Resolution for '15: Native Land—Use It or Lose It

Ray Cook

New Year’s at ICTMN finds me at home, shuttling between the computer, the woodpile outside, the kitchen where I hope to sautee some mushrooms soon, and the enticing couch with its open invitation to me to enjoy a brief afternoon snooze. It is time to reflect and look ahead, I am told in an email, and so I am compelled to harass a long list of contributors who might be under the foolish impression that a vacation day is in the offing.

What message to send?

This past year was prophetic in that it has outlined the obstacles that lay in our path towards a brand of sovereignty that has eluded us for a bit less than 200 years.

This is substantial, and I only understand a bit of it, to be honest. I am not a diplomat, I am a seeker and producer of thoughts. 

Primary to our course as I see it is the work of unifying the words we use and the concepts we project. Our representative organizations, the BIA-recognized tribal trustee organizations and our Treaty Councils must all come to the agreement that if not for our ancestors, who knew nothing of tribal anything but understood decentralized nationhood, their successors would be without the base that informs our logic of diplomacy and policy. The notion of an NDN Nation is not that of a country but of a bunch of people simply trying to get along. Family, Clan, Nation, nowhere in this equation is a Tribe. Sovereignty, Oren Lyons once said, “…is the act there of.” Simple as that. From this we know that our Traditional Councils are the treaty signers, and treaties are made between nations. More: At its very core, the logic is that a Nation cannot make a treaty with itself. Tribal organizations are a creation of the Federal government. By definition, a Tribe cannot manage treaty obligations, only the treaty signers (governments) can. Where are our traditional governments?

How we present ourselves and how we speak of ourselves defines us in the eyes of the U.S. agencies and heads of state. Do we want national representative organizations whose members are deemed authoritative by another Nation? Where are our traditional councils?

How we occupy, use and conserve our territories, regulations and rules will determine our economic, spiritual, educational, medicinal and analytical disciplines. We are defined by our approach to the land and the people. This formula is dependent on a nearly non-compromising position. We either use our ancient lands or we lose them. Simple as that. No one stole our lands; if they did then, where did they take them? Use it or lose it. As it applies to our lands, so it applies to our Traditional councils.

The math of compromise is simple. If you have one hundred trees, and one negotiates or compromises away 25 trees for some frivolous thing, one is left with 75 trees. Soon, the perceived need to negotiate at the cost of another 25 more trees….. The logical ending is obvious. Some things are not worth compromising.

At this time, an old year gone a new one in front of us, we invite all our readers, columnists and policy makers to think of these and other important issue(s) coming at you in the year 2015.

Ray Cook is ICTMN's opinions editor.

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