Archives For Lakota Freedom

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: Starting off with an update on the Lakota Freedom story, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council says that it will consider the recent declaration of withdrawal from treaties spearheaded by Indian activist Russell Means.

“Avis Little Eagle says she understands the frustration that led Lakota activists to announce a plan to withdraw from the tribe’s treaties with the U.S. government. However, the vice chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council advocates holding the federal government to the provisions in those treaties, rather than withdrawing from them. “I see where they’re coming from,” she said of American Indian Movement leader Russell Means and other members of the Lakota Freedom Delegation who declared the Lakota people’s independence to the State Department last week in Washington, D.C. “But we, as elected officials, on a daily basis we refer to those treaties because to us they are living documents,” Little Eagle said Wednesday from the tribe’s headquarters in Fort Yates, N.D. Little Eagle said council members will probably discuss the delegation’s letter, ‘and I can’t say what action they will take.'”

While the Lakota Freedom group claims years of consultation with elders and tribal leaders, at this point I still can’t find any reports of local tribal leaders stepping forward to support treaty withdrawal. Considering the comments of Avis Little Eagle, it seems unlikely the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council will take any action to support a withdrawal from treaties.

Sorry, We Thought You Were A Witch: A substitute teacher in Shreveport, Louisiana has been fired from her job for her alleged religious affiliation. Jennifer Harmon, who has blue hair, was asked if she was a Wiccan by a fellow substitute teacher (she isn’t), and shortly thereafter was called in by the Principal and dismissed.

“Jennifer Harmon. The 39-year-old mother of one recently was told her blue hair was unacceptable after nearly a week of substitute teaching at Vivian Elementary/Middle School. But Harmon, whose appearance has remained the same since early 2006 and was evident during her substitute application process, doesn’t think it was her hair color or an accompanying nose piercing that got her in trouble. Rather, it was religion. The same early December day a fellow substitute teacher asked if she was Wiccan, Harmon found herself in Principal Jamie (Rene) Tolbert’s office answering questions about her appearance and whether she had discussed religion with students. ‘Not only was I extremely confused and upset because I was never made aware of any policy prohibiting teachers from having blue hair and nose piercings, but when (Tolbert) asked me about religion I started to panic,’ said Harmon, who said she is not Wiccan and does not subscribe to any particular religious faith. ‘Of course, I never spoke to the children about religion. I would never do such a thing.'”

The complaint (or possibly complaints) against the teacher seem like a bizarre game of telephone (a parent told a teacher who told the Principal), and could come down to the gossip of a single parent. Meanwhile Harmon, who outside of her blue hair dressed modestly while teaching, has gotten support from other parents and staff over the issue. Can the mere rumor of Pagan allegiance endanger your job as a teacher? Similar cases have occurred this year, and it leaves the victim in a legaly murky area where you can’t claim religious discrimination for a “perceived” faith. It remains to be seen if Harmon will be able to continue teaching in the area.

Guillermo del Toro Watch: It has been announced that the Pan’s Labyrinth director is co-producing a new movie with Clive Barker entitled “Born”.

“Clive Barker and Guillermo del Toro are getting ready to explore the dark side of Claymation” Twitch reports that the duo will be co-producing Born, a film adaptation of Barker’s story about a family who gets more than they bargained for when they move to the English countryside. Dan Simpson, who adapted the source material, is directing; Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany have signed on to star.”

The film is described as a mixture of The Sixth Sense, The Wicker Man, Rosemary’s Baby, and Straw Dogs, which seems like a good combination for those who love occult-laced thrillers. Guillermo del Toro is also slated to direct an upcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The National Post discusses the “trouble with Mary” (specifically her virgin birth), and archetypes of belief that collectively influence us.

“Christ is born at the darkest time of the year. That’s not an accident. There are a lot of extremely complex ideas behind that. So here’s one: the redeeming hero emerges when the need is greatest. The hero is born not only when things are darkest but also when tyranny has reached new heights. There are dozens of examples like that which underlie the way these stories are constructed; they are stunningly profound and people relive them all the time.”

That quote, from psychologist Prof. Jordan Peterson, ties into his theory that belief is as “necessary as air and water” (and also echoes a point Pagans have been making during this time of year for ages). That everyone, no matter their philosophic orientation, holds onto core beliefs (because the universe “is far more complicated than we are smart”) to steer them through life.

American Indian columnist Dorreen Yellow Bird weighs in on the recent “Lakota Freedom” movement, and admits it is a good idea, but a good idea come too late.

“Means and his group have some points – perhaps 200 years too late, but they do have some points … We have, however, gone beyond those years. We have taken on the federal government as our government, too. That means the government also provides us funding and supplies for programs such as Head Start, housing, social services and so on – just like it does for the rest of the country … Finally, there the treaties. For the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1886 provided land. True, the U.S. government took some of that land rather surreptitiously, but we were able to hold the line because of that legal document – a treaty. Those documents are important, shouldn’t be abrogated and should be taken seriously. Means and his group are seemingly out of step, but they remind us of our tragic history.”

The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel has printed an editorial from Jason Leopold that paints a chilling picture of Christian indoctrination at basic training camps.

“The Christian right has been successful in spreading its fundamentalist agenda at US military installations around the world for decades. But the movement’s meteoric rise in the US military came in large part after 9/11 and immediately after the US invaded Iraq in March of 2003. At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, soldiers on the battlefield have told disturbing stories of being force-fed fundamentalist Christianity by highly controversial, apocalyptic “End Times” evangelists, who have infiltrated US military installations throughout the world with the blessing of high-level officials at the Pentagon. Proselytizing among military personnel has been conducted openly, in violation of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution.”

Leopold says that much of the military evangelism is carried out by Military Ministry, who have gained unprecedented access to places like Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia, South Carolina. The question remains on how safe our Pagan solidiers (and other religious minorities) will be if this increasingly Christian military is left unchecked.

Coming back to the Green Bay Pentacle wreath controversy, Muskego Mayor John Johnson explains why his city won’t be dealing with the problems Green Bay now has.

“You have to be respectful of all religions and if you start putting one display up, you have to put up displays for everybody,” Muskego Mayor John Johnson said. “If you put up a Nativity scene and then a group asks you to put up a Hanukkah display or a display for the Muslim holiday, do you tell them no? You can’t.”

Always refreshing to hear from someone in Wisconsin who understands how to manage a Constitutional holiday display. In related news, you can now download the NPR program Here On Earth featuring interviews with Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox (who put up the Pentacle wreath in Green Bay) and Graham Harvey, professor of Religious Studies at the Open University, UK, discussing the Winter Solstice.

“This hour on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, Lori Skelton and her guests celebrate winter solstice, the longest night of a year with stories from different religions and cultures around the world.”

You can download the show, here (mp3 link).

That is all I have for now, may your celebrations of the returning sun be festive tomorrow.

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.