Republic of Lakotah

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MottoMitaku Oyasin (Lakota), "We Are All Related"
CapitalSee Dispute about name
Official language(s) Lakota (de facto) and English (de facto)
Government Confederation (proposed)
Independence from United States 
 -  Proclaimed December 192007 
 -  Recognition unrecognized 
 -  Total 200, 000 km2 
77, 220 sq mi 
 -  2005 estimate 100, 000[1] (including only people of Lakota origin) 
Currency Unknown
Internet TLD .lo (proposed)[cn]
Calling code 1
Rankings may not be available because of its unrecognized de facto state.

Lakotah or Lakota is a self-proclaimed, unrecognized state within the boundaries of the United States, covering thousands of square miles of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana.


A group of Native American separatists calling themselves the Lakota Freedom Delegation argue that the recent declaration of independence is not a secession from the USA, but rather, a reassertion of sovereignty.

To date, the country is unrecognized, and certain members of the Lakota tribe itself argue that they were not represented in the decisions. The real extent of support for the Lakota Freedom Delegation or for Lakota withdrawal from the United States is unknown.[2]

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".[3]

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 River to the east and an irregular line marking the west.[4][5] These borders coincide with those set by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie:
The territory of the Sioux or Dahcotah Nation, commencing the mouth of the White Earth River, on the Missouri River; thence in a southwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River; thence up the north fork of the Platte River to a point known as the Red Buts, or where the road leaves the river; thence along the range of mountains known as the Black Hills, to the head-waters of Heart River; thence down Heart River to its mouth; and thence down the Missouri River to the place of beginning.[6]
Inyan Kara, in the Black Hills is a sacred mountain to the Lakotah.

By these claims, the largest city in Lakotah is Omaha, Nebraska. The boundaries also contain Rapid City, South Dakota; Mandan, North Dakota; Casper, Wyoming; and Bellevue, Nebraska.

The reservation lands which the Republic claims contain the poorest counties in the United States.

However, 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 follows on from projects in the past that have sourced renewable energy on tribal lands.[7] The Republic also hopes to expand the farming of sugar beets for biofuel.[8] As of January 1 2008, the Republic announced they were filing liens on all government-held lands within their claimed borders.[9]

Politics and government

Citizenship is open to all Lakotah people and to any resident of the land Lakotah claims who renounce their United States citizenship. The group plans to issue its own passports and driving licenses in the name of the proposed nation.[10][8]

The Republic of Lakotah proposes the nation would be organized as a confederation run under the Libertarian principles of posse comitatus and caveat emptor, would offer "individual liberty through community rule" and would have 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.[11] Means has stated that the system of government is derived from the traditional Lakota government system.[8][2] 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."[12] Currently, Russell Means identifies himself as "Chief Facilitator" of a provisional government of the Republic Lakotah.[9]

The four signatories of the the Lakota Freedom Delegation's letter to the State Department announcing withdrawal from the US identified themselves by the title of "itacan of Lakota" in the news release declaring sovereignty.[13] Leaders of communities would be informally chosen by elders of the community.[2]

Dispute about name

There is dispute within the Delegation over the name of the country. Russell Means promulgates the name Republic of Lakotah, whereas Canupa Gluha Mani and other members of the Delegation propose Lakotah Oyate, claiming that "republic" is a Latin, not Lakota, concept. They also reject Means' declaration of a provisional government, arguing that Lakota Oyate's government is continuous with the traditional government of the Lakota people and therefore no provisional government is necessary.[14] No formal capital of Lakotah has been announced. The Republic of Lakotah's mailing address is in Porcupine, South Dakota,[15] whereas that of the Lakotah Oyate is in Hill City, South Dakota.[16]

Assertion of independence

The Lakota Freedom Delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. and contacted the United States Department of State, 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."[17]

The group also has pursued international recognition for the Lakotah at the embassies of Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, and South Africa and has claimed that Ireland and East Timor are "very interested" in Lakotah's declaration and that they expect recognition from Russia; Russell Means has made reference to Finland as well.[18][8] However, none of these nations have publicly announced recognition for Lakota.[cn]

Both factions have repudiated the former violent means of some of their members. Canupa Gluha Mani has stated "this is not an armed struggle, this is not an armed conflict"[19] while Russell Means calls the violent means used by some of its members in the past, such as during the Wounded Knee incident "idiocy, and thank goodness we didn't follow up on it".[8]

Both factions also say Lakotah's declaration of sovereignty comes after a thirty-three year preparatory period in which the legalities of treaty withdrawal were thoroughly explored, following the 1974 Oglala Declaration of Continuing Independence.[20]

Legal basis for independence

Supporters of Lakotah argue that their assertion of sovereignty is entirely legal under "Natural, International and United States law"[21]. The group emphasizes that the Republic's establishment comes from a "withdrawal" from the United States, not a secession.[8][11]

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 Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) and the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) and the rejection of all United States federal laws, executive orders, 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.[22][12]

The group claims its authority to assert independence derives from a long period of discussion and preparation involving a number of traditional chiefs 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 (1903) shows that the United States Government does not adequately protect Indian rights.[17] 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.[8]

Motivations for independence

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

The United States of America has continually violated the independent Native Peoples of this continent by Executive action, Legislative fiat and Judicial decision. By its actions, the U.S. has denied all Native people their International Treaty rights, Treaty lands and basic human rights of freedom and sovereignty. This same U.S. Government, which fought to throw off the yoke of oppression and gain its own independence, has now reversed its role and become the oppressor of sovereign Native people.[22]

The groups cite several reasons for its assertion of sovereignty, all connected to 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 notes 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.[25][26] The group also notes 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 Hills of South Dakota, which were part of Sioux reservation lands until they were taken without compensation by the US government and opened for mining. In a 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court decision United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians awarded $122 million to eight tribes of Sioux Indians as compensation, but the court did not award land. The Lakota have 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 Lakotah 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 eight-member delegation which traveled to Washington, D.C. was only a portion of some seventy-seven tribal elders and activists taking part in the movement.[8][27] 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."[28] 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."[29]

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 the joining the Republic of Lakotah and said that the Lakota Freedom Delegation never presented their plan to the tribal council.[2] 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".[30]

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.[30]

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.[31]

International response

Internationally, according to Russell Means, Venezuela'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 Lakotah is doing.[8]

US Government response

The United States Department of State is referring queries on the subject of Lakotah to the United States Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[32]

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", he said, but cautioned that "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".[30]

Opinion on the Federal Government's expected reaction within the Republic of Lakota leadership is divided; Russell Means has stated that "I don't expect the federal government to do anything. I don't believe they even know what to do"[8], but Canupa Gluha Mani has said that "we'll probably get killed for this".[19]


External links and further reading

pl:Republika Lakocka

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