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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Scholar discusses pivotal moment in Native American history

By Hannah Simpson

Dr. Edward C. Valandra spoke about his recently published book, “Not Without Our Consent: Lakota Resistance to Termination, 1950-59,” in the Native American Resource Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on February 19.

Edward ValandraOn the faculty at the University of California at Davis, the scholar’s book describes an attempt by the state of South Dakota to overthrow the American Indian government within the Lakota territory.

The resistance to the law succeeded, however, and Native American consent became a prerequisite to state jurisdiction concerning Indians. Dr. Valandra said that he wrote the book partly because of the information he felt he could contribute to the story of the Lakota’s.

“(The book) tells the details I don't think otherwise would have been written of,” he said. “We have a story to tell.”

The book describes the resistance of the Lakota Indians to the U.S. government’s attempt to rid the state of local Native American government. The attempt came in the form of federal Public Law 83-280, which granted the state the ability to apply criminal and civil laws on Indian reservations.

“Termination is always at the corner for Native peoples,” said Dr. Valandra. “When it comes to Indian country, there are no ethical boundaries.”

It was during this time, he said, that the Lakota were outnumbered by the white people, and the stereotype of the “savage Indian” was used often.

Dr. Valandra said that Indians did not fit the “profile of an American.” He said that any individual or group that did not meet the criteria was a target.

The author said that he did not write the book intending it to be used for academic work. His book discussed what happened at the state level during the troubled times.

He said he was interested in revealing the characters and motivations behind the ruling.

“I wanted to do something that was quite daring,” he said. “I wanted to tell our story.”

Dr. Valandra said it is important to “name names” in stories. He advised young writers to not be afraid to attribute actions or words.

“I do name names, and I think that’s a very bold thing to do in scholarship,” he said.

He also said that he didn’t write the story of the Lakota's to point a finger or lay blame.

“We have leadership of the 50s and 60s that we really need to acknowledge,” he said.

Dr. Valandra said his research for the book was hard to find. He visited several “tribal archives” and each was a run-down building that housed boxes upon boxes of unorganized documents. He spent many hours with the documents, as well as with various bugs.

“There are a lot of documents that will never see the light of day,” Dr. Valandra said.

The author is an enrolled Sicangu Lakota citizen from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

He is on the Board of Directors of the Great Plains Restoration Council. He earned a Ph.D. in American studies from SUNY Buffalo.

Hannah Simpson is a first year student, Mass Communications major.

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