I've been doing some more research into the authority of the Lakota Freedom movement to actually declare independence for the Lakota Nation. From what I can tell, even amongst the Lakota there's a lot of confusion about the issue. The man largely behind the movement appears to be Russell Means
, a Lakota activist and one-time gubernatorial candidate, and there are mixed feelings, to say the least, about him taking the role of spokesman. Some say that even if he did have the authority to represent them, they wouldn't want him to. Others appear to be all in favor of what he's doing and hopeful, if not confident, that the U.S. government will acknowledge him as a representative of the Lakota.
The discussion about this issue seems to be the same, regardless of which side of the always-complex relationship between the U.S. and American Indian nations you happen to be on. The fact that everyone is questioning whether the delegation that went to Washington had any authority to do so makes me suspect that they probably did not. However nearly everyone, myself included, also seems to think that even if it's nothing but a PR stunt, it could turn out to be a tremendously effective one. It certainly raises the questions (or would, if the media was actually covering it... I still haven't found any coverage of this in major US sources, maybe on Monday) of the legality of the way we (the U.S.) have treated the Indian nations, the true nature of the supposedly sovereign nations created by the reservation system, the reality of Indian dependence on the U.S. government, the desirability of freedom and independence, and whether or not the more recent treaties have been honored any better than past ones were.
If nothing else, I think this will be successful in raising these questions on the reservations where it is, at least, getting more attention than off of them. Probably unsurprisingly, I, for one, think every step that can be taken towards true independence should be. Obviously it would be complicated for everyone if a completely sovereign nation sprung up in the middle of the country, especially if others were to follow. I'm currently in New Mexico outside Santa Fe, and driving from here to the Albuquerque airport next Wednesday I'll pass through about 5 or 6 different reservations. What would happen if they decided to become fully independent nations as well? Nevertheless, I think it is extremely important that we look at the treaties that we've signed, understand what obligations they entail, and examine whether or not we've actually lived up to them. The treaties were theoretically supposed to be for the benefit of both sides. Were they? If they were, are they still? If they're not, they should either be re-negotiated or gotten rid of entirely.
The declaration made this week was almost certainly timed to take advantage of the upcoming elections. Now, in particular, we're all questioning the wisdom and benefit of pursuing imperialistic policies abroad. Before we can even hope to answer those questions we need to answer the questions surrounding our imperialistic policies at home. Putting real thought into these questions and trying to answer them will, I think, be of tremendous benefit not only to Lakota and other Indian nations, but to us as Americans, and to all the peoples we currently do and will deal with abroad.