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.

Candidates Undergoing Certification at Rosebud

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ROSEBUD, SD – Sixty nine candidates have filed nominating petitions seeking a place on the ballot for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Primary Election scheduled for Thursday, July 23, 2015.

In order to be eligible to vote, you must be at least 18 years old and have established residency on the Rosebud Reservation for at least thirty (30) days prior to the election. You must be an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and must register to vote by Friday, July 10, 2015. You may register to vote by visiting the Tribal Secretary’s office. Voting by absentee ballot or by proxy is not allowed.

Registered voters will select a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. In addition, there are ten (10) Tribal Council Representative positions up for election. Voters will choose Tribal Representatives for Antelope, St. Francis, Rosebud, Corn Creek, Ring Thunder, Horse Creek, Swift Bear, Bull Creek, He Dog and Upper Cut Meat Communities. The following candidates met the filing deadline and must now be certified as eligible by the Election Board:

President: William Willie Kindle (incumbent), James Iron Shell, Dwight D. Spotted Tail, Richard Tuffy Lunderman, Steve DeNoyer, Jr., Reginald A. Little Thunder, Oliver J. Semans, Keith C. Horse Looking, Sr. and Wilma Bear Shield-Robertson.

Vice President: Glen Yellow Eagle, Scott Herman, Lenard Wright, Gabriel A. Medicine Eagle, Homer Whirlwind Soldier, William Willie Bear Shield, Paul Joseph, Russell Eagle Bear and Valerie Crazy Bull.

Secretary: Pamela Kills In Water, Gerri Night Pipe, Ann-erika White Bird, Gerald H. Eagle Bear, Maria Lambert and Julia M. Peneaux (incumbent).

Treasurer: Byron Barney Wright (incumbent), Muriel Fast Horse, Jamie Fast Horse, Lynette Bordeaux and Louis Wayne Boyd.

Antelope: Calvin Hawkeye Waln (incumbent), Santiago Morales, Eddie Sonny Farmer, Jr., Shawn Bordeaux, Josh Wilson, Brenda L. Farmer and Harley Sazue.

Ring Thunder: Patricia Douville, Rose Stenstrom (incumbent), Raine Eagle Cloud and Alvin Bear Heels, Sr.

Upper Cut Meat: Lester Kills The Enemy, Philimon D. Two Eagle and Pauline Big Crow Whirlwind. Incumbent Kathleen High Pipe did not file for re-election.

Rosebud: Shere Wright, Almona Kills In Water, Robert Oliver, William W. BeBe Long, III, Trent Poignee, George Gunhammer and Steve Leader Charge.

St. Francis: Joe Ford, Sharon Swift, Wanda Brave-McCauley, Michael R. Boltz (incumbent) and John Charles Arcoren.

Swift Bear: Delano Clairmont, James R. Leader Charge, Alvin Bettelyoun, Sr. (incumbent), Dera Iyotte and Robert A. Becker.

Horse Creek: Fremont Fallis, Robert Rattling Leaf and Christine Arrow. Incumbent Webster Two Hawk, Sr. did not file for re-election.

Bull Creek: Christopher Eagle Star and Charles L. White Pipe, Sr. Incumbent Todd Bear Shield did not file for re-election.

He Dog: Mary F. Waln (incumbent) and Royal Yellow Hawk.

Corn Creek: Arlene R. Old Lodge and Glen Quick Bear. Incumbent Brian Hart did not file for re-election.

Since Bull Creek, He Dog and Corn Creek all have only two candidates who filed for election, it is expected that the Election Board will certify the candidates and automatically advance them to the General Election.

Registered tribal voters have until Friday, June 5, 2015 at 12:00 Noon to file an affidavit challenging the eligibility of any candidate. Challenges must be accompanied by a filing fee of $50 which must be paid by money order or cashier’s check to the Tribal Treasurer’s Office.
Candidates must pass a criminal background check and meet other qualifications as outlined in the Election Code. Challenge affidavits can be picked up from the Tribal Secretary.

St. Francis Community is advertising a Political Candidate Forum for June 16, 2015 beginning at 6pm at the Community Hall. Also, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Channel 93 will broadcast a public forum on Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 6pm. All interested community members can tune into channel 93 or YouTube to watch the live forum. Candidates are encouraged to attend these forums to let the public know their goals.

The Election Board members are Gerald Eagle Bear, Ronald Neiss, Ed Clairmont, Patti Romero and Meredith Kills In Water. For more information you can contact the Election Board Office at (605) 856-2373.

Stop making excuses. Go vote.

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The voters of Rosebud have some important election dates to remember this summer. On June 16, voters registered in Todd County will go to the polls to elect two school board members. Registered voters who wish to vote by absentee ballot in this school board election can do so by visiting the Todd County School District Business Office in Mission, SD during regular business hours. The last day to vote by absentee ballot is June 15, 2015.

The deadline to register to vote in the Todd County School Board Election is June 1. You have until closing time today (Monday, June 1, 2015) to visit your county auditor office to register to vote. If you live in Todd County and are not sure about your registration status for this very important election, you may call the county auditor at (605) 842-3727.

Also, this summer the Rosebud Sioux Tribe will conduct a Primary and a General Election. Voters will select a Tribal President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and ten (10) Tribal Council Representatives. Tribal voters will also elect two members to the St. Francis Indian School Board on August 27. The deadline to register to vote in Rosebud’s election is Friday, July 10, 2015. If you are not sure of your registration status, you may check with the Tribal Secretary at (605) 747-2381.

Voter turnout in past elections held on the Rosebud Rez has generally been low. Even though the majority of families have students attending one of the many schools operated by the Todd County School Board, we rarely exercise our right to affect change in our children’s and grandchildren’s school system by casting a vote to elect school board members. People will refuse to vote but they are quick to complain when something isn’t right in the school system.

