The Dirty Secrets of United States Colonization: Illegal Seizure and Development of the Black Hills

The Black Hills are a small, isolated range in South Dakota. Near heavenly, the hills seem to glow during dawn and dusk. In 1868, after long conflicts between the Lakota-Sioux Nation and United States Settlers, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed and, presumably, agreed upon. The territory allotted to the Lakota was expansive, spreading over Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, including the Black Hills.

With the discovery of natural resources within Lakota territory, came an influx of white settlers to get their believed to be rightful share. This broke the treaty. In response, settlers were attacked by the Lakota people, breaking the treaty from their end as well. This led to the Black Hills War, which the United States government chose to resolve by complete seizure of the area in 1877.

The United States was supposed to have paid the Lakota for the land, but they refused to accept the funds. The Treaty of Fort Laramie required that a 3/4 vote from tribal leaders be required to change the treaty. Only a handful supported it, not enough to fill the 3/4 requirement. Labeled as “hostile” by the United States government, for their noncooperation, the Lakota were cut off from Congressional appropriations for their subsistence. The support came at the threat of starvation. All of these combined factors void the transaction, rendering the seizure illegal and in violation of international treaty law.

Lawsuits were made and disputed for half a century, and in 1980, the Supreme Court agreed that the seizure was illegal and immoral, and that the Black Hills belong to the Lakota people. On the walls of the community museum atop Wounded Knee memorial, it is written that the supreme court said of these violations:

“A more ripe and rank cases of dishonorable dealings will never in all probability be found in our history”.

To this day, the Lakota have refused to accept the funds which would solidify the 1877 seizure. Funds that with interest add up to over a billion dollars. Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the most impoverished regions in the western hemisphere. Unemployment is at 80%, alcoholism is pervasive, and violence is a part of every day life.

White Clay, Nebraska is a town that exists on the illegally seized land, which belongs to the Lakota nation according to the Fort Laramie Treaty. Even though the reservation is dry, more homeless Lakota live on the streets of White Clay than the white bar and shop owners. There the liquid genocide continues.

Uranium development has leaked into the water supply, causing birth defects and cancer. And the Keystone XL pipeline is planned to run conveniently in between the scattered, smaller, Lakota reservations assigned after the violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

It is important to understand and acknowledge the historic Lakota conflicts in the Black Hills area, when addressing the Keystone XL debate. Often protested from an environmental standpoint, this brief history illustrates a major social justice conflict as well. The settlers’ towns have existed for over a century now, so white descendants of those settlers call the region theirs. For example, the sheriff of Shannon County, Nebraska, who guards the town of White Clay, considers the region his home. In his mind, he is defending the laws of his country that he loves and was raised in. Therefore, seizing the area belonging to the Lakota according to the Fort Laramie Treaty wont be easy or straight forward. 

It is not difficult for the average student sitting in a history class to be horrified at the genocide of the native people of this continent. What goes unaddressed is how the genocide and systematic abuse continues today. So when it comes to indigenous sovereignty and solidarity, one who would consider themselves an ally to the indigenous people of this continent will have to acknowledge first that the Black Hills belong to the Lakota people. Second, that the Keystone XL pipeline and further development of the region is unlawful and not within the United States jurisdiction.


Gun Control – Your Thoughts?


Since the Sandy Hook shooting we have seen in increased fervor for reform of gun laws in America. This same fervor has often been voiced in the aftermath of shootings across the country but was usually quick to died out due to political holdups, lobbyist groups, and the simple passage of time. What’s different this time is that since Sandy Hook, activists for gun control reform have not lost steam, nor have they bowed to the pressure of the NRA or other gun advocacy groups that press for more access and simpler acquisition to firearms. They are not allowing the nation’s memory of this event to be lost to the flows of time, but are instead helping to ensure that such an event does not happen again by not allowing us to forget. These activists, political leaders and family members of those killed or wounded by the events at Sandy Hook are pressing for change by way of mandatory background checks for all gun purchases (including those at gun shows), bans on assault weapons, limitations on the amount of ammunition any “street legal” (to use a potentially ill fitting term) gun can hold and by working towards potential solutions to individuals that buy guns under the pretense that they are for their own personal use only to turn right around and sell them to others on a type of black market.

The Purpose of this post is to spur conversation. If this is a topic that interests you, regardless of which side of the issue you align with, please feel free to comment, share a news link, or post a video on the feed that deals with this current hot ticket item in American politics.

Some questions to consider may be:

1.) Do you feel that the above listed pending restrictions (now enforced in some states) are needed? Why or why not?

2.) How do you feel money plays a role in this decision making process? Are politicians protecting their donors interests or their constituents?

3.) Is gun reform likely to take hold on the national level? Would it be able to be successfully implemented? Why or why not?

4.) What are the potential drawbacks (if any) to enacting stricter gun laws in America?

