Should Natives Cry: “Sovereign Citizen”?

With Friends like These….. Alex Hundert – convicted Black Bloc radical and advocate for Indigenous Sovereignty

The question of Sovereignty for Native people depends largely on the definition of Sovereignty and how the claim of ‘Sovereign Citizen’ is used by various groups to achieve unique treatment and status from the rest of Canada.

Blacks Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition) defines Sovereignty in four ways:

The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which any independent state is governed; supreme political authority; the supreme will; paramount control of the constitution and frame of government and its administration; the self-sufficient source of political power, from which all specific political powers are derived; the international independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign dictation; also a political society, or state, which is sovereign and independent.

The power to do everything in a state without accountability, –to make laws, to execute and to apply them, to impose and collect taxes and levy contributions, to make war or peace, to form treaties of alliance or of commerce with foreign nations, and the like.

Sovereignty in government is that public authority which directs or orders what is to be done by each member associated in relation to the end of the association. It is the supreme power by which any citizen is governed and is the person or body of persons in the state to whom there is politically no superior. The necessary existence of the state and that right and power which necessarily follow is “sovereignty.” By “sovereignty” in its largest sense is meant supreme, absolute, uncontrollable power, the absolute right to govern. The word which by itself comes nearest to being the definition of “sovereignty” is will or volition as applied to political affairs.

The FBI defines the Sovereign Citizen Movement as follows:

The FBI has classified “sovereign citizens” as people who believe they are free from all duties of a U.S. citizen, like paying taxes. The FBI considers the group’s members a danger for making threats to judges and law enforcement, using fake currency and impersonating police officers.  The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement…

This movement, along with the Redemption Movement, and Freeman on the Land Movement have resulted in some epic failures leading to the imprisonment and deaths of many American citizens:

  • Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols was a member of the sovereign citizen movement, having asserted individual sovereignty in at least three court cases. (Wikipedia)
  • In May 2010, two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas were shot and killed by Joseph T. Kane after Kane and his father were the subject of a traffic stop. Kane and his father were later identified as members of the sovereign citizen movement. (Wikipedia)
  • Seven suspects were charged in the shooting of Deputy Michael Scott Boyington, one of the deputies who survived the shootings. Murder charges are also pending.

Sympathy for this movement increases as disillusionment and a worsening economy in the U.S. creates mass appeal for no longer paying taxes, eliminating drivers licences, resisting searches and citations as well as being able to legally grow weed.  It is appealing to many, but few know the intricate details of how ‘Sovereign Citizenry’ affects the world around them.  To them, the rest of the world can take a flying leap, so long as they can do what they please.  As this interview of an SC on RT demonstrates the issues are far from cut and dried…(unlike the cannabis this guy in the interview clearly smokes)

The Native Sovereign Citizen Issue

A fellow blogger at Warrior Publications, who has taken an in-depth look at the Sovereign Citizen movement and the Aboriginal adoption of it’s principles, has this to say:

Once people accept the sovereign citizen doctrine and its attenuating conspiracy theories, it can be very difficult to communicate with them. There is no logic or rationale to their understanding of the world. They see only a vast conspiracy, which very few are aware of and the rest are either part of it or slaves to it.

It is at this point that the sovereign citizen movement really takes on the character of a religious cult, although not a typical cult built around a dominant personality. It is instead an autonomous and decentralized network of believers, with a sprinkling of gurus and teachers, whose scriptures are old archaic laws and legal codes most people have never heard of. Individuals and groups are quite free to re-interpret and add to the existing doctrine as they see fit. 

I first became aware of the Sovereign Squamish Government (SSG) in May 2008, when group members and supporters, led by “Hereditary Squamish Chief Kiapilano,” briefly occupied the Squamish band office and declared a common law jurisdiction over the building, at the same time evicting the band council chief, Bill Williams. The ‘take over’ ended shortly after RCMP arrived and the building was closed for the rest of the day.

Over the years, they have announced various government-like measures, such as banning members of the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission from Squamish land, as well as ordering the eviction of churches in Vancouver (both as part of a campaign around the legacy of Residential Schoolssee article with Chief Kiapilano and Kevin Annett (emphasis mine)).  

