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2016-07-27 / Editorial

How a great Nation so shamefully violated its oath

Gold Discovery Days is a time of celebration for the community of Custer located in the Southern Black Hills. As a matter of record it is not a day that Native Americans would find celebratory and the name of the community itself has no redeeming value to any American Indian. We are sure it is not the only city and county in America named after a mass murderer.

The name gold is from the Old English word geolo (yellow) and from the Latin word aurum. It is also the element that drove sane men crazy. When Custer’s Black Hills Expedition discovered gold along the French Creek in the Black Hills the word was quickly leaked to the press and the onslaught of gold maddened white men began. Even though the Black Hills were still a part of the Great Sioux Nation the U. S. Army which was supposed to keep invaders out of the Black Hills, allowed them to rush in like a flood. The Gold Rush began in 1874 and in 1876 George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry troops met their Waterloo at the Battle of the Greasy Grass or Little Bighorn.

Totally disregarding the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 the United States government illegally seized the Black Hills from the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation which prompted Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun to write, “A more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealings may never be found in our history.”

History records that: Despite the fact that the 1868 Treaty was legally binding and the Sioux overwhelmingly refused to sign the new treaty, the U.S. Congress ratified the 1876 Act in February of 1877, taking the Black Hills from the Dakota and Lakota and extinguishing their hunting rights in the un-ceded territory. Upon hearing of the annexation of the Black Hills, Henry Whipple, the government appointed chairman of the commission that was unsuccessful in obtaining consent of the Sioux to relinquish these lands and rights, said, “I know of no other instance in history where a great nation has so shamefully violated its oath.” On the survey Native Sun News is conducting on its website to get a feel for the present day feelings of the Lakota people on the Black Hills Claim Settlement thus far 1,626 votes have been cast on the question; The Black Hills Claims Settlement is now $1.4 billion dollars. Would you vote to accept the money: Yes or No? The poll shows that 74 percent of the people vote NO, while 26 percent vote YES.

When Indian Country Today conducted a similar poll 20 years ago 99 percent of the people voted NO and only 1 percent voted YES. We are conducting this poll just to get a sense of where the people stand on this vital issue in 2016 and it would appear that there are some shifting attitudes on the topic.

Tim Giago newspapers, beginning with the Lakota Times in 1981, have maintained from the day one that “The Black Hills are NOT for Sale.” We have reiterated time and again that it is up to the Lakota people to come up with a plan that would emulate the Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) Bill introduced in 1981 that would return 1.3 million acres of National Forest Service Land to the Lakota people. The Bradley Bill, as it came to be known, died a quiet death because of the warring factions within the ranks of the Great Sioux Nation.

And so as the city of Custer readies itself for the Gold Discovery Days, a slap in the face to the Indian people, we once again encourage our leaders to get their act together and come up with a viable plan of action before they lose the support of the Lakota people. And we should all pray that Hillary Clinton is elected as our next President of the United States so she can carry on the aspirations for the Indian people held by the Barack Obama Administration. Heaven forbid that Donald J. Trump steps in because his administration would surely attempt to force a settlement upon the Lakota people.

(The Editorial Board of Native Sun News can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com)

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