Please leave your comments below. Leaving links to articles or studies would help us better understand your comments. Thanks, and as always, please keep comments civil. It is always okay to have opposing opinions.

Students: Cogs or Social Contributions?

After reading this recent article:, I wondered what the solution was to helping employers attain employees more prepared for their jobs.  

And I thought about the purpose of our education system.  





What truly is the purpose of an education?  And who defines this purpose?  Money, or people?

It seems education is split between two forms:

Vocational – the student is trained to perform in a specific field, and hopefully come to par with expectations such as Boeing.

Exploratory – the student is trained to have the capacity to perform in a specific field, or many different fields, and to contribute to our society via their work.

That, at least, is what I garnered from this article, and my understanding of education systems.

Does an education have to be so black and white?  Or can it be something in-between?

I also thought about our job environment.

What truly is the purpose of a job?  And who defines this purpose?  Money, or people?

It seems jobs are split between two forms:

Vocational – the employee is expected to be a cog in the money-making, success-making machine.

Exploratory – the employee is expected to contribute to our society via their work.

Should companies that want students with a vocational education fund only vocational schools, and vice versa?  Or is there some happy medium that can be attained between these different forms of jobs and education?  Is it the role of any institution to educate a student for a job, or is that the role of the company?  Is there something lost, and something gained, by having one type of education and work, and not the other?

News Hour – Viewer Discretion Advised

A recent post on the Facebook wall of a friend of mine was published by Fox News.  The topic of this video discussed HR 347 and was labeled as an “Anti-Free Speech Bill” and carried the tag line “Obama signs bill ‘in secret’”. The following comments then erupted into a flurry of anti-Obama/democrat party comments by viewers.

This post is not designed to debate the details of this resolution or my view on its pros and cons. The topic of this post is to present a couple of issues that this particular post brought to my mind.

Firstly, there is no such thing as a “Secret House Resolution”. To say that the president signed something into law “in secret” is only showing how little is known about the way laws are passed in the United States. Being a House Resolution (HR) this idea was first introduced in the House of Representatives where is there had to be passed by a majority vote before being submitted to the Senate (As all laws have to be passed by both houses of congress in identical form before they can be sent to the President’s desk for approval). Only then could this “secret house resolution” be sent to the Oval Office for final approval. So, in short, claiming that the president signed a bill “in secret” is just plain false.

Now that we have that all cleared up, secondly, all news stations be it CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS, ABC, NBC or any other that you can think of carries a partisan bias. Let me illustrate what this means. All of these news agencies run commercials during their program. Therefore, their ultimate goal is to get high ratings and therefore more viewers so their advertising and marketing groups and have a strong case when selling air time to potential buyers.  Now this presents and interesting question which is simply, why? If their goal is to present “news” then why do they care about ratings and viewers? Well, sadly, news agencies are primarily a corporation just like any business out there and need to remain profitable.

This is why we see more and more “entertainment news” shows popping up. These would be shows such as The Rachael Maddow Show, Rod Dailey, John Stewart, etc. Present news AND make them laugh equals more viewers which makes the air time during their program more expensive thus increasing the agencies profits for airing that news show.

Therefore, it is not the primary goal of most news agencies to present facts. It is their primary goal to appeal to their viewer base. This is why Fox News says things like “Obama signs a secret house resolution” or why MSNBC takes an issue and only presents one or two tag lines from a much larger article. They do this to appeal to their base of primary viewers. For Fox News that would be far right wing conservative republicans. The more Fox News can misrepresent topics to slander the Democratic Party, the more their viewers like them and their program. The same holds true for MSNBC which panders primarily to left wing liberal democrats.

Finally, it is important to note that each news agency is owned by someone… yes, they all have an owner, a board of advisors and large marketing staffs at their disposal. What to know what type of bias the news station will probably carry? Look up its owner and see what they contribute their money to come campaign time… this will give you a very clear picture of what type of bias that particular station will carry.

In conclusion, all news stations carry a bias of some sort whether it be small or large. It is therefore important for us to do our own independent research from a variety of sources when it comes to what is presented in the news broadcasts we view.


Homemade Cupcakes < Lethal Weapons?

Recently the Deseret News published this interesting take on guns in schools:

Do you think that guns should be allowed in public schools?  

The author, the co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, brings up several points and ideas:

1) A parent and teacher, can bring a gun to school if they go through the appropriate training, but neither can offer our children homemade cupcakes?

2) How about more police officers in schools, instead of teachers with guns?

3) What teacher has the time or money to go through this training?

There seems to be a lack of focus in the conversation on the real problem – the person that wants to wield a gun to hurt others/themselves.  Mental health was talked about immediately after the debate, given that Adam Lanza seemed to have an autism spectrum disorder.  The media and politicians began to wonder how to invest in mental health, to only have the conversation shift to paranoia and a bright spotlight on those on the autism spectrum, to considering limiting the rights of those with mental health symptoms to have access to guns. 

