Historic event at Fort LaramieHundreds gather with ‘We are still here’ theme
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent
nativesunnews.today FORT LARAMIE, WY – Hundreds gathered for a historical four-day event to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. A central theme of the words spoken on the opening day, Saturday, April 28 was ‘We are still here’. This slogan was used many times over, with several emotions displayed throughout the presentations; from sadness and lament to pride and anger. Tribal leaders took this historical moment to voice the concerns of their nations to the crowd gathered under the large tent. Negotiations in 1868 took place under similar tents. After two years of planning and discussions, the commemoration honoring those chiefs and nations which gathered next to the Laramie River in Wyoming in the months leading up to April 29, 1868 began with a sunrise ceremony on Saturday, April 28; this after several horseback riders and foot runners pulled into the site on the evening prior and morning of the four-day event’s official commencement. In a traditional manner, the land was blessed by the keepers of the sacred pipes; including a pipe used during the 1868 treaty signing ceremony.
On the first day of the events, tribal leaders from the Oceti Sakowin, Crow, Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne nations welcomed guests and partially discussed their tribes’ role in 1868 and their current status as indigenous nations; as well as the contemporary struggles of maintaining their identities as independent nations under the guidelines set by the 1868 document. Opening remarks by National Park Service Superintendent, Tom Baker, were the culmination of two years of planning and negotiations between the park service and tribal representatives. These intense discussions attempted to ensure the event’s mission of honoring the treaty signers. During Baker’s emotional speech, he was conveyed the federal government’s understanding of the traumatic impact of the 1868 treaty and the cultural, spiritual and emotional toll the treaty has had on tribal members and communities in the region. “We need to work together to ensure this never happens again. We need to work together to improve life for our indigenous nations. We are after all, one people and one earth,” said Baker.
The NPS Superintendent acknowledged the leaders for their focus on education in the future for tribal youth and the proclamation ‘We are still here’. Baker said, “We are here today to honor the treaty signers, who at the time only had the best interest of their people at the forefront of their decision to sign the treaty. Today, we honor the descendants of the signers.” The traditional concept of seven generations came up throughout the discussions; as many tribal groups plan for and have been planned for from seven generations back and seven generations forward. ‘Today, we honor tribal youth who are the future for the next seven generations. I want to thank the sovereign bands who worked collaboratively for the past two years; Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow and Dakota/Lakota people. It is an honor to work together with all of you, “ Baker said in tears as the crowd honored him with cheers and war cries. “I thank you for the trust.” Despite Superintendent Baker’s impassioned speech on behalf of the absent federal government dignitaries, many of the tribal leaders and members felt disrespected by the no-show of members of the United States’ agencies who manage relationships with the sovereign nations. Each tribal leader was given “3 to 5 minutes” at the podium Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman, Harold Frazier felt this was a sign of disrespect; as he was with the riders who rode to Fort Laramie from Cheyenne River.
“I was heavily involved with the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I want to give a shout out, MNI WICONI! I thank all of the water protectors for standing up and protecting of the most sacred things in our way of life, water,” said Chairman Frazier. Frazier spoke with compassion and conviction. As the elected chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, Frazier is on the front lines of many of the bureaucratic battles for treaty rights and honoring those obligations. “These white men, they come in. They took our land. They used their religion through the Doctrine of Discovery. What I want to do is come up with a doctrine of recovery. We have our spiritual laws. We have our people,” said Frazier, to which he received a thunderous applause. “What gives France the right to sell our lands to the United States under the Louisiana Purchase?" Frazier continued. "Does that mean we can go over there (France) and put some metal plates in the ground and say this is our land? Can we do that?” Frazier expressed his disappointment in the lack of attendance from the federal government. He felt U.S. President Donald Trump should have been present to honor this sacred day. “This is a prime example of how they treat us as Indian people. No decision makers. No funding. These guys should be ashamed of themselves. Look at how we live. The poorest counties in the United States are in our treaty lands. But yet, the most precious resources belong to us! I want to close by saying, if they truly want to have respect for us, they need to pack up and go back home. Go home!”
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