Elders sign proclamation for indigenous rights!
Time expires on Black Hills payment to tribes: Legislation needed
Indigenous rights leaders proclaim: U.N. declaration guides sacred land security
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor
Elders sign proclamation for indigenous rights, closing the fourth annual Unity Concert to support the Black Hills Initiative.Photo by Talli Nauman Elders sign proclamation for indigenous rights, closing the fourth annual Unity Concert to support the Black Hills Initiative.Photo by Talli Nauman PIEDMONT ––The Sept 10 signing here of an elders’ proclamation for indigenous rights culminated the fourth annual Unity Concert to support the Black Hills Initiative.
“By this proclamation we agree to share wisdom and build alliances to ensure the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) within our communities and members states,” the document affirms.
Black Hills Initiative member and former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls hailed the signing as an accomplishment of negotiations held each year at the event to raise awareness about repatriation of the Black Hills to the Pte Oyate (Great Sioux Nation) in accord with the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty.
“We finally got a document,” Two Bulls pronounced. “Every year we had the right people there and we didn’t force it down anybody’s throat,” she told the Native Sun News Today. “This year we got a proclamation. It’s not to harm anybody. It’s to help everybody,” she said.
The proclamation holds: “All governments need to honor and live up to their responsibilities regarding recognized treaties and agreements, and be held accountable if they fail to do so.”
Two Bulls sees it as a “tool” encouraging elders to share their knowledge with up-and-coming generations about “what the Black Hills means.” For too long, the elders have been oppressed and holding back, she said. “The Black Hills are sacred.”
Education about that can unite adults and youth in finding innovative remedies to redress the treaty violations in Lakota Territory, she hopes.
The proclamation now will go to indigenous leadership worldwide to forge a united front promoting national government implementation of UNDRIP, not only to protect the Black Hills, but also sacred sites around the globe, according to Yvette Running Horse Collin, executive director of the Sacred Healing Circle and administrator for the Black Hills Sioux Nation Council of Elders.
Black Hills Initiative members aim to ask federally-recognized tribal governments formed under the Indian Reorganization Act to approve ordinances containing language similar to the proclamation, as a means of bolstering the U.S. government’s existing subscription to the UNDRIP.
Initiative co-founder Milo Yellow Hair admonished concert-goers: “The United States is beautiful; pray with it.” Yellow Hair is the “grandfather” of the U.N. declaration, International Indian Treaty Council board member Bill Means said.
The U.N. characterizes the declaration as “the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples,” saying that “it establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”
In pushing that envelope, the Black Hills Initiative is a role model, according to Two Bulls. Its members insist that “the Black Hills are not for sale.” They have advanced numerous alternatives to the monetary settlement that the U.S. Supreme Court offered in compensation for the theft of the Black Hills.
In 1980, the court awarded $105 million in redress to the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, with Justice Harry Blackmun stating in his court opinion that “a more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealing may never be found in our history.”’
Some 35 years later, the interest on the money in the U.S. Treasury has boosted the offer to more than $1.4 billion. However, the Black Hills Sioux Nation Council refuses to accept the funds.
According to the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Black Hills claim attorney Mario Gonzalez, advisors are seeking a legislative resolution. “The only viable solution is to settle it legislatively,” he said.
Under the tribe’s 1980 claim, as BIA research has established, the time limit to distribute the money has expired, so now an act of Congress is required to provide redress, Gonzalez told the Native Sun News Today.
A bill should be “approved by all the tribes so they can have an opportunity to develop their own legislation,” he said. “It would return federal land to the Sioux tribes and resolve the claim in a more fair and equitable manner.”
He said, “We have been working on innovative solutions to maybe resolving the claim without having to put ‘sale’ language into the legislation and reaching an accommodation with the non-Indians, because they are here to stay.”
For starters, roads could be marked like those in Oklahoma with signs that designate the boundaries of tribal territory. “Once you recognize those boundaries, it’s easier to figure out the rights within them,” he said. For example, mandatory consultation with tribes on oil pipeline construction would be understood more clearly, he noted.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act sets a precedent that could be expanded to hunting, fishing and timber rights in Lakota Territory, in lieu of payment: A council of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes could oversee the rights, he said. “All the tribes met in Rosebud a few days ago and agree that legislation is the solution,” he added.
The money should be available to the Sioux tribes in exchange for denial of treaty-land use during the last 100 years; and in Gonzalez’ opinion, it should go to a permanent fund for interest-only use. He cautioned that the proposals are not set in stone, rather ideas to be explored.
“In exchange, we will agree we won’t file a suit in any U.S. court and ask for any more of the land back,” he said. However, he proposed, additional land that the tribes buy, should be afforded trust status, which means it would be under the jurisdiction of tribal government.
At the proclamation signing, Means labelled Gonzalez “the foremost authority” on the Black Hills claim. He advocated, “It’s one thing to say, ‘The Black Hills are not for sale.’ You gotta organize, organize, organize.”
He noted that descendants of the treaty makers are among the original 29 signers of the 2017 Unity Concert proclamation. “The Black Hills means as much to us as Jerusalem to the Jews, Christians and Muslims, as much as the Vatican means to the Roman Catholic Church,” he said.
In addition to representatives of the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin), indigenous leaders from Tibet, Colombia, Mexico and Australia signed the proclamation. It states:
“Whereas, we have gathered as indigenous elders from the Americas, Asia and Australia in good faith and in prayer to build alliances and strengthen each other in our mutual paths to self- reliance, the revitalization of our unique cultures and peoples, and the protection of our sacred sites:
“Recognizing the urgent need to work together to engender global respect and promote our inherent rights as indigenous peoples, which derive from our unique societal structures and from our traditional cultures, spiritual traditions, histories, and lifeways, especially our rights to protect and govern our sacred places and safeguard and practice our traditional knowledge; and
“Acknowledging that respect for, and the practice of, our peoples’ traditional knowledge, cultures and spiritual practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management and balance of the environment and the physical and spiritual world; and
“Recognizing that we must work together as indigenous peoples globally to ensure that our voices are heard in a secular and capitalistically driven world, which is not of our creation … “Now therefore we declare and proclaim:
“Our peoples each hold a portion of the gifts of Creator for the world, and as such have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination in the exercise of our gifts, in particular based on our unique indigenous origin, cultural foundation, homelands, sacred sites, spiritual practices, identities, and sovereignty in the education of our youth.
“Our peoples understand that there is a direct correlation between mineral development, the fossil fuel industry and climate change. These practices violate Grandmother Earth and global warming is a direct result of these practices that we recommend stop immediately.
“Our peoples have the right to clean water for our families and communities, and the right to utilize our traditional knowledge systems regarding the management of Grandmother Earth to protect these waters.
“We offer our collaboration to restore sacred sites whenever possible and we demand that spiritual ancestral authorities be acknowledged and respected.”
The Unity Concert for the Black Hills, carried out with fundraising by the Center for Sacred Studies, has run its course. However, its organizers announced, the Pte Oyate will carry on the tradition under the leadership of Jack Red Cloud, “dreaming in the next concert.”
(Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org)