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Trimble: From ‘Untied’ to United?

Two years ago my wife and I vacationed in France, although I had some apprehension about the trip. For many years I had a general dislike for the French. I had the impression that they hated Americans, and had heard that the French don’t really like anyone except the French. As a matter of fact I had the impression that no European country liked any other European country very much.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to find myself wrong on all counts. I loved the French, and was impressed that, even if Europeans don’t like each other, they cooperate and work together for common causes.

Perhaps this group could even come up with a common name to cover the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations.

The 1992 unification of the Western European countries into the European Union has apparently worked wonders, and there is peace and cooperation, at least in all physical appearances. For example, currencies in all participating countries have been unified, and like a fist, all are strengthened. The U.S. dollar won’t get you a bushel of Lira in Italy anymore, as it once did. The new Euro has hovered between 30 and 40 percent stronger than the dollar over the past decade. The Euros issued in each country carry the images of that country’s heroes, but all are of equal value.

In each participating country, the national flag flies alongside the European Union flag, which is a simple blue flag, emblazoned with a circle of stars, symbolizing nations of the Union. A visa is not required for travel among those nations, nor are there Customs to deal with if you are entering an EU country from another participating nation.

This caused me to think, “Why can’t Indian nations do something similar, even on a regional basis?” Tribes are already organized regionally, from the All Indian Pueblo Council, to the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, to the United South and Eastern Tribes, and the Alaska Federation of Natives. Even the Sioux up in the Northern Plains, although their unity has been described elsewhere as the “Untied Sioux Tribes,” rather than the United Sioux Tribes, could be better unified with economic as well as political incentives.

This came to mind again when I read in Lakota Country Times a letter from Greg Ducheneaux of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Ducheneaux’s idea called for intertribal and inter-reservational cooperation in land use, range and agricultural technology, and in purchasing power. This would be an ideal start to many other intertribal cooperative economic and commercial ventures.

I loved the French, and was impressed that, even if Europeans don’t like each other, they cooperate and work together for common causes.

If the sovereign nations of Europe, those same countries that had been throwing rocks at each other since the Stone Age, and more recently attacking each other with the most horrid weapons designed to eliminate each other, can unify without comprising their individual sovereignty, it seems that those nations identified as Sioux can do it.

Where NATO brought together Western European and North American nations in common defense against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact communist countries, that union could not bring them together in peace and cooperation in other areas. However, the common goals based on economic and social interests have unified them beyond all expectations. This could happen to the Sioux Tribes of the Northern Plains.

There has always been some cooperation among the Sioux in political issues, mostly in defense against harmful legislation and policy. Leaders like Frank Ducheneaux of the Cheyenne River Sioux, Cato Valandra of the Sicangu, Billy Fire Thunder of the Oglala, and others from the Standing Rock, Lower Brule, Yankton, Sisseton and Santee tribes, have successfully fought the imposition of PL 83-280, which would have given South Dakota jurisdiction over the reservations in the state.

However, aside from emergency situations, there appears to have been little cooperation in initiatives that would advance the common good of the tribes in the economic and social areas. The United Sioux Tribes organization is often split in defense or opposition to even internal matters, such as the executive staff of the organization. The national presence of the Sioux, or even the Northern Plains tribes in the Aberdeen area caucus in the National Congress of American Indians, has not carried the unified strength as other areas have, especially the Pueblos and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

There has always been some cooperation among the Sioux in political issues, mostly in defense against harmful legislation and policy.

In even the traditional arena, the cause of getting a major area of the sacred Black Hills restored to ownership of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota is vulnerable to outsiders who lure chiefs and leaders away from a common strategy by fanciful plans and flattery. The most recent example of this has been the strategic disarray over the Bradley Bill for Black Hills restoration.

Perhaps the Sioux tribes should empanel a major study effort to envision cooperative, intertribal arrangements based around political, economic, traditional and social concerns. Perhaps this group could even come up with a common name to cover the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations and replace the imposed name of Sioux when they act in unison.

I know some of my friends and tribesmen are snickering, saying, “Get real, Chuck Trimble, you’re talking about the Untied Sioux.”

But we can show ‘em.

I think.

Charles E. Trimble is Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972 – 78. He may be reached at cchuktrim@aol.com. His Web site is iktomisweb.com.