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The Republic of Lakotah or Lakotah is a proposed country in North America to serve as a homeland for the Lakota.

Its boundaries would be surrounded by the borders of the United Statesmarker, covering thousands of square miles in North Dakotamarker, South Dakotamarker, Nebraskamarker, Wyomingmarker, and Montanamarker. The proposed borders are those of an earlier treaty between the United States and the Lakota.

Background

A group of Native Americans called the Lakota Freedom Delegation traveled to Washington, D.C.marker, on 17 December 2007 and delivered a statement asserting the independence of the Lakota from the United States. The group argues that the recent declaration of independence is not a secession from the USA, but rather a reassertion of sovereignty. Their leader is Russell Means, one of the prominent members of the American Indian Movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The Lakota Freedom Delegation does not recognize tribal governments or presidents as recognized by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, sometimes referring to these groups as "stay-by-the-fort Indians".

Territory, demographics and economics

The claimed boundaries of Lakotah are the Yellowstone River to the north, the North Platte River to the south, the Missouri Rivermarker to the east and an irregular line marking the west. These borders coincide with those set by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie:



By these claims, the largest city in Lakotah is Omaha, Nebraskamarker. The boundaries also contain Rapid City, South Dakotamarker; Mandan, North Dakotamarker; Casper, Wyomingmarker; and Bellevue, Nebraskamarker as well as Mount Rushmoremarker.

In addition to containing all the Indian reservations of the Lakota, the territory which the Republic claims includes reservations inhabited by non-Lakota Siouan peoples (Dakota Indian Reservation, Winnebago Indian Reservation and Omaha Indian Reservation) as well as part of one non-Sioux reservation: the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota. They also contain the poorest counties in the United States.

Activities

The Republic of Lakotah is in negotiations to establish its own energy company, and hopes to develop solar and wind power and sell surplus electricity to the United States. This would represent a continuation of projects in the past that have sourced renewable energy on tribal lands. The Republic also hopes to expand the farming of sugar beets for biofuel. As of January 1, 2008, the Republic announced they were filing liens on all government-held lands within their claimed borders; however, the first round of liens, in an unnamed county in South Dakota, were rejected.

Following this, the Republic of Lakotah has chosen to concentrate on recovery of the Black Hills.

In July 2008, Russell Means announced that the Republic of Lakotah would be founding an all-Lakota "grand jury" to investigate corruption by government officials on the seven reservations in the Republic's claimed territory.

Jerry Collette in March 2008 announced Means's candidacy for presidency of the Oglala Lakota in the 2008 election; Means won 45% of the vote. Means says that the Republic of Lakotah plans to run candidates in other Lakota tribal presidential elections over the next two years, but does "not expect to win" any of them, instead treating the vote results as referenda on support for the Republic of Lakotah's program.

The Republic Of Lakotah is currently hiring several workers and volunteers of different professions to do numerous construction projects that will be done throughout May to August 2009. Among the largest of these projects is the T.R.E.A.T.Y Total Immersion School. Based on the successes achieved by the Total Immersion School experience of the Māori in New Zealandmarker, the school seeks to teach the indigenous culture’s language, art, dance, music, science and oral tradition in addition to other traditional forms of education to the people enlisted there.

The school will supposedly aid in both cultural and linguistic revival to the Lakotah tribe. Eventually, the Republic of Lakotah will try to expand to the construction of the approximately 100 schools which will be needed to serve all 13 Lakotah reservations. The Republic of Lakotah also uses donations made by supporters for "Humanitarian Relief", supplying food and new clothing, as well as providing propane for electricity for poorer people living without them on the reservations.

Politics and government

Citizenship is open to people of all races and to any resident of the land Lakotah claims who renounce their United States citizenship, although the latter is not necessary to participate in the Republic of Lakotah at the moment. The group plans to issue its own passports and driving licenses in the name of the proposed nation.

The Republic of Lakotah proposes that the nation be organized as a confederation that would respect the libertarian principles of posse comitatus and caveat emptor, would offer "individual liberty through community rule," and would collect no nationwide taxes. However, individual communities within the proposed nation would be allowed to levy taxes with the consent of the taxed. No currency has yet been proposed but Russell Means has suggested that the proposed nation should not use fiat currency but instead adopt a gold standard. Means has stated that this system of government is derived from the traditional Lakota government system. Means said, "we are going to implement how we lived prior to the Invasion. Each community will be a mini-state unto itself ... They will form the federation known as Lakotah." Currently, Russell Means identifies himself as "Chief Facilitator" of a provisional government of the Republic of Lakotah. The provisional government is currently being operated out of Treaty School/Ranch in Porcupine, South Dakotamarker, on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The four signatories of the Lakota Freedom Delegation's letter to the State Department that announced withdrawal from the US identified themselves by the title of "itacan of Lakota" in a press release. Leaders of communities would be informally chosen by elders of the community.

