The Next Chapter in the Lakotah Revolution for Freedom

Russell Means

Two weeks ago, I went to New York with a delegation from the Republic of Lakotah, to utilize the annual meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII, May 16-27). The primary purpose of the trip was to utilize past and present allies in the indigenous struggle to aid us in visiting a small, select group of other Nation’s Missions and their Ambassadors to the United Nation to discuss the international character of treaties between my people, the Lakota, and the United States of America.

In 1851 and 1868, the Lakotah, Dakota, Nakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho nations had militarily defeated the United States, and the United States had requested peace. Our nations agreed to peace at a treaty negotiation at Fort Laramie. The treaties were international instruments between two independent nations, unambiguous and unequivocal in defining the territories of the indigenous nations involved—it covered an area the size of the contemporary country of Guatemala.

Since the time of the signing of the treaty, the Lakotah have insisted that the United States respect its obligations under the treaties. Our insistence has even taken us to the United States Supreme Court. Now, how ridiculous is that, for us to go to the violator of the treaties, expecting that same violator to force itself to live up to its own laws. How can we allow an international contract dispute to be decided by the Violator?

Over the past century, one thing has become clear—the United States wanted to take its benefit from the treaties, and it never intended to abide by the other essential treaty provisions. OK, we get it. The US certainly is not going to begin to respect the treaties today.

There are some who say, "Well, if we don’t have our treaty, we have nothing." To them, I say, "Look around you. You already have nothing! You experience the worst poverty, the worst health, the worst environmental problems, the worst of everything, plus they have stolen your territory, your freedom, and your self-respect. Wake up! What you wave around in the name of 'sovereignty' is no longer a treaty, it is a broken contract!"

Let’s be clear, if the US decides that it is not going to abide by the treaties (and it has done so repeatedly), then there must be consequences for that decision—just like if you sell me your car, but I do not pay you the money for your car. I don’t get to keep the car just because I have grown accustomed to driving it. Neither does the US get to keep our territory just because it allowed its citizens to invade and occupy our homeland, build homes and businesses, and steal wealth and resources from our homeland.

Article 37 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF document) directly addresses this point:

Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honor and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

Our treaties are international instruments, and require enforcement. If the US is not going to honor its obligations then international law is clear about an equitable remedy for that breach. Under the established international legal principle of inadimplanti non est adimplendum ("one has no need to respect his obligation if the counter-party has not respected his own"), if one party to a treaty consistently refuses to abide by the treaty, then the parties have to return to their original positions before the treaty was signed.

When I first came to New York in 1975 to help establish the UN office of the International Indian Treaty Council, we were in the midst of an indigenous revolution. (Two years before, we had liberated our community of Wounded Knee, indigenous peoples were on the move.) By 1977, we had kicked open the doors of the UN, and demanded our seat at the table of nations. In my recent visit to the UN, I was dismayed and saddened by what has happened since that time.

In the years since 1977, that revolution that we began has become bogged down in bureaucracy and procedure that divert and sidetrack our right to be free. Countries like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand trot out their sell-out "Natives" like puppets to mouth the ongoing genocidal policy of those countries. The original indigenous revolutionaries have been replaced by "technicians" who accept crumbs from the invaders who continue to seek to destroy us.

People in the throes of genocide are given five minutes to tell their story, with no recourse—it's just on to the next speaker. It is time to renew the teachings of our ancestors.

We need a renewal of the international indigenous revolution, one that does not ask permission from the invaders of our homelands, one that recalls the original message of our ancestors never to surrender, one that advances our natural right to be free and independent peoples, with international personality and dignity and respect. The Republic of Lakotah is not waiting. We have renewed our strategies with other freedom-loving indigenous peoples, with countries like Bolivia who understand and support our aspirations, and with international civil society. We now encourage a new generation of indigenous young people to shake off their cynicism, put their talents to work, and take their place in history by writing the next chapter with us in the international indigenous revolution.

Russell Means, Oglala/Iynktowan, is Chief Facilitator, Republic of Lakotah (republicoflakotah.com), and author of the autobiography Where White Men Fear to Tread.

