It’s high time to amplify the emotional and spiritual perspective of the Native Voice as it might speak to the American Voter about the woeful Indian treaty history of the United States, and all the doubletalk of its former Presidents and the next one about to be elected. What lies behind the reasons why various disparate issues in American culture – like Gun Control, Climate Change and Native American Rights – are assiduously avoided every time another presidential election comes along, is an ugly truth that strikes at the very heart of “What Makes America Tick”. In this latest electoral go-around, the issue isn’t whether to choose between a Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson because America’s violent military, political, corporate past has seen a multitude of Clinton’s, Trump’s, Stein’s and Johnson’s come and go and the results are always the same: yet more violence, more hatred, more greed, more ruthless disregard for the earth and sacredness of life. The problem is systemic and nothing will ever fundamentally change until a systemic solution is found to remedy this reality. Otherwise, the more things change the more they will remain the same.
The Standing Rock Sioux/Dakota Access Pipeline is Ground Zero in the Election Debate
The underlying systemic reality behind the U.S. Presidential election is that no matter who is elected, as Nomi Prins, a senior fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, puts it, “Wall Street will still own Main Street”. One might also add that whoever wins the election, the current war of terror will continue unabated as will the manufacturing of more guns, war material, armaments and the mining and extraction of fossil fuels in the world.
Having dared to speak this unspeakable truth, it’s now time to find a systemic solution. Perhaps one of the best ways is if America’s voters will consider the clashing world views of each candidate from the perspective of which one has the most progressive platform that will right the many wrongs that have been done to the Sioux people and other Native Americans, as well as what their administration’s position will be on issues like gun control, new oil pipelines and converting the nation from fossil fuels to renewable energies. Yet, typically, after three presidential debates and a fourth VP debate, a FAIR.org analysis reveals that the plight of the Sioux and other Native Americans was mentioned exactly zero times while Climate Change was mentioned a mere four times, poverty 10 times and Guns 32 times, compared to Trump’s tax returns mentioned 80 times and Russia & Putin mentioned 178 times. At the heart of such disparity lies the question: What’s America really all about? Is it going to forever continue to dig for oil, frack for gas, construct more pipelines, wage more world war or is it going to radically reduce these things and finally honor, as do Native Americans, the sacredness of the earth, water, air and all living things? To date, Trump has declared his support for the Dakota Access Pipeline, while Clinton’s issued statement amounts to typical political doubletalk that says literally nothing. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gloria La Riva of the Peace & Freedom Party are the only two candidates who have clearly come out against the pipeline’s construction.
Whatever candidate the American people choose, the fate of not only the American people but all the peoples of the world is at stake. Climate change and the threatened demise of many species of life; the growing militarization of police forces and trend towards fascism; a world financial system that dangerously wavers towards total collapse; the endless world war and terror that continues to displace millions of human beings and dump them into the unprepared, unsuspecting laps of country’s everywhere causing major, irreparable upheavals to all their traditions and civilizations; the on-going, ever more unthinkably-savage, human violence and chaos; all top a long list of unmet challenges. How this veritable Third World War scenario will be met head-on will depend upon the character and veracity of whomever the American electorate, in its wisdom, so chooses.
But if one had a crystal ball and could gaze deep into the hearts and minds of the American voter to know who and what they are at their core, and predict who the new political leader will be that they will elect to represent those core values, they could do no better than to gaze into the many treaties and agreements that previously-elected presidents have made with Native Nations, from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln down to the present day. The first visions to jump out of the crystal ball would show a long, heart-wrenching tale of lies, deception, betrayal and hypocrisy they have to tell about America’s political and corporate history. To gaze ever deeper into what these treaties and agreements originally promised, and then how each was summarily broken by the U.S. Government, is to see revealed, like the peeled layers of an odiferous onion, the ugly core reality of American values that, once peeled, will bring tears to the eyes of those with even the strongest of constitutions. One could argue that these eye-weeping treaties belie the very duplicitous nature of the American character.
The Achilles Heel of the American Dream
The United States violated treaties with America’s sovereign native nations could be said to represent the Achilles Heel of the American Dream that ever since first contact has become a veritable nightmare for Native Americans and many other marginalized, oppressed people. So whatever the issue at-hand may be, that pits America’s political and corporate interests against the interests of Native Nations – whether it be over the acquisition and transportation of ‘black gold’ or some other precious mineral or natural resource via a Dakota Access, Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge pipeline, rail or ship – a long-standing relationship of deceit and mistrust lies at its heart.
