The Lakota Tribe, also known as the Sioux, is one of the indigenous peoples of North America. Their traditional governance system is based on the principles of consensus, consultation, and respect for individual autonomy. In this system, decisions are made by consensus among members of the community, and everyone has an equal voice in the decision-making process. The Lakota also have a strong spiritual tradition, which is intertwined with their governance system and guides their relationships with the land and each other. In recent times, the Lakota have faced many challenges, including loss of land, cultural assimilation, and poverty. Despite these challenges, they have continued to maintain their traditional governance system and strive for self-determination. This essay provides an overview of the self-government of the Lakota Nation, including their governance structure, decision-making process, and relationship with the federal government. It also discusses the challenges they face and the strategies they have employed to preserve their cultural heritage and promote self-determination.
The Lakota people were originally a nomadic tribe that lived in the Great Plains region of North America, mainly in some parts of the area of present-day North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. They were a hunting and gathering society, and their way of life was based on a deep respect for nature and the environment. The Lakota people had a complex social and political structure that was based on kinship ties and communal ownership of resources.
The arrival of Europeans in North America in the 16th century brought significant changes to the Lakota way of life. The Europeans introduced new technologies, such as firearms and horses, that allowed them to hunt more effectively and to wage war on neighboring tribes. The Europeans also brought diseases that decimated the Lakota population.
In the late 19th century, the US government began to actively pursue a policy of westward expansion, which involved the forced relocation of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands. The US government entered into a series of treaties with the Lakota people, but these treaties were often ignored or violated by the US government.
The Lakota Tribe Constitution
In 1934, the United States government passed the Indian Reorganization Act, which aimed to reverse the policies of assimilation and allotment of Indian lands that had been in place since the late 19th century. As part of this act, the government encouraged tribes to adopt written constitutions and establish elected tribal governments.
In response to the erosion of their way of life and the continued violation of their rights by the US government, the Lakota people began to develop their own governance structures. Some Lakota bands did adopt written constitutions, but others rejected the idea as being contrary to their traditional forms of governance. Instead, they opted to maintain their traditional forms of decision-making, which are based on consensus and consultation among members of the community. Finally, the Lakota Tribe Constitution was adopted in 1935 and was revised in 1958 and 2001 and eventually they set up a government-to-government relationship with the US government. The Constitution recognizes and expresses the inherent sovereignty of the Lakota people and their right to self-government and also establishes the Lakota Tribal Council as the governing body of the Lakota Nation.
Over the years the US government negotiated treaties with the Lakota Nation that defined the terms of their relationship, including land cessions, hunting rights, and other matters. However, the relationship between the Lakota Nation and the US government has been fraught with conflict, and many of the treaties signed between the two parties have been violated or abrogated.
The government-to-government relationship between the Lakota Nation and the US government is based on these kept & unkept treaties and agreements that were signed between the two parties. As it was pointed out, the Lakota Nation is a sovereign entity that has a distinct political and legal status within the United States, and the US government recognizes this status by engaging in a special type of relations with the Lakota Nation. 
The Lakota Tribe Constitution established that so called government-to-government relationship between the Lakota Nation and the US government. This relationship is based on the US Constitution’s recognition of Native American tribes as ‘domestic dependent nations’. Under this relationship, the US government has a trust responsibility to protect the rights and sovereignty of Native American tribes. This includes providing funding for programs and services, negotiating and honoring treaties, and consulting with tribes on issues that affect them. The Lakota Nation shall bear the right to establish a government that operates independently from the US government, with its own laws, policies, and leaders. However, the US government also has a role in governing the tribe, particularly in matters related to federal law, such as land use and natural resource management. This relationship includes ongoing negotiations and consultations between the two parties on matters such as resource management, economic development, and cultural preservation.
Today, the Lakota Nation continues to assert its sovereignty and maintain a government-to-government relationship with the US government. Despite this government-to-government relationship, there have been historical and present-day conflicts between the Lakota Nation and the US government, particularly around issues of land ownership, resource exploitation, and treaty rights.
The Lakota self-government
The concept of self-government is central to the Lakota Tribe Constitution. Self-government allows the Lakota people to make decisions that affect their lives and their communities. Self-government also allows the Lakota people to maintain their culture and traditions, which are an important part of their identity.
