This article was originally published in July of 2011.
Today, Americans celebrate the last time they overthrew their government. In those days, many tribes sided with Great Britain with the promise that they would prevent further expansion of settlers into Indian lands to the west. Other tribes sided with the American insurgents. Perhaps, in the long run, it didn’t really matter who won, as the relentless march westward of European settlers was almost impossible to stop by any government. But the colonist freedom fighters won the day; and American Imperialism was born soon after with forts in Indian Country and further expansion westward. They haven’t stopped since, with a string of military bases that spans the entire globe.
Today, perhaps we should reflect on where our people stand today. Our tribal and societal structures, which were once the building blocks of our culture and civilization, have been repeatedly attacked and destroyed, replaced by Anglo style “Tribal” governments. Our economic base was long ago taken from us. Salmon in the Northwest and Alaska was over fished, and fishery management taken over by State and Federal institutions. Buffalo on the Great Plains was deliberately eradicated to starve out the otherwise hard to defeat Plains Indian warriors. The slaughter of Navajo sheep, the destruction of game habitat….. I could go on and on. All of these economic bases were taken from us, and replaced with a welfare system that has done little more than sustain our poverty and misery, and a sort of crony capitalism in Indian Country that never manages to bring economic prosperity to anyone but those in power. Our people, who were described by early explorers of the Eastern seaboard as muscular and healthy, have suffered from the Western diet; poisoned to the point where we exhibit high rates of obesity and diabetes. Alocholism, drug abuse and depression follow this dismal record.
Today let us not confuse the force of American Imperialism and colonization and its effects with the people of this nation. Most folks, if you ask them, want nothing to do with butchering people on the other side of the planet (1.45 million dead in Iraq as a result of the US invasion, but who’s counting?) Most folks hold no ill will toward us Natives, either.
Today I propose we consider our own independence. Today, a new age of Americans is mulling over the Declaration of Independence, and how it may apply to our current government:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Secessionist movements are active across the North American continent, with a long list of grievances. From New England secessionists in New Hampshire and Vermont, to the southern states where secession was once tried, to conservative state secessionist movements in Texas and Alaska, and even liberal movements in the Republic of Cascadia (which spans the US/Canada border) and California. Reasons include the absurdity of expecting 300 million to live under one monolithic government, taxation, the expansion and dominance of liberal laws in a region with conservative values, the expansion and dominance of conservative laws in a region with liberal values, cultural differences, the legitimacy of the US Government’s claims in regions that were once politically autonomous, moral objections to US militarism and wars, economic insolvency at the federal level due to two wars, growing social security obligations, an expanding welfare state, and bail outs of and hand out to big business, banks and Wall Street, religious differences, the expansion of the police state, the expansion of the war on drugs, the US incarceration rate which is the highest in the world even ahead of China, regional economic stagnation, the suspension of liberties as a result of the war on terrorism, and the outsourcing of American jobs to name a few.
Perhaps the Republic of Lakotah has the right idea? We face cultural assimilation, dysfunctional, self serving tribal governments, and a long list of broken treaties that will likely never be recognized. With true Tribal independence, we’d have a hard time doing much worse than has already been done to us under the US Government. We could re-assert our clan systems as political and economic units, move from the cycle of poverty perpetuated by welfare dependence to a system of mutual aid (the way we used to take care of our own,) and manage our resources as we see fit. While the US Government sends money and resources to Indian Country, I wonder whether it is nothing but more poison. What good has it done us thus far? And do a proud people accept hand outs? Or do they stand on their own two feet, supporting and taking care of their own?
A pan-secessionist movement could unite us Americans in a mutual struggle for freedom. Must we all live under the same government to all be Americans? How united are we today when we divide ourselves by which 24-hour cable news network we watch? With so many secession movements across the country, and so many reasons for it, maybe we should start thinking about whose side we’re going to be on this time around.