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Candidate Forum to Address Treaty Issues

Candidate Forum to Address Treaty Issues

Contact: Charmaine White Face cwhiteface (at) aol (dot) com
Rapid City, SD -- This year marks the 136th Anniversary of the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation. The upholding of the Treaty has been a point of contention with the more than 60,000 Native American people who live in SD. Yet, candidates running for public office never mention this issue in their campaigns. Rather the issues plaguing the reservations which are the issues of poverty, such as the lack of adequate housing, health care, and substance abuse are the basis of campaign discourse.

In an effort to educate the public, and the candidates, to this issue, so important to most tribal members living in western South Dakota, Defenders of the Black Hills is hosting a Treaty Commemoration and a Candidate Forum on May 1, 2004, beginning at 1:00 p.m. The event will be held outdoors in the circular arbor in a field near St. Isaac Jogues Church, 220 Wright St, Rapid City, SD. The site overlooks the city and has a magnificent view of the Black Hills, long held sacred by the Great Sioux Nation and many other tribes in North America and Canada. In case of rain, the hall at nearby Mother Butler Center will be used.

Respected elder and Lakota delegate to the United Nations, Antoine Black Feather, has been invited to speak about the international status of the Fort Laramie Treaty and his work in the international arena. Black Feather has worked with the UN Human Rights Commission for more than 20 years, and is known by many ambassadors and delegates for his work on behalf of the Lakota people. Indigenous representatives from throughout the globe look to him at the UN meetings for his leadership and wisdom in working at the international level.

The Candidate Forum was triggered by a special election to fill the lone SD House seat in the US Congress recently vacated by Rep. William Janklow when he was sentenced to prison for the accidental death of a motorcyclist due to reckless driving. Democrat Stephanie Herseth is running against Republican Larry Diedrich for that position. Making this race more interesting is Lakota man, Terry Begay, who entered the race as a Libertarian Party candidate.

A seat in the Senate is also being sought by current Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle, Democrat, and former Congressman, John Thune, Republican. Newspaper publisher and Oglala tribal member Tim Giago recently withdrew from the race in which he was running as an Independent.

A small panel of Lakota and Dakota men and women have been asked to participate in the Forum in a discussion of the treaty issue, and the effects on the current needs of Native people in South Dakota. This is the first time that US Congressional candidates have been asked to attend a meeting of this kind. In early March, the candidates were sent a questionnaire on current issues and how these relate to the treaty and asked for their ideas regarding solutions.

Defenders of the Black Hills is a volunteer organization working to educate the public about the treaties and current effects on the natural environment within the treaty territory.

Mission Statement

"Defenders of the Black Hills is a group of volunteers without racial or tribal boundaries whose mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territories, Treaties made between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation."

Speaking about radioactive fallout, the late President John F. Kennedy said,

"Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone, should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."

July 26, 1963 upon signing the ban on above ground nuclear tests