As gun advocates themselves point out, laws can restrict the selling/purchasing of guns as much as they want, but those who really want the gun will get it – including those with digagnosed/undiagnosed mental health problems.

Perhaps a more important question is:  How can we prevent someone from wanting to kill others and themselves with guns in the first place?  How much of these recent shootings are a reaction to our struggling economy?  To our changing culture from person-to-person contact to having to communicate and feel through technology?  To our changing identities, and the sometimes rough transition (or lack thereof) of society to being more accepting of difference?.  To our lack of contact with others, because we are working more hours than ever before? 

There is a severe lack of connection between all of us, despite technology’s objective of connecting us more than before.  

Looking at the happiness and welfare of the American people may not completely solve this problem, but it is certainly something that needs to be addressed.  

We need to reestablish connection, and love for each other.

Post-election Fallout: …Boredom?

The 2012 election is over.  For all the races I have been following closely this election cycle, one candidate has emerged as the victor.  In the three races I cared most about, the person I supported won. So why do I feel so unsatisfied?

I don’t think it is the fact that accurate polls lead me know to outcomes of elections before the occurred (because they didn’t). Nor do I think my lack of satisfaction is due to me voting by mail sometime between the second and third presidential debate or that I didn’t feel like my vote could impact some of the races I cared about.

I feel unsatisfied because I am bored.  From the Iowa Straw Poll during the Republican presidential primary until election day, I was completely addicted to the 24-hour news cycle and all the political stats and polling I could get my hands on.  And now, I am experiencing withdrawals.

Whenever I got onto a computer, I used to do three things before anything else: check my email, check Facebook, and check the poll numbers.  Now I only do two things.  I never really thought about it during the election, but I spend a lot of time checking stats (mostly of the presidential race).  What do the national numbers look like today?  Who has momentum? Are the changes in the numbers uniform across the country or focused in specific regions (swing states and the next three primaries/caucuses drew most of my attention at any point in time)?  How will the change in numbers affect the Electoral College outcome?  Oh, RCP Electoral College prediction map, how I miss tinkering with you.

Fellow political junkies, what am I to do?  How will a spend all of this new-found free time?  Is it problematic that politics has become an entertaining “spectator sport” (especially for a few people I know who followed the presidential race as closely as I did, but chose not to vote and truly did experience the election as spectators)?

-Jordan Roberts

Marijuana is Legal in Two States- What’s Your Opinion?

Well, the votes are in. Marijuana is officially legal to posses in small amounts for personal (that is, non-medical) use in two states: Washington and Colorado.

So my peer in one of my classes, aware of my interest and involvement with NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), asked me “So are you moving to Washington or Colorado?” My response was “I think Colorado- the skiing is better.”

But after a laugh the serious response was “We need to make Utah Colorado.”

Marijuana legalization is a hot topic that is difficult to talk about, especially in this state where there is a predominant religious influence. The response to controversial issues such as marijuana legalization, abortion/contraception, and gay marriage, is often a lack of one. There is a fear that to be on the opposing side may seem ignorant and to support may seem evil. This fear is what keeps many people from being politically involved.

I’ve been there and I think we all have. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that the greatest danger to America wasn’t the people who hated, for at least they lived their lives with passion. It was those who lived in a state of apathy, or even sympathetic uninvolvement.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Machiavelli, one of the fathers of modern Political Science, wrote similarly, saying essentially that the greatest danger to a free society was an apathetic populous.

Now this blog is meant for people who are already somewhat politically involved, but I don’t think I’m preaching to the choir. There have been many times when I have kept my mouth shut in a discussion for fear that my perspective would be rendered invalid. I think the greatest way to progress your knowledge is through discourse. Let’s try to make an effort to be more open about why we feel the way we do about certain issues and not fear having a perspective that is different from our peers. If the point of view happens to be based on a false premise, being proven wrong (while admittedly embarrassing) is the best way to learn what is right.

And It’s not that cut and dry. Sometimes there isn’t a wrong or a right answer.

Another response that goes along with these hot-button issues is a state of contentment. It’s easy to assume that if something has been a certain way for a while, then that’s the way it ought to be. That’s just not true. Through enough press and attention leading to widespread discourse, Washington and Colorado have been able to decide that the way it has been is not the way it ought to be.

The point of my anecdote about me and my friend earlier in this post was to show that even though things have been a certain way, I have an eye to change it. When it comes to hot subjects that get people very fired up, don’t worry about the majority of the people not agreeing with you. They may be wrong. Now I’m not encouraging ignorance- do your research! Not only that- talk to people! So that way even if your perspective is completely different from the general populous, you’ll have nothing to hide. Maybe then you’ll be able to even influence others with your knowledge.
So Marijuana is legal in two states- that is a tremendous political change! It will surely lead the way for other states to follow suit. How do you think the federal government and FDA ought to respond? How should lawmakers respond? What’s your opinion? And most importantly of all, why is that your opinion?