The conflict between the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Great Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation is a classic modern case in point. One can trace the origins of this philosophical-ideological conflict all the way back to the time of first contact between the Great Sioux Nation and America’s military, political, corporate, Wall Street interests. Ever since American and European interlopers invaded the sacred territories of the Sioux it has been one long account of havoc; the constant drive for expansion by these invaders continues to this day to violently clash with the Sioux people’s unshakeable resolve to preserve their lands, sovereignty and ways of life. Since the 1860’s, this relationship between them, based upon the warring principles of “Might Makes Right” vs. “Right Makes Might”, has been filled with one war or skirmish after another; from the Dakota War of 1862, the Battle of the Rosebud, Battle of Slim Buttes & Battle of the Little Big Horn in the 1870’s, to the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee and more recent 1973 Siege at Wounded Knee.
The earlier 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux is a typical example of the kind of trickery that historically has been used to divest native nations from their homelands. The U.S. Government and corporate fur traders, desiring total control of the Dakota people’s bountiful lands, tricked them into ceding all their lands in not only southern and western Minnesota Territory but those in Iowa and Dakota Territory, as well. As one Dakota chief remarked at the time, “I am not a White Man. I do not know how to read or write. They pulled me by the blanket and made me put a mark on their leaf of paper. It was not explained to me at all. The money they promised never touched Dakota hands. It all went to the traders.”
The White Man Takes The Fat Every Time
For years afterwards, the Dakota still believed the promises of the White Man while they watched their starving children continue to suffer. Tellingly, the Dakota name for white people is Wasicun which means “takes the fat” or “putting one’s belly in front of the people”. No more biting expression than that old Dakota word succinctly sums up any better the relationship that has existed ever since the White Man first came in contact with Indian people and dealt with them as the White Man has dealt with so many other oppressed, marginalized peoples.
When a breaking point had been reached where enough was enough, and the Dakota no longer could take the ensuing crush of European settlers pouring into their lands, something finally had to give. The dramatic impact this was having upon their traditional ways of life, all the ensuing economic suffering, social tensions and resentments that continued to mount between them and the newcomers ultimately led to what became known, depending upon one’s world view, as either the Dakota War or Sioux Uprising of 1862.
The Sioux Uprising culminated with one of America’s most hallowed presidential figures, President Abraham Lincoln, gripped by one of the greatest ethical and moral crises in his political life, disgracefully ordering the hanging [sic “murder”] of 38 innocent Dakota warriors in what still remains the largest mass execution on record in American history. Lincoln scandalously ordered yet thousands more to be transported against their will to ‘open-air’ concentration camps along the Missouri River at Crow Creek, South Dakota and Niobrara, Nebraska. Chief Little Crow’s skull and scalp ended up displayed in a museum in Pierre South Dakota, while the bodies of Chief’s Little Six and Medicine Bottle were used for medical study and experimentation and Chief Stand-on-Clouds body was dissected in the presence of medical colleagues, his skeleton cleaned and varnished and eventually given to the Mayo Clinic.
Every year, the descendants of those innocent Dakota people who became caught up in the Uprising of 1862 make a little known pilgrimage to Minnesota from all over North America to march along the same 150 mile route where 1,700 of their ancestral women, children and elders were once force-marched before being transported to hostile, drought-ridden places in the West. They marched all alone without their husbands, fathers and grandfathers to protect them because the men already had been transported to still other open-air prisons scattered throughout the Western territories and wouldn’t see their families for perhaps another three years or more. One of their descendants, Hehaka Cawi Maza, once so simply put the harsh reality of those infamous 150 miles, when he said, “It’s hard to be an Indian!”
America’s Karmic Legacy
So many unspoken, unresolved historical tales of abject pain are contained within Hehaka Cawl Maza’s few simple words. Similar woeful tales can be heard recounted all over Indian Country to this day. This blight on the American character will forever besmirch the honor of the U.S. Government and the American and European settlers who ran the Dakota out of their homelands. But it also casts a long black shadow upon their descendants who continue to be the lucky recipients of all the benefits that have since been accrued or still will be from occupying stolen lands not rightfully their own. At some point in time, many wrongs must be righted and the question finally answered, “When do stolen lands ever become un-stolen lands?” Otherwise, America’s karmic legacy will forever remain, as it always has been since its inception: a troubled place full of haunted and haunting spirits!
Later in the 19th century, an Indian Peace Commission sought to try to end all the bloody warfare through a series of treaties entered into that essentially forced the Sioux off most of their vast Dakota Territories onto the more restricted lands of their sacred Paha Sapa (Black Hills). That treaty, known as the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, was yet another so-called compromise between the vanquished Sioux and their captors. The Sioux agreed to curtail their nomadic ways in return for their agreement to settle within the protective confines of the Black Hills. The Black Hills, according to the treaty, were meant to be part of the ‘Great Sioux Reservation’ that was set aside in perpetuity for the exclusive use of the Sioux with no trespass allowed by any non-Indian. But it was all “forked-tongue talk”, as the old Indians would say!
