Elect Tribal Officials Who Have Integrity

RST Constitution

By Vi Waln

The Primary Election on the Rosebud Reservation will be held on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Voters will choose several candidates to appear on the General Election ballot in August. There are ten tribal council representative seats open, as well as the four constitutional officer positions.

Technology has changed the way candidates are able to campaign. It has also helped tribal voters stay informed. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has been broadcasting tribal meetings on Channel 93, which can be accessed by several local residents who subscribe to cable services. Meetings are also live streamed on You Tube.

Candidates running for office were offered an opportunity to create a 60 second campaign advertisement. Those videos can now be viewed on the Tribe’s You Tube page. Archived videos of past council meetings, as well as a candidate forum, can also be accessed.

The ability to watch tribal council meetings live is appreciated by many. Elders and other people who often have no way to attend a tribal council meeting, but have access to cable television and the internet, can now watch their legislators conduct business. This is one advantage to having the meetings live streamed.

There are also disadvantages to watching televised tribal council meetings. For example, recently the tribal council approved a motion which would result in a cut in the amount of per diem they are paid. A cut in pay for elected officials is an issue which many tribal voters seem to favor.

However, there are tribal council members who have allegedly taken per diem advances all the way to the end of their term. This means they are not receiving a check for attending meetings anymore. So, while the motion to take a cut in pay looks good for the incumbents who are running for re-election, the reduction in per diem will only affect those tribal council members who are not maxed out in pay advances.

It’s a good campaign tactic to let your constituents believe you are taking a cut in your $40,000+ per diem rate, when in reality certain council members are not losing any of their pay at all because they have already received it in advances. The misleading of tribal voters by motions which only affect certain council members is one disadvantage to watching live streamed meetings.

On the other hand, another advantage to watching these televised meetings is tribal voters often get to see the true nature of their representatives. For instance, when the motion to take the cut in pay was discussed on the council floor, one tribal representative talked about how he didn’t feel it was fair that only they should have to accept a reduced per diem. He stated the tribal program directors and other employees should also take a cut in pay.

Just because the tribal council cannot seem to manage their money doesn’t mean they should be cutting tribal employees’ pay. The cash flow problems the tribe currently faces is not the fault of the program directors or employees. There are many program directors, as well as tribal employees, who have worked hard to complete either a Bachelor or Masters Degree.

Some tribal directors have also become very skilled at managing their program money. They have learned to plan for budget or end of fiscal year shortfalls. They should not be penalized for the inability of the tribal council to manage their own budgets. It’s not fair.

Another area tribal voters could think about before going to the polls next week is how well the tribal council has adhered to the Constitution. This document is what governs the entire Tribe. Our rights as tribal people are supposed to be guaranteed under the RST Constitution and Bylaws.

Still, the tribal council violated our constitutional rights earlier this year when they voted to remove a tribal president, who was elected by the people. I realize there are differences of opinion on this action and what is done is done. I’m not taking anyone’s side.

But, after studying the Constitution over the past several years, I still cannot find where the tribal council has the authority to remove a constitutional officer. As far as I can see, the authority to remove a tribal president is limited. The tribal council can remove one of their own members, but only the people who voted a president (or vice-president, treasurer or secretary) into office can petition to have him/her removed. The recall process should have been followed.

Another violation of our Constitution recently occurred when a Tribal Judge ruled in favor of a candidate whose eligibility to run for office was challenged. The Judge overruled the Election Board’s decision to disqualify this candidate from running because of a felony conviction on his criminal record. Does the Tribal Judge’s action open up future elections for convicted felons to run for office?

Tribal voters must be very careful when going to the polls on July 23. I will not be voting for any candidates who may further violate my rights as outlined in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Constitution & Bylaws. I will also not be voting for any candidates who are not eligible to be on the ballot because of their criminal record.

Our children deserve to have people of integrity elected to the governing body of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Let’s not disappoint them.

