American Indian Self-Government: Fact, Fantasy and Prospects for the Future by Ward Churchill
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                                 --Ward Churchill, Creek-Cherokee 

        Copyright 1989 Center For World Indigenous Studies

[Ed. Note: This article may be reproduced for electronic transfer and 
posting on computer bulletin boards in part or full, provided that no 
profit is made by such transfer and that full credit  is given to the 
author, the Center For World Indigenous Studies  and The Fourth World 
Documentation Project.]

     The question of self-governance among American Indian nations 
encapsulated within what is now the United States of America is 
one of the more confused issues in modern politics.  While there 
is a general understanding that the indigenous nations of North 
America once existed as fully self-governing entities, those 
concerned with the matter have proven spectacularly unable to 
arrive at even a common definition of what constitutes (or might 
constitute) contemporary Indian self-governance, whether it 
presently exists or, if it does not, how it might be achieved.  
The present paper is an effort to examine both the proper meanings 
(facts) of self-governance and misunderstandings (fantasies), 
apply these observations to the situation in which Indian nations 
presently find themselves vis a vis the U.S., and advance a 
prospectus for Indian self-governance over the coming decades.  
Insofar as the space allowed for pursuit of these themes is quite 
limited, only the briefest overview will be possible. 



     The various American Indian peoples resident to the territory 
now known as the United States are nations within even the 
strictest legal definition.  Further, they have been formally, and 
in many cases repeatedly, recognized as such by the U.S. 
government.  Article I of the U.S. Constitution affirms quite 
clearly that subordinate sovereignties such as states, counties, 
municipalities and individuals or groups of individuals are 
prohibited from entering into treaty agreements.  Only the federal 
government itself is allowed to engage in treaty-making, and then 
only with other fully sovereign national entities (never with 
states, counties, etc.).  In advancing these principles within its 
own domestic law, the U.S. was or is reflecting the terms, 
understandings and requirements of international law, custom and 
convention.  Each of the 371 duly ratified treaties between the 
federal government and an American Indian people thus represents 
the de facto formal recognition by the U.S. of the fully sovereign 
national status of that Indian people, in accordance with both the 
laws of the United States and the laws of nations.  From this, we 
may readily discern that American Indian nations possess every 
legal and moral right to conduct themselves as such, unless they 
themselves have knowingly, willingly and formally given up such 

     Today, representatives of the federal government contend that 
while all of this may be true in principle, and have actually been 
true in practice in certain historical instances, the contemporary 
circumstance is rather different.  They point to a series of 
federal court decisions and statutes holding that, rather than 
comprising nations in the fullest sense of the term, American 
Indian peoples constitute "domestic dependent nations" over which 
the federal government exercises superior sovereign prerogatives 
as well as a "trust responsibility" involving jurisdictional and 
administrative control.  Further, they argue, while American 
Indians within the United States are acknowledged to still belong 
to their various indigenous polities, they are also citizens of 
the U.S. under provision of the 1887 General Allotment Act and the 
1924 Indian Citizenship Act and are thus doubly subordinate to the 
federal system.  The bottom line, from the federal perspective is 
therefore that American Indian nations enjoy a "limited 
sovereignty."  This is to say that they retain all of their 
original national rights which have not been specifically usurped 
by the government of the United States;  the fact that there are 
presently more than 5,000 federal statutes designed to effect 
precisely this usurpation speaks amply to the latitude of national 
self-governance with which Indians have been left by the 1980s. 

