Above photo: Oliver Semans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribal health board, at a cemetery on the South Dakota reservation. Kristina Barker.
When I was a teenager, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a popular television show called “Combat.” It was about World War Two and the fighting in France. The reason this is important is because of the similarities between occupied France at that time, and occupied Oceti Sakowin (all seven sub-nations of the Great Sioux Nation) and occupied Peta Sakowin (the Tituwan) today in western South Dakota.
For those of you who don’t know the history of World War Two, a brief synopsis. During the War, Nazi Germany went violently into other countries in Europe using aircraft to bomb, followed by tanks and soldiers to occupy the land and the people. The Germans then created governments for the people without the consent of the people. If anyone resisted, they were killed instantly. The people who were from that country whether it was France, or Norway, or Holland who worked for the Nazi Germans were known as “quislings.” It’s a Norwegian word that means “traitor” or “collaborator.”
In France, the government that the Germans created was known as the Vichey government. The French people who did not want to be a part of the Vichey government called themselves the Free French. They also secretly fought the Germans by their own secret army known as the Resistance. If a person was found in a village to be a part of the Resistance, not only he and his family would be killed by the Germans, but often the whole village would be killed. The Germans used this method to discourage any more resistance, but instead it caused the people to become even more determined. When World War Two ended, the collaborators, the traitors who worked with the Germans and the Vichey government, were put on trial, killed, or imprisoned for life. This same thing happened in Norway and the traitors were called “quislings.” It is a Norwegian word that everyone in the world now uses to mean ‘traitor’.
The similarity to us is that the United States did not keep their word on the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which said that all of western South Dakota and parts of North Dakot, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska was for our “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation.” Only we could decide who would come into our Treaty Territory. Then the U.S. government put us in Prisoner-of-war camps which they called “Indian reservations”. In 1934, the U.S. also created governments for us through their own law, the Wheeler-Howard Act. We already had our own ways of governing ourselves, which the U.S. did not understand. Furthermore, the U.S. government had already taken away our ability to police ourselves with the Major Crimes Act in 1889, which was also a Treaty violation.
Just like the French during World War Two, we are an occupied nation. The Vichy government is the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) governments, or Tribal Council form of governments, which the U.S. imposed on us. They try to say they had elections but on Pine Ridge they had to have two elections. Both times there were not enough voters voting, according to the IRA law, so the U.S. forced the Tribal Council form of government on us anyway.
The old people used to call the quislings, the “hang-around-the forts.” Now it is “hang-around-the-BIA” or the Tribal Councils. As there are very few jobs on the reservations, many of us have had to work for the tribal governments just to keep our families fed. Does this mean we were collaborators? Remember the brain-washing in the boarding schools. We didn’t have such a clear idea of what being colonized meant. Our occupation is not as clear as it was in those European countries by Nazi Germany but it is still the same.
Now you know why there are no good government services on the reservations. The Tribal Councils are funded by the U.S. which does not want our people to survive to this day. But they have to act like they do so they can entice more migrants to work the manual labor jobs. It’s called “ghettoizing” or “colonization”. I call it “genocide”. The poor government services and corruption of the tribal governments are done on purpose so the high frustration levels will cause the people to turn on themselves and their neighbors. Ever hear of domestic violence, or child abuse, or chemical abuse (alcohol, drugs, prescription medicines), or gang violence?
Without adequate government services and the ability to police ourselves, the civility and humanity breaks down. The respect we are to live by goes by the wayside.
What can be done? It has to start with each individual. Self-respect will not allow a person to allow themselves to be abused or to abuse others. Self-respect also requires courage and fortitude. Then the respect needs to move to the family level, then the community, then the District. It doesn’t matter if it is a man or a woman who starts this, but that each person does increase their own self-respect. It won’t be easy, but it must be done.
Now that we know what is happening, we have to become like the Free French and keep who we are as a nation, not as a collaborator with a nation (U.S.) which has no values other than money, and who wants us to disappear.
For more information on who we are, there is a collection of old laws and ways of living called “The Ancient Laws of the Oceti Sakowin”. It can be found at www.siouxnationtreatycouncil.
There is an urgency to do this now. The time is running out. This Climate Crisis we are in is no respecter of anything. We have to remember how to take care of ourselves and each other during these hard times.