Similarly, voter turnout in tribal elections is also low. Sometimes I wonder if all the people who complain about their elected tribal officials actually vote. I also wonder why our tribal people make the conscious choice not to vote. Just imagine all of our young people registering to vote and then voting. On Rosebud, our 18-25 year old population alone could probably easily elect a candidate of their choice as Tribal President if they really organized themselves.

There are many people on my Rez who do not believe their vote can amount to anything. That is, they are convinced their vote will not count toward affecting any real change in local politics. So, they won’t even bother to show up and vote on Election Day, even though voting can be one of the simplest things we can do.

It will only take me a few minutes to cast a vote in both the school board and tribal elections. I make a choice to vote because I want to have a say in who is elected to represent me. Your vote does have an impact. For example, if two thirds of the voting population voted for the same person as you do, your candidate will most likely be elected.

I don’t know what it will take to motivate people out of their apathy when it comes to voting in elections on the Rez. Wikipedia defines apathy as “a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern.” I would say apathy is an affliction many of our people have when it comes to voting in local and national elections. So, until we can motivate our people to register to vote and then push them to actually vote on Election Day, nothing much will change.

I also hear a lot of people complain about how the same candidates get elected to office every time they run. I rarely hear people complain about how all the same people are actually going to the polls and voting these same politicians back into office. I would love to see what would happen if a significant segment of our population, such as 18-25 year olds, traded their apathy for a voter registration form. When we motivate new voters to take an interest in an election, we might actually see different people get elected to office.

So this week I ask you to motivate one another. Find out if your family members and other relatives are registered to vote. If they are not registered, tell them how they can get registered with either the tribe or county. You only have to register to vote once. If you vote in every election you are eligible to vote in, you will always remain a registered voter.

It’s up to us to motivate one another to make changes. We have to be the change we want to see in this world, right? Talk to your adult children about voting in Rosebud’s tribal election this year. They must be eighteen (18) years old to be eligible to vote and they must register at the Tribal Secretary’s office. Encourage every adult you can think of to register by July 10, 2015. Let’s motivate some new voters to elect Rosebud a new Tribal President and St. Francis a new school board.

And on June 16, I encourage you to vote for new members to serve on the Todd County School Board. I am going to support Jim Curran and Evie Espinoza in this election. By the way, I hear people talking about how some school board candidates do not have children in the school system. This is true of the majority of the sitting school board members at both Todd County and St. Francis – they don’t have students enrolled in the school system.

Stop making excuses. Go vote.

A Time To Remember

Veterans of the Little Big Horn Battle. Courtesy Photo.

Veterans of the Little Big Horn Battle. Courtesy Photo.

Rosebud’s Chauncey Eagle Horn American Legion postponed their Monday services at local cemeteries due to the rain. They plan to follow their previously advertised schedule on May 30, 2015. The Sicangu Lakota Warriors could also be visiting cemeteries on Saturday. This is the traditional Memorial Day, when we visit with our friends and relatives as we also remember our family members who have made their journey.

Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember our Akicita or Soldiers. The memory of soldiers protecting the people goes back a long way for the Lakota. As tribal people, we could always remember our ancestors who fought and died so we could be here today. Family members will also remember other relatives who have made their journey more recently.

Flags and flowers are on display this week at our local cemeteries. There are two days designated as Memorial Day this week. One is the legal holiday recognized by this country. This is what gives us the three day weekend. Many people refer to it as the first official weekend of the summer. Many veterans visited local cemeteries over the weekend to acknowledge the service provided by the soldiers buried there.

Lakota families will decorate graves with flowers and other mementos. They might spend all day at the cemetery. Many will go to the cemetery on both days. Some will prepare plates filled with treats to offer their friends and relatives. Others will prepare and serve meals to veterans visiting the cemetery. The sharing of food with the living, in memory of a loved one, is an honorable expression of the Lakota virtue of generosity.

Native Americans are also known to have the highest enlistment rate in the armed forces. Yet, our tribal people are also divided on the fact that so many of our own enlist in the military. Some may view this enlistment rate as a tribute to the warrior spirit of our people. Others will believe military enlistment is something our young people shouldn’t be doing. After all, our own Lakota people are committing to serving in a force which has historically worked to annihilate us.

Despite this turbulent history our people have had with the US government, it is still a fact that Native Americans continue to enlist at a very high rate. We have tribal veterans from every war era the United States has been involved in. Many volunteered their service. For some people, military enlistment is a way to earn a steady paycheck. Many must live far away from their homelands in order to make a living.

There are veterans who have been honorably discharged and return to their reservation but remain unemployed. They may have left home with the goal of getting work experience or earning money for college. I doubt any of them intend to come home and not be able to find a job, but reality on the Rez is there is a shortage of jobs.

Also, many veterans who want to move their family home after their time in the service are often unable to find housing. There is a very long waiting list for tribal housing on most reservations. Many of our Lakota soldiers are forced to find housing and jobs away from their extended families due to shortages on the Rez.

Yet, the veterans who do live on the Rez find ways to provide for their families. Many of them participate in our local ceremonies, which only the veterans can lead. For example, we look for the Color Guard to lead in the graduation or wacipi grand entry. We also look to veterans during funerals calling for military honors; as well as Memorial Day and Veterans Day to help us honor their deceased comrades.

Lakota veterans play in integral part in our modern society. We could all learn to honor their service. They are members of our family and tribe first. This week I offer a special thank you to all the Lakota Veterans – past, present and future.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and resides on the Rosebud Reservation.