January 17, 2020

For my people, the Oceti Sakowin , honour is a key component of who we are. It is so important to us that it is one of our core values.One would think that this is an ideal we share with the settler...

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For my people, the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation), honour is a key component of who we are. It is so important to us that it is one of our core values.

One would think that this is an ideal we share with the settler government of the United States based on how they speak of it. Throughout its comparatively short history as a nation, American leaders have extolled honour often; honour to duty, honour to country, honour to God.

Yet time and again, the US has shown that its claim to honour, more often than not, is not supported by actions.

A common refrain in Indian country is "Honour the Treaties". We say it because the US government has breached every treaty they have forged with sovereign Native nations, despite its own constitution proclaiming that "Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land".

Instead of honouring its agreements on a nation-to-nation basis, the US used them as a ruse to steal our lands and in furtherance of the genocide colonial invaders committed against North America's original inhabitants.

The Lakota of the Great Sioux Nation know this well. In the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the US promised us the Black Hills of South Dakota in exchange for peace, after we defeated them during Red Cloud's War.

Khe Sapa, the Black Hills, are not just our ancestral homelands. They are full of sacred sites and landmarks that are thousands of years old. The birthplace of the Lakota, Wind Cave, is in the Black Hills. Our ancestors have held ceremonies there for millennia, and we continue to do so to this day. As our elders say, it is the heart of everything.

The US soon proved to us that its word was mud. In 1874, an expedition led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (yes, him) trespassed into the Black Hills. They found gold. When the Lakota refused to sell the Black Hills, the US and its agents breached the Fort Laramie Treaty to steal the land, gold, and its additional mineral riches like silver and uranium.

By the end of 1965, 31,207,892 oz (884,729 kg) of gold had been taken from the Black Hills. In today's market, that translates to about $50bn worth.

Meanwhile, Lakota reservations are among the poorest in the US. Fifty-four percent of Lakota who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation live below the poverty line. On the nearby Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, about 44 percent of residents are living in poverty. Imposed poverty has caused untold suffering among the Lakota people.

In US vs Sioux Nation of Indians, the US Supreme Court held that the Black Hills were wrongfully taken from the Oceti Sakowin. But they are still drilling for gold. In the Supreme Court ruling, they ordered that just compensation should be paid to the Oceti Sakowin. We do not accept those terms because our sacred Black Hills are not for sale.

Excerpted from: 'The US claims to value honour, but has it ever?'


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