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Of Sovereignty and Stolen Gold

Russell Means Goes to Washington

by STEVE MELENDEZ

In 1980 the United States government printed 500 hardcover books called, The Final Report of the Indian Claims Commission. It is on our Museum’s wish list. In it on page 4 under the heading "Historical Survey," it makes the grand revelation on how this government is dealing with First Nations America. Giving a history of its very own formation, it candidly reveals, " to create a United States Court of Indian Claims." This court was to consist of three judges, have a 5-year filing period for all claims founded upon the Constitution, laws of Congress, treaties and contracts, and render a final decision within a 10 year life span. Thus, by 1930, the resolution of Indian claims was proposed under two forms of tribunal.

In 1934 and early 1935, the proponents of an Indian court submitted two more bills to establish an Indian claims court. Both bills were ignored, largely because they were not, by this time, considered practical answers to the claims situation. In a report to the Senate committee on Indian Affairs, Secretary of Indian Affairs Harold Ickes argued against them and directed the Senators’ attention to a bill recently introduced in the House to create an Indian claims commission instead of a court which he considered preferable.

With the introduction, in March 1935, of H.R. 6655, an act to create an Indian claims commission, the legislative movement to expedite Indian claims shifted irreversibly from the consideration of a judicial to a commission format. Both Congress and the Secretary of the Interior now felt that a commission rather than an adversary proceeding could better "cut through" the red tape of Government agencies charged with the preparation of Indian cases. An investigatory commission appeared to be a better vehicle for "claims involving history and anthropology as much as law". This bill, and three similar ones, aroused a good deal of debate throughout the 1930′s but no legislation resulted."

In other words, this was and is the government’s boldface attempt to nullify all treaties made with First Nations America by circumventing the courts and the rule of law. The movement shifted from a "judicial to a commission format"? What hogwash!

Sure the Indian Claims Commission went out of business in 1980 but its rulings are still hanging over the heads of Carrie Dann and the Western Shoshone Nation and Dr. Russell Means and the Lakota Nation to the tune of $34 million and $800 million, respectively.

Everyone who knows the story of Carrie Dann knows the story of how the indigenous people have been criminalized for standing up for Native civil rights. And yes, treaty rights are guaranteed and protected by the U.S . Constitution under article 6–supposedly.

And laws supposedly should be enforced but they are not. This is just the latest example of the racial discrimination that our people have had to endure for the last 500 years.

When Columbus waded ashore and said that he, "was taking possession of this island for the King and Queen," why is it not right for Dr. Russell Means to go to Washington and do the same thing.

Black’s Law Dictionary tells me on Pg.1502 that a treaty is "An agreement, league, or contract between two or more nations or sovereigns."

Did the United States honor their end of the international agreement called the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868? In the summer of 1874 Gen. Philip Sheridan sent George Armstrong Custer into the Black Hills to verify the rumor that gold had been found. Miners had been showing up with gold. He had an entourage of about 1,000 soldiers, over 100 covered wagons, two or three gatling guns, a cannon, a sixteen piece brass band mounted on white horses and two miners who were the experts on gold. He was there in violation of the Supreme Law of the Land, the treaty of 1868. When he found gold, he sent a dispatch back to Ft. Laramie: "Gold has been found in paying quantities. I have on my table 40 or 50 small particles of pure gold. In size, averaging in size that of a small pinhead, and most of it taken today from one panful of earth."

The following year, President Ulysses S. Grant stood before Congress and said,

"The Discovery of gold in the Black Hills, a portion of the Sioux Reservation, has had the effect to induce a large immigration of miners to that point. Thus far the effort to protect the treaty rights of the Indians to that section has been successful, but the next year will certainly witness a large increase of such immigration. The negotiations for the relinquishment of the gold fields having failed, it will be necessary for Congress to adopt some measures to relieve the embarrassment growing out of the causes named. The Secretary of the Interior suggests that the supplies now appropriated for the sustenance of that people, Being no longer obligatory under the treaty of 1868, but simply a gratuity, may be issued or withheld at his discretion."

Volume 9 Messages and Papers of the Presidents Page 4306 President Ulysses S. Grant’s 7th Annual Message To the Senate and House of Representatives, December 7, 1875

"Sustenance" is food and withholding food from people is a government policy of starvation. Previously, the U.S. Army supported the extermination of the buffalo in order to control the native people. Why wait for the hammer to drop again? Why not support Dr. Means before the hammer drops on this economy and $800 won’t buy bread let alone buffalo. Ask not what the U.S. Government can do for one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, ask what is the price for reparations for genocide. If ever you find that you are a part of a deceptive system called Mystery Babylon you are instructed to, "Come out or her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes".

Sometimes to be right is worth than all the gold they took out of in the Homestake mine.

STEVE MELENDEZ is a Pyramid Lake Paiute and president of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston.