And So It Begins
In an incredible irony, the very people that the United States have most oppressed throughout our history may hold the key to freedom for all of us.
Few Americans remember the siege at Wounded Knee in the mid-1970s, but perhaps they should. Members of the AIM, or the American Indian Movement, occupied parts of Pine Ridge in protest over the brutal killings of two of their own, the disgustingly mild prosecutions for those murders, and the beating of the mother of one of those two when she attempted to seek justice from the U.S. government. The AIM were seeking their rights under U.S. law and for the U.S. government to honor treaties with the American Indian that had been ignored for more than a century. It was a lawful – and a peaceful until attacked – protest.
In response, the FBI fired almost 200,000 rounds at the protesters (the protesters did fire weapons in their own defense, but only over their attackers’ heads) in an illegal show of force that betrayed every ideal of real freedom. The siege at Wounded Knee lasted 71 days. This was Waco decades before Waco, largely ignored by the U.S. population due to media indifference and the fact that the victims were not white Americans.
Later, the defense team for Russell Means and Dennis Banks was infiltrated by a government informant, which led to perjured testimony and a very angry judge who stated that the government was more interested in convictions than in justice. South Dakota Judge Nichols was quoted as saying, “It’s hard for me to believe that the FBI, which I have revered for so long, has stooped so low,” and dismissed all charges against the defendants.
Apparently, all those years ago, at least a portion of our justice system still operated as it was designed to do.
Leonard Peltier was not so lucky. He was tried in North Dakota, and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison. He remains there today, even though evidence recovered after the siege clearly showed that the two FBI deaths were attributable to friendly fire. During his years in prison, through his art and letters, Peltier has continued to work for oppressed people everywhere.
Russell Means has remained free, and he has not been idle in the intervening decades. A committed libertarian, he has written several books, run for office on the Libertarian ticket, and continued to pursue a film career that has made him a household face and name. Apart from that, he has bided his time, waiting for just the right moment in history.
That moment has come. In September of this year, the United Nations passed a non-binding Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Naturally, Canada, the United States and Australia refused to sign, but this resolution paved the way for a move that has been waiting in the wings, so to speak, since the 1970s.
On Wednesday of this week, Russell Means led a delegation of the Lakota Sioux people to the U.S. State Department and the embassies of Bolivia, Chile, South Africa and Venezuela, declaring their secession from the United States of America.
Means stated, “We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us.” The lands of the Lakota Sioux encompass portions of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. In the coming weeks, they will take their diplomatic mission overseas to seek further support.
Means also stated that anyone willing to renounce their U.S. citizenship would live on Lakota land tax free, and that the Lakota would issue their own passports and driving licenses. Since a large group of libertarians have recently moved to Wyoming, this opens up some interesting possibilities for a free society growing up in our midst.
The coming road will not be an easy one. I cannot see the U.S. neo-conservatives leaving this alone. I imagine that there will be another bloody and vicious siege taking place on Lakota land, but I also believe that Means has timed his move correctly. If this happens as I fear it will, the neo-conservatives will be the clear authors of their own destruction. The American people have had enough!
You go, Russell!! You are the bravest and best of us, and the sanest and best of America stands with you in the trials you will face over the coming months and years.
Kathryn A. Graham, author of Flight From Eden and America Hijacked!.