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2013-04-10 / Voices

The Rez of the Story

Ihanktowan Dakota Oyate


Mitakuyepi (Greetings My Relatives),

The famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) Dennis Banks from the American Indian Movement (AIM) days (as are commonly referred to these days in Indian country) is quoted to have stated that “When AIM was founded on July 28, 1968, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the living conditions we found ourselves in were deplorable. It wasn’t that we didn’t know there was racism in the cities. It was how racism forced us into squalid slum tenement buildings, closed doors to job opportunities, and fostered racist laws, jails, courts, and prisons. Beginning with our founding meeting, we immediately set out to bring about change in those institutions of public concern: housing, education, employment, welfare, and the courts.”

David E. Wilkins, American Indian Politics, informs us that “Political scientists Paula McCain and Joe Stewart note that ’interest groups that focus on issues of importance to blacks, Latinos, Asians, and American Indians have been essential to the progress made toward the incorporation of these groups into the American political system.’ While this statement is broadly accurate for most of the groups, the situation of Indigenous nations is much more complicated . . . For much of this nation’s history, the general thrust of most racial and ethnic groups and their members has been to seek inclusion (to become constitutionally incorporated) into the American social contract; by contrast, the general thrust of most Indigenous nations and their citizens (notwithstanding their American citizenship) has been to retain their political and cultural exclusion from absorption or incorporation in the American polity.

“Of course, the focus of American colonialism--including the imposition of Western religious beliefs, Western values, and Western property arrangements--have unabashedly [undiminished] sought to incorporate Indian lands, resources, and citizens, while sometimes exhibiting a measure of respect for Indian treaty rights, attempting to restore some tribal lands, and providing some protection for Indian religious beliefs and sacred sites.

“These forces combined with individual Indian free will, high out-marriage rates, the urbanization of Indians, and the near hegemony [domination] of the media and the corporate world, contribute mightily to the character of an Indigenous America which is more diversified than ever before. Notwithstanding this increasing and seemingly inexorable [inevitable] diversification among Indigenous peoples, the evidence still shows that maintaining and reaffirming Indian political, economic, and cultural identity is a central issue for most indigenous peoples most of the time. And this is true regardless of whether they are reservation based or urban based, full blood or mixed blood, recognized or non-recognized, exercising treaty rights or treaty-less, practicing traditional spiritual beliefs or members of Christian sects. In a recent survey of Indian youth, more than 96 percent of those surveyed ‘identified themselves solely with their Indian nationality and then 40 percent identified themselves solely with their Indian nationality. Only a little more than half of the youth identified themselves as American citizens.’

Tribes interested in what are called “reformative goals do not seek fundamental change in the structure of intergovernmental relations. Their preference, rather, is for redistribution of services, resources, or rewards with in that structure.” For example these [tribes] would support Indian preference in the Indian Bureau.

“[Tribes] pursuing transformative goals, on the other hand, seek a basic restructuring of intergovernmental relations. For example, they would most likely support the revival of the treaty relationship and the termination of the Congress’s presumed plenary power over tribes. Second, regarding orientation to institutions of the larger society, there is a dichotomy [contradiction] of integration and segregative goals.” Some Natives support the acceptance of federal appropriations but would maintain as separate tribal government while other question the appropriateness of having anything to do with the dominant government or culture.

Bottom line; non-Indians would do well to support local Native initiatives to be independent if that is what the local tribe seeks because if the tribe prospers then so does the local non- Indian business community and the local non-Indian citizens. Independence is far better than dependence in my opinion.

Now you know the rez of the story.

Doksha (later).

Vince Two Eagles is a columnist for the times, his columns were born of an effort to help people in rural areas learn more about the beliefs and lives of Lakota and Dakota people. He has created a compilation of his columns in a book called “Rez of the Story-Volume One.” To order the compilation go to his website at: or call 605- 660-0378. Vince can also be reached at

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