President of Oglala Sioux Responds to Pat Rogers's Custer Remark

John Yellow Bird Steele

We are outraged by the remarks of National Republican Committee member Pat Rodgers to Governor Susanna Martinez's staff that the Governor disrespected George Armstrong Custer by meeting with the Pueblo Indian tribal leaders.

First, General Custer was on a genocidal mission to rob our Lakota people of our treaty-protected lands when our Chiefs and warriors killed him and his command in self-defense. Prior to their demise, Custer and his men had just attacked our peaceful Lakota and Cheyenne village within our 1868 Treaty lands, killing mostly women and children.

Under International Law, we—the Lakota people—were acting within our rights to defend our women and children. Any expression of lament over Custer's demise at this late date by political leaders is a racist statement made in disregard of our human rights. The statement also disregard's the historical fact of Custer's genocidal mission. To raise his demise today as a reason not to respect Indian tribes is truly misguided, astonishingly ignorant and contrary to our human rights.

Raising this issue vis-a-vis the Pueblo Indian tribes is simply nonsense. The Pueblos, our friends, live over 1,000 miles away from the battle site at Little Big Horn. What part does Rodgers think that the Pueblos had in the Custer fight?

We are rightfully proud that our Lakota people defended ourselves at the Little Big Horn, and anyone who would suggest that we should be discriminated against based upon our exercise of the right of self-defense has no place in political life.

John Yellow Bird Steele is the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

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andre's picture
Rodgers remarks should be ignored in there entirety, they were bigoted and ill-tempered. One will conclude that the hearts of many are likewise afflicted with this ill-will, as such, Indian Country has struggled for so long with the effects of bigotry. As I am fond of saying, Indian Country is Americas big secret. The effects of colonization and it's aftermath are widely known, yet none dare call it calculated.
Great response to a horrendous comment, President Steele!! The Battle of the Little Bighorn pitted a people desperate to protect themselves from annihlation versus a pack of blue-coated glory hounds looking to get themselves in the history books and a fat paycheck to take home to their status seeking wives. Comments such as those by Rodgers are completely unforgivable for a person in his position. When you represent a political party, its no longer a matter of free speech.
tmsyr11's picture
Pat Rodgers made an idiotic remark much like what Joe Biden, Vice-President does every month! Mr. Yellow Bird Steele, where were your remarks when Barack Obama's Defense Department coined the name "Geronmio" to Islamic Terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Furthermore, any questions to clarify or confirm 'Geronimo', Barack Obama referred all questions to the Defense Department. Only a handful of Indian representatives raised concern and issues, i.e. Fort Sill Apache Chairman, Navajo Chairman, as well others, to the oBama White House. Where were you remarks then? RIght now as being reported, Barack Obama's State Department is referring a phrase as 'holding down the fort' which according to the State Department's own Diversity Officer is racially-insensitive. Will you be coining a letter to the State Department? Considering though, George Custer by his political nature was a - Democrat - it should remind all people of the roots and background of how racially, divisive, insenstive, demanding the traditions of the Democratic Party were over a 100 years up until the 1960s when Democrats raised objections to equal opportunities to people of color.
Tmsyr11, I have read and reread this commentary four times and I have yet to see how this is a Dems vs GOP opinion???? It looks as though the only one making it a political issue is you. And while I cannot answer for John Yellow Bird Steele, I do remember a pretty stiff Native response to Obama's use of the name "Geronimo" for his military action. It seems to me you have completely lost sight of why Mr. Steele made his comments and why the words of Rodgers are completely inexcusable. If you even ever recognized them as such. Lastly, seeing as you brought it up. The question here is NOT the use of Native terms by non-native people, which is what you presented, but the comments of a modern day politico supporting a truly horrible, racist man, who reveled in the unadultured slaughter of any and all Indians who crossed his path....men, women and children. Oh yes.....it is also well known that he took an Indian woman to be his sex toy while he was away from his wife. Think I'm making this up?? Nope. Maybe you should bone up on your history rather than defending an utter idiot??
laurelseed's picture
Mr. Yellow Bird Steele's 'remarks' are being highlighted because it was his tribe who were massacred by Custer should rightly be most offended by praise of Custer. And you're correct, the naming of Islamic terrorists after a Native American is also offensive. What is also offensive is Pat Roger's view that a governor of his current political party should've been unwilling to meet with tribes although required by law and the insinuation that we are communist. That Native American's are COMMUNISTS! In an election year, it is important to consider his party's tolerance of his remarks because if they were truly offensive or disagreeable to the party he would've been removed from position. Tribes to bond together because besides being of the same race and having similar cultures we share a history of oppression, the ongoing degeneration of culture, problems of crime, alcoholism, over-regulation, under education, ongoing racism(which Pat Rogers confirms) and too many still are living in poverty on and off the reservations. We need to help each other when we find ways to understand and solve these problems. Especially if we are to understand and improve our lands and find ways through rigged laws and regulations which are crippling us. Neither party has made much headway despite their rhetoric. We are trying to move forward and our networking, our reliance upon each other and our cultural belief in taking care of as many of us as possible does not make us communists. What confuses me about you is that you seem to have bought into one side this ineffective political dichotomy even though your comment points out the fallacy of the system: each party's selling principles have changed over time. Each side usually has half the answer, if that, of complex problems which aren't even meant to have solutions. Then we can keep fighting about the same hot button principles while the policies that effect our way of living are change unnoticed. Both parties...together...over decades have contributed to each decision which has weakened our country. These selling principles are secondary to the wishes of those with money and influence. We native people don't have enough of money or influence to be important to either party. Therefore, neither side is effectively helping the Native American Indian cause. Both sides are actually contributing to the oppression of other native peoples throughout the world. But if it is, like you say, a young trend at least the Democratic party has a stance of equal opportunities to people of color. Even if it's a trend, the trend is current. I won't support a current party who allows praises of a man who's mentality and politics of his time were the same as those who coerced my forefathers into signing treaties which crippled native economies by moving us onto what they deemed were wastelands and then impoverished, over-regulated, and put into place laws to endlessly make my people's lands dependent upon the government's substandard assistance. When they didn't complete the physical genocide they removed children, my grandmother included, from these wastelands and abused them into what they hoped would be a cultural genocide and forced them to take on another culture. A culture of selfishness and endless consumption without consideration for the future. It almost wiped out the buffalo and us. How can we undo the bonds, rally and move into the future as successful Native AMERICANS(yes we still are) when, if Pat Rogers has his way, these racists won't meet with us to legislate and do business? Republican's are saying help yourself, how can we when the system they keep is rigged to benefit an upper class that you, realistically and statistically, will never be a part of?
gwyd23's picture
that egotist got what was coming to him at Greasy Grass. hokahe!