What is a treaty? The late American Indian Movement activist and poet John Trudell asserted; treaties are laws. Article VI of the US Constitution says: “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, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” The “supremacy clause” should mean that treaties and the US Constitution are both the supreme law of the land. Why has the US violated every single American Indian treaty?

US violations of International law

Why do the representatives of the US think they can violate international law? Scholars assert US actions in Vietnam violated the Geneva Convention.

Contemporary scholars assert that the US violated the UN Charter by invading Iraq. Didn't legitimate representatives of the US sign these international treaties binding the US by its terms? Donald Trump may soon violate treaties on Climate Change. If one wishes to solve a problem, one must understand its foundation. US violations of international treaties begin with US violations of indigenous treaties. Treaties made between the United States and indigenous nations are bilateral, legally binding, international legal instruments. The US has, since the 19th Century, attempted to deny the international character of indigenous nations to justify its treaty violations.

Counter Punch article on Dakota Access

A recent Counter Punch article, oddly titled “Last Stand at Standing Rock” makes mention of two such treaties.

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While clever, I take exception to the title because the real “Last Stand” was the victory of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) over the illegal foreign occupation of the US military and the defeat of the murderous coward Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. I also take exception to Prashad's characterization of Wounded Knee as the “defeat of Sioux armies” by the US. Wounded Knee was a brutal massacre of 300 sick, starving, unarmed Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) civilians by the cowardly US Cavalry. Prashad's article is largely sympathetic to the cause of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) outside of these exceptions. The 1851 and 1868 treaties that Prashad mentions are of particular significance among all treaties the US has made. Treaties now violated through Police Brutality.

The significance of the Ft. Laramie treaties

The significance of the Ft. Laramie Treaties is they both result from a military defeat and unconditional surrender of the US to the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation). You will not find this in the US history books, it is far too humiliating to the US to admit it was twice defeated by allied indigenous forces who beat back its illegal foreign invasion of indigenous territory.

If the representatives of the US had any sense of honor they would honor both the treaties and the US Constitution's supremacy clause and recognize that Dakota Access is being illegally constructed in Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) treaty territory.

Indigenous treaties are of an international legal character

Instead, immediately after signing the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty the US secretly rewrote the treaty without the legal assent of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) in the infamous "Chicago rewrite” which pretends to allow the construction of US infrastructure through Sioux treaty lands. One problem, the Sioux nation didn't agree to this fraudulent treaty. The US will undoubtedly use its racist federal common law legal fictions of “unilateral treaty abrogation” and “plenary power” to justify its treaty violations. These legal fictions are unconstitutional and have no prior legal precedent. If the international community wishes the US to obey international treaties, it must begin by recognizing the international legal character of indigenous treaties. Otherwise, the rule of law has no meaning.