Government

The following people have identified themselves as members of the provisional government of Lakotah, or been so identified by other members of the movement:
  • Russell Means, chief facilitator
  • Tegheya Kte, also called by Garry Rowland, (fully Clarence Gary Anthony Rowland), facilitator
  • Phyllis Young, provisional government member
Decisions within the community are traditionally made by Lakotah Elders, who are valued for their experience. Lakotah Elders will continue to hold power within an independent nation.

No formal capital of Lakotah has been announced. The Republic of Lakotah gives its provisional capital as Porcupine, South Dakotamarker with hopes in the long run to move administration to near Rapid City, South Dakotamarker.

Connections with other movements

Through its membership and work, the Republic of Lakotah has several direct ties to other activist movements among both the Indian and libertarian communities.

Russell Means and Robert Robideau have both long been prominent in the Autonomous American Indian Movement, with Means along with Tegheya Kte having taken part in the Wounded Knee incident and Robideau acquitted in a trial related to the Leonard Peltier case. Tegheya Kte, meanwhile, led the Big Foot Riders in 2007, while Phyllis Young is a founder of the Women of All Red Nations feminist movement.

Assertion of independence



The Lakota Freedom Delegation traveled to Washington, D.C.marker and contacted the United States Department of Statemarker, announcing that the Lakota were unilaterally withdrawing from the several treaties between themselves and the United States government. The delegation presented a letter, dated December 17, 2007 and signed by longtime Indian activists Russell Means, Garry Rowland, Duane Martin Sr. also called Canupa Gluha Mani, and Phyllis Young, which declared the Lakota to be "predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory" and cited gross violations of the treaties between the Lakota and the United States as the immediate cause for withdrawal. The letter also invited the United States government to enter into negotiations with the newly-declared entity, there identified only as "Lakotah." It threatened that if good-faith negotiations were not begun then "Lakotah will begin to administer liens against real estate transactions within the five state area of Lakotah."

The group also has pursued international recognition for the Lakotah at the embassies of Venezuelamarker, Boliviamarker, Chilemarker, and South Africa and has claimed that Irelandmarker and East Timormarker are "very interested" in Lakotah's declaration and that they expect recognition from Russiamarker. Russell Means has made reference to Finlandmarker and Icelandmarker as well. However, none of these nations have publicly announced recognition for Lakotah.

Legal basis for independence

Traditional range of the Siouan peoples (dark green) and the current reservations (orange)
Supporters of Lakotah argue that their assertion of sovereignty is entirely legal under "Natural, International and United States law". The group emphasizes that the Republic's establishment comes from a "withdrawal" from the United States, not a secession.

They argue that as an Indian tribe in the United States, the Lakota were already and always have been a sovereign nation as guaranteed under Article Six of the United States Constitution, bound to the United States Federal Government by treaty. As such, the legal basis of such a state's independence is argued to be the Lakota nation's withdrawal from the 1851 and 1868 Treaties of Fort Laramiemarker, and the rejection of all United States federal laws, executive order, and other government acts since then, in particular rejecting the Major Crimes Act, the General Allotment Act, the Citizenship Act of 1924, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Indian Claims Commission Act, Public Law 280 and the Termination Act.

The group claims its authority to assert independence derives from a long period of discussion and preparation involving a number of traditional chief and tribal councils representing the following Indian reservations and communities:

The group also claims the right to withdraw, on behalf of the Lakota people, from the Treaties of Fort Laramie as a consequence of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Members argue that the decision in the case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 553 shows that the United States Government does not adequately protect Indian rights. Means also cites the Enabling Act of 1889, stating that clauses protecting Indian sovereignty on the lands comprising the states where the Lakota historically reside have been ignored.

In a 15 January 2008 news release, the Republic of Lakotah proposed that independence from the United States might follow a Compact of Free Association and suggested that the independence process could resemble that of the Philippinesmarker, Palaumarker, the Federated States of Micronesiamarker or the Marshall Islandsmarker.

Russell Means has also stated that he intended to treat the result of the 2008 Pine Ridge Reservation Presidential election, in which he was a candidate, as a "plebiscite/referendum" on Lakota independence.

