seem to some, a movement without the people behind it isn’t a movement. Nor do unilateral statements from controversial figures often help build them. It would be best to wait and see how Native Americans react and decide how to handle this declaration of Lakota Freedom.