Monthly Archives: June 2012

Purify your heart while you still have time

A family I know is going through some drama. Now this is nothing new because we all know about drama on the rez and how it affects our families. I believe it is better to stay out of other peoples’ issues as I have enough of my own to tend to.

 

In other words, I work hard to mind my own business. It would be great if everyone who lived on the rez would do this too. But, you and I both know those people who just have to meddle in the affairs of others.

 

I guess the only time I might get involved with the drama people surround themselves with is when the actions of the adults have a negative impact on children. I will not hesitate to call the proper authorities when I witness children being hurt.

 

Anyway, I really didn’t know what was going on with this family until recently. Then I was approached by a man one day a couple of weeks ago while I was at the post office checking my mail. He asked me if I knew anything about a woman being involved in drugs. I said I didn’t know because I don’t hang out with people who use drugs. He told me that he realized that but he wanted to ask me about her anyway. He went on to say derogatory things about her.

 

I didn’t respond to the things he said about her because I don’t see the point in worrying about what someone else is doing in their life. And I especially don’t want to be caught up in whatever rough times a family is trying to work through. So I have no idea why this man, who is not a tribal member, approached me in public to bash one of our Lakota women.

 

This Lakota woman is someone I know on both a personal and professional level. Last week I went to visit with her about a great many things, including the questions the non-Indian man had been asking about her. During the course of sharing information with her, I learned this same man had also made derogatory statements about me.

 

Article I of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 reads in part: “If bad men among the Indians shall commit a wrong or depredation upon the person or property of any one, white, black, or Indian, subject to the authority of the United States, and at peace therewith, the Indians herein named solemnly agree that they will, upon proof made to their agent and notice by him, deliver up the wrong-doer to the United States, to be tried and punished according to its laws; and in case they willfully refuse so to do, the person injured shall be reimbursed for his loss from the annuities or other moneys due or to become due to them under this or other treaties made with the United States.”

 

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe also has an exclusionary law against non-members. Tribal members can file petitions in tribal court to banish non-members who cause trouble on our homelands.

 

Recently, I wrote about people who manipulate others to get what they want. In this case, a non-Indian man is running from person to person telling lies about Lakota women. He manipulates information to make people look bad.

 

I realize there are many people like him on our rez. Eventually, people do figure out who is not truthful. Liars lose credibility with many people. It’s like that story about the boy who cried wolf.

 

I suppose people who have a lot of time on their hands feel they have to be doing something. But it’s a shame when they use their time snooping around other peoples’ private lives. Maybe they think they are doing some kind of good by going from person to person trying to find out what is going on in someone else’s life. In my opinion, they wind up looking like a busybody. What they are doing is wrong and can hurt people. And they look totally foolish!

 

There will always be people who make it a mission in their life to hurt as many people as they can. I am not sure what their actions accomplish. In the end we all have to face the Creator who can see what is in our heart. Will you face your maker with a pure heart? There is still time to purify yourself from all the wrong you have done against other people.

 

Furthermore, our children see all of this. They are the primary witnesses to the dysfunction of the adults in their lives. And so many of them quickly learn how to gossip, lie, backstab and spread rumors like their adult role models do. In fact, they believe it’s normal and acceptable to be like this because that is what the adults are showing them. It’s bad enough when our own people set bad examples. It’s even worse when we also have non-members living amongst us who are also poor role models.

 

Our children deserve to grow up in peaceful, drama-free homes. They deserve to be raised by healthy adults. Only those people who have a real mean streak will spend their precious time trying desperately to dig up dirt on other people. Do not treat others with animosity because you teach your children to act the same way.

 

Finally, Lakota women are sacred. In more ways than one there would be no tribe without the backbone of the women. I really do not appreciate some non-Indian man telling lies about us. Time grows short and we should be cleaning up our own lives. Still, I have seen the karma of personal choice hit people in ways they would not expect. Be careful because it seems as though karma has a quicker turnaround time now.

 

Even if you are in denial about what really lives within your own heart, remember that the Creator can see it all.

Fire in Rosebud’s Timber Reserve under investigation

A fire fueled by high winds charred approximately 305 acres of timber and grass on the Rosebud Reservation.

 

The fire, which began late in the day on June 14, remains under investigation. Local firefighters initially had the blaze under control that same evening. However, the fire flared up on Friday morning in an area marked by deep canyons filled with Ponderosa Pine trees.

 

The fire, which started about 1/4 mile west of Chases the Woman Dam, was approximately 80% contained as of Sunday morning, according to Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Officer Dana Cook. Two hand crews from Rosebud were joined by eight other crews from the surrounding area to work non-stop in digging a line around the center of the blaze.

 

The South Dakota National Guard provided crucial assistance in fighting the blaze by providing air support. Officials credit the aircraft for helping ground crews halt the progress of the fast moving fire. A Black Hawk helicopter spent several hours carrying water from Chases the Woman Dam in a 600 gallon bucket to dump on the blaze.

 

During the height of the fire, officials took safety precautions by closing BIA Road 5 to local travel. Several residents of the Grass Mountain Community were also asked to evacuate their homes on Friday. The request was made as a precaution because the fire jumped established lines due to the high winds. Communities on the west side of the Rosebud Indian Reservation saw large quantities of smoke blowing through from the fire on Friday.

 

The RST Emergency Preparedness Program was activated to assist with the needs of fire fighters. Command centers were established at the Rosebud Fire Hall and Ghost Hawk Park to provide support services to firefighters. The entire burn area will be monitored for at least a week.

 

For more information please contact Dana Cook at the Rosebud BIA Fire Department, he can be reached by calling (605) 747-2700.

