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Friday, May 11, 2012

Give Mt. Rushmore back to the Indians

A native Mt. Rushmore:  Chief Joseph,  Sitting Bull, Dull Knife,  Geronimo
The headline in Huffington Post said: 

Mt. Rushmore Site Should Be Returned To Indigenous Native American Tribes, U.N. Official Says

But that is not what the U.N. official actually said.  It is what the Huffington  Post thought he said. Whether made in error or in deliberation, the statement  is bad journalism. 

What James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, actually said was that "he'll recommend in an upcoming report that some of the tribes' lands be restored, including the Black Hills of South Dakota," according to the Associated Press account:
Anaya said land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills as an example. He said restoring to indigenous people what they have a legitimate claim to can be done in a way that is not divisive "so that the Black Hills, for example, isn't just a reminder of the subordination and domination of indigenous peoples in that country." 
He did not specify Mt. Rushmore, although it is in the Black Hills.  He did recognize, as has the U.S. Supreme Court that the appropriation of the Black Hills by the U.S. was a violation of a treaty through fraud, deadly force, and genocide.  In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network, he said:

I think there are a lot of issues and a lot of specific programs the federal government, in particular, is implementing to address those issues that I think are making some headway. But what I think needs to happen—this is what I heard [on my tour]—there needs to be a real reckoning of the history that indigenous people suffered and an understanding that the social conditions you mentioned—high suicide rates, alcoholism, domestic violence—are a direct consequence of this inter-generational trauma… And until there’s a reckoning and a reconciliation of this history… it’s going to be very difficult to fully address this laundry list of specific issues.
He noted that this kind of appropriation of indigenous lands continues today:
You have two tracks going forward simultaneously. That is, the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights but at the same time greater facilitation for multi-national resource companies to go on indigenous territories to extract the resources often in violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. And there doesn’t seem to be a coherent posture in many countries on how to reconcile those two tracks and if anything, the movement forward in extracting resources from indigenous lands is accelerated compared to the movement forward in implementing Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
The return of the Black Hills to the control of the native people in restoring the integrity of the Treaty of 1868 is what is at issue in the settlement of the issue.  Although the tribes have been offered a cash settlement, they have been adamant in their insistence that they want the return of the land, not the cash.  The proposed Bradley Bill of the 1980s the Great Sioux Nation would get 1.3 million acres of the 7.5 million acres returned to them. The 1.3 million acres would be strictly U. S. National Forest Service land. No municipalities, no state owned land, no private land or no federal monument lands would have been threatened.  That proposal has not been agreed to by the Great Sioux Nation, but remains the best negotiating point for the settlement of this issue. Of course, it exempts Mt. Rushmore, the national and state parks from the restoration of lands.

The major defect in the Huffington Post error is that it inflames America's right wing that is waging a militant obstruction to any movement toward equality and justice.  It sends the country's dialogue off into another tantrum of rage, and that is the last thing the native people, whose heritage has been one of deprivation and denial, need right now.

The dialogue has to be about observing the Treaty and restoring the lands.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States