When news of the Lakota Freedom Delegation’s visit to Washington, DC cleared the AP newswire, on December 17, 2007, I immediately connected the dots about my home state. Over half of Nebraska is in the territorial domain of the Republic of Lakotah. The new “free and independent nation” included over 77,000 square miles of Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
The Freedom Delegation was headed by Native American activist Russell Means. The group “withdrew from the constitutionally mandated treaties to become a free and independent country.” The Republic of Lakotah is not technically a secessionist movement because it does not consider that their nation ever belonged to the United States of America. The treaties with the Lakotah that were negotiated and signed have been repeatedly violated by the United States, so they are null and void.
The December 2007 letter declared the Lakota people as the “predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory”. The document cited the gross violation of US/Lakota treaties as cause for their claims. If legitimate, good-faith negotiations with the Lakotah Republic were not initiated, the Lakotah would file liens against real estate transactions within the five-state territory. The Lakotah assert their actions are legal under “Natural, International, and United States law.”
The Lakotah cites precidents in other US colonized territories, such as the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Philippines. All of these former colonies are presently sovereign countries.
I’ve long been aware of the problems that developed because of the claims of the United States upon the traditional homelands of the Lakota and other aboriginal people who inhabit my home state. I’ve had conversations with friends who are Ponca and Lakota regarding the history of the larger Nebraska Territory. During many early morning walks alone, I’ve also thought about the original inhabitants of my state.
How can the desire for a free, independent nation for the Lakota People be fulfilled within the boundaries of the US? The request by the Lakotah Delegation was not really taken very seriously by representatives of the US government. However, the lack of good faith by the US does not diminish the legitimacy of Native American sovereignty.
If, somehow the United States conceded that the Lakotah Republic exists as a legitimate political entity, what would be the repercussions of such a decision? The Lakotah Republic would have to deal with the often questionable US foreign policy and the State Department. There would also be the problems of negotiating with the five states that occupy the Lakotah lands. It’s doubtful that the individual state governments would voluntarily surrender their legal claims without a fight.
The farmers, ranchers, and town dwellers would certainly not relinquish their real estate titles without very strong disputes. Even if, somehow, the states did consent to the loss of sovereignty, the residents would probably react with an armed insurrection. The likelihood of a hot conflict would be quite likely. Even though I sympathize with the native peoples, I cannot envision the reality of an actual, physical Lakotah Republic. There are just too many large obstacles to overcome.
Just imagine what would happen if the United States actually honored the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie? According to the actual wording of the signed document: “[C]ommencing the mouth of the White Earth River, on the Missouri River; thence in a southwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River; thence up the north fork of the Platte River to a point known as the Red Buts, or where the road leaves the river; thence along the range of mountains known as the Black Hills, to the head-waters of Heart River; thence down Heart River to its mouth; and thence down the Missouri River to the place of beginning.” All of this would be sovereign property of the Lakotah Republic.
Lakotah citizenship would be available to any resident of any race who lives within the borders of the Lakotah Republic claims. The government would be a confederation of smaller town and country federations. The right to levy taxes would be up to each individual jurisdiction. Before his death, Russell Means stated, “We are going to implement how we lived prior to the invasion.”
Meantime, the Lakotah Republic is currently just an intention. The United States government has no plans to honor the document of independence. The Bureau of Indian Affairs says that anyone who violates other people’s rights, and breaks the law will risk arrest and imprisonment.
Meantime, there has been little response from other countries to the international petition that has been submitted by the Lakotah Freedom Delegation to the various embassies.
Presently, the Lakotah are focusing their efforts on sovereignty over the Black Hills of South Dakota. Despite this, the Lakotah Republic is not waiving its claims over the remainder of its traditional territory.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers the dream of Lakota holy man, Black Elk. “The soldiers did go away and their towns were torn down. And in the Moon of Falling Leaves, they made a treaty with Red Cloud that said our country would be ours as long as grass should grow and water flow.”