Lewis & Clark 'genocide re-enactors' told to turn around
On Saturday, a group of Lewis and Clark re-enactors heading back up the Missouri to commemorate the bicentennial and descendants of the Teton Sioux who today call themselves Lakota returned to the scene of the historic meeting. As a narrator told the story, others came to protest what they call the ugly legacy of Lewis and Clark's lauded expedition that also led to the eventual near-decimation of Western tribes. Today, many Lakota struggle on poverty-stricken reservations such as South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation, whose Shannon County is a perennial contender for poorest in the nation. "We want people to know the true American history," said Victorio Camp, 29, an organizer of the protest from Pine Ridge. "... the history of all people in this country. Native people have been persecuted and oppressed. Our lands were taken away, the buffalo were slaughtered, and our whole way of life was destroyed. We feel that Lewis and Clark was the beginning of all of this." One sign read: "L + C = DAWN OF GENOCIDE."
Lewis and Clark opened the door to the holocaust of the West
UN Observer and International Report
CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. Sept. 18, 2004 -- The American lie of Lewis and Clark unraveled as Lakota, Ponca, Kiowa and Dine' told re-enactors to turn back downriver or face the consequences.
"What they wrote down was a blueprint for the genocide of my people.
You are re-enacting something ugly, evil and hateful," Carter Camp, Ponca, told the Discovery Expedition camped on the Missouri River.
On Sept. 18, an Indian delegation of elders, supported by young warriors, gave the expedition a stern warning. If they did not turn around, they would call on all Indians who are not assimilated, colonized and conquered to join them and stop the expedition.
"You are re-enacting the coming of death to our people," Camp told the expedition, while seated in a circle with Indian elders and Lewis and Clark re-enactors, on the banks of the Missouri River.
"You are re-enacting genocide."
Deb White Plume of Pine Ridge gave the expedition a symbolic blanket of small pox. Another Lakota woman from Pine Ridge said she carries the DNA of the Lakota women who survived the slaughters that Lewis and Clark opened the door to. She said she is prepared to die for this cause.
"I believe in armed struggle," Wicahpi Wakia Wi of Pine Ridge said. "The act of genocide stops here. We are tired of living poor. We are not afraid to die. I am willing to die."
She told them they would not proceed up the river. "You are not going on. I will organize every sister from here to Oregon to stop you."
Lakota elder Floyd Hand, among four bands of Lakota here, told the expedition, "We are the descendants of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse."
"I did not come here in peace." Hand said they would not smoke the pipe today and if the expedition continues up the Missouri River, the families of the expedition members would suffer the spiritual consequences of small pox.
Referring to the tribal governments who welcomed the expedition, Hand said those tribal governments reflect the same type thinking as the re-enactors and are not the voice of the grassroots people. "The tribal governments are not a voice for us. They are imitating us, like you are imitating Lewis and Clark."
"We want you to turn around and go home," Alex White Plume, Lakota from Pine Ridge, told the expedition White Plume said Lakota are here on this land for a reason. "We were put here by the spirits." He said the Lakota never lost their language or ceremonies and now they are making these requests: Lakota want their territory back, their treaties to be honored and to be able to continue their healing ways.
White Plume said many Indian people have become assimilated and colonized. "We pray for our own colonized people. We say they are in a prison in the white man's world."
White Plume said there was no point in the expedition coming here. "All you did was open up these old wounds."
Carter Camp warned the expedition to halt or they would be stopped. He said the expedition has been told lies and are spreading lies. Lewis and Clark are a part of the American lie. "They had no honor. They came with the American lie. They murdered 60 million people." Camp said Lewis and Clark said they came in peace. Referring to their costumes, Camp said, "You guys probably believe that lie. That is why you are dressed so funny today."
He said Lewis and Clark knew what happened to Indians in the eastern part of the country and they knew that the missionaries followed the soldiers. And it was the missionaries who left his people as remnants, homeless in the streets. Camp said the young warriors would not be as patient as the elders seated in the circle. He also questioned whether the re-enactors had asked permission of the grassroots Indian people to come onto their territory.
"You chose to come amongst us without permission." Camp said Sacagawea was a woman struggling to return home. "We feel sorry for that woman. We don't like the way she was treated." Camp said Indians here did not like the first Lewis and Clark and they sure don't like the second ones.
"Take those silly clothes off and come back dressed like a normal human being. Don't come here to tell me what your grandfather did to my grandfather." Referring to the re-enactors "silly clothes," Camp said of the Natives who came, "This is the way our people dress everyday. We are not trying to play a game."
"Go home and try to re-enact some truth for the rest of your life."
Alex White Plume said all that is good is being destroyed on the Earth because of actions like these. "Our people are dying because our water is no good," he said, adding that the wolves and bears are disappearing from the territory. Lakotas have to pay fees to go the Black Hills to pray. "Today I can not even go up to the Black Hills to worship. We believe everyone should have access to spirituality." He said buffalo were once the basis of the ecosystem. Now, he said, "The whole West is drying up. The Earth should be a priority and not your own personal needs."
Referring to the red, white and blue flag flying over one of the expedition's three boats docked on the Missouri River, White Plume said, "We want that flag taken down. We honor that flag because we won it at the Little Big Horn." He said the flag could be later given back, if their treaty was honored and sacred lands preserved.
"We would like to ask you to turn around and not to proceed into our territory. We didn't bring our bows and arrows, but we will continue to harass you."