Tribal Economic Development Task Force Meets on Rosebud

Tuffy Lunderman (RST Vice-President) and Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO) give a presentation on Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi to the Tribal Economic Development Task Force. The 600-acre site is owned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and designated for a resilient community development project. Photo by Vi Waln.

Tuffy Lunderman (RST Vice-President) and Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO) give a presentation on Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi to the Tribal Economic Development Task Force. The 600-acre site is owned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and designated for a resilient community development project. Photo by Vi Waln.

By Vi Waln

MISSION – A task force created by the South Dakota House of Representatives met here last week to hear presentations by the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes.

Members of the Tribal Economic Development Task Force opened their meeting with a presentation by Clark Guthmiller of the US Department of Agriculture at the July 10 meeting. Also addressing the Task Force were Wizipan Little Elk, Chief Executive Officer of REDCO (Rosebud Economic Development Corporation) and Blaine Little Thunder, Eagle Nest Council Representative from Wanblee.
“We would love working with REDCO on getting some grant money for Rosebud,” stated Guthmiller. He shared information on available funding opportunities in the areas of Rural Business/Community Programs, Rural Housing Programs and Rural Utilities.

REDCO currently operates ten businesses on the Rosebud Reservation. They employ 32 people, most of which are tribal members, and generate $6 million in revenue every year. Current priorities in economic development include (1) land/agriculture, (2) renewable energy, (3) technology and (4) financing.

REDCO is currently working on developing the Tatanka Fund, which will be a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) serving the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. A loan project is also being developed for tribal members to apply for financing for business endeavors. A third project is the Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi. The 600-acre site, where the Turtle Creek Crossing Grocery Store is located, is designated for a resilient community development project.

“The old model in agriculture has always been to lease out our land at dirt cheap rates and watch others get rich,” stated Little Elk. “We have to do something different. Rosebud has 1600 acres available to farm, but no people to operate combine equipment. We need to get some of our folks training to operate heavy equipment.”

Little Elk also presented several recommendations to the Task Force in the areas of tribal economic development legislation, taxes and intergovernmental agreements, existing government spending, business incentives and relationships, grant funding, and investing in education and work force development on the reservation.

“When the Tribe wins, the State wins,” stated Little Elk. He urged the Task Force members to consider using tribal businesses, such as Sicangu Office Products and Sicangu Program, to purchase goods the State is already using. “There are advantages to partnering with the Tribe,” he said.

“The reservations are a pass through area for a lot of money,” stated Tuffy Lunderman, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Vice-President. That is, even though the tribe has an unemployment rate of 80%, there is still a lot of money that comes into the reservation through employment, retirement and social service programs. Most of that money is spent off the reservation and doesn’t cycle back to the local tribal economy.

“Imagine what your body would do if you lost 86% of your blood,” stated Michael LaPointe, a Rosebud tribal member. “86 cents of every dollar leaves the reservation and doesn’t return. If that money turned here, like it does in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, we would have three quarters of a billion dollar economy.”

“So often government is just not the answer,” stated Representative Don Haggar. “We sell ourselves short if we don’t acknowledge what is happening in Indian Country. We brag about South Dakota having a low unemployment rate, but we forget about the 80% unemployment on the nine reservations.”

“Lots of times we hear the State doesn’t care about what happens on the reservations or that the reservations don’t care what happens with the State, but that’s just not true,” stated Representative Elizabeth May.

“We can only go up from here, that is where the Tribe and REDCO are looking,” stated Little Elk. “It is embedded in our culture to have high standards and we have to return to that. We are intent on pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but we need help getting a pair of boots.”

Representative Haggar, who serves as Chair, sponsored HB 1213 to create the Tribal Economic Development Task Force during the 2014 Legislative Session. The group was formed to work at improving economic development strategies on the nine Indian Reservations in South Dakota. Other Representatives who serve on the task force are Elizabeth May and Mike Verchio. Senators Jim Bradford, Craig Tieszen and Bruce Rampelberg are also members. Steve Emery, Secretary of the SD Department of Tribal Relations, along with Mark DeVries and Kathy Tyler are also members of the task force.