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kiowascout's picture
This editorial coming from a person ("warriors" don't behave this way) who commits physical violence against his own family including an elder. This is a person who avoided prosecution for these crimes by disavowing a tribe's sovereign right to prosecute crimes committed in their territory. This is a person who calls others sell outs, yet accepts a major role in an animated film that stereotyped Native women and bastardized real history. This is a person who doesn't mind accepting money and goods from the "invaders" when it suits his narcissistic, self-centered greed. This is a person who rides on the coat tails of the many other Native patriots who also led the efforts for justice at Wounded Knee, yet neglects to acknowledge the work of his fellow warriors in that great work. This is a person whose exploits only serve his egomaniacal drive for publicity and money from the "invaders". Get a REAL job Mr. Means. Your political clout is shot to smithereens. And...that is ONE thing you actually DID accomplish all on your own.
solveighcalderin's picture
I'm from Germany. You are not alone. There are many people out in the world, who sympathise with you. I found your article on facebook. A woman from Serbia published it on her profile. I will do the same and will tweet it. The world has to know about your struggle.
angryduck's picture
If you do nothing else with your life, use your eloquent words to free Leonard. The UN will always be there but Leonard may not. Don't let the wasicu's win again.
beaver's picture
Mr. Means, I agree 100% with you in principle and I would like to completely kick the United States off our lands. However, I believe Indian Country is full of Federal agents, as is to be expected when 565 sovereign nations inhabit the land rightfully claimed by America. And I must say I am more than a bit suspicious of you because you fought the Navajo's sovereign right to prosecute crimes committed on their territory. By taking an extremist separationist position with the Republic of Lakotah, you may be trying to define the contours and limits of Indian dissent, thereby deliberately seeking to give a bad name to separationist Indian movements. After all, the Federal strategy is not to suppress dissent but to control it, to monitor it, to define the limits of dissent and to clearly delineate what is permissible and non-permissible so that dissent does not threaten the establishment position. Is your overall strategy to show that separationist movements will not succeed in Indian country? If it isn't, perhaps we can proceed in smaller steps: let's start with ourselves. Let's first stop thinking of ourselves as American. Then let's stop voting in America's elections unless those elections directly affect Indian country. Then let's stop honoring the American flag at our pow wows. Let's stop saluting the American flag or singing the national anthem. Next, let's stop honoring veterans who serve in the foreign US military. Then let's stop serving in the American military. Finally, let's try and move to genuine sovereignty rather than Mickey Mouse sovereignty. If all these steps are successful, let's go to the separationist movements. As things stand now, the Republic of Lakotah seems to be a strategically designed specifically to ensure that any separationist movement in Indian Country fails miserably.
wanbli's picture
The Republic of the Lakota does not represent the Ochiti Sakowin Oyate (The Nation People) better known as the Great Sioux Nation. It never has because its BIA and IRA federally funded and philologically inspired by the politics of the US, BIA and IRA and they're ambitions to dominated and control the colonized politics and corruption of Washington and to exterminated anything authentic to a real traditional Lakota life way or any voice to debate its legitimacy. The word REPUBLIC IS A COLONIZED WORD, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LAKOTA PEOPLES. The Ochiti Sakowin Oyate (THE SEVEN COUNSEL FIRE0 represents our red people! And, the only original treaty counsel was appointed by He Dog, called, (The Ochiti Sakowin Tetuwan Oyate which all other "wannabe treaty counsels" would spiritual and physically destroy because these other treaty counsel weather its the Black Hills or who ever will continue to disrespect the wishes of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull to have red self-respect for our old ones and elders as true authentic red human beings who are an authentic sovereign nationhood and start living by Creator Truth with his Creation!!! I represent the Ochiti Sakowin Treaty Counsel appointed by He Dog, that Fools Crow and many other Nachas and Elders on down stood by and represented for the people during their days. We all need to remember the wisdom of our AUTHENTIC TRADITIONAL elders of those that fought FOR the love that was place in they're red hearts by our Creator for they're RED Nation PeopleS and Mother (Earth). WE WILL NOT WIN THIS WAR FORGETTING THEre IS A SPIRITUAL AND POLITICAL PROTOCOL THAT THEY LEFT FOR US TO CONNECT IN THIS LOVE THAT WILL Unify us and LIBERATE ALL FIRST NATIONS AND THE WORLD PEOPLE FROM THE racist genocidal ignorance, RULES OF DOMINATION, WAR AND PUNISHMENTS of empire greed. We the Ochiti Sakowin Treaty Counsel which I help our going into "World Court" because this is the will of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bulls, Fools Crow and many other elders that gave they're lives by fighting against inhumane tyranny of any kind, so our red children could have a authentic destiny with our Seven Counsel Fire (The Nation) free from the US Empires old nature that continue to destroy our life's and anything good that comes from an genuine traditional and spiritual and political red life. If you are to fly like and eagle you must become like one! Wanbli 2011
chico2dc's picture
Sounds like BS too
denisemarks's picture