     Advocates of such a view purposefully neglect to mention that 
each of the elements of "law" were unilaterally extended (imposed) 
by the United States in direct contradiction to the treaty 
understandings already (and still) in effect with Indian nations. 
There is no record of American Indian nations having willingly 
accepted the notion that they were either domestic to or 
particularly dependent upon the U.S.  To the contrary, these same 
nations are documented as having spent the bulk of the 19th 
century engaged in armed resistance and suffering truly horrendous 
suffering in a concerted effort to avoid being accorded precisely 
this status.  Similarly, there has never been anyone, even a 
federal bureaucrat, recorded as being brazen enough to suggest 
that Indians were somehow mutual participants in bringing about 
passage of the General Allotment and Citizen Acts, that requested 
the extension of federal criminal and civil jurisdiction over 
their homelands, or andy of the rest of the measures upon which 
the idea of U.S. sovereign superiority rests. And yet, absent the 
willing consent of the Indian nations to the diminishment of their 
sovereign status, such measures on the part of the federal 
government can only be viewed as abridgments (violations) of the 
treaties into which it had entered with the Indians.  The 
implications of this are readily apparent in Article VI of the 
U.S. Constitution, in which it is stated unequivocally that 
treaties represent the "Supreme Law of the Land," on par with the 
law embodied with the Constitution itself:  the terms and 
provisions of a ratified and unabrogated treaty cannot therefore 
be legally contradicted or impugned by the passage of any 
subordinate legislation. 

     Proponents of the government view also omit to (quite 
willfully, it appears, insofar as such matters have been 
repeatedly pointed out to them), that this unilateral reduction  
of American Indian nations to federally subordinate or "quasi-
sovereign" status -- similar to that occupied by the states of  
the union or, increasingly, to that of counties or municipalities, 
subject to even state jurisdiction and control -- was and is quite 
illegal in terms of the constitutional requirements pertaining to 
the entities with which the U.S. government is authorized and 
empowered to treat.  This is no mere academic point.  For the 
federal government to hold that Indian peoples constitute less 
than fully sovereign national entities is to simultaneously argue 
that the entire treaty-making process undertaken by the government 
with those peoples is and always was illegal.  This, of course, 
would serve to void the treaties en toto.  In turn, insofar as the 
treaties include the land cession clauses by which the U.S. 
acquired what it contends is "legal title" to upwards of 70% of 
its present domestic territoriality, the basis by which the United 
States has always claimed a right to its own land-base would be 
obliterated.  The only fall-back position would then be resort to 
the doctrine of the "right of conquest," no small problem for a 
nation-state which has consistently disavowed this same doctrine 
in the name of purported "moral superiority" (and which assumed a 
leadership role in executing the nazi leadership for having 
engaged in "aggressive war" while pursuing exactly the same 

     Federally oriented legal theorists and policy-makers are thus 
forced to advance and insist upon the validity of a sheer logical 
impossibility:  that Indian nations are simultaneously fully 
sovereign (in the abstract sense) for purposes treaty-
making/transferring land title to the U.S., and less than 
sovereign (in the practical sense) for purposes of allowing 
"legitimate" federal control ("exercise of trust") over Indian 
land, water and other resources, regulation of trade and 
diplomatic relations, form of governance, recognition of 
citizenry, jurisprudence, and virtually anything else striking the 
federal fancy.  Such a convoluted and absurd "doctrine" must also 
be maintained in order for the U.S. to be able to assert in the 
international arena that it has always comported itself on the 
basis of humane, treaty-anchored (i.e.: nation-to-nation) 
understandings with "its" indigenous population(s) while at the 
same time insisting that "Indian Affairs" are a purely "internal" 
concern of the U.S., and are thereby not subject to international 
consideration, scrutiny or intervention (as would be the case in 
any true nation-to-nation relationship, under international law). 

     In a number of important ways, it is not difficult to 
discover recent parallels to the U.S. attitude toward American 
Indian nations.  The French, for example, offered similar 
arguments to explain and justify their relationship to Indochina 
and Algeria during the 1950s.  The Belgians advanced similar 
rationales in an attempt to justify their hold upon the Congo 
during the same decade.  Portugal resorted to the same arguments 
concerning Angola during the 1960s and '70s.  And, of course, the 
list could go on at great length.  The point, however, is that the 
common denominator of every example which could be mustered is 
that the relationship is one of colonialism.  American Indian 
nations within the United States are held, then, as colonies -- 
internal colonies -- of the United States.  Viewed in this light, 
all of the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions of U.S. 
"Indian policy" disappear;  the policy is quite simply illegal 
under international law, from top to bottom, side to side, and at 
every step along the way;  federal "Indian law" is not and was 
never so much a matter of law as it is U.S. colonial domination 
over every indigenous nation it encountered. 

