Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Tribal treaties are still the supreme law of the land

Commemorating the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

By Professor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Native Sun News Today Columnist

This weekend,  starting on April 28th, the 150th commemoration of the 1851-1868 Treaties of Fort Laramie  will begin a four day encampment at 965 Gray Rocks Road, Wyoming.   It is expected that 2,500 Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne Tribal Nation Riders will begin the “Honoring the Spirit” ceremony and events will follow, lasting a week.

This is an important,  once in a life-time gathering of the North Plains Treaty Tribes,   now…. when we are in a moment of taking action against institutional politics and against the most egregious attack on Mother Earth of any time in modern history.    Recent protests by native people have brought together broad coalitions, but this one is, perhaps, one of the most important gatherings because IT IS TREATY BASED.

Treaties are documents that often mean controversies.  Early European religious people and politicians who arrived in this country in recent times have been responsible for thinking of Indians only in terms of slavery and genocide.  Rarely do they think that people of the Indigenous Nations lived on this continent for thousands of years as Nations of People who knew   how to live comfortably in their lives and communal societies without destroying their homelands.   The thinking of the newcomers about their abuses toward the Earth were ignored for decades because, they said to themselves, “God gave US this land.”

Such thinking did not flourish in ancient and medieval times; rather, it occurred in the middle of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:   when the Brooklyn Bridge was being built, Wesleyan College for women was being established in Georgia, the Republican Party was being organized and the 15th amendment guaranteeing blacks the right to vote became a part of the Constitution.   Death to the Earth as well as the Indigenes and an often disheartening history has been the result.


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Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, born and raised at Fort Thompson, South Dakota. Her latest book is A Separate Country: Postcoloniality and American Indian Nations (2012. Texas Tech U Press.) The University of Nebraska Press will publish her memoir In Defense of Loose Translations, available late this summer.

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