“A good nation I will make live.
This the nation above has said.
They have given me the power to make over.” – from Black Elk’s Vision
We, as the Original and pre-American Nations of this continent, have the power to make over. It’s a power called words. Words are the simplest means by which we make and shape reality. How shall we apply our power of words? First let’s develop a context for answering the question.
We are able to look back upon centuries of history which entails invading colonizers coming here from a place called Christendom. They used genocidal violence and terror, along with their foreign words and ideas, in an effort to forcibly compel every free and independent nation to live in accordance with their reality-system of domination. The late political philosopher Hanah Arendt, in her book TheOrigins of Totalitarianism, states:
The extraordinary bloody terror during the initial stage of totalitarian rule serves indeed the exclusive purpose of defeating the opponent and rendering all further opposition impossible. . . through centuries the extermination of native peoples went hand in hand with the colonization of the Americas, Australia, and Africa.
The colonizing system of the United States has created at least three names for its system of domination in relation to our nations: “the trust relationship,” “plenary power, and “the law.” If and when we fundamentally oppose the concepts that hold together the U.S.’s idea-system of domination, we are considered to be against the U.S. system of “law” (i.e., the habit of obedience) and “U.S. national security.” This is made evident by The Intercept’s report on the TigerSwan Corporation and its treatment of Indigenous Water Protectors as rebellious “insurgents” who they assume threaten what I prefer to call the “national security” of the American empire’s system of domination.
There is a notion behind the phrase “trust relationship.” It is this: We have the right to “trust” our “masters,” our oppressors “to do right by us.” A simple definition of “justice” is, “to give one his or her due,” or “to give someone that to which he or she is rightfully entitled.” There’s a major problem, however. The colonizers have believed themselves to be “superior beings” who are rightfully entitled to tribute and obedience from our original nations. Tribute in the form of land and obedience to their imposed ideas they call “law.”
They have believed themselves as being rightfully entitled to “dominion” (a right of domination) over the soil and resources within the boundaries of our traditional territories. The first colonizers even believed themselves to be divinely anointed “lords.” For centuries, those self-appointed “lords” have been imposing a system of oppression on our nations, all in the name of “gifting” us “civilization” and “freedom.” They have used such words of trickery to bamboozle and deceive us. The reality system that the invaders eventually created is the result of their words being combined with their deep desire to manifest a way of life they called “American.”
The American way of life is premised upon an imperial American Dream of riches and wealth by means of a system of domination that it has used to profit from the lands, territories, and waters of our nations. Riches and wealth results in power, and that power leads to the desire for even more power to obtain more riches and wealth. More power, combined with a conceptual system of domination, means easier access to our lands and resources, and a better ability to prevent us from stopping projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline,” even if the oil does pose a very real threat to the water of millions of people.
The centuries-long cycle of annihilation and the exploitation of our nations and the overrunning of our lands and territories are the central means by which the United States have been achieving their “American dream.” Life, liberty, and the pursuit of the happiness (riches and wealth) that is to be derived from exploiting the lands, resources, and waters of our Nations. There is a hidden meaning in the Trump campaign phrase, “Make America Great Again.” It’s to further fulfill the American love of riches and wealth. The slogan is a green light for the unbridled exploitation of anything and everything that can be mined and converted into money-making. Now there is talk of “selling off” the so-called “public lands,” which are the traditional lands and territories of our Original Nations claimed by the U.S. on the basis of the Doctrine of Christian Domination.
The fulfillment of “the American dream” of riches and wealth is predicated on a claimed right of soil and oil. Powerful forces in the U.S. system have claimed a Right of Soil, or property, based on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination, and have also ended up claiming the Right of Oil and in our traditional territories. Of course oil is a highly carcinogenic substance made up of hydrocarbons which are used to fuel and drive the American economy, with little regard for the resulting toxicity and destruction to human health, waterways, and ecosystems.
So, how shall we apply our power of words to liberate and strengthen our pre-American Nations? Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation) have demonstrated the model quite well with the teaching “Mni Wiconi,” “Water is Life.” That one apt phrase communicates on a level that most human beings can readily identify with. Everyone knows you can’t drink oil to survive. My wife Paige quite astutely pointed out to me recently that the global economy is premised on an addiction to a highly toxic poisonous substance, oil. Fracking and massive projects such as the Tar Sands are killing water over vast areas, while poisoning the people and other life forms.
Near the end of his long life, the late political scientist Chalmers Johnson pointed out in a classic understatement: “Empires do not last, and their ends are usually unpleasant” (The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, 2004). He was, of course, writing about the American Empire. He also said:
At this late date. . . it is difficult to imagine how Congress, much like the Roman senate in the last days of the republic, could be brought back to life and cleansed of its endemic corruption. Failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us.
The world is watching the paralysis and dysfunction of the American Empire’s Trump administration, with its pride and hubris. Perhaps the Trump Era will lead to further recognition of the vital importance of our traditional teachings, such as Mni Wiconi (Water Is Life).
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author ofPagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery(Fulcrum, 2008). He is a producer of the documentary movie,The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree). The movie can be ordered from 38Plus2Productions.com.