     Many points can be made from this understanding, but what is 
of primary importance for this paper is that, as is the case in 
any colonial setting, the notion of "self-governance" among the 
colonized -- while its illusion is often deliberately fostered as 
a tactical expedient by the colonizer -- is a cruel hoax.  Often, 
in advanced colonial settings (such as that evidenced within U.S.) 
the colonized are convinced to administer and impose upon 
themselves the policies and regulations set forth by their 
colonizers.  This self-administration is what is so often 
cynically touted by the colonizers and their puppets among the 
colonized as being self-governance.  In sum, it is both fair and 
accurate to state that America Indian self-governance does not 
exist within the United States at the present time, and that it in 
fact cannot exist until such time as the fundamental structural 
relationship between the U.S. and Indian nations is radically 
altered.  American Indian nations, if they are ever to exercise 
self-governance, must confront the necessity of a decolonization 
struggle in the truest sense of the term. 


     The origin of what is typically passed off as being the 
"model of modern American Indian self-governance" can probably be 
dated from 1921, when Standard Oil sent a group of geologists to 
the northern portion of the Navajo Reservation to investigate the 
possibility that there were petroleum deposits in the area.  The 
explorers' reports being highly favorable, Standard next 
dispatched a group of representatives to negotiate -- in 
cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- a leasing 
arrangement by which the corporation could begin drilling and 
extraction operations.  By provision of the 1868 treaty between 
the Navajo and the U.S., it was necessary that Standard secure 
both agreement from the Navajo government and approval of the 
Secretary of Interior in order for any such contract to be legal 
and binding.  As it turned out, secretarial approval posed no 
problem, but the traditional Navajo Council of Elders voted 
unanimously to reject the idea of allowing the corporation to 
exploit their land and resources. 

     Such and outcome was obviously unacceptable to Standard, and 
to the U.S. Department of Interior (under which virtually all 
"internal" development of lands and resources was lodged at the 
time).  Consequently, in 1923, the federal government unilaterally 
appointed what it called "The Navajo Grand Council," a small group 
of hand-picked and "educated" (i.e.: indoctrinated in the values 
and mores of Euroamerica) Indians, from which representatives of 
the traditional Navajo government (with which the U.S. had entered 
into a solemn treaty) were entirely excluded.  Washington then 
announced that this new council, devoid as it was of any sort of 
Navajo support, would henceforth be recognized as the sole 
"legitimate" governmental representative body of the Navajo 
Nation; the traditional Navajo form of governance was, at the 
stroke of the federal pen and with no popular Din_ (Navajo) 
agreement whatsoever, was totally disenfranchised and supplanted. 
And, of course, one of the very first acts of the Washington-
appointed replacement entity was to sign the federally/corporately 
desired leasing instruments, setting in motion and "legitimizing" 
a sustained process of mineral expropriation on Navajo which has 
profited a range of non-Dine businesses and individuals quite 
mightily while leaving the Navajo people in truly abject poverty, 
their traditional subsistence economy ruined, and their land-base 
destroyed to the extent that it has been seriously considered for 
official designation as a U.S. "National Sacrifice Area." 

     Throughout the entire period since 1923, the forms of 
democratic governance at Navajo -- the inculcation of voting 
rather than consensus as a means of governmental selection, 
subdivision of the reservation into electoral districts, expansion 
of the council to include representatives from each district, the 
hypothetical division of governmental structure into executive, 
legislative and judicial spheres, and so on -- have been carefully 
installed and polished at Navajo.  And the rhetoric of self-
governance -- supposedly evidenced in the fact that leaders of the 
tribal council always affix their signatures to business 
agreements made "in behalf of" their people, that a Navajo 
lobbying office is maintained in Washington, and the like -- has 
been consistently advanced by Navajo and federal politicos alike. 
It is even possible that at least some of the actors on both sides 
of the equation actually believe what they are saying. 

