The foundations of the LSA can be dated back to the re-awakening period of late 1960's-early 70's on homelands of the Great Sioux Nation. Primarily among the Oglala Lakota band of Teton Sioux. In November 1972 Oglala Lakota peoples joined the "Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan" to arrive in Washington DC to present the 20 point Position Paper. This document became the guiding document to pursuit of strong sovereign nations. On March 11, 1973, the American Indian Movement (AIM) helped establish the Independent Oglala Nation (ION) as an effort toward the restoration of usurped treaty lands; an effort toward the return to traditional governance and authority; an effort toward restoring the inherent sovereignty and independence we had before the US Consititution.
On February 26, 1973, the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) and AIM met with tribal members at Calico community hall where they documented hundreds of complaints of governmental misconduct, tribal corruption and brutality. On February 27, they made the decision to recapture Wounded Knee as a symbolic gesture of their discontent with the reservation political climate. Denouncing Judicial decisions against Indian sovereignty, the US Legislative, and Executive Orders made since 1871, when the US ended domestic treaty relations with all Indigenous nations, the Independence movement stated:
We declare our recognition of the Provisional Government of the Independent Oglala Nation, established by the traditional Chiefs and Headmen under the provisions of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty with the Great Sioux Nation at Wounded Knee SD, March 11, 1973."
The earlier independence movement leaders sought refuge in the media of their time. Many had maintained one of the strongest principles ever, the supreme sacrifice. Many lives were lost in pursuit of this vision, and Oglala Lakota patriotism grew more each day. Buddy Lamont, Frank Clearwater, Pedro Bisonette, Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Joe Killsright Stuntz made the supreme sacrifice. But their sacrifices are never forgotten. Years following 1973 came to be known as the "Reign of Terror" on Pine Ridge. Survivors of this era have their stories to tell.
In June 1974, on Hunkpapa Lakota lands, the first Treaty Conference since Wounded Knee 1973 was held, establishing the International Indian Treaty Council and adopting the "Declaration of Continuing Independence". This declaration became the instrument to authorize future international forums of Indigenous peoples under the IITC. While Self Determination was encoded into activism in the early 1970s, the US President Nixon Administration openly declared that termination policies had failed the Indians. (116 Cong. Rec. 23258) But the definitions of Self Determination were different in the eyes of Lakota people who saw that, like all federal policies, self determination only "granted" tribes a limited flavor of self government but not as completely independent under the protective realm of US wardship.
True Sovereignty and how it may affect our Way of Life
True Sovereignty, (Inherent Sovereignty sought by tribal governance structures), separates the Paternalistic "protective" responsibility of US government from the more domineering Judicial, Legislative and Executive mechanisms of a foreign power which cripple our existence as unique native peoples. Many Treaties signed between sovereigns often agree to a "protection" by the US foreign power from depredations by whites against Indians. Since Treaties are supreme Constitutional laws, that protection is welcome.
However, many mechanisms brought by that same foreign power (US) often coerce tribes and peoples into believing we are still sovereign, then censor the fact that we are not completely independent. In Legislative areas, the foreign power maintains its control over tribes through such laws and acts i.e. Major Crimes Act (18 USC 1153, 1885). This act is considered "the first systemic intrusion by the federal government into the internal affairs of the tribes." (Canby, American Indian Law 2nd Ed., p.105) Other control mechanisms: Dawes General Allotment Act (24 Stat 388, 1887); Indian Citizenship Act (8 USCA 1401, 1924); Indian Reorganization Act (25 USCA 461, 1934); the Indian Self Determination Act (25 USCA 450, 1975); and the list goes on.
From an Executive grasp, Tribes actually believe they can be terminated by an act of Congress, despite the fact that Tribes have not questioned that coercive "Plenary Authority" which the foreign power possesses to maintain control over tribes. Judicially, tribes began relying upon the Supreme Court of the foreign power for jurisdictional decisions which often interpret a form of governance which may not be accepted by all or a large population of Indian peoples.
Self Determination, as proscribed by the foreign power (US), could be percieved as Political Sovereignty, or in antiquated theory, Neo Colonialism. Behind Political Sovereignty is held the belief that tribes are truly sovereign. Therefore, Political Sovereignty is believed to be absolute without question. In recent years, Political Sovereignty has been coined as "Tribal Sovereignty" by many tribal govermental structures. Despite this convenient phraseology, Colonizers insist that those who control the lands will control every resource within and upon it. Neo Colonialism is based on the principle that, once larger colonized nations are broken down to small states or areas which are capable of independent development, they must rely on the foreign power for defense and even internal security. In essence, the colonized nation is granted self rule and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. But in "reality, its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside." (Nkruma. Neocolonialism.p.ix). Websters Universal Collegiate Dictionary defines Neocolonialism as "The policy by which a nation exerts political and economic control over a less powerful and independent nation or region."
