Right and Wrong: America’s Hypocrisy – History Essay
America is universally known as the policeman of the world. America is in the process of starting multiple actions across the globe including military actions in Iraq and Bosnia and economic sanctions toward Cuba, Iraq, and Libya. Often, America is present to make sure other countries keep their ends of bargains. America tries to make sure countries do not commit genocide, and if a country makes a treaty with a minority that has previously been persecuted America is there to make sure it is fulfilled. But America herself has such a minority, and America has not kept her end of the bargain in regards to her treaties.
This must change. Not only is it the right thing to do, but America cannot hold the rest of the world to a standard she is unwilling to attain herself. America’s treatment of the Sioux Nation is the most flagrant example of this. She must at least make some reparations for the flagrant violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty. The most feasible way of doing this would be the reintroduction and passage of the Grey Eagle bill by Congress.
The Sioux have a rightful claim to the land because, “Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land” (The Constitution 21). Therefore the Ft. Laramie Treaty is still in effect because, “No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described which may be held in common shall be of any validity or force as against the said Indians, unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians, occupying or interested in the same;” (Fort Laramie Treaty: Article 12) and all other rights referred to in the treaty. Therefore, the Black Hills Act which took the Black Hills and most of the other amenities specified in the Fort Laramie Treaty is unconstitutional.
The Congress originally stated that the Sioux had broken the treaty, so it was a viable option for them to throw it out. However, the Sioux did not do anything against the treaty until after the United Stated had broken every single article it was supposed to follow. The Sioux attacked some settlers that were trespassing into Sioux land that, “[N]o persons except those herein designated and authorized so to do…shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in the territory described in this article” (Fort Laramie Treaty: Article 2). This was defending their home from illegal invaders whom the United States had stopped trying to keep out. This was not breaking the treaty. In fact, Congressman Martinez stated,
The Supreme Court, in 1980, after the longest Supreme Court case in history, 103 years and over 5 generations of Sioux, condemned the seizure as unconstitutional. The Court found that, and I quote, `A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.’ The Court declared that the Sioux people were entitled to receive `fair and just compensation.’ (Cong. Rec.)
The Sioux Nation still owns all of the land in question.
Additionally, the Sioux Nation will not accept money offered for the land. The Sioux continue to lobby to get their land returned. In 1977, the United States offered $17.5 million for the Black Hills—the value of the land in 1877, and in 1979 the United States offered $105 million. However, very few even consider the offers. Over $1 billion in gold has been removed and over $800 billion in uranium has been discovered (Lakota Student Alliance). The offers made by the United States are a slap in the face to the Lakota. Not only did America steal and rape their land, but now we offer them compensation which would only be another theft. And even if America did offer more appropriate compensation, the Sioux want their land back. Therefore, other reparations must be made than simply money, especially that which has been offered up to date.
Of the land referred to in the Ft. Laramie treaty, the most sacred is Paha Sapa, or the Black Hills. This would compare to the Jews’ temple in Jerusalem. This is the Sioux’ most sacred of places, and not only has America stolen it from them, the United States has placed the images of four of our presidents on them. Imagine this for a moment that Iraq took over Kuwait and then carved into their most sacred temple the image of Saddam. This is what America has done to the Sioux, but since the rest of the world doesn’t know about this so America got away with it. 1200 acres have already been returned to the Oglala Sioux (Lakota Student Alliance). So, in regards to what land we might return to them, Paha Sapa would be most important to include.
There have been a few bills brought before the Congress to address this issue, but they either died quickly or were not received by the Sioux (Lazarus). The Grey Eagle Bill addresses all of these issues, including many others.
The purposes of this Act are to–
(1) restore federally held lands, and interests in lands, in the Black Hills country to the Sioux Nation;
(2) establish a blue ribbon panel to review the claims of the Sioux Nation for monetary compensation for the denial of the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation, as guaranteed by the Ft. Laramie Treaty of April 29, 1868 (15 Stat. 635); and
(3) implement the Federal Government’s guarantee of self-determination and governance to the tribes of the Sioux Nation, as provided in article 8 of the Act of February 28, 1877 (19 Stat. 254), and other Federal enactments (Cong. Rec.)
This will not solve all of the issues, but it will solve most of them.
In restoring all federally held lands, that is only returning about eight percent of the land owed. However, it is returning land. The actual return of land is something the United States has never offered before. This will resonate well with the Sioux—at least better than any previous offers.
The blue ribbon panel which will determine monetary compensation to the Sioux will actually determine a figure that is or is close to a fair and just compensation. Once again, this will be a first for the United States as well. The Sioux will respond well to an offer which actually responds to their claim as valid, instead of tossing a bone to shut up the dogs. As of now, the only offers which have been made to the Sioux simply cement the dishonorable dealings America has had with them.
The implementation of the Federal Government’s guarantee of self-determination and governance to the tribes of the Sioux Nation will mean that the United States will finally allow the Sioux to be what America always claimed—their own nation. This above all else is necessary. Recognizing Sioux self-determination will prove that America does respect the Sioux. Respect between the parties involved is necessary before any agreement can be reached which both sides will honor.
The Grey Eagle Bill treats the Sioux claim as the rightful claim it is, it recognizes the necessity for fair and just compensation to the Sioux, and finally it respects the Sioux on a much deeper level than ever shown before. Therefore, the Grey Eagle Bill is the most feasible solution to maintaining a semblance of dignity on the part of the United States in regard to the Sioux Nation and thus the rest of the world. This is an issue which should have been rectified long ago. If all else had failed, it should have been solved when the Supreme Court ordered fair and just compensation. However, the past cannot be changed. It can only be put right. Since it has not already been put right, America must do it now, and the Grey Eagle Bill will do so to the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Cong. Rec. 19 September 1990. H.R.5680.
“The Constitution.” The Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History 1775-1865. Toronto, Ontario: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000.
Fort Laramie Treaty. 29 April 1868. 4 November 2002.
Lakota Student Alliance. “Paha Sapa: Paha Sapa Kin Wiyopeya Unkiyapi kte sni yelo!!” The Crazy Horse Advocate. Martin, SD: 2000. 4 November 2002.
Lazarus, Edward. Black Hills White Justice: The Sioux Nation versus the Untied States 1775 to the Present. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
Pisarowicz, Jim. “History of the Black Hills.” 12 September 2002. 4 November 2002.
Sapa, Wanbli. “Black Hills Thievery Attempt.” Indian Country Today. 8 February 1996. First Nations Issues of Consequence. 25 November 2002.
Sapa, Wanbli. “Comments on a Lakota Declaration of Sovereignty.” First Nations Issues of Consequence. 25 November 2002.