The Lakota Tribal Council is the governing body of the Lakota Nation, and it is composed of 20 members, who are elected by the citizens of the Lakota Nation. The representatives are from each of the seven Lakota bands: the Oglala, Sicangu (Brulé), Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, Itazipco (Sans Arc), Sihasapa (Blackfeet), and Oohenumpa (Two Kettles). Each band has two representatives on the council, and the council elects a chairman and vice-chairman from among its members. The Council is responsible for enacting laws and policies that promote the general welfare of the Lakota people. The Council also has the authority to manage and administer the resources of the Lakota Nation.
The process of electing the members of the Council begins with the band councils, which are responsible for selecting representatives to attend the tribal council meetings. Each band council is made up of elected or appointed leaders who are responsible for representing the interests of their respective bands. The band councils consult with their communities to identify individuals who are respected, knowledgeable, and have the ability to work collaboratively with others.
Once the band councils have identified their representatives, they come together in a larger tribal council meeting. The tribal council meeting is led by a respected community member, known as the council fire keeper. The council fire keeper is responsible for facilitating the decision-making process and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to be heard.
The tribal council members are not elected for a fixed term, but instead serve at the pleasure of their respective band councils. If a council member is not fulfilling their responsibilities or is not acting in the best interest of their community, they may be replaced through the consensus-building process.
During the meeting, the representatives discuss the issues at hand and work to reach a consensus on the best course of action. Consensus is reached when everyone agrees on a course of action or when there is a general sense that the decision is acceptable to all.
The Tribal Council’s responsibilities include managing the affairs of the Nation, making and enforcing laws, and administering the programs and services provided to the Lakota people. The council also works with other tribal governments, federal and state governments, and private organizations to promote the interests of the Nation.
The council meets regularly to conduct business and make decisions. Tribal members may attend the meetings, which are open to the public, and have the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns during public comment periods. The council operates under a constitution and bylaws that outline its powers and procedures, and decisions are made by majority vote.
When a decision needs to be made, a council member will introduce a motion, which is a proposal for action. Other council members may then discuss the motion and offer amendments or changes. Once the discussion is complete, the council will vote on the motion. The chairman or vice-chairman of the council will call for the vote, and each council member will cast their vote either for or against the motion. The motion passes if it receives a majority of votes from the council members.
In some cases, the council may also convene a special meeting to discuss a specific issue or matter that requires immediate attention. Special meetings may be called by the chairman or vice-chairman or by a majority vote of the council.
Overall, the decision-making process in the Lakota tribal council is designed to ensure that decisions are made in a fair and democratic manner that represents the interests and perspectives of the Lakota people.
Challenges to Self-Government
Despite the adoption of the Lakota Tribe Constitution and the establishment of a government-to-government relationship with the US government, the Lakota people continue to face significant challenges to their self-government.
One of the major challenges is the lack of resources and funding. The Lakota Nation is one of the poorest regions in the United States, with high rates of unemployment, poverty, and disease. The lack of resources makes it difficult for the Lakota people to implement their own programs and policies and to maintain their traditional way of life.
Another challenge is the ongoing legacy of colonization and oppression. The Lakota people have experienced significant trauma as a result of the forced relocation, the imposition of foreign laws and governance structures, and the continued violation of their rights. This trauma has had a profound impact on the social, cultural, and political life of the Lakota Nation.
The Lakota Tribe Constitution is an important document that recognizes the inherent sovereignty of the Lakota people and their right to self-government through which of a government-to-government relationship is established and practiced with the US government. The Constitution establishes the Lakota Tribal Council as the governing body of the Lakota Nation and provides a framework for the implementation of programs and policies that promote the general welfare of the Lakota people.
Fixico, Donald L.: The American Indian Mind in a Linear World, New York, Routledge, 2003.
Josephy Jr., Alvin: Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom, American Heritage Press, 1971.
Marshall III, Joseph M.: The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living, New York, Penguin Compass, 2002.
Deloria Jr., Vine: The Indian Reorganization Act: Congresses and Bills, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.
Morris, Nathan J.: Tribal Self-Governance: The Indian Reorganization Act and Its Implications for Indian Tribes Today, Colorado, University Press of Colorado, 2012.
Jorgensen, Miriam: Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development, Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 2007.
- Deloria Jr., Vine: The Indian Reorganization Act: Congresses and Bills, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. ↑
- Marshall III, Joseph M.: The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living, New York, Penguin Compass, 2002. ↑
- Morris, Nathan J.: Tribal Self-Governance: The Indian Reorganization Act and Its Implications for Indian Tribes Today, Colorado, University Press of Colorado, 2012. ↑
- Fixico, Donald L.: The American Indian Mind in a Linear World, New York, Routledge, 2003. ↑