During the 60's and 70's sovereignty was our cry, vision and goal. We dreamed it.
Treaties are made between sovereign nations. That was our evidence. Fish-ins were staged on the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers. It was illegal for Indians to fish in Washington state until the Boldt Decision. Yet it was a right retained in our Treaties.
The Trail of Broken Treaties, the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, the subsequent "Trails" were demands for recognition.
When I was growing up my dad fished at night when no one could see him. The smokehouse was covered by a big maple tree. We were ordered to tell no one we had fish.
The Frank's Landing family on the Nisqually river near Olympia forced the State of Washington into court. They staged fish-ins and were arrested. Their defense was the Treaty of Medicine Creek.
Those that fought for sovereignty were labeled militants, troublemakers or agitators. They are sometimes excluded from the benefits of sovereignty by those in Tribal power.
Corrupt Tribal officials will hide behind sovereign immunity. They cannot be held accountable for their actions. Tribal members and staff have no avenue for complaint.
Sovereignty to me means the right to feed our people. It is as simple as that. We need to provide jobs, health care, housing, enough to give them a dignified life.
Sovereignty needs to have the words courage and honesty and honor added back to it's meaning. We must see to the needs of ALL the people, not just the families who can provide the politicians with the most votes.
Chiefs were trained. The first law of a chief is to feed the people. That is a simple law that says it all. You see to the needs of the people before yourself.
Politicians are not trained. An elder once told me that everyone starts out good, but most people sell out for money. She was talking about a chairman I was fighting.
Politicians usually start out good. They promise to serve the people. They sell themselves with noble goals. They wind up selling themselves for money. Or they give up when they find out they can't change things for the better.
A friend of mine wanted to do a healing ceremony for the Tribe over the graving yard issue and the desecration of our ancestors. I had told her of the sorrow our people were carrying for our ancestors. Our elders were physically ill for a year. Some had strokes.
I called the Tribe's business manager to reserve a room for the ceremony. He would not approve it. He said he only talks with the Shaker minister about Spiritual things.
I reminded him that I was a Tribal member and he worked for me. He said he works for the Tribal council. I said yes, and they work for me.
We didn't get the room. Our chairwoman stole my friends idea of a healing ceremony and my idea of a demonstration at the site.
She staged a farce that she called a healing ceremony. There was no healing or ceremony. It was just a chance for her to get before the cameras. For that she stopped real healing.
I have asked the Washington State Department of Transportation to come and talk with the Tribal community members. We want to know what happened. Why do we have 300+ ancestors in storage with no place to rebury them?
The DOT needs to know how we feel. They have been talking with Tribal officials. They are concerned with money.
The DOT needs to know the trauma they put our people through. They must do something about the racism they stirred up against us. They did it, they are accountable.
They are hiding behind the Tribe's sovereignty. They will only talk with elected officials. Yet our constitution and bylaws states that the voting members are the Tribal Council and governing body. The elected officials are the Business Committee. They take care of Tribal affairs at our direction.
White Tribal employees and state officials hide behind the word sovereignty. They use it to not talk with us. That's not what it means. It certainly isn't what I fought for.
Sovereignty means we have the right and responsibility to feed our own people.