Some years ago I served your communities from Washington, D.C. as a federal program specialist responsible for the care of your children enrolled in Head Start Programs serving 150 of the 500 plus federally recognized tribes of these United States. I was fortunate to befriend government officials, program administrators, and parents as well as many members of your community.
My lineage as an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina had no bearing on the goal that was shared between me and your communities. That goal was the enhancement of the quality of life of your communities and most especially the quality of education and services provided to children and families served under Head Start Programs. For several years my spirit and my heart had the opportunity to exist and be strengthened in knowing the traditions and customs shared by us as indigenous peoples, and infusing such into the curricula and operations of Head Start programs from California to North Carolina.
In my service to Indian country I was given many names. The Alaska Native peoples called me “the Raven.” I was given this name as I served Native communities in bringing good news of opportunities to be pursued and warning when danger approached. Today I come to your communities again, as the Raven, with a goal that we as Indian people share – protection of the sovereignty of American Indian peoples.
Recently the members of the Iroquois Nation sought to travel abroad to participate in an international lacrosse competition. The team’s right to exit the United States was hindered until a last minute one-time exception was authorized by the United States State Department. The team was retained because the members did not possess passports issued by the United States of America. The exception by the State Department was futile as British authorities refused the team entry into Great Britain without a United States passport.
Sovereignty of American Indian peoples has been contentious within the boundaries of these United States. Battles for recognition exist throughout the continental states and within our island jurisdictions as well. Now we see a tragedy occurring on the world stage as peoples’ of distinct origins and cultural identities are not being allowed to preserve their precious birthrights.
I ask simply that the people of Indian country take notice of this infringement upon sovereign rights and take action. Contact your representatives in Washington, D.C. and register your concern and entreat your representatives to represent you as distinct American Indian peoples honoring your cultural identity and sovereignty. Please copy your concerns as well to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at http://contact-us.state.gov.
In closing, I remind my “relatives” in Indian country that the game of lacrosse came forth from the indigenous peoples of the Northeast. In our history, we did not condone war and the shedding of blood as life was too precious. Disputes were settled in playing a game known today under the name of “lacrosse.” The ironies in the Iroquois situation cannot be ignored as American Indian people are being excluded from a cultural activity we originated and the exclusions have root in refuting our historical significance and identity.
From Washington to Alaska to Florida to New York, encircle these United States with a ring of indigenous peoples uniting in our assertion of sovereignty. The strength of this circle will depend on the involvement of all tribes. Protect the rights of the next seven generations. Your choice to take action is in itself exercising sovereignty. All the voices of Indian country need to be heard in unison on this issue.
The Creator stand strong with you and the people of each of your communities and nations, and may the Great Spirit walk far with us all.
-Eric R. Locklear, M. Ed.