     But reality is dramatically different from rhetoric.  During 
the entire half-century in which the Navajo council has been 
functioning in its mature form, it has never been allowed to 
negotiate a single business agreement on its own initiative.  It 
has continued to be totally restricted from entering into any 
agreement with any "foreign government" other than the that of the 
United States, whether for purposes of trade or for any other 
reason.  Consequently, it has never been able to negotiate mineral 
extraction royalty rates on anything resembling favorable terms, 
to establish or enforce even minimal standards of cleanup and land 
reclamation upon transient extractive corporations doing business 
upon its land, or even to determine the number of livestock which 
can be grazed within its borders.  For that matter, the Navajo 
council has never -- as the ongoing "Navajo-Hopi Land Disputes" in 
the 1882 Executive Order and so-called Bennett Freeze areas of the 
reservation readily attest -- been able to exert any particular 
influence in the determination of exactly what the borders of the 
Navajo Nation actually are.  Even the citizenry of the Navajo 
Nation has been defined by the federal government, through 
imposition of a formal eugenics code termed "blood quantum" and 
nearly a century of direct control over tribal rolls;  these 
federal "methods" of manipulating and arithmetically constricting 
the indigenous population have become so embedded in the Indian 
consciousness and psyche that Washington can rely upon the "self-
governance" mechanisms of Native America to abandon their own 
traditions and concern with sovereignty, adhering to federal 
definitions of Indian identity, thus imposing the burden of stark 
racism upon themselves. 

     Council members like to point out that they have a court 
system, police force and jails operating on the reservation, and 
submit that this is evidence of self-governance, but the fact of 
the matter is that Navajo possesses no jurisdictional authority at 
all over non-Navajos committing crimes within the Navajo Nation. 
For that matter, they have equally little jurisdiction over their 
own citizenry when it comes to felony and serious misdemeanor 
crimes, as well as in a number of important civil areas.  In order 
to resolve issues between themselves and any of their corporate 
lessees, they have no recourse but to pursue matters in U.S. 
courts rather than their own.  In order to resolve issues with the 
federal government, they must secure permission from that same 
government to litigate in that government's own courts.  In order 
even to impose a severance tax upon their own mineral resources as 
these are extracted by trans-national corporations -- the 
uncontested right of every state of the union -- they must secure 
permission from the federal government to seek (and in limited way 
secure) a federal court opinion allowing them to do so.  Things 
are at this point so confused that one can hear Navajo Tribal 
Chairman Peter McDonald, in all apparent seriousness and in the 
context of the same speech, spout the rhetoric of being head of a 
"sovereign, self-governing nation," and propose that the Navajo 
Nation be elevated to the status of a state within the United 

     This is national self-governance?  The fact is that, 
fantasies to the contrary, the Navajo council and its chair have 
exactly zero control over any aspect of Navajo affairs.  Every 
shred of their policy is and always has been utterly contingent 
upon the approval of the U.S. Interior Secretary, the federal 
courts, and often enough corporate leaders and the governments of 
the three states within which the Navajo Reservation technically 
lies.  Beyond this it is true that -- with a minuscule number of 
exceptions -- the same situation presently prevails in every 
reservation area of the country.  The reason for this is that the 
Navajo Grand Council model had, by the early 1930s, proven itself 
so successful in simultaneously serving U.S. interests while 
offering illusions  to the contrary  that it was imposed across 
the face of Indian Country through 1934 Indian Reorganization Act 
(I.R.A.).   Imposed is the correct  word because, although each 
American  Indian nation which  was  "reorganized" under the 
statute -- having its traditional governmental structure usurped 
and replaced by a council directly patterned after a corporate 
board -- supposedly voted affirmatively in a referendum to undergo 
the process, the reality is (as always, in these things) rather 
different.  At the Pine Ridge Reservation (Oglala Lakota Nation), 
for example, a number of dead people somehow managed to crawl out 
of their graves to vote for reorganization;  even after this was 
documented as being the case, the referendum results were allowed 
to stand and reorganization to proceed.  At Hopi, to another 
example, more than 85% of all eligible voters (federally defined) 
opposed and actively boycotted the referendum;  their abstentions 
were counted as "aye" votes by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and 
reorganization proceeded.  The list of such examples can be 
extended, in one or another degree of virulence, to every Indian 
nation which was reorganized in accordance with the federal 

