Sovereignty topic for annual conference

Jill Fier

Jill Fier

The Conference on American Indian History and Culture was held last Thursday and Friday in the University Student Union.

The topic for this year’s conference was tribal sovereignty, and the keynote speech was presented by Tim Giago, editor of the Lakota Journal, on Thursday evening.

Giago began his discussion of the conference’s theme with a definition of sovereignty.

“If you look in any dictionary, you find sovereignty defined as supreme power over body politics, and that isn’t the state of most Indian nations.”

Giago discussed the history of Native Americans and their struggles to free themselves from the U.S. government’s control, including the death of more than 300 Indians at Wounded Knee after the Constitution gave them their freedom 103 years earlier. Giago said in the 19th and 20th centuries, Indians were placed on reservations with no economic base and “paid in promises, commodities and cattle.”

He went on to describe the struggles, up to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in the 1980s. This was also the time tribal colleges started turning over a whole new generation.

Giago also credited the ability of American Indian newspapers to spread information and ideas to other native people.

“We need to be able to tell our story ourselves,” he said. “We have to take the lead as Indian newspapers and dispel some of these erroneous assumptions.

Other presentations continued on Friday with Native American writers, authors, political figures and educators.