Dave Flute serves as chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Photo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

'We have always been a very proud people': Dave Flute on tribes and treaties

Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe’s Response to Neal Tapio

By Dave Flute
Chairman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of the Lake Traverse Reservation’s final treaty with the United States of America was ratified by Congress on February 19, 1867 (15 Stat. 506).

This treaty was the outcome of the renegotiation of the Treaty of June 19, 1858 – Sisseton (12 Stat. 1031) that resulted in the loss of 469,000 acres of tribal lands. Although the U.S. Government agreed to buy the land, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe had to sue the Federal Government in 1928 to receive payment.

In 1891 Congress allowed the renegotiation of the 1867 Treaty by ratifying an agreement between the United States and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe to open the Lake Traverse Reservation to homesteaders, causing a loss of 678,778 acres of tribal lands.

These are a couple examples of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe’s experiences in treaty renegotiation.

Over the past 150 years, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe has experienced the attempts of state and federal governments to terminate, relocate, eliminate and limit tribal government. The State of South Dakota continues to disregard tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty.

Neal Tapio: Neal Tapio Calls for Renegotiation of Indian Treaty--End to Reservation System

The tribes do not need more patria parens legislation or another renegotiation of the treaties. The tribes need less state and federal infringement and interference with tribal economic growth and law enforcement. Nearly every Tribal economic venture is over-regulated and over-taxed by state and federal governments.

It is not the treaties or the reservations “holding down a once very proud people,” it is the inability for state governments to respect tribes as sovereigns and the State’s disparate treatment of Indian people in the court system, social services, and by law enforcement. In South Dakota, Native Americans account for 9% of the population yet we are nearly 30% of South Dakota’s prison population. Yet, federal law prohibits tribes from prosecuting non-Indians committing crimes within our jurisdiction.

Mr. Tapio, we are not a “once very proud people,” we have always been a very proud people, and remain a very proud people. We have endured hundreds of years of foreign people and foreign governments imposing themselves on our way of life, a way of life that existed well before the establishment of the United States or the state of South Dakota.

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, of the Lake Traverse Reservation rejects the notion of treaty renegotiations and the continued paternalistic government policies.

Dave Flute serves as chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, based on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota and North Dakota. His great grandfather was Flute Player, who signed the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. He served in the Army National Guard and was attached to the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan and served in combat. While in Afghanistan, he was injured and received the Purple Heart. He is a graduate of North Dakota State University and is working on a masters in archaeology.

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