In our lifetime, we will occasionally have the opportunity to participate in Significant Educational Experiences (SEE). Educators who have the ability to create those SEE events are rare and the circumstances that come together to create a SEE are even more infrequent.
I was honored to participate in the Legal Educational Seminar sponsored by the Oglala Lakota Legal Department. The complex content articulated in the Docket 74 (a. and b.) was mesmerizing. Mario has the gift of legalistic storytelling that made the experience outstanding and the content equally exceptional. Even more critical was the background knowledge that he shared about the “process” because that could only come from him. No ONE else has that knowledge and personal experience. All my life, I have heard people mention Docket 74 and I never had an inkling about what it was. I was more familiar with the Black Hills case and even so his presentation put into place many of the missing pieces of the puzzle.
I want to thank the Oglala Legal Department for their vision of preserving the intimate detailed history of the treaties. I enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends.
I was also thrilled to share my limited knowledge and perspective of the treaties. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the 1851 Treaty of Horse Creek are classic examples of the cultural dissonance between the Americans and the Lakota people. It is my opinion based on my research that the treaty discussions between the Lakota leaders and the treaty commissioners were more of a “discussion” than an actual negotiation. The major conflict was the Lakota belief in what was “spoken” versus the final written document. As a result, the Lakota have remembered whatever was impressively spoken and the government executed only the terms of the treaty as it was written and ratified. With such different perceptions, both Lakota’s and whites left the treaty grounds convinced that they had won a major victory and determined to make no more concessions to the other. Only one thing was clear, the Americans and the Lakota were on a collision course that did not bode well for the Lakota. There could never be “negotiations” when the one entity brings a document that had been previously constructed and whose construction is negligently one-sided to a conference and where the people of the government were unilaterally unwilling to compromise.
Of course, with good comes some negative discourse. In all open gatherings, there are the usual parties that need to have a voice of misplaced and irrelevant dialogues. Perhaps at the next seminar, it could be by invitation only and our time would be more constructively used to find ways to recover our Black Hills. I also wished we could have had a more definitive outcome regarding educating our children along with the adults.
During the consultation, I offered two forward thinking options that I hope will find their way into a proactive agenda towards meeting our goal of preserving the Black Hills.
We need to develop a foundation whose sole purpose is to raise money for the reclamation of the Black Hills. We need significant financial resources to make a difference. And secondly, we need to develop a major media campaign to educate the public about the theft of the Black Hills. For example, we should have signage along the major interstates advising tourists that they are entering “stolen land.” Our young people are very creative and are blessed with artistic skills that could blend our glorious colorful culture with intellectual statements about the “truth.”
Thanks for the amazing experience and we must continue to find ways to educate our children and grandchildren with two messages, the Black Hills were stolen and can’t be sold, and we must never give up.
In a good way,
Richard B. Williams
People of the Sacred Land