Tribal representatives include Task Force Vice-Chair Roxanne Sazue (Crow Creek), Steven Sitting Bear (Standing Rock), John Yellow Bird Steele (Pine Ridge) Sarah Zephier (Yankton), Chuck Jones (Lower Brule), Harold Frazier (Cheyenne River), Anthony Reider (Flandreau), Tuffy Lunderman (Rosebud) and DelRay German (Sisseton Wahpeton).

The meeting was broadcasted live by RST Channel 93. An archive of the meeting can be viewed online at Tribal Economic Development Task Force on You Tube. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, August 28 and will be held in Sioux Falls. Presentations from the Yankton and Flandreau Sioux Tribes will be heard. For more information on the Tribal Economic Development Task Force, you may call Roxanne Hammond, Attorney for the SD Legislative Research Council, at (605) 773-3251.

Our Most Valuable Resource is Our Children

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Our children, teenagers and young people are the most valuable resource we have. We call them Wakanyeja, a term which denotes their sacredness. I pray for the families who realize the importance of Lakota children and nurture them. I also pray for the Lakota families who are controlled by their addictions and don’t seem to care whether or not their children even have food to eat.

Regardless of how you treat your children or teenagers, they are the future of the Lakota Oyate. They will soon take our place and will be expected to lead our tribe into a better future. How they are treated by the adults in their lives will certainly determine the future of our tribe.

Today, there are many young people living on our Rez who have no guidance. The lack of guidance was recently apparent in how our young people handle fireworks. For example, fireworks are dangerous but it didn’t seem to stop many of our misguided young people on the Rez from aiming live rockets and artillery shells at one another, as well as cars and homes, throughout most of last week. What leadership skills can we expect from our young people who grow up without guidance?

Now, our young people are gathering in the nation’s capital for an historic conference. President Barack Obama was touched by the young people he visited at Standing Rock during the Cannonball Flag Day Wacipi in June 2014. As a result of his visit with those Hunkpapa Lakota teens, he launched the General Indigenous Initiative at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference.
He created this initiative to focus on improving the lives of our disadvantaged youth by helping to remove the barriers which may hinder their opportunity to succeed. Through new investments and increased engagement, the initiative proposes to take a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential.

This week, the White House is hosting the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, DC. This conference will provide Native American and Alaska Native youth from across the country an opportunity to interact directly with senior Administration officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs. President Barack Obama is providing our young people with a once in a lifetime experience.

Several young people from Rosebud are part of a larger group from throughout Indian Country who will experience this first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering. Nearly 1,500 young people from across Indian Country are expected in the nation’s capital to participate. The gathering will run from July 9 through 14 at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel. The agenda will feature several nationally known keynote speakers, more than thirty workshops, a cultural exchange night, talent show, youth dance and an awards banquet.

The group from Rosebud has a very busy itinerary. In addition to attending the White House Tribal Youth Gathering, the young people from Rosebud plan to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. They are also planning to tour Georgetown University. Their agenda also includes a side trip to Pennsylvania, where they will visit the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a boarding school where many Native American children were sent during 1879-1918.

This trip to the nation’s capital will be the first time some of our young people have traveled such a long distance away from home. This will be an important experience for them to remember. I hope many of our young people going to this gathering will use this opportunity to speak out to government officials about their needs here at home. I encourage them to speak up to the officials they will be meeting with to convey the many areas where essential needs are currently unfulfilled. They will be speaking for all of us, including their younger siblings and extended family members.

It’s good our young people are getting some exposure as to what happens in Washington, DC. Perhaps it will motivate them to begin studying how the federal government operates now, so they can be prepared to move into positions of leadership when they are adults. It is also my hope this experience will motivate them to run for office here at the tribal level when they are adults, so they can do something different with our own government.

I pray our children will grow up into responsible adults and help to make their own Rez a better place to live.

