“Today is a historic day and our forefathers speak through us. Our Forefathers made the treaties in good faith with the sacred Canupa and with the knowledge of the Great Spirit,” shared Garry Rowland from Wounded Knee. “They never honored the treaties, that’s the reason we are here today.”
A four member Lakota delegation, activist and actor Russell Means, Women of All Red Nations (WARN) founder Phyllis Young, Oglala Lakota Strong Heart Society leader Duane Martin Sr., and Garry Rowland, Leader Chief Big Foot Riders traveled to Washington D.C. to claim their people’s destiny.
“In order to stop the continuous taking of our resources – people, land, water and children- we have no choice but to claim our own destiny,” said Phyllis Young, a former Indigenous representative to the United Nations and representative from Standing Rock.
Property ownership in the five state area of Lakota now takes center stage. Parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana have been illegally homesteaded for years despite knowledge of Lakota as predecessor sovereign [historic owner]. Lakota representatives say if the United States does not enter into immediate diplomatic negotiations, liens will be filed on real estate transactions in the five state region, clouding title over literally thousands of square miles of land and property.
Young added, “The actions of Lakota are not intended to embarrass the United States but to simply save the lives of our people”.
After the withdrawal from the State Department the Lakota representatives began the process of meeting with foreign embassy officials to hasten their official return to the Family of Nations. Bolivia and Venezuela both have had positive reactions.
The Lakota people live in the most impoverished area of North America. There has been a legacy of broken treaty promises and apartheid policies between the tribe and the United States. Lakota has the highest death rate in the United States and its male population has the lowest life expectancy of any nation on this globe at the young age of 44. Teen suicide rates are 150% higher than the United States average. 3% of the Lakota nation live above the national poverty line and only 15% are gainfully employed.
“After 150 years of colonial enforcement, when you back people into a corner there is only one alternative,” emphasized Duane Martin Sr. “The only alternative is to bring freedom into its existence by taking it back to the love of freedom, to our lifeway.”
Now the Lakota people are taking stock of their priorities; education, energy and justice. By using solar, wind, geothermal and sugar beets to provide electricity and heat they hope to become energy independent. There are plans to mesh cultural immersion education to protect their language, culture and sovereignty.
One very telling difference is the address of a story, Wounded Knee, Lakotah (formerly South Dakota) that change is in the air. 44 riders began a ride under the weight of United States treaties at Standing Rock on December 15 287 miles from Wounded Knee. They completed the ride 13 days later a new sovereign nation.
“The purpose is to ride the spirit trail of Chief Big Foot,” said Tegihya Kte also known as Garry Rowland, leader of the riders and recent delegate of the Lakotah Freedom effort in Washington D.C.. “The Tree of Life died in Wounded Knee in 1890, and the ride was begun to mend the Sacred Hoop.”
Is it to late though for the Lakota people? Have the decades that they have been opposed be undone? Will they be able to stand on their own two feet without aid? Are their tribal leaders to immersed in corruption to lift all of their people up? Will the mighty reign over those that have lost hope for the future?
Only time will tell.