De-colonization finally found its way to the Lakota people in 1996 at the historic Ft. Laramie Wyoming, during consultation sessions with the US State and Justice Departments regarding the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. The Gathering also reminded the foreign power that the Ft. Laramie Treaty is still the law of the land.
Toward the 21st Century.
In 1995 the Lakota Student Alliance attended an AIM-sponsored Soveriegnty conference. A delegation of Oglala Lakota College Students attended the gathering held at Ft. Snelling State Park in Minnesota. Members of our delegation discovered we shared similar sentiments regarding the cruel Federal and State policies which threaten the environment, our traditions and heritage facing extinction, and all else which seeks to attack a way of life that was supposed to be preserved by the same Federal and State agencies. We heard the warning from AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt, "our way of life, what we were trying to recapture, is under attack in this country." Bellecourt was referring to the spirituality of our peoples which are threatened by what he called "wannabees" or New Agers, and even some of our own Lakota Peoples.
In accordance with the objectives of several Indian organizations, the LSA fearlessly decided to adopt its own statement to promote true sovereignty of the people. Founding members heard the frustrations by students and grassroots people concerning common hardships on the reservation: Alcoholism, Poverty, Apathy, Exploitation of Spirituality, Exploitation of Earth, Economic Exploitation of Lakota resources, Racial Discrimination, Police Brutality, and Tribal authorities abuse of power. Even more students complained of loss of governmental finances, mistreatment and prejudice by public servants, and the frustrations of an apathetic student body. So a few members of the OLC student body decided that in order to find a workable solution to the general conflicts perceived by students seeking true Sovereignty and freedom, the Lakota Student Alliance was formed. In order to motivate other students into action, we needed to establish the LaStAlli. Wabunini (Vernon Bellecourt), stressed that the LaStAlli must establish a responsible organization in order to maintain a rapport with the people of the reservation. We decided this was a truly sincere goal and set out to establish it as such for the sanctity of Academic Freedom for Indigenous students:
In Feb 1996, LaStAlli staged a direct action at Mt. Rushmore, reaffirming our support for the return of the Sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) to the Great Sioux Nation. This sacred site is a foundation of our Lakota Creation Stories where we emerged from the Wind Cave at the beginning of civilization. The Mt Rushmore demonstration was our first action which cultivated young leadership among the students. It also took students away from the daily College routines in thrust them into reality. In the Spring 1996, the LSA assisted grassroots groups in stopping the development of a disastrous Zeolite mining operation by a New York Corporation and a local rancher named Heesacker, near the Badlands Stronghold Table. In Aug 1996, LSA assisted the Leonard Peltier foundation with organizing a memorial gathering to place Headstones at Anna Mae Aquash and Joe Stuntz gravesites.
In Fall 1996, the LSA was approached by twin sisters Corrie and Sarah Trimble to help stop a 60 yr old mock Indian ceremony and caricature at the Bennett County High School Homecoming in Martin SD. The sisters started their protests years before but need more pressure to be placed on the BCHS students and administration.
In October 1997, following an LSA coordinated Protest, the Bennett County School system discontinued the offensive Homecoming Coronation mock ceremony. That same year we were approached for help from students who felt their due process rights were violated by the local College. We offered students the opportunity to pursue their cases in federal court, some opted to settle out of court, others never responded.
In 1998, the LSA organized the 25th Anniversary of the Wounded Knee liberation of 1973. AIM and the LSA sought "healing" among the Oglala Lakota and together with the Oglala Sioux Tribe established the day of February 27 as a Tribal Holiday and as a "day of liberation."
In November of 1998 and 1999, we attended the protest to close the School of Americas in Ft. Benning Georgia. We shared the stage with Rosalie Little Thunder and survivors of the Pine Ridge Reign of Terror to tell the 10,000 activists that we shared the same fate as the Indigenous populations in Central and South America. LSA members carried an Upside Down Flag while "crossing the Line".
In spring 1999, the LSA coordinated another Civil Disobedience. This time 7 warriors arrived at the SD State Capitol on Laframboise Island in the Missouri River to denounce the unjust (96,000 acred) Land Transfer by the US Army Corps of Engineers to the State of South Dakota. Under the authority of the Great Sioux Nation Treaty Council, we maintained a constant vigil against the Sen Tom Daschle-Sponsored legislation.
In June 2000, the LSA was asked by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee to coordinate a two day anniversary gathering commemorating a 25th anniversary of the "Incident at Oglala" shootout by AIM members and FBI agents. The LSA and LPDC sought "healing" as a theme and renewed the call for Senate investigations in to the Federal police misconduct and the "Reign of Terror" which resulted. That year the LSA and the AIM Kansas City Support Group joined in an effort to keep the awareness toward Leonards false imprisonment, and formed the Oglala Commemoration Committee. Since then, it has become an annual event free to the Lakota people.
In 2001, LSA was invited to the Founding Convention of the Campus Greens organization in which we were asked to give a presentation on organizing a consensus based group.
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