The Lakota are Praying For You in Ceremony

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There is a lot of attention being focused on the Rainbow Gathering, which is scheduled to be held in the Black Hills National Forest. There are Lakota people who have vehemently spoken out against these people coming to the HeSapa. There are also Lakota people who do not have anything against the Rainbow Family. It’s clear the Lakota people are divided on this event.

There has been a lot of talk on the reality of the effects a gathering of this size could bring to the area. Local media reports seem focused on the dark side of the Rainbow gatherings and how they impact the environment, as well as crime rates. I wonder why the same dramatic media attention is not given to the Sturgis Rally, which is held in close proximity to Bear Butte. The rally has brought us 75 years of drugs, drinking and sex trafficking of local women. The difference is the rally brings in millions of dollars and the Rainbow gathering won’t bring a cent.

Also, I speak for many when I say we are tired of reading about how terrible the Rainbow group is. I would rather see more focus on bringing the dark side of the Sturgis Rally to light. I’d also like to see more action surrounding the atrocities committed by our own Lakota people. The attention on the Rainbow issue is distracting our people from the myriad of problems our reservation children face every single day.

There are so many postings on social media ranting about drugs, nudity, litter, etc. which are allegedly typical of a Rainbow gathering. I’ve read accusations from my own people about the lack of respect the Rainbow followers have for Lakota people. I haven’t read much regarding the lack of respect the Lakota often have for their own people.

I read one post on social media which focused on the possible threat of assaults on Lakota women and children. I interpreted the Lakota male’s words as an overt call to violence. He called on Lakota men who had served in the military to gather and put a stop to the Rainbow event in any way possible, including violence. Many of us wonder if the same call to action will be issued in August when the Sturgis Rally takes place. It would be great if the same call would also be made against the Keystone XL pipeline.

I would fully support a call to local Lakota men to take action on the real violence happening on our own Rez. Numerous Lakota men, women and children suffer from violent acts every single day. It is estimated that 100% of our Lakota children witness violence on a regular basis in their own homes or communities.

There are valid concerns about all the trash which could be left behind when the Rainbow group leaves the Black Hills. Did anyone else see the picture on social media of members of the Rainbow family who visited Pine Ridge to help pick up trash there? The two outspoken males who want to block the Rainbow group from entering the Black Hills could follow their example by coming to the Rez and leading a non-violent clean-up of trash. It seems those two males are more concerned with media attention than they are about solving any of the real problems our Lakota people are fighting.

Our Lakota children are suffering on the Rez every single day. Lakota women and children are being trafficked for sex in Sioux Falls and the Bakken Oil Patch. Many of us are busy dealing with the issues we see right here in front of us. Our time, energy and resources are better applied to our local problems. Most of us don’t have time to be making social media videos bashing other human beings.

The Rainbow group is being treated very badly by some Lakota people. The way some Lakota people are acting is similar to the racist behavior we are subject to on a regular basis. It’s embarrassing to many of us. How ironic that some of our own Lakota people would publicly demonstrate the same racist behavior we often experience. The two media hungry males in particular have also made attempts to discredit some of our most outspoken Lakota women. These women are well-known activists and have long led the fight to protect natural resources, including our sacred water.

All of this is happening at the same time our summer ceremonies are being held. People are praying on the Rez. Many will be in prayer all summer. The self-appointed, media hungry spokespersons of the Lakota Oyate might think about using their energy to encourage our children to come back to the circle and pray, instead of using every waking moment to call for support in blocking a Rainbow gathering from happening in the HeSapa.

We would do well to clean up our own back yards of the trash and violence before we go running off into the Black Hills to stop other human beings from having a gathering. I would ask those of you who are against the Rainbow people coming to the Black Hills to be honest with yourselves. Take some time to examine what is truly in your minds and hearts. Please scrutinize your own behavior because you are acting in the same racist, prejudice and discriminating way the local non-Lakota do when they encounter our people who live or visit in Rapid City.