Motivations for independence

Lakotah's founders cite the Oglala 1974 Declaration of Continuing Independence:

The groups cite several reasons for its assertion of sovereignty, all connected what they refer to as the "colonial apartheid" of the reservation system in the United States. The group claims that control by the United States has led to massive unemployment, poverty and disease among the Lakota people and also alleges that 150 years of US administration is responsible for the statistical poverty of Lakota lands. The group claims that withdrawal from the United States will reverse these problems as well as help reestablish the Lakota language and culture. The group also claims persistent violations by the United States of their treaties with the Lakota.



Another longstanding point of contention between the Lakota and the United States is the status of the Black Hillsmarker of South Dakota, which were part of Sioux reservation lands until they were taken without compensation by the US government and opened for gold mining following the collapse of the Treaty of Fort Laramie . In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court decision United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians awarded $105 million to eight tribes of Sioux Indians as compensation ($17.1 million for the market value of the land in 1877 and $88 million in 5% per annum simple interest between 1877 and 1980, as interest accrues, the unclaimed award is approaching $1 billion.), but the court did not award land. The tribal governments of the Lakota has refused the settlement, and as interest accrues, the unclaimed award is approaching $1 billion.

Support and reactions

The extent of popular support among the Lakota people for independence is unclear. Russell Means and Canupa Gluha Mani have claimed that some 13,000 Lakota, including 77% of the population of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, have shown support for the Republic of Lakotah, and that the 8-member delegation which traveled to Washington, D.C. was only a portion of some 77 tribal elders and activists taking part in the movement. However, Rapid City Journal reporter Bill Harlan reported on his blog that "most folks I talk to hadn’t heard about the declaration. The ones who had heard the news, to a person, did not want to talk about it on the record." The Journal has also noted that "there were no tribal presidents in the group which made the announcement, no one from the top ranks of any of the Lakota Sioux tribes." Nanwica Kciji, an Oglala Lakota and first president of the Native American Journalists Association, has also discredited the December 2007 developments, arguing that the Lakotah Freedom Delegation "never considered that treaties are made between nations and not individuals."

The Alaskan Independence Party, in an announcement dated December 21 2007, "applauded" the independent Lakota nation and granted it "full recognition". The secessionist movement Second Vermont Republic has also announced its support, and encouraged other American Indian groups to similarly declare independence from the United States.

Response from recognized Native American governments

The official tribal governments of the Lakota have had mixed reactions, though none have yet adopted either faction's program.

Rodney Bordeaux, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux, said that Rosebud Indian Reservation has no interest in joining the Republic of Lakotah and said that the Lakota Freedom Delegation never presented their plan to the tribal council. Bordeaux stated that the group does not represent the Lakota people nor the support of the elected tribal governments. However, he did say that Russell Means "made some good points".

Joseph Brings Plenty, chairman of the Cheyenne River Lakota, agreed that the Lakota Freedom Delegation "are not representative of the nation I represent" but would not say whether he agreed or disagreed with their goals and message, noting some value in the group's actions in raising awareness for the history of the Lakota people.

Conversely, Avis Little Eagle, the vice-chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, has said that the Council of Standing Rock Reservation will consider Russell Means's letter.

Charmaine White Face, speaking for the Teton Sioux Treaty Council, has announced:

International response

Internationally, according to Russell Means, Venezuelamarker's ambassador to the United States has stated to the group that his country cannot recognize Lakotah's independence based on Venezuela's interpretation of what the Lakotah Freedom Delegation is doing.

In February 2008, the Lakotah Freedom Delegation (including Means) handed over a formal petition, asking for recognition of the Republic of Lakotah, to the embassies of Russiamarker, Serbiamarker, Boliviamarker, Venezuelamarker, the Republic of South Africa, Irelandmarker, Francemarker, Nicaraguamarker, East Timormarker, Chilemarker, Turkeymarker, Indiamarker, Finlandmarker, Icelandmarker and Uruguaymarker. The text of the petition is available online.

U.S. Government response

The United States Department of Statemarker is referring queries on the subject of Lakotah to the United States Department of the Interiormarker, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Gary Garrison of the BIA said that the group's withdrawal "doesn't mean anything." "These are not legitimate tribal governments elected by the people ... when they begin the process of violating other people's rights, breaking the law, they're going to end up like all the other groups that have declared themselves independent — usually getting arrested and being put in jail."

Russell Means, on the subject of what the Republic of Lakotah expects the Federal Government response to be, has stated that "I don't expect the federal government to do anything. I don't believe they even know what to do."

References

  1. Russell Means interview from December 26, 2007 on Free Talk Live
  2. untitled
  3. "For your query, we will refer you to the Department of the Interior. This is not a State Department issue." Kirsten Petree, Director, Office of Media Affairs, U.S. Department of State, private communication with Wikinews (December 21, 2007)


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