Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary
warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with
the United States, leaders said Wednesday.
"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," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful
of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a
church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.
A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State
Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from
treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States,
some of them more than 150 years old.
They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan
embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it
overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota,
North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and
living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US
citizenship, Means said.
The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words
on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.
The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our
culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the
reborn freedom movement says.
Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.
"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically
article six of the constitution," which states that treaties are the
supreme law of the land, he said.
"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention
and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international
community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and
independent," said Means.
The Lakota relaunched their journey to freedom in 1974, when they
drafted a declaration of continuing independence -- an overt play on the
title of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England.
Thirty-three years have elapsed since then because "it takes critical
mass to combat colonialism and we wanted to make sure that all our ducks
were in a row," Means said.
One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted
a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples -- despite
opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own
"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by.
They continue to take our land, our water, our children," Phyllis Young,
who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous
rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.
The US "annexation" of native American land has resulted in once proud
tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people,"
Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on the
Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies -- less
than 44 years -- in the world.
Lakota teen suicides are 150 percent above the norm for the United
States; infant mortality is five times higher than the US average; and
unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's
"Our people want to live, not just survive or crawl and be mascots,"
"We are not trying to embarrass the United States. We are here to
continue the struggle for our children and grandchildren," she said,
predicting that the battle would not be won in her lifetime.