Oct 30, 2001

UNPO and the Lakota Nation's right to self-determination

"It is the duty of every United States citizen to lobby their leadership to honour the treaties, respect the Oglala Lakota people's right to self-determination, and to remove the American colonial system of the Indian Re-organisation Act tribal council for Lakota reservations (IRA) that was imposed on the Lakota people"

This in short reflects the view of the Lakota people and their traditional leadership regarding US disregard of their fundamental right to self-determination. The UNPO, through previous and more recent special missions to Lakota territory, has unequivocally express its active support to the Lakota, including lobbying their case at international faura such as the UN. The visit of Senator John Nimrod to the Tetuwan Oyate, and his subsequent discussions with its Working Group at the Tetuwan Oyate International Embassy on 27 and 28 June 2001, is but one example in this respect.

Senator Nimrod is the current chairperson of the UNPO General Assembly. Mr Miguel Alphonso Martinez, expert of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, and a Cuban national, was also invited to participate in the meeting, but was unable to do so, due to his temporary detainment by US customs officials. He, however, did pay a visit at a later stage. Mr Martinez, in his 1998 UN-sponsored Treaty Study on the position of Indigenous Peoples, concluded that the US government has not honoured its treaties with the Lakota, acknowledging their inherent sovereignty on own territory, particularly the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
Besides the confiscation of millions of acres, the Treaty was grossly violated through the Indian Re-organization Act of 1934, replacing traditional government with corporate-like administrations responsible to the US federal government system.
A number of important issues were discussed by the meeting. Many from the tribal areas in the Dakotas were present and speeches stressed, inter alia, the need to "change a system that simply does not work for grass roots members of the Lakota people". Reference was made to the gross mismanagement of tribal funds by the IRA council, recalling a peaceful occupation of its building in the Pine Ridge reservation by concerned Lakota people in January 2000, to rid the nation of corrupt officials serving a neo-colonial system. It has been noted that the Pine Ridge reservation has statistically been the poorest region in the US where unemployment runs close to 90%. The so-called Grass Roots Oglala Lakota Oyate demanded the immediate and permanent removal of some key council officials, pending a federal grand jury investigation into their mismanagement of funds. It was also demanded that the IRA council be abolished and replaced by a new form of self-governance.

Without violence or the threat of violence, the Lakota people and traditional leadership continue to peacefully communicate their legal demand for self-determination, and have taken direct action on their own behalf. Senator Nimrod, on behalf of the UNPO, has committed the organisation to assist the Lakota by all possible means to strengthen their case through international appeal to other UNPO members, UN System bodies, other international law organisations, NGOs and the media. The objective is to at least obtain a referendum on the eventual replacement of the IRA council system. In the words of Tony Black Feather, spokesperson of the Tetuwan Oyate Treaty Council:

"We are not a nation within a nation. We are a nation protected by international law and we file our grievances internationally and through UNPO and the UN."

The meeting was concluded by formulating and signing a proclamation declaring the Lakota Red Cloud Building as the first North American Indigenous Embassy, presented to Senator Nimrod. The Senator raised the proclamation's contents during the UNPO Steering Committee meeting in The Hague on 14-15 July 2001. The Lakota issue and proclamation has also been deferred to the upcoming UNPO Conference on Decolonisation planned for January 2002.