 

Our children need prayers…

I always welcome summer by offering a special prayer with tobacco and water at the solstice on June 21. Many Lakota people also celebrate the time of solstice with ceremony, song and prayer. Our ancestors came together to complete the sacred sun dance to mark the beginning of another year. Back then there was only one sun dance and the people traveled from the four directions to pray together. Today things are very different.

 

A while back, there was a documentary made which focused on the Rosebud Reservation. The film is called Rape on the Reservation. The piece was done by Vanguard and is described as: “One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime. Correspondent Mariana van Zeller travels to Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, where the growing sexual assault epidemic has finally escalated to murder.” The full episode can be viewed online at http://current.com/shows/vanguard/92468120_rape-on-the-reservation.htm

 

The Internet has transformed our world into a very small place. What used to be privy to us on the rez is now available for anyone with a computer and online access to watch. Many people from all parts of the country and world have already viewed the documentary.

 

There are many people in this world who still think of our people as savages. And after watching the documentary I can see why the world sees us as still being savage. Many of our young people are raising themselves. They are often left to fend for their own meals while their primary caregivers are out drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling or pursing a member of the opposite sex. Nowadays we see many adults on our reservations put aside their children in favor of these unhealthy activities. This is not the Lakota way.

 

The online documentary also shows the attitudes of some of our people. The mindset of some of our Lakota boys and girls, in my opinion, is unacceptable. But this is the reality of life on the reservation where violence, alcoholism and drug addiction are the norm. When you are living on the reservation I suppose you become accustomed to the violence happening all around you. And if you experience violence from your parents then of course it will seem normal.

 

Is this how we are to instill the Lakota virtue of strength in our children? By acting out every violent thought we have? How sad for our children who are regularly referred to as sacred by many of us. We do not really consider our children precious if we are exposing them to extreme violence on a regular basis.

 

The same goes for our women. A woman is not really sacred if you are her partner and are physically, verbally, mentally, spiritually or sexually assaulting her on a regular basis. Our ancestors did not instill Lakota values into our great-great-great grandparents by beating them. Beating on children was learned during the boarding school era.

 

Still, after witnessing countless violent crimes and being a victim of beatings inflicted by their own parents, our sacred children might think it is normal to act out in violence. Thus, our children grow up with violent thoughts which soon manifest through their behavior. Our boys and girls watch their parents engage in violent physical altercations all the time. No wonder our reservations are the way they are.

 

It is up to us to change the conditions of our reservations. I love living on the Rosebud Reservation. I have spent a lot of time contemplating how I can change things. But I can only change myself. I cannot change anyone else. I cannot tell anyone how to behave. We are role models whether we want to be or not. We teach our Lakota children how to act through our behavior. Are you behaving the way you want your children to act when they are your age?

 

One thing I can do is write these words and remind everyone that our children watch every move we make. Our children watch us drink all that alcohol and consume all those drugs. Our children sit at home alone and they get very angry when their parents are spending all the money on gambling, drinking alcohol or buying drugs. When you lose all your money gambling or spend all your money on alcohol/drugs, there is no money left to provide a simple meal for your children. Hungry children grow up to be angry adults.

 

In my opinion, many of our people on our reservations are living in an alcoholic subculture. This subculture is not Lakota. This foreign subculture is created by both the conditions of our reservation along with our personal choices to engage in unhealthy behaviors which are most definitely not Lakota.

 

For example, I went to a local rodeo last weekend. A couple parked near us were drinking and fighting in front of their children. In fact, there were many people drinking openly. I watched many of the people who had been drinking alcohol all day get behind the wheel and drive away with their children in the car after the rodeo was over. There were no designated drivers.

 

I am grateful for our Lakota people who choose not to perpetuate the alcoholic subculture. Thank you to the sober parents I saw at the rodeo. Your children appreciate you.

 

Once again, I ask all of you who are preparing for your annual sacrifice in the sun dance to pray hard for our Lakota people, especially our children, women and all the unborn generations. Call upon the ancestors who danced in the ceremonies of long ago on these same lands to hear your prayer and see your sacrifice for the children of today.

 

It was the prayers of long ago that brought us this far, let’s continue that powerful prayer of our strong Lakota ancestors so our children can once again see the day when they will experience what it is like to live a happy, sober, non-violent life.

 

RST Council nearing dangerous precedent

By Alfred Walking Bull, The Sicangu Eyapaha

 

The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council went through one of its most difficult legislative challenges in recent memory, concerning the future of Police Chief Grace Her Many Horses on May 30 and June 7. It decided that any tribal employee – regardless of enrollment – can be fired without due process.

 

As the managing editor of The Sicangu Eyapaha, I do not ordinarily render an opinion on tribal politics of the day because issues such as these typically come and go with fanfare, in the guise of populism, standing up for the people and raging against the machine. Resolutions are made, meetings are held and the work of telling the story of my people goes on. But this incident has illustrated to me – both as a journalist and as a tribal member – that the concept of fairness and equality under tribal law and personnel policy is endangered.

 

Two protests staged on May 22 and 30 in front of the tribal administration building in Rosebud by family members of a dismissed police officer, called for the dismissal of the police chief. At issue at the time was if she can be summarily fired by a motion from the tribal council without a hearing.

 

The council faced the unenviable choice of allowing current grievance processes to yield results at a later time – a decision characterized by protesters at the time as a lack of swift leadership – or to directly intercede and risk damaging the credibility of that process and set a dangerous precedent of the council exercising discretionary and arbitrary authority.

 

A motion excerpt from that council meeting reads, in part, “Motion to terminate the Chief of Police for a lack of leadership and that the police department have a review done and that the Police Commission/Judiciary Committee start the process of restructuring.” Since this motion, confusion, anger and a floodgate of charges opened without a filter for context and impartial due process.

 

In a special meeting, called by RST President Rodney Bordeaux on June 7, the tribal council assembled to discuss the advisability of its motion on May 