There are many so called Lakota people now in denial about their own behavior. So, for those of you who deny your own actions, I say congratulations. You have successfully lowered yourself to the level of thinking typical of the racist, prejudice and discriminating non-Lakota when they treat our people with blatant disrespect.

Our children are watching. Please know many Lakota people are praying for all of you in ceremony. Mitakuye Oyasin.

Come and Pray with Your People

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Summer solstice is upon us. The changing of seasons is always a powerful time on Unci Maka. The solstices and equinoxes are times when we could all be in prayer. The potent time of a seasonal transition is when our prayer is the most powerful.

Human beings all over the world held prayer ceremonies on June 21. They also hold prayer ceremony during the winter solstice, as well as the fall and spring equinox. Many Lakota people will sacrifice themselves in ceremony during the coming weeks to pray for all that is. The concept of Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relations) is at the heart of Lakota prayer.

Our ancestors watched the stars year round to help them know when it was time to be in a certain area or when certain ceremonies were to be held. There are still Lakota people who pay attention to the stars throughout the year. They are also the people who get up before the sun to go outside and offer a prayer to morning star to greet the new day.

Many Lakota people also take notice when the planets align. An awesome solstice conjunction was visible on Saturday night. The crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus formed a triangle in the western sky. Paying attention to the universe has always been an integral part of Lakota spirituality.

Today there are many Lakota people who have no idea of the meaning behind the solstices and equinoxes. The Gregorian calendar does note the dates when seasons transition. So, to most people the first day of summer is just a date marking the new season, they have no idea of the significance of a solstice or an equinox. Many Lakota people do not pay any attention to the star patterns or movements, even though many are up all hours of the night drinking, drugging or gambling.

Actually, the only time I really see local people notice what is going on in the heavens is when there is an eclipse where the moon turns red. Then people get all paranoid about the red moon in full eclipse being some sort of sign of impending doom. Many forget to pray and only feel fear when they see the red moon. Still, their paranoia really does nothing to motivate them to overcome their addictions.

Many Lakota people will tell you they believe in their own spirituality but do not involve themselves in ceremony because they are not worthy. Others say they do not want to play with their own way of life. In reality, they just don’t want to give up their alcohol, drugs, gambling or other addictions they are held hostage by. It’s also a fact that many of our people who have given up their Lakota spirituality for Christianity don’t even attend church on Sunday.

Personally, it’s pretty sad to know there are many people living on the Rez who have never been to an inikaga. They have lived here all of their lives but never once attended a ceremony. Still, many Lakota people pray for their own to find a way back into the ceremonial circle. Some medicine men tell us to never pass judgement on our own Lakota people who attend ceremony because they go there for help. It gives Lakota elders hope when they see our people at ceremony.

Solstice week marks the beginning of summer. It also is the time when our summer ceremonies are taking place. Our people used to have only one sun dance. All the Lakota bands would travel to the designated area to take part in this very important ceremony. Sometimes, I like to imagine what the sun dance circle looked like before the encroachment of the wasicu. It had to be one of the most powerful times our ancestors ever experienced.

Today is also a very powerful time for us. We have many elders who hold the energy of our Lakota spirituality for all of us. They look at our children who are abused by family members. They see their family members devastated by alcohol and drugs. Many elders are living in fear of their lives in their own homes because of alcohol and drugs. Still, they offer prayers every morning before the sun comes up. They faithfully attend ceremony to cry and pray for our children to embrace the Lakota way of life.

They pray every day for all the Lakota people who walk around full of unresolved anger. And when that anger provokes Lakota people to hurt others or destroy property, they still say prayers for them. They say daily prayers for all our people who are in the Maza tipi or hospitals or fighting terminal illnesses. They also pray for the Lakota people who are lost in their meth, vodka and casino addictions.

Our elders pray for those children who are at home alone with no food because their parent is off somewhere on a meth or drinking binge. Elders pray for a better way for us. We could be adding our good thoughts to their daily intentions. We have lots to pray for.

