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"Mitakuye Oyasin"--Lakota for "We are all related": The Ameican Indian Movement, Philosopy of Land & Land Rights
"Our defeat was always implicit in the history of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others, the empires and their native overseers...In the colonial and neocolonial alchemy, gold changes to scrap metal and food into poison...[We] have become painfully aware of the mortality of wealth which nature bestows and imperialism appropriates."
Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America(Churchill and LaDuke,231)

"The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indian; their land property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed--but laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.
1789 Northwest Ordinance (Coulter & Tullberg, 190-191)

The historical reality for North American Natives indicates the above clause to be rhetorical in nature: their is a conflict between theory and practice of such a doctrine. The Indian Removal Act, passed on May 28, 1830 set in motion the forced relocation of the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and other Native American nations, living east of the Mississippi River. President Andrew Jackson, defied the Supreme Court 's creation of The Northwest Ordinance (1789), opening up these areas for the exclusive use of the Euroamerican settlers and the imported slave labour from Africa. (Churchill and Morris, 13o-17) The insatiable appetite for Native land and resources resulted in the creation of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934,this Act imposed a system of "tribal council" governments on each reservation, to replace traditional and resistant Indian governmental forms . This form of government was not consulted with nor approved by the Council of Chiefs of the various Nations. (Deloria & Lytle, 217-218).The Bureau of Indian Affairs, a subdivision of the Department of the Interior, controls Native Americans, Native American land and other natural resources, and Native American capital. All policy, then owes its allegiance to Washington, D.C. According to Jimmie Durham the underlying causes of the conflict between traditional and nontraditional Native Americans are:

The traditional vision of American Indians with the pipe centres around a harmony of a circle, harmony of every part of life with our animal brothers and sisters and with our human brothers and sisters and a reverance for the sacredness of live. And this seems to come in conflict with white people's mentality. . ..onPine Ridge...[the} the non-traditionals, the mixed-bloods, have accepted the white man's money, the white man's way of life and that is the difference. ( Johansen & Maestas, 381)
.Furthermore, the Relocation Act of 1956, resulted in more than half of the 1.6 million Indians in the U.S.A. to relocate to urban centres, signing agreements to not return to their respective nations/reservations in the future. (Churchill and Morris, 16) Today, 97..5 percent of the Aboriginal land base, and its resources has been confiscated by the U.S. and Canadian Governments (Churchill & LaDuke,243). The internal colonization of First Nations Peoples, even if discussed infrequently, is indeed prominent and currently existing.

The American Indian Movement came into being in order to construct a socio-economic system based on and able to preserve the traditional indian cultures, and in turn Self-Sufficiency. The economic infrastructure of North American Indian nations was self-sufficient, practising ecologically respectful economies. Through the forced implementation of certain Governmental policies, reservation unemployment has reached an estimated 65 % in Canada and the United States. (Zannis and Davis, 90-93) For example,stock reduction programs were implemented as soon as 1934, in order to prevent what was termed "overgrazing" of reservation areas by individually and tribally owned cattle, and were only applied against Natives and not against non-Indian ranchers on Indian reservations. It has become inevitable for such communities to become susceptible and dependant on government welfare aid:

Combined with political and physical repression it [Welfare, and most recently Workfare in Canada] keeps people alive at a subsistence level but blunts any attempt at revolt while turning them into captive consumers of industrial products...For the past 2-3 decades, a kind of enclosure movement has taken place, brought on by the very nature of the welfare system and the dictates of corporate profits. " (Zannis & Davis,93)

In November of 1972 on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections, thousands of Native people, including elders, religious leaders, and students joined together in Washington D.C. This sizeable contigent, largely organized by A.I.M., described themselves as theTrail of Broken Treaties" In Jeanette Armstrong's Slash, Tommy/Slash joins this same caravan of protesters to bring attention to the "oppression being exercised...that continues to happen. Sometimes in ways ordinary people are not even aware of and would not agree with if they knew.."(96). The caravan carried with them what is known as the Twenty Point Program, and emphasized redefining the federal- indian relationship to encompass elements of real self-government/self-determination for the Indian nations., and called for the reassertion of Indian rights to full national sovereignty. The detailed program was to be negotiated by Nixon or his representatives prior to election day.. Vine Deloria, Jr., a prominent legal scholar of Sioux origin summarizes the Twenty Points:

Point 1; the restoration of constitutional treaty-making authority.. Point 2:a new treaty commission be established within the next year which could contract a new treaty relationship with the American Indian community on atribal, regional, or multitribal basis... Point 4:(the third point had nothing to do with treaty rights) establish a commission to review the treaty violations of the past and present and set up procedures for review of chronic treaty violations by both the states and federal government.. Point 5: resubmission of unratified treaties to the Senate for approval ,,, Point 6: perhaps most fundamental point, and one that would be later prominent at Wounded Knee, was a demand that all Indians be governed by treatyrelations... Point 7: mandatory relief from the treaty relationship asked for judicial recognition by the government of Indians's right to interpret treaty provisions. (48-52)
Restoration of the aboriginal land base to the dimensions it had been prior to the 1887 allotment policy, is explained by Point Ten as follows:

Simple justice would seem to demand that priorities in the restoration of land bases be granted to those Indian nations who are landless by fault of the unratified and unfulfilled treaty provisions; Indian nation, landless because of congressional and administrative actions reflective of criminal abuse of trust responsabilities; and other groupings of landless Indians, particularly of the landless generations, including many urban Indians and non-reservation Indian people--many of whom have been forced to pay, in forms of deprivations, loss of rights and entitlements, and other extreme costs upon their lives, an 'emigration- migration-education- training' tax for their unfulfilled pursuit of opportunity in America-- a tax as unwarranted and unjustified as it is unprecedented in the history of human rights in mature nations possessed of a modern conscience. (Kickingbird & Ducheneaux, 228)
The reallotment of land then, is of central importance here, as is the rhetoric of "nation" to both articulate and politicize this struggle of reclamation. In addition, the restoration of these land bases is on behalf of the land -based groups that constitute nations but alsoit deliberately includes landless and urban natives, as well.

The Twenty Points did not receive the deserved respect nor a real federal hearing from the federal authorites, yet this marked the emergence of AIM's determined and growing voice. Jimmie Durham, a Cherokee was named by Russell Means to establish and direct AIM's: American Indian Movement's "international diplomatic arm", the International Indian Treaty Council(IITC), headquarted at the United Nations in New York. This was the first indigenous entity to secure a role as United Nations Type II (Consulative) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), to have direct contact with and establish hearings with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights on behalf of AIM. (Deloria,48-52)

The "TREATY"(True Revolution for Elders, Ancestors, Treaties and Youth) program for autonomy, self-sufficiency, and environmental protection was launched by Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation; AIM found it crucial to link the issue of their own sovereignty to environmental concerns (Dakota A.I.M.) . A.I..M. strongly believes that to have Indian land rightfully returned to the Native communites practising traditional, spiritual and ecologically respectful lifestyles is crucial; In Slash, Tommy finds it strengthening and crucial to learn from the elders about traditional ways of living and of conducting himself as a Native activist in his struggle for his sense of identity and for his peoples right to self-government (216-217)

The Black Hills region, homeland of the various western Sioux (Teton Lakota) nations, the Arapahoe, Shoshoni, Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indians, has informally been designated by the American Government as a National Sacrifice Area., a national nuclear waste dump. The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Mines found in 1975, that the Pine Ridge Reservation, contained mineral resources of "oil and gas, uranium and a large variety of non-metallic commodities" . Great environmental destruction is an outcome of mining activities: Cancer rates are spiraling as are birth defects due to the gross levels of alpha radiation in the drinking water, three times the national safety standard. (Fischman)

