(FinalCall.com) – Russell Means was born an Oglala/Lakotah in 1939, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near the Black Hills. In the late 60s he decided to put his energy into fighting for Indian rights with The American Indian Movement–becoming their first national director. For more than thirty years, he has traveled extensively throughout the world fighting for the rights of the indigenous people.
On December 19, 2007, in a bold and unprecedented move, he led the Lakotah Freedom Delegation in declaring that that the Lakotah Nation is formally and unilaterally withdrawing from all agreements and treaties with the government of the United States. The delegation also delivered signed documents to the State Department informing them of the decision to formally declare sovereignty from the United States as a result of its genocidal assault on the political, cultural and economic freedom in what is now called The Republic of Lakotah.
In this exclusive interview with the Assistant Editor of The Final Call, Ashahed M. Muhammad, Russell Means discussed the details of the declaration, their plans to establish full sovereignty and the characteristics of their provisional government.
The Final Call (FC): Specifically, what does the Lakotah sovereignty declaration mean and what is it based on?
Russell Means (RM): We unilaterally withdrew from our treaties and agreement with the United States of America. That is backed by Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution along with other amendments and also backed by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which the entire international community including the United States of America signed into effect in 1980. So legally, we have returned to the position we held prior to the signing of the treaties which makes us free and independent. According to national and international law, we are legally within our rights to be independent and free. Also, in the acts from Congress that enabled those five states to become states, those states expressly said they would not interfere with our affairs. Representatives of the freedom seeking Lakotah Nation signed and delivered the documents. We do not represent the tribal governments. The tribal governments are representatives of the United States and the colonial apartheid system of America. In order to save our people, our nation our language, our ways of life, our value systems, we have to withdraw.
FC: Geographically, how much land is covered by the Republic of Lakotah and how many people currently live in that territory?
RM: The area covers, two-thirds of northern Nebraska, one-half of South Dakota, about one-forth of North Dakota, twenty percent of Montana and twenty percent of Wyoming. Indians and non-Indians, about 1.5 million people live there.
FC: In your writings and speeches, you have drawn many parallels between the experiences of the indigenous people, the apartheid government in South Africa, and the occupied Palestinian territories. It appears that you are saying that wherever unjust land appropriation policies are found, they all have the same origins.
RM: Exactly! Hitler wrote that the American policy of creating reservations for the unclean and the unwanted was the perfect solution for race, and (using) that example he created the concentration camps for the gypsies, Jewish people and homosexuals. The Bantu Development Act of 1964 which institutionalized apartheid in South Africa is a copy of the Indian Reorganization Act of America which was passed thirty years before. What happened to us was the genesis and example for all land appropriations the world over–that includes Palestine. Our people are being exterminated, much like the African slaves were exterminated from their homeland and separated from their way of life. The apartheid system is the most lethal colonial policy ever created, and you have to hand it to the United States of America. They are very good at eradicating human beings in all ways physically, spiritually and economically.
FC: Are you expecting either mass migration into or out of the Lakotah territories as a result of this declaration?
RM: We know that there will not be a mass migration out of our territory. We’ve offered citizenship to anyone who wants to become Lakotah, provided they renounce their U.S. citizenship and apply for citizenship with our Nation. We know that all of those Americans and many of the Indian people in those states are not going to renounce their citizenship. We have no illusions about that, however, our nation will not have taxes and we will have individual liberty through community control.
FC: What will happen to those who live in the area but do not want to leave the land or their property they have purchased?
RM: The power we have is based on U.S. law. The negotiation tool that we will use with the city, county and state governments is the power to put a lien on any and all real estate transactions in that five-state region. What that does is that it puts the burden of proof on the seller of the real estate. They have to prove that the lien is invalid. Well, based on the U.S. Constitution, we own the land. Therefore, if we choose to do that, the real estate market in those five state areas will absolutely totally collapse. That is the power that we possess. They have a problem with their government because their government defrauded them. They bought property believing that the property was free and clear. It isn’t. We own it.
(For more information and to read the treaties and documents online, visit http://www.republicoflakotah.com)