Alfred Bone Shirt of Rosebud told the expedition, "This is disgusting. This is a slap in the face." Bone Shirt said the Lakota are a people who never quit fighting for what they believe in. "If you decide to go up river, it is bad, bad for you and bad for your families." Bone Shirt listed the town of Chamberlain in a long list of racist South Dakota towns. He described the testimony of the Indian Child Welfare Act on KILI Radio the previous day, testimony of Lakota children being taken away in large numbers and given to non-Indian families. "Our prisons are full, our children are being taken away."
Pointing out the absurdity of the re-enactment, Bone Shirt asked if there would be a re-enactment of Bush and Cheney invading Iraq. " If you go up this river, we have good warriors who can shoot arrows.
Bone Shirt was ready for action. "Let's sink some of those boats out here."
Bone Shirt pointed out that the Indian people knew what the re-enactors were thinking. "When we leave, they will laugh behind our backs." And Bone Shirt said Indians here know this type of racism. "The state of South Dakota is the most racist state and South Dakota condones this kind of behavior. We want you to know, it has to end here."
Russell Means said if the expedition continues up the river, the Blackfeet are waiting for them. Means said Lewis and Clark, like the myth of Columbus, are apart of the great American lie. And there are many parts to the great American lie. "Even the casino Indians are not rich, that is another falsehood. They don't ever see cash," Means said, adding that the money goes to investors and also to the state, which is illegal. Means said Indians can't even start a business on tribal land without waiting an average of eight years, and then it is only if the paperwork isn't lost. "What you are perpetuating is part of the big lie," Means told the re-enactors.
Means said Indians have 40 percent of the nation's natural resources on their lands, yet they are kept in concentration camps called reservations and not allowed to participate. "This is our river," Means said of the Missouri River running past. He pointed out the water is being used by farmers, cities and power plants without the permission of Indian people. "They don't honor anything. This is an insult to our integrity."
While there is no Bureau of Irish Affairs or Bureau of other groups of peoples' affairs, the Bureau of Indian Affairs remains an instrument of genocide. On Pine Ridge, the average lifespan is 44 years. "We are middle-aged at 22."
As Indians arrived at American Creek Marina bay on the river, there were three police and Sheriff units waiting at the entrance. Later, seated in the circle, Hand told the group there was no need for the police to be sneaking in the bushes and taking photos; they could do it in the open. "That is what the federal government does." Hand said white people are always looking for identity and always taking. He told the re-enactors to find out who they are and live who they are.
Peyton "Bud" Clark, great, great, great-grandson of William Clark, thanked them for being open and candid. "We will be honest with you." He said the expedition was called a commemoration because it was not a celebration. Clark said people in the eastern United States know nothing about Indian people and it is nearly impossible to go to a library and find out any truth about American Indians. Clark said he saw the expedition as a way of listening to Indian people along the river. "What we did was create a catalyst for open and honest dialogue for the healing to begin," Clark said.
"All you need to have is an open mind and an open heart and engage in an open and honest dialogue." Clark was among 22 re-enactors traveling on the river with a keelboat and two large wooden pirogue canoes, with backup support of RVs. Clark said their "funny clothes" cost a lot of money.
Although Clark said the re-enactors were volunteers and were not paid, Lakota and Ponca said white people never do anything without being paid. They pointed out the expedition had received $85 million in funds, while the Lakota, the poorest of people, had to pay their own way here to stop them.
Responding to comments by re-enactors who defended the expedition as a means of education, Camp asked, "Would it be all right if these guys were dressed in sheets like the Ku Klux Klan? "Do you know that Clark would not free his slaves?"
Native women told the expedition that they carry the DNA of the survivors of the slaughters that Lewis and Clark opened the door to and the diseases they brought.
Ahmbaska, among the Native youths, spoke of the tribes who had become extinct, their languages and cultures lost forever, and the women and babies murdered by the U.S. military. "They stomped their heads to save bullets."
Speaking directly to the re-enactors, he said, "This is not a show, this is our hearts." His people, the Missouri, were exiled to Oklahoma. "My people have never seen this Missouri River which was named after us." Now, he said, on Rosebud, people are dying from the whopping cough.
Lewis and Clark were the beginning of the end in the West. "They came and they took and they conquered. That is what you are re-enacting," he said.
Deb White Plume said for Lakota, halting the expedition is a spiritual act. She reminded the expedition of the diseases brought by the invaders. She presented Clark with a blanket and said, "Small pox. Have it back." Clark accepted the blanket, a symbol of small pox, cautiously. Deb White Plume chastised Clark and the other re-enactors for the tone they addressed the Indians present with. "You are patronizing us, you are condescending to us." She said their tone of voice said that they were going on up the river no matter what. "You hurt us. We don't want you here." White Plume said they could not allow the expedition to continue up the river to their sacred Sun Dance grounds. "How can you willingly want to trample on anyone's sacred grounds?"
One Lakota woman said she has only two children because she was sterilized against her wishes. "I have two sons because your government sterilized me." "Your government fought my family with guns and I survived and I am here to tell you about it." She said Lewis and Clark and those that followed "were the original terrorists on this continent."
Pointing out they were surrounded by law enforcement here, she said, police always surround Lakota. She said to the expedition, "You are here with no respect."
HELP NEEDED TODAY
The Lewis and Clark protesters need your help. The news media have not covered the protest this weekend, what is being posted in the press is from last week. They need the current actions in the media.
The more media coverage, the more supporters and the more people will understand the reasons for the protest. Please write those at the following address asking why they did not cover this weekend's protest, also asking that they do so and any further actions or protest connected with it. We need as many letters as possible from different people.
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