See the full article at: Crazy and Confused; Con-job or Cult

Equally troubling is an April 30, 2011 APTN article which reported that Wikileaks cables revealed US Intelligence agencies regularly monitored native ‘sovereign citizen’ activities in Canada in a report entitled, Security Environmental Profile Response For Mission Canada, which appeared “to be part of regular updates on the situation in the country” (APTN):

The cables show that U.S. officials were at the time closely monitoring the situation in the Mohawk community near Montreal with concern following the botched raid that saw 67 First Nations police officers recruited from other Quebec communities descend Kanesatake.
The officers came in armed with assault rifles, shotguns, a sniper rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunitions under the stated mandate of targeting organized crime.
The officers, however, found themselves inside the local police headquarters trapped and surrounded by community members.
After the Quebec government negotiated an end to the situation with the help of Kanesatake’s sister Mohawk community of Kahnawake and their Peackeepers police force, it appears there was particular concern over the arrival of Mohawks from Canadian and U.S. reserves in case authorities attempted a second raid.
“Mohawks from other reserves continue to arrive in Kanesatake, including some from Colorado, to join in the resistance. Some ‘gun slingers’ have already arrived from the U.S., and more could come,” said one of the cables, from May 17, 2004 and sent by the U.S. consulate in Quebec City.
The cross border involvement appeared to trigger a request from Quebec public security ministry officials to ask for help from the F.B.I, the cable notes.
“The Quebec authorities have asked for greater coordination with the FBI on the situation,” said the cable. “Asked about U.S. role, the public security ministry officials requested…better coordination with the F.B.I in a situation where U.S. interests are involved.”
The cable also noted a similar request had been made by the public security minister at the time Jacques Chagnon.
The cable, titled Kanesatake Calm But Confrontation Continues, also delves into Kanesatake’s history to try to make sense of the situation in the community, and why the RCMP was hesitant to go in.
“The Quebec police (SQ) are more accepted than the RCMP. With long memories, the Mohawk remember that the RCMP killed one of theirs in 1916,” said the cable. “(Georges Beauchemin, secretary-general of Quebec’s Public Security Ministry) described the situation as akin to a family quarrel with people held hostage: the two embattled factions have been warring for 200 years.”
The cable described the situation in the community following the botched January raid as “several weeks of no-man’s land.”
Some community members continue to call for an inquiry to this day into the raid and the events that transpired under Gabriel’s leadership leading up to the event.  By Jorge Barrera APTN National News 03. May, 2011 via Warrior Publications blog

Claiming “Sovereign Citizen” status tends to yield an escalation of tensions that almost always involves police presence, yet many members of Native communities embrace the Sovereign movement as their primary agent of change.

So, if the Sovereign Citizen movement is the wrong way to eliminating the Aboriginal aparteid in Canada, what is the right way?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has published a position paper, entitled Dividing Canada: The Pitfalls of Native Sovereignty  and it concludes that the solution lies with effective self government enabled through the elimination of restrictions imposed by the Indian Act.  In essence, it emphasizes Autonomy which is the freedom to live through self government as opposed to lawlessness.

Providing more powers with less accountability, as advocated by Indian lobby groups, is not the answer to reduce mismanagement and corruption on reserves.  Municipal-type governments successfully manage communities all over Canada and are conducive to the small population base of many native bands.  This model should be implemented for native reserves rather than an ill-defined “third order” style of government.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation believes there is an escape.  The escape lies in the federal government’s willingness to abolish the reserve system (via abolishing the Indian Act).  Thus allowing individual native Canadians the freedom to choose how and where they wish to live.

There are solutions that can work for Native and non-Native Canadians that does not involve the need for extremism or conflict.  Dialogue can and should be used as the primary method for negotiating the murky waters of Aboriginal self-government.  However, so long as authorities view all Natives in the same light as the small number of radicals who lay claim to the Sovereign Citizen movement, change will be hard fought and at a price that we as Native and Non-Natives cannot afford.


3 thoughts on “Should Natives Cry: “Sovereign Citizen”?

  1. Reblogged this on Kevin Annett Must Be Stopped and commented:

    Should Natives embrace the label “Sovereign Citizen?”… Does the radical aura surrounding this movement bode well for the future of Native Land Rights and Self-government in Canada? Or should Native leadership be embracing the notion of Autonomy which features the idea of responsible self-government over lawlessness to achieve their goals? This issue relates to the actions by Kevin Annett to stir anarchist and anti-colonialist sentiment that creates a divide rather than fostering the healing of Aboriginal peoples. Read More Here…

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