(Note: please also have a look at my follow-up post “Lakota ‘withdrawal’ raises the question of standing, authority” and chime in if you have pertinent info.)
This is a very interesting development and it will test our nation’s laws, our values, and assumptions made about us. The Lakota Indians have announced that they have unilaterally withdrawn from all treaties with the United States, have renounced any US citizenship, and have formed a sovereign country within an area that covers part of 5 US States: Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free – provided residents renounce their U.S. citizenship, Mr Means said.
The treaties signed with the U.S. were merely “worthless words on worthless paper,” the Lakota freedom activists said.
Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.
“This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution,” which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.
Well, now, hold on there a minute, Skippy. You’re paraphrasing Article VI just a wee bit too shortened. Let’s have a look at the whole thing, shall we?
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
(Emphasis mine.) Please note that the Constitution lists both itself and the laws made “in Pursuance thereof” in the same sentence and, I might add, it lists them first. Without the Constitution, the treaties aren’t accorded the position of being part of the “supreme Law of the Land”, so the implication that treaties are somehow to be considered above all else is incorrect.
I would like to say, however, that I do not argue against the point that people are within their rights to be free and, should they choose, independent of the United States. I do not recognize their rights to be independent of the United States inside the borders of the United States. Nor do I absolve them of the consequences of such a declaration, as our founding fathers were not immune to the consequences of the Declaration of Independence. I would also point out that there are ways that this unilateral withdrawal from treaties with us can turn out that aren’t near so romantically positive as some might think.
The issues with having a foreign country as an overlay onto US soil are far more involved than simply issuing passports and printing up new letterhead. While I realize that the Tribes have their own police force and that tribal laws apply within the boundaries of the existing reservations, this situation goes far beyond that. For starters, the Lakota are rescinding the very treaties that set those reservations up to begin with. Since those treaties are now dissolved, there is no legal basis for the tribal justice system to claim jurisdiction over a given area. Now what? If the Lakota decide to enact some kind of law that is in direct violation of the US Constitution – let’s say they decide to dispense with their law enforcement’s need for a search warrant – what law prevails when a US citizen gets stopped by a Lakota police officer? What happens when that US Citizen makes a run for it? Are they on US soil or Lakota? And what ultimate authority makes that call? The US Supreme Court no longer has jurisdiction over Lakota police without those treaties.
And what about the offer to US Citizens to switch to Lakota nationality? If they’re living on what is now US soil, do the Lakota believe their switch will annex the property? Do those people who accept have to move? What about people who are living in the area claimed who choose not to switch citizenship? Do the Lakota suggest that those people have to move out?
And where, exactly, are the Lakota drawing their map lines, anyway? According to the BIA map of Indian Reservations, there is no reservation that stretches between the states listed in the Lakota’s announcement. And if they’re simply declaring that the 5-state area in question is to be turned over to them, what are they suggesting they’re going to do with the people currently living in those states under US citizenship and what are they implying if we say we’re not turning that land over?
Something else to bear in mind – those treaties have also kept the US from bringing military action against the tribes.
I am interested to see how this will play out but the advocates of the “noble savage” rendition of history should understand that the US isn’t going to gather up all Americans of European descent and cram them into the area of the original 13 colonies. Anyone holding that hope out needs to get grip.