If you have never been to a sun dance on your own Rez, I encourage you to make this summer the one where you go. Come and pray with your people. Many of us pray for you to join us at ceremony. Put aside your thoughts of being unworthy and come say a prayer. Stop being afraid of your own way of life. Our ancestors died defending this way of life so we could be here today. They were good ancestors.

It’s time for us to be good ancestors by praying at our own ceremony for our unborn grandchildren.

Somewhere on the Rez, there is a very worried Mom

Sicangu teen girls participating in an awareness activity at Ghost Hawk Park in 2014

Sicangu teen girls participating in an awareness activity at Ghost Hawk Park in 2014

Summer is usually a time when teenagers will stay up all hours of the night and sleep in the next day. Summer is also a time when there is a lot more activity happening at night on the streets of our reservation communities. It’s a time when parents and grandparents tend to be more concerned about the safety of their teens.

Lately, I have heard of numerous incidents where teen girls take off from their homes to be with their friends. Sometimes parents will wake up to find their teen gone from the home. Many moms and dads will spend many frustrating hours looking for their teenager.

It’s really hard to be the parent of a teenager in today’s reservation society. Those of us who choose to live on the Rez have a difficult time keeping track of our teens. It seems as though our children reach a certain age where they will rebel. They will leave their homes without permission to go and stay with friends. Many will only return home when their parents locate them, usually after searching for many hours, days or even weeks.

There are parents who don’t really seem to care. They allow their teenager to come and go as they please. But when young people leave without the permission of a parent, it’s hard on the family. This is especially true when the mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent fails to locate the teenager. It’s even harder on the family when we have many adults on the Rez who knowingly lie to other adults regarding the whereabouts of their teenagers.

This happens a lot on my Rez. In fact, it was happening when I was a teenager. I remember one incident when I was a teen where a young lady ran away from her parents to spend time with her boyfriend. The police eventually went into the boyfriend’s home and searched the house. The teenager was nowhere to be found. Later, I learned the police couldn’t find the girl because the adult members of the house had lied about her being there. They hid her in a pile of laundry.

Incidents like this cause parents and other family members unnecessary worry. Especially nowadays when human trafficking is happening on a regular basis in areas near the reservations. As parents, I believe we have all imagined terrible things happening to our teenagers when we don’t know where they are.

Today, there is a whole lot of danger on the streets of our communities. Wannabe gangsters, highly addictive drugs, alcohol and increased levels of violence are common on my Rez. With all the terrible things happening now on our homelands, it isn’t right to put other families through needless suffering by lying about a teenager who wants to hide in your home.

Last week I listened to my tribal council discuss the problem of young people out on the streets after curfew. There is a lot of drinking and drugging going on within our young population. But what about the adults who provide alcohol and drugs to our young people? There are too many adults not being held accountable for contributing to minors.

There are also many adults not being held accountable for hiding minors from their parents. It’s not right for adults to cause needless mental and emotional anguish to other adults by harboring teenagers in their homes. How much information does law enforcement need before they can search someone’s home to make sure there are no runaway teens hiding there?
I also heard the tribal council discuss amending the law and order code to increase the penalty for curfew violations. Many people on my Rez would like to see the tribal council amend the laws to toughen the penalties against adults who knowingly and willingly hide teenagers from their parents. Adults who knowingly conceal teenagers from their parents should be charged with kidnapping.

Teenagers who run away from their homes and are hidden by adults is a big problem. The adults should know better. Those adults who are harboring runaways in their homes need to practice a little empathy. Think about how you would feel if it were your teen being hidden away from you by another adult.

You’re not a good role model when you knowingly allow a teen to stay in your home while the parents are frantically searching for them. I know many adults who do this and I have no respect for any of them because they cause other parents unnecessary worry.

I believe it’s criminal for adults to hide a teenager. In fact, their actions could be defined as a crime under the RST law and order code. They could be charged under Title 5 of the Criminal Code, specifically 5-20-1: Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which reads:

“Any person who: (1) Sells or gives to or otherwise makes any alcoholic beverage available to a person under the age of 18 years; or (2) By act or omission, encourages, causes, or contributes to the delinquency of a person under the age of 18 years; is guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It is no defense to this section that the person charged did not know or that the minor was in fact under the age of 18 years. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class B crime.”

On the Rosebud Reservation, a Class B crime carries a maximum penalty of a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), plus court costs. I bet the harboring of teens would stop if people had to pay $500 to the Tribal Court.

The adults on my Rez need to grow up and stop harboring teenage runaways.

A Clear Mind and A Pure Heart

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This topic is nothing new, but I feel the need to address it. Lately I’ve seen a lot of postings on social media where warnings are issued to people to be careful of those who want bad things to happen to them, or members of their family.

Once there was this man who accused people of using bad medicine on one other. I asked him what he meant by bad medicine. He couldn’t give me a definite answer. Still, for the lack of a better term or phrase, I am going to use “bad medicine” throughout this column because I hear people refer to this obscure concept a lot on my Rez.

I often hear about bad medicine happening at pow-wows. Many people have shared experiences with me about how others have used bad medicine on them at pow-wows. People will talk about witnessing dancers and singers shooting things at each other on the pow-wow circuit. In those cases, money really is the root of all evil because it prompts our own people to attempt to hurt one another. Modern contest pow-wows are often a dangerous place where jealous people go with the intent to cause harm to someone else, all for the sake of winning a few dollars.

Many people also believe the bad medicine tactics are used outside of the pow-wow arena. People might think there are others who are praying against them or putting curses on them. Personally, when people are convinced that other people are making bad things happen to them, it seems to me like an extreme form of paranoia. When you believe others are totally responsible for wreaking havoc on your or your family, it’s like you are not accepting responsibility for whatever is going on in your life.

It’s not always someone else’s fault when negative occurrences take place. Still, it’s very convenient and easy to blame others for the bad stuff that happens to us. Life is full of good and bad incidents. But when tragedy strikes you or your family, it’s not always because there is someone who hates you making evil prayers in hopes you will be hurt. Bad things happen to us all.

I am so tired of hearing people blame others for using bad medicine. It’s disrespectful to our Lakota culture. The distorted belief in people using bad medicine on a regular basis originated from the fear instilled in our people through Christianity.

So, when I hear someone putting the blame on someone else for the bad things happening in their lives, I automatically chalk it up to the negative influence of the local churches. I believe it’s their fault that so many Lakota people are focused on the concept of bad medicine. Fear and doubt are powerful motivators. And instilling fear and doubt was the easiest way for those missionaries to convert the minds of our grandparents.

I sincerely believe your own negative or fearful thoughts will attract bad things into your life. Your mind is a powerful entity. For instance, you might have fear surrounding certain occurrences. You worry that something terrible will happen. My personal experience has shown me that the more I worry about something, the more likely I will attract it into my life.

I believe one of the most powerful prayers we can hold is to have a clear mind and a pure heart. I also believe our children are born with this purity. But, they are influenced by family members who go through their entire lives scared of the bad medicine supposedly projected by others, or the threats of hell and damnation preached by the people running the local churches. We have to make an effort to raise our children to walk through life with a clear mind and a pure heart. Are you projecting fear into your children’s minds and hearts by giving energy to the bad medicine concept?

Most of the bad medicine I see comes from people’s thoughts. Disease of the mind has a powerful hold on many Lakota. When you ponder about all the bad things you want to see others suffer from, you are actively engaging in bad medicine and projecting it on others. It’s time to stop perpetuating the fear instilled in our people by the missionaries and their churches. Our Lakota culture and ceremony should not be feared.

Clear your mind of fearful, hateful and negative thoughts. Purify your heart for your children. Our ancestors were not powerful because they used bad medicine, they were powerful because they knew the key to a good life was having a clear mind and a pure heart.

Now is the time for us to be good ancestors. Our unborn relatives are depending on us to pave the Red Road. Let’s not leave them a fearful path which will lead them away from their own Lakota way of life.