     All fantasies of self-governing characteristics aside, the 
absolute predicate of any I.R.A. government is its acceptance -- 
indeed, reinforcement -- of the emphatically sub-national status 
accorded American Indian nations by the U.S., to legitimize their 
peoples' subordination through their public endorsement of it, to 
toe the line of limitations decreed by the federal government and 
ultimately barter the genuine interests of their people in 
exchange for the petty position and essentially minor material 
compensation which serving as puppets of a foreign power affords 
them.  This is advanced colonial administration in its very purest 
form, whether one wishes to draw one's parallel to the leadership 
of Vichy France or the Thieu regime in what was once called the 
Republic of South Vietnam. 

     Self-evidently, such governments will not, and in fact 
structurally cannot, pursue actual self-determination, self-
governance and sovereignty.  They will never and can never attempt 
to consolidate real control over their remaining land-bases, 
physically recover lands illegally taken from their people, throw 
the federal bureaucrats and supporting police off their 
reservations, try to physically bar the corporate rape of their 
territories, or enter into diplomatic and trade relations with 
other nations.  They will not and they cannot, because in the 
final analysis they owe their fealty and their allegiance not to 
their won people (or even themselves) but to their colonizers.  It 
is the colonizer, after all, not their people, who provides the 
positions they occupy, whatever claim to legitimacy it really 
carries, the means for its continuation.  The relationship is one 
of symbiosis and mutual perpetuation in an unbalanced sort of way. 

     From here it is but a short step to viewing I.R.A. 
governments, not as champions of American Indian self-governance, 
but as literal barriers to it.  This is true in the mere fact of 
the existence of such entities, and the confusion this inherently 
engenders concerning "who are the real representatives of Indian 
people."  But, more, it has become true in the sense that these 
self-proclaimed and federally validated "responsible (To Whom? To 
what?) representatives" of Native America have increasingly taken 
to lending their energies and their voices to discrediting any 
Indian or group of Indians audacious enough to address the 
questions attending true resumption of national prerogatives by 
American Indian peoples.  We see this classically in example of 
former Rosebud Sioux Tribal Chairman Webster Two Hawk, wandering 
around on the federal dole like a clown, wearing a crew cut and 
"war bonnet," parroting the views of the Nixon administration vis 
a vis the American Indian Movement's finally (in 1972) calling the 
Bureau of Indian Affairs to account for its colonial arrogance and 
at least a few of its more blatant transgressions at the expense 
of Indian people.  More grimly, we see former Pine Ridge Tribal 
Chairman Dick Wilson forming a cabal of gun-thugs known as the 
GOONs to act as surrogates for the FBI, engaging in outright mass 
murder to prevent an insurgent grassroots movement of traditional 
Oglalas pursuing their rights under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty 
from "spoiling" a planned secret expropriation of uranium deposits 
in the northwest quadrant of the reservation.  And again, more 
immediately, we observe the same phenomenon -- somewhat less 
sharply defined -- in Navajo Tribal Chairman McDonald's sending of 
his gun-thugs (this time called "tribal police") to evict the 
staff of the Navajo Times newspaper from their offices for the 
offense of having publicly criticized and exposed certain of his 
federal/corporate relationships.  And, as should be a sad refrain 
by now, this list of such examples could be extended at length. 