The United States Forked Tongued Treaty Promises Continue
It was only a few years later that this flaw in the American character and all the betrayals continued when General Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry regiment, at the behest of the American government, illegally pushed an expedition into the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills that led to the eventual discovery of gold. The rush of non-Indian gold-seekers that followed, rather than being forcibly removed by Custer and his troops, were instead defended and protected by Custer and the U.S. Government who allowed them to continue to trespass and violate the terms of the treaty that quickly led to the subsequent Indian Wars between the United States and Sioux Nation. The message this sent, like lightning bolts, along the moccasin telegraph to other sovereign native peoples was that all the treaty words by ‘The Great White Father in Washington’ or ‘Great White Mother in Ottawa’ were just so much more “white man talking with forked tongue”.
A Blueprint for Western Empire-Building Throughout the World
Ever since, over the intervening 150 years, the multitude of broken treaties that have followed, and the genocide they represent, has reduced the former traditional sovereign lands of native peoples into still other virtual open-air ‘prisons or ‘concentration camps’ that now are otherwise more politely referred to as reservations and reserves. The only difference today being that all the bars and barbed-wire have been removed far enough out-of-sight as to be invisible, but still always are there, nonetheless. These examples of the modern world’s earliest-devised apartheid systems have since become a blueprint for others throughout the world.
The consequent horrific statistics of human misery that have occurred in these cruel entities remain rife to this day: drug-alcohol addictions; poor diets and lifestyles leading to a host of medical-psychological diseases and afflictions; mounting cases of suicide, rape, incest, murder; high unemployment; children removed from their families and indoctrinated in non-Indian mores and culture; poor social adjustment and lack of opportunity to succeed in the greater society outside of the confines of the reservation or reserve system; are but a few of such cruel human miseries. To this day, no word or expression other than utterly disgraceful better describes this legacy of America’s and the greater Western world’s constant lust for expansion and empire-building at everyone’s expense. Like native peoples throughout the world, the Sioux have long memories of many similar historical events that their oral traditions never allow them to forget. The grievous losses suffered fuel’s a constant resistance that remains forever unyielding.
It’s an Ancient Apples & Oranges Dilemma
At their core, these battles are between two diametrically-opposed world views: one that believes in the sacredness of a simple hand-shake, spoken promise, or hand and ink touched to paper that is inviolate, and the other that only sees such things as expedient means to an end, words on a page that hold little real significance and so can be violated or broken at will or whim. It’s an all but unbridgeable divide between those who deem the land and all of life to be sacred and those who only hold sacred those things that constantly feed their greed, power, control and an unquenchable desire to forever expand at whomever or whatever’s expense; both sides of the divide forever left totally at sea by the other’s motivations. Reduced down to its essence, it’s a clash between those who are moral and those who are immoral; a perpetual debate over core issues of: human dishonesty or truthfulness, disrespect or respect, dishonor or honor, justice or injustice.
The essential question in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is whether the American voter is capable or prepared to make a truly informed, thoughtfully-reasoned choice between the clashing world views and policies of a: Republican Donald Trump; Democratic Hillary Clinton; Libertarian Gay Johnson; Green Party Jill Stein, or; Peace & Freedom Party Gloria La Riva.
It’s The Same Ol’ Same Ol’ Story for Native Peoples
The bottom-line to the current dispute between the Sioux Nation, U.S. Government, Wall Street’s Energy Transfer Partners and their hosts of fat cat backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is that when the non-Indian citizenry of the cities of Bismarck and Mandan hotly protested the pipeline going through their area, for the very same reasons given by the Sioux people themselves, their protests were duly heard and so honored. So the answer was to instead cynically divert the pipeline through the sacred territories and waters of the Standing Rock Sioux; in spite of, and in full face of, the prayerful protests by the Sioux and their allies among 200 or more Native Nations and multitudes of non-native allies throughout the world.
This begs the obvious question: why aren’t the peaceful prayer protests of those like the Sioux people ever worthy of being heard and equally honored as those of the non-native citizens of Bismarck and Mandan North Dakota? Another question yet to be asked and printed in the mainstream press is what does each of the candidates running for the U.S. Office of the Presidency have to say about all the human rights transgressions, First Amendment civil right violations, illegal mass arrests, trumped-up criminal charges, unwarranted Mace Sprays and vicious guard dog attacks of peaceful oil pipeline protestors that even now, on the eve of another presidential election, are also being perpetrated against any journalist or documentary filmmaker who dares to truthfully cover this conflict and bring it to the world’s attention?
Irwin is a freelance writer who regularly appears in the alternative press in the United States, Canada and Australia and is the author of the trilogy, “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (www.turtle-island-odyssey.com) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org