ELIZABETH COOK LYNN
These days of uncertainty we ask about the historical perspective of trying to make sense of how to live good lives as Indian people even as others burn away our hopes and dreams. That is the condition of oil rich Indian reservations looking back at the defensive efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe turned into a flaming fiasco at Cannon Ball in 2017. It’s not just here in our region … such betrayals are happening at a dozen other Indian enclaves throughout the United States. What can we say about Federal Indian Policy and State Government regulations that allow the commoditization of nature, water, air, the deregulation of mining and a voting public that says the backstabbing of the Sioux Nation that has taken place at the banks of the Missouri River is okay. What can we tell our children?
For some of us who read history we can say, “Yes, Virginia, history does repeat itself.” Unfortunately, we humans often vote for such repetitions of histories that sometimes turn into calamities. That is the downside of Democracy that Socrates and Plato argued about. Older Americans (including Indians), can remember that in 1938 Austria, a European republic of great significance, willingly voted to give itself over to the German power mad regime that became Naziism. And they started writing the Nuremberg Laws, passed them and implemented them to destroy six millions of their relatives who happened to be Jews. Today we in America have willingly voted into power an “America First” government based in White Supremacy, aggressive capitalism, deregulation of resource development and greed.
About Indians, who really never participated in American Government nor State
Government until 1924 when U. S. Citizenship was conferred on them (whether they wanted it or not), the truth is that their reserved lands while they cover just 2 percent of the United States they probably hold about one-fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Just like Germany was not the best place for Jews in 1930, America has never been the best place for Indians since 1492, and particularly since the recent rise of the slogan: “making American great again”.
As our new president faces up to the task of defending his “white nationalist” base of communal voters, it is imperative that Indian scholars and activists begin to look deeper into third world history and the current legal thinking that drives American politics. We have done that before (Read Vine Deloria, Jr.), but it is time to pay attention!
This reporter’s desk just got a white paper from a well-connected law office in Sandia, New Mexico that warns of the shadow under which tribal nations have lived from the beginning of their relationships with America, a message that says the present government advisors of the newly elected regime is proposing to put Indian lands. Millions of acres of treaty protected homelands, into private ownership. The indication is that such a proposal is gaining traction and is part of the reason that urged the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny at the last minute the notion that alternative routes for the pipeline be examined. We can expect the corps to join the club.
To privatize oil-rich Indian reservation is not a new idea, nor is it an idea that has not occurred right here in the Dakotahs. Even today, there are white ranchers in every county in the great plans (those same people who stole the land or paid for it at 3-cents at acre in the 1800’s), often mouth this idea in the right circumstances. Because of the opposition of tribal leaders, who say that such a move is called Genocide and is unworthy of a country like America that claims to be Christian, they mouth it only when it is within their own comfort zones.
Privatization of Indian lands has a huge history here in the Northern Plains. Indeed, The Dawes Act of 1887 (at the urging of greedy politicians), forced individual Indians onto private lots in exchange for enforced Citizenship and Christianity resulting in the loss of 90 million acres of treaty lands and endemic poverty on reserved enclaves across the country. There is a history of “termination” in Indian Country that we all know about. It was an effort to rid America of its treaty obligations to the First Nations and resulted in some 2.5 million acres of land being removed from tribal control while Sovereignty and Indian Rights, the underpinnings of the history between Indians and Whites, eroded substantially during that time , the 20th century. The tribal nations successfully fought off that genocidal tactic by the federal/state coalition, but the threat has remained. The proposed path today to deregulate drilling and mining exemplified here in the DA pipeline is a political idea that has always mirrored the fear of native nations who throughout the years have suffered as poverty stricken enclaves described as the poorest segments of American society. It will lead to another great mistake in Federal Indian Policy condemning native peoples to a suffocating cultural death, a further erosion of the Right to be an Indian!!