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Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Days of uncertainty for indigenous peoples

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: allotment, donald trump, elizabeth cook-lynn, native sun news, religion, sovereignty, treaties

A "Resist: Trump" message is projected on the Trump International Hotel during the #IndigenousRising round dance in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

A case of living under a shadow
By Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Native Sun News Today Columnist

These days of uncertainty, we ask about the historical perspective of trying to make sense of how to live good lives as Native people, even as others burn away our hopes and dreams.

That is the condition of oil rich Indian reservations looking back as the defensive efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe turned into a flaming fiasco at Cannon Ball in 2017. It’s not over ‘til it’s over, Yogi told us years ago. That means it’s not just here in our region and it will take a while …such betrayals are happening at a dozen other Indian enclaves throughout the United States.

What can we say about Federal Indian Policy and State Government regulations that allow the commoditization of nature, water, air, the deregulation of mining and a voting public that says the backstabbing the Sioux Nation has taken at the banks of the Missouri River is okay. What can we tell our children?

For some of us who read history we can say, “Yes, Virginia, history does repeat itself.” Unfortunately, we humans often vote for such repetitions of histories that sometimes turn into calamities.

That is the downside of Democracy that Socrates and Plato argued about. Older Americans (including Indians), can remember that in 1938 Austria, a European republic of great significance, willingly voted to give itself over to the German power mad regime that became Nazi-ism. And they started writing the Nuremberg Laws, passed them and implemented them to destroy six millions of their relatives who happened to be Jews. Today we in America have willingly voted into power an “America First” government based in White Supremacy, aggressive capitalism, deregulation of resource development and greed.

About Indians, who really never participated in American Government nor State Government until 1924 when U. S. Citizenship was conferred on them (whether they wanted it or not), the truth is that their reserved lands while they cover just 2 percent of the United States they probably hold about one-fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. Just like Germany was not the best place for Jews in 1930, America has never been the best place for Indians since 1492, and particularly since the recent rise of the slogan: “making American great again.”

As our new president faces up to the task of defending his “white nationalist” base of communal voters, it is imperative that Native scholars and activists begin to look deeper into third world history and the current legal thinking that drives American politics. We have done that before (read Vine Deloria, Jr.), but it is time to pay attention!

This reporter’s desk just got a white paper from a well-connected law office in New Mexico that warns of the shadow under which tribal nations have lived from the beginning of their relationships with America, a message that says the present government advisors of the newly elected regime is proposing to put Indian lands, millions of acres of treaty protected homelands, into private ownership. The indication is that such a proposal is gaining traction and is part of the reasoning that urged the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny at the last minute the notion that alternative routes for the pipeline be examined. We expect the corps to join the club, don’t we??

To privatize oil-rich Indian reservations is not a new idea, nor is it an idea that has not occurred right here in the Dakotas. Even today, there are white ranchers in every county in the Great Plains (those same people who stole the land or paid for it at 3cents at acre in the 1800’s), often mouth this idea in the right circumstances. Because of the opposition of tribal leaders, who say that such a move is called Genocide and is unworthy of a country like America that claims to be Christian, they mouth it only when it is within their own comfort zones.

Privatization of Indian lands has a huge history here in the Northern Plains. Indeed, The Dawes Act of 1887 (at the urging of greedy politicians), forced individual Indians onto private lots in exchange for enforced Citizenship and Christianity resulting in the loss of 90 million acres of treaty lands and endemic poverty on reserved enclaves across the country. Who says Democracy doesn’t work?

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: A case of living under a shadow

(Contact Elizabeth Cook-Lynn at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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