On April 4, 1981, the Dakota American Indian Movement and its supporters began a process of resettlement of the Black Hills, guaranteed by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty as permanent Indian territory;90 percent of it has now passed from the hands of these various native nations. Dakota- A.I.M. claimed 800 acres of National Forest Service, which is about 12 miles southwest of Rapid City. The 1978 Indian Freedom of Religion Act and the 1897 federal law allowing churches and schools to be built in national forests. There are plans to build a community with homes, a church and a school so as the traditional cultural and spiritual ways of the Lakota could be passed onto the children and the coming generations. (Churchill, 322-326)

Reservations and reserved treaty rights are what remains today of the original land entitlements. These land holdings and the resources are the essence of the aboriginal way of life, the culture, the economy, and the future survival. The extinction of more than two thousand Indigenous nations of people on this western hemisphere (La Duke, Speech) , alone is clearly unwarranted and genocidal. Winona La Duke who is the director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and president of Indigenous Women's Network adds:

[as the] "Firstnext... Americans". ... Indians are always the first to suffer biologicaland chemical warfare at the hands of the U.S. government,. .to lose their land to big business,... their legal and human rights in the national interest, be laid off from any jobs they manage to find, becut from the social services budget every year... we are never the last to suffer what we first experience...that's something everybody might think about. Non-Indians will be next...go ask a farmer about his land these days,... somebody from Love Canal or Three Mile Island about their health., Appalachian miner about his job and the benefits of transient, extractive industries. (La Duke, speech)

For over 500 years the price paid for "development", "progress" and "wealth" has been much to high for the supposed benefits believed to be had. Tom Maulson, an Anishinabe who speaks to audiences world wide about indigenuous rights and the necessity to live according to the natural laws of nature, to practise traditional native ecological lifestyles, reminds that Words possess the alchemy to dispell fear and instill certain spiritual qualities--he suggests living with a sense of reverance for the earth, appreciating and learning from those who have struggled in the past for a more sustainable society and building solidarity for a more integrated, harmonious future. (Whaley& Bresette, 232-233) To have aboriginal caretakers/ guardians of the earth reestablishes a viable ecologically social countermodel to the present industrial/consumer-oriented model of environmental destruction , thus benefiting both native and mainstream society in the long run.


Armstrong, Jeannette. SlashPenticton, B.C.: Theytus Books, 1985

Churchill, Ward."Genocide in Arizona? The Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute in Perspective"The Town Crier, 3:6,7, (1985).

Churchill, Ward and Winona LaDuke. "Native North America: the Political Economy of Radioactive Colonialism" in The State of Native North America: Genocide, Colonization and Resistance edited by M. Annette Jaimes. Boston, Mass..: South End Press, 1992.

Churchill, Ward and Glen T. Morris. "Key Indian Laws and Cases"ibid.

Coulter, Robert T., and Steven M. Tullberg, "Indian Land Rights," in The Aggressions of Civilization: Federal Indian Policy Since the1880's, edited by Sandra L. Cadwalader and Vine Deloria, Jr. Philadelphia:Temple University Press

Dakota American Indian Movement. TREATY(True Revolution for Elders, Ancestors, Treaties and Youth) A Campaign Document, Porcupine, SD, 1983.

Deloria, Vine jr. Behind the Trail of Broken Treaaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2nd edition, 1984.

Deloria, Vine jr. & Clifford M. Lytle. The Nations Within: the Past, the Future of American Indian Sovereignty. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984

Fischman, Louise.Every Dose is an Overdose: Effects of Uranium Mining.Rapid City, SD: Black Hill Alliance, 1980

Johansen, Bruce & Robert Maestas. Wasi'chu: The Continuing Indian Wars.New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979.

Kickingbird, Kirk & Daren Ducheneaux. One Hundred Million Acres.New York: MacMillan, 1973.

La Duke, Winona, Speech presented at American Indian Women's Symposium, International Women's Week. Boulder, University of Colorado, 12 March 1984.

Whaley, Rick & Walter Bresette. Walleye Warriors: An Effective Alliance Against Racism and For the Earth.Philadelphia, PA: New Sources Publishers, 1994.

Zannis, Robert & Mark Davis.The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North.Toronto, Canada: Black Rose Books,1973. This document saved from

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