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President of Oglala Sioux Responds to Pat Rogers's Custer Remark

An open letter from John Yellow Bird Steele to Pat Rodgers on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

We are outraged by the remarks of National Republican Committee member Pat Rodgers to Governor Susanna Martinez's staff that the Governor disrespected George Armstrong Custer by meeting with the Pueblo Indian tribal leaders.

First, General Custer was on a genocidal mission to rob our Lakota people of our treaty-protected lands when our Chiefs and warriors killed him and his command in self-defense. Prior to their demise, Custer and his men had just attacked our peaceful Lakota and Cheyenne village within our 1868 Treaty lands, killing mostly women and children.

Under International Law, we—the Lakota people—were acting within our rights to defend our women and children. Any expression of lament over Custer's demise at this late date by political leaders is a racist statement made in disregard of our human rights. The statement also disregard's the historical fact of Custer's genocidal mission. To raise his demise today as a reason not to respect Indian tribes is truly misguided, astonishingly ignorant and contrary to our human rights.

Raising this issue vis-a-vis the Pueblo Indian tribes is simply nonsense. The Pueblos, our friends, live over 1,000 miles away from the battle site at Little Big Horn. What part does Rodgers think that the Pueblos had in the Custer fight?

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We are rightfully proud that our Lakota people defended ourselves at the Little Big Horn, and anyone who would suggest that we should be discriminated against based upon our exercise of the right of self-defense has no place in political life.

John Yellow Bird Steele is the president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.