                      PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE

     Native America is at a crossroads.  If the present hegemony 
of I.R.A.-style governance is maintained and allowed to continue 
its give-away program in terms of American Indian national rights, 
the future looks bleak indeed.  Remaining on the course sketched 
above can result only in the permanent reduction of American 
Indian sovereignty and self-governance to, at best, the level of 
very minor components within the overall U.S. governmental/ 
political apparatus.  In the case of many (or even most) of the 
smaller Indian nations, eventual termination -- "auto-termination" 
may be a better term -- and absorption directly into the "melting 
pot" seems the most likely outcome.  In other words, the final 
liquidation of Native America is a distinct possibility over the 
next half-century or less. 

     Fortunately, alternatives have emerged since 1970.  These 
have related a considerable degree to the momentum created by the 
actions and activities of the American Indian Movement and related 
"militant" organizations, particularly during the period 1972-78. 
In retrospect, there can be no serious question that the 1972 
Trail of Broken Treaties occupation of the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs Building in Washington, for example, did more to bring 
Indians into the BIA than all the petitions and letters of "more 
responsible" and "legitimate" tribal officials over the preceding 
50 years.  And the so-called Twenty Points advanced by Trail 
participants as a cohesive American Indian socio-political agenda 
still represent a benchmark expression of indigenous sovereignty. 
Ironically, those indians hired as a result -- during the major 
BIA "integration" period lasting from 1976-77 -- seemed to take it 
as a matter of faith that they should comport themselves in a 
manner which can only be described as anti-AIM. 

     Similarly, AIM's actions at Gordeon, Nebraska in 1972, and 
Custer, South Dakota in 1973, yielded an incalculable impact upon 
the concept of indian rights and the value of Indian life among 
reservation-adjacent non-Indians throughout the United States.  In 
a tangible way, these AIM undertakings brought to a screeching 
halt a nation-wide rash of ritual or thrill killings of Indian 
people which had been mounting for some time.  By any estimation, 
this was vastly more than had been accomplished by more than a 
decade of "polite" discussions about the "problem" by the 
federally-approved Indian leadership with state, local and 
national U.S. law enforcement officials.  Yet, predictably, 
"official" Native America did little in response but criticize and 
condemn AIM's "violent tactics" (One is forced to ask here exactly 
how diminishing a wave of homicides through utilization of methods 
involving no loss of life could ever have been reasonably 
construed as "violence"). 

     Again, AIM's stand on the Pine Ridge Reservation from 1973-
76, refusing to swerve from its support of Oglala national rights 
under terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty -- in the face of a 
hideously lethal federal repression -- can only be viewed as a 
tremendously important point of departure for the general rebirth 
of American Indian pride in the U.S., and an increasing Indian 
willingness to stand and attempt to (re)assert their broader 
rights to genuine self-determination.  As always, "duly elected" 
tribal officials tended overwhelmingly to attack AIM while 
defending the federal "right" to maintain "order" on the 
reservation, regardless of the cost and consequences of such order 
to Indians.  It is now a sublime paradox that many tribal council 
members have themselves begun to mimic AIM viewpoints and AIM 
pronouncements of a decade hence, never having abandoned their 
clever description of those who showed them the way as being 
"Assholes In Moccasins." 

     What the AIM "radicals" were, and in many cases still are, 
demonstrating is that in order for Indians to make gains, to self-
determine and self-govern, it is absolutely essential to proceed 
by something other than the self-serving "rules of the game" laid 
down by the U.S. government.  Put another way, those who would 
claim sovereignty must endeavor to exercise it, to rely upon their 
own sense of legality and morality, and to act accordingly.  By 
the 1980s, this dynamic had become clearly consolidated in the 
occupation of Yellow Thunder Camp near Rapid City, in the Black 
Hills, part of an overt program of reclaiming Lakota territory 
guaranteed under the Fort Laramie Treaty, but illegally taken 
during the 1870s by the U.S.  The same may be said of the ongoing 
resistance to federally imposed relocation of traditional Din_ 
from their land in the Big Mountain area of the Navajo and Hopi 
reservations in northeastern Arizona, and there are many other 
examples, ranging from the continuing fishing rights struggles in 
the Pacific Northwest to the stands taken by the Six Nations 
Iroquois Confederacy along the U.S.-Canadian border in the 
Northeast, to similar positions adopted by the O'Otam (Papago) 
along the U.S.-Mexican border in the Southwest, to the refusal of 
nearly half of all the Seminole people of Florida to accept 
federal recognition as a *validation* of their personal and 
national existence.  Again, one might view the emergence of an 
American Indian presence in the international arena, through the 
United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (a sub-part 
of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights) to have come from the same 
impetus and to be following the same general trajectory. 

     Perhaps the purest articulation of the AIM alternative to 
I.R.A. colonialism bay be found in the platform assembled under 
the title TREATY for use by Russell Means in his candidacy for the 
Pine Ridge tribal presidency in 1984.  Here for the first time (at 
least in terms of the 20th Century) was offered a truly 
comprehensive program by which a given American Indian nation 
could undertake to recover control over its own affairs, 
abolishing the I.R.A. system and restoring political power to the 
traditional Councils of Elders, opening up diplomatic and trade 
relations with other nations than the U.S., begin a systematic 
effort at restoring its own land-base and revitalizing a 
traditionally oriented economy thereon, asserting jurisdictional 
prerogatives and control over the definition of its own 
membership/citizenry, and converting the educational system to its 
own rather than its opponents uses.  All of this was conceived by 
way of using the I.R.A. structure against itself in a sort of 
exercise in political ju jitsu. 

     So effective and threatening was the TREATY concept seen by 
federal authorities and those Indians on Pine Ridge who owe their 
allegiance to that government rather than to their own ostensible 
constituents, that they conspired to disqualify Means from the 
reservation ballot, not on the basis of any alleged offense 
against the Lakota people or Lakota law, but because he had been 
convicted of expressing contempt toward an alien South Dakota 
court some years previously.  Despite the fact that it was never 
actualized on Pine Ridge, the point should be made insofar as the 
I.R.A. establishment was prepared to go to such lengths to 
suppress the TREATY, it obviously bears extensive study, 
adaptation and implementation by other Indians, in other places. 

     And, indeed, this appears to be occurring, either in literal 
or more diffused fashion.  The Haida Draft Constitution, generated 
by a people whose territory is split between the U.S. and Canada 
in the Alaska region, embodies many of the same elements embodied 
in the TREATY Platform.  Many of the gains posted by Pacific 
Northwest nations such as Quinault and Lummi in recent years also 
proceed in accordance with many of the same liberatory principles 
expressed in TREATY.  And, to a certain extent at least, many of 
the ideas concerning Lakota land recovery and self-governance 
contained in the present S 705 "Bradley Bill" are drawn from the 
TREATY framework.  These are all encouraging signs, and there are 
a number of others which might be cited. 

     It is time, if American Indian self-governance in any real 
sense -- as nations rather than as integral components of 
Euroamerican empire -- is to once again become a functioning 
reality, to begin to consciously destroy the I.R.A. system, to 
discard "leaders" who profess fealty to it, to renounce the 
"federal trust relationship" and reject all interaction with the 
BIA, and to begin to assert actual Indian alternatives.  It will 
not be a quick or pleasant process.  There will no doubt be severe 
costs and consequences associated with such a line of action and 
development.  But the fact is that the costs and consequences 
attending subordination to the federal will are, and have always 
been, far higher.  The choice is really between extinction and 
resurgence.  And viewed in this way, there is simply no real 
choice at all. 


Taken from _Indian Self-Governance:  Perspectives on the Political 
Status of Indian Nations in the United States of America_, Ed. by 
Dr. Carol J. Minugh, Prof. Glen T. Morris, Rudolph C. Ryser, 
Center For World Indigenous Studies, 1989. 

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