Opinion

Bryan Brewer: Native people must continue fight for sovereignty





Bryan Brewer, the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, discusses sovereignty:
The Constitution affirms the earliest “treaties made” and later treaties “which shall be made ” as part of the “Supreme Law of the Land.” So, the text of the Constitution recognizes Indian nations as sovereign treaty partners. The Constitution grants the Federal Government power to “regulate Commerce … with the Indian Tribes,” again, acknowledging Indian tribes as sovereign governments. It treats Native peoples as citizens of Indian nations by “excluding Indians not taxed” from representation in Congress and direct taxation.

After the Constitution was ratified, President Washington made it clear that the United States Indian Affairs Policy was based upon consent. In 1790, when the Creek Nation signed the 1790 Treaty, he invited Creek Nation delegates to the Executive Mansion in New York (the first White House) for a state dinner to celebrate. When Thomas Jefferson made the Lousiana Purchase Treaty in 1803, the United States pledged to abide by existing International treaties until it entered its own treaties with the Indian nations based upon “mutual consent.”

Chief Red Cloud knew the source of Indian sovereignty. When he first saw the U.S. Army fly the American flag over Fort Laramie, he asked, “What’s that?” That’s the symbol of the United States, he was told. Red Cloud took an eagle feather and tied it to an arrow. He shot the arrow into the flagpole above the American flag, where the eagle feather flew in the breeze. “The Eagle Feather is the flag of the Lakota Oyate,” Red Cloud said.

Our Lakota people fought and died in wars to protect our people, our land, our rights, and our sovereignty. Red Cloud led the Powder River War known as “Red Cloud’s War.” When the U.S. Army abandoned the forts, Red Cloud burned the forts and only then did he sign the 1868 Sioux Nation Treaty.

Get the Story:
Bryan Brewer: We, the Native Peoples (Indian Country Today 4/14)