May 29th, 2013
In April, a grassroots movement led by Lakota grandmothers toured the country to build support for a formal complaint of genocide against the United States government and its constituent states. Though temporarily overturned, the recent conviction of Efrain Rios Montt for genocide against indigenous Guatemalans should give US officials, particularly members of the Supreme Court, pause before dismissing the UN petition as a feeble symbolic gesture.
The tribal elders’ 12-city speaking tour culminated in an April 9 march on United Nations headquarters in New York and an April 18 press conference in Washington, D.C., where the Supreme Court had just heard arguments in a challenge to the landmark 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Attracting support from Occupy Wall Street and other non-Native allies in the New York march, the Lakota Truth Tour delegation was physically blocked by UN security officers from presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office a notice of charges against the U.S. under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
An excerpt from the complaint, still being refined into its final, legal form, reads: “This letter serves notice as complaint, that the crime of genocide is being committed, in an ongoing manner, against the matriarchal Tetuwan Lakota Oyate of the Oceti Sakowin, an Indigenous First Nation people whose ancestral lands comprise a large area of the Northern Great Plains of Turtle Island, the continent known as North America.” As evidence, the Lakota cite systematic American usurpation of their land and sovereignty rights, imposition of third-world living conditions on the majority of Lakota, US assimilation policies that threaten the future of their language, culture and identity, and environmental depredations including abandoned open uranium mines and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline slated to invade the Pine Ridge Reservation.