Indianz.Com > News > Harold Frazier: Nation-to-nation policy must be law of the land
Harold Frazier and Joe Biden
NATION-TO-NATION: Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, left, greets President Joe Biden of the United States at the White House on September 13, 2022. Photo courtesy Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
The Creator’s Gift of Life
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
President, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association

Lakota know our origin. Wakan Tanka, the Creator, gave the first woman and first man the breath of life and we emerged from Wind Cave in the Heart of the Black Hills, a free and visionary People with a sacred duty to protect Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth.

Native Sovereign Nations are prior sovereigns, embodying the inalienable and inherent rights of Native Peoples bestowed by our Creator. Our grandfathers and grandmothers put their minds together to see what lives they could make for the wakanyejea, the Creator’s sacred gifts: our children and grandchildren. The Circle of the Beloved, Circle of Relatives is the foundation of our democracy. Lakota means Friends. Neighbors came among us. Through generosity and kindness, we adopted relatives to bring them into the Circle of Friendship. Mitakuye Oyasin means “we are all related.”

Native Nation origins are prior to America. The 1805 Treaty with Sioux Nation of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Rivers extended Sioux Nation recognition to American sovereignty over two 10 square mile tracts, at America’s request. We reserved our rights to use the lands. The Federally Recognized Tribe List Act acknowledges inherent sovereignty as the touchstone of nation-to-nation relations. We are not subordinate to state law.

In the 1860s, Lakota fought the Powder River War, the Battles of the Hundred in Hand, Kill Deer Mountain and the Badlands for Lakota freedom, homeland, and People — the Oyate. We were never a dependent nation. The United States sought a treaty with the Great Sioux Nation to restore peace with our Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires. America pledged its honor to keep the peace: “War shall forever cease.”

Later, President Grant said we must have “civilization” because the only alternative is ”extermination.” Then Custer found gold, Sherman slaughtered our Buffalo and Grant ordered Scorched Earth War, burning our villages in the winter. The White Man’s Burden and the hunt for gold on our Indian lands was never constitutional and always a treaty violation.

At the time the U.S. Constitution was framed, nation-to-nation relations between America and Native Sovereign Nations were vitally important. So, important that Georgia sought assurance from George Washington, Constitutional Convention Chair, that America would make peace with the Creek Nation because Georgia could not manage affairs with the Creek Nation alone. Georgia ratified the Constitution in 1789 and President Washington made the first treaty under the Constitution with the Creek Nation in 1790. It’s the model for all future treaty ratifications, and that’s the original understanding that underlies the original ratification of the Constitution.

As the 14th Amendment was sent to the states for adoption and ratification from 1866 to 1868, America’s Indian Peace Commission negotiated the peaceful end of the Powder River War. By acknowledging Native Nation’s primary jurisdiction over Native citizens, the 14th Amendment affirmed our treaty. Maintaining the constitutional recognition and self-governing status of “Indians not taxed,” the 14th Amendment affirms our nation-to-nation relations with America.

Today, the Supreme Court ignores the express mandates of the Constitution: claiming that Congress has a unilateral right to do away with our Native Sovereign Nations at any time. Genocide, by definition, is the attempt by one people to do away with another — the Supreme Court’s doctrine is genocidal. In the 19th Century, Genocide was justified as the White Man’s Burden to “civilize” the Vanishing American. The Roberts Court should be ashamed to say these words as America supports Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Russian tyranny.

Nation-to-nation consultation must build policies and progress based upon mutual consent. The U.S. Constitution mandates nation-to-nation treaties made by mutual consent. America’s Organic Acts call for treaties and articles with the Indian nations “based on mutual consent.” The Declaration of Independence announces that rights to life, liberty and pursuit of our sacred visions are the original, inherent, and inalienable gifts of our Creator, who bestowed the Breath of Life upon our Native Peoples. “We hold these truths to be self-evident….”

America’s nation-to-nation relations are based upon mutual consent between nations. In 1970, President Nixon declared an end to the Termination Policy and the return to the Indian Self-Determination Policy. Fifty years later, Congress must catch up — enshrine the Nation-to-Nation Policy in law. Native Americans are America’s fastest growing natural born population. It’s time to honor the Constitution and recognize our prior human rights to Self-Determination.

Today, we trust President Joe Biden to reaffirm the nation-to-nation relations between America and our Native Sovereign Nations, just as President George Washington did for America in his time.

Harold Frazier is concluding his second consecutive term as chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, an Indian nation based in South Dakota. He also serves as president of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, representing Indian nations in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. He previously served as chair and vice chair of his tribe. He currently serves as a regional vice president for the National Congress of American Indians.