An army will invade Indian Territory on Saturday, the 4th of July, led by the president of the United States, against the expressed wishes of Julien Bear Runner, president of the Oglala Sioux Nation. People may die as a result of this rash act, demonstrating a total lack of respect or concern for these First People of our land.
President Trump has invited thousands of people to participate in a fireworks display and celebration at Mount Rushmore in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. He announced there would be no social distancing and masks would not be required. What’s wrong with this picture?
Mount Rushmore is located on Sioux land. The president was asked several times by tribal leaders not to come. The White House refused to respond to their pleas. Trump has ignored the wishes of the nation that owns the land – that ownership clearly stated in a sixty-seven-page Supreme Court decision in 1980 – the United States versus the Sioux Nation of Indians. The Court ruled that the United States had acted in bad faith, practicing deception that led to tragedy and many deaths when they seized the land in 1874 because gold had been discovered in the Black Hills. In 1980, the government offered compensation of $102 million. The Sioux refused, quoting Lakota chief, Crazy Horse, “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.”
That settlement has appreciated to $1.3 billion today, representing only a fraction of the gold, timber and other resources removed. The Sioux will not accept any payment for their land. They do not want money. They want their sacred Black Hills, as originally promised in a treaty in 1851 and again in the 36-pageTreaty of Fort Laramie, signed May 25, 1868, one-hundred-fifty-two-years ago. These treaties are on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, along with many others dishonored and disregarded by the United States government.
The mountain into which the heads of four U. S. presidents are carved, is sacred to the Sioux. They call it the Mountain of Six Grandfathers. Nobody cared about that sanctity when the carvings were done and our president doesn’t care about that now. He chooses to defile land that belongs to a sovereign nation with a campaign rally thinly disguised as a patriotic celebration.
President Julien Bear Runner says his people want to protest this invasion by the U. S. president and his mob of followers. They are willing to risk their lives to voice their objection and anger. So far, eighty covid 19 cases have been reported on the Pine Ridge Reservation with one death. President Bear Runner is discouraging confrontation, fearing more widespread virus infections will result from close contact with so many people. It’s not clear who the ultimate winner will be in this battle of wills but President Trump is attempting, by his insistence on this invasive action, to guarantee that the losers will once again be the people of the sovereign Sioux Nation.
SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is a descendant of the Cherokee Nation and has written many articles and poems about Native American rights. She is an award-winning poet and author of four children’s books; a book of poetry, Tapestry; a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; and a travel memoir, Road Trip. Her books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, High Tide Publications and the author. Her newest poetry book, Walk With Me, will debut this summer.