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Sovereignty Comes Full Circle

Sovereignty is a word with many meanings. The adaptation by Onkwehonweh (Original People) for common usage of this word most often relates to a hereditary political status that many have embraced. For some, it is the most profound source of self-esteem that they are able to maintain in their personal lives.

Because it is a Latin word in origination, adapted into the French language, there may be several definitions. The introduction of foreign languages on Turtle Island has created translation errors. Original languages could never account for certain foreign terminology. The words “pray” and “prey” both sound alike, but came to mean greatly different things, in one instance.

Onkwehonweh social response to challenges to hereditary sovereignty has also been mis-categorized, time and again. Irreverence in the face of injustice and oppression has often been a legitimate expression of internal balance, not a flippant response to authority, as skeptics sometimes define it.

The maintenance of a sense of humor amidst hardship possibly defines the ride of the Red Road that one embarks upon, as much as any other living-being does.

I reference the word “sovereignty” for a reason. There seems to be a recent desire outside of Indian country today to bring what has been described as alternate legal systems into both tribal and traditional native communities alike.

Practitioners of such alternate legal philosophies inevitably appeal to the financial hardships of the intended audience, without a clear presentation of the sustainability of such approaches later by the hopeful novice. A resolution of debt offer opens many doors. A prerequisite of this mindset is the intended manipulation of mainstream legal systems for personal gain. Through legal vocabulary pummeling and dramatized document filings, the process seems to take on a life of its own. “Legal self-actualization” is one emotive description.

Still, these alternate legal systems are as foreign as the process that they ape. The Onkwehonweh nature of the Two Row Wampum (Kaswentha) defines the need to hold your ground politically, as well as commercially. Always ask this, “Can two sovereigns coexist, or does one always want all?”

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For these reasons, it has become clear that when traditional minded people are compelled to make an appearance into mainstream legal systems, the effect is disconcerting to all parties. Prosecutors have to consider the political blowback of demeaning the traditional mindset while making a legal case. Defense attorneys have to diligently research the finer points of Onkwehonweh beliefs so as not to discount the inherent argument of the People of the Earth. Judges and juries both have to overcome the sensational foreign nature of what they are experiencing, to embody the character of their oaths.

The stark aspect of system versus belief is as much on trial as anything in these moments.

That is why the visage of Onkwehonweh at these times is so stark, as it is a sign of the determination to endure. Some reach for a quick fix to get the moment over with, as they struggle to remain relevant in the ultimate forum of the mainstream. Others never recover in time to let their spirit soar above the trappings of the courtroom itself. The judge’s gavel can be seen as a hammer against sovereignty, as a much as a tool for justice.

Thus, our own experience with the alternate legal systems is that it can outwit those who seek it the most, and at their time of their greatest need.

As a long-time student, I am keen to blatant efforts to demean or belittle others, based on the absence of formal education. The sheer intensity of some of these alternate legal practitioners to impress their own belief system on others begins to resemble a form of mind control. No answer that one can offer in response to their cross-examinations satisfies their zeal.

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that an International Common Law Court of Justice has issued “arrest warrants” for three prominent individuals, related to First Nation residential school atrocities. Printed warrants have been circulated that allow for citizen arrest, and that the “fugitives” can be brought in to “Public Reclamation Facilities”. Others are involved in placing “public liens” on Catholic churches in reclamation actions. This is all very serious business.

Restorative justice related to residential school legacies, has to be done by consensus, not by technicality. To make the victims whole again, the restorative process must be both relevant and effective. Being informed that I am obligated to take part in this warrant target detention, is hopeful at best, if not spurious.

Sovereignty is sought by many, and sometimes by those that possibly will never have it. This longing has to respect those differences, as much as any similarities they can identify with.