In the first official statement of the [Independent Oglala Nation] ION, the Oglala chiefs had called for the “support and recognition” of the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy. On March 19, an official delegation arrived in Wounded Knee from the Six Nations, and they addressed the community meeting that night. They read from a statement of support which their Grand Council had sent to the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C., soon after the take-over:
The Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy stands in support of our brothers at Wounded Knee . . .
We are a free people. The very dust of our ancestors is steeped in our tradition. This is the greatest gift we gave to you, the concept of freedom. You did not have this. Now that you have taken it and built a constitution and country around it, you deny freedom to us. There must be some one among you who is concerned for us, or if not for us, at least for the honor of your country. In 1976 you are going to have a birthday party proclaiming 200 years of democracy, a hypocritical action. The people of the world would find this laughable.
The solution is simple: be honest, be fair, honor the commitments made by the founding fathers of your country. We are an honorable people — can you say the same? You are concerned for the destruction of property at the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] BIA building and at Wounded Knee. Where is your concern for the destruction of our people, for human lives? Thousands of Pequots, Narragansetts, Mohicans, thousands of Cherokees on the Trail of Tears, Black Hawk’s people, Chief Joseph’s people, Captain Jack’s people, the Navajos, the Apaches, Sand Creek Massacre (huddled under the American flag seeking the protection of a promise), Big Foot’s people at Wounded Knee. When will you cease your violence against our people. Where is your concern for us?
What about the destruction of our properties? The thousands of acres of land, inundated by dams built on our properties, the raping of the Hopi and Navajo territories by the Peabody strip mining operations, timber cutting, power companies, water pollution, and on and on. Where is your concern for these properties?
The balance of the ledger is up to you. Compare the damage of the BIA and Wounded Knee against the terrible record and tell us that we are wrong for wanting redress. We ask for justice, and not from the muzzle of an M-16 rifle. Now what is to occur?
Remove the marshals and the FBI men. They are hostile, and eager to exercise the sanctions of the United States to subjugate the Indian people. Do not prosecute the Indians for the methods used to gain your attention, for the fault actually lies with the Government of the United States for ignoring Indians for so long…
We have not asked you to give up your religions and beliefs for ours.
We have not asked you to give up your language for ours.
We have not asked you to give up your ways of life for ours.
We have not asked you to give up your government for ours.
We have not asked that you give up your territories to us.
Why can you not accord us with the same respect? For your children learn from watching their elders, and if you want your children to do what is right, then it is up to you to set the example. That is all we have to say at this moment. Oneh.
The Six Nations delegation spent four days in council with the Oglalas. Then the Iroquois chiefs announced that they would leave by walking out through the roadblocks, protected by their treaties which guarantee them free passage through international borders in North America. So on March 23, at a time when the Government was allowing only a few reporters and one lawyer through the roadblocks and others had to sneak in and out at night, 14 Iroquois were escorted to the edge of the village by approximately 100 Oglalas and then passed through Roadblock 1 without incident. Shortly afterwards, they were ordered off the reservation by the BIA police.
“We have no single head man who has authority and power. The power lies with the unanimous consent of the council who govern for their people. And the unanimous consent is the key word here. There’s no vote.”
– Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga
[ From “Voices from Wounded Knee: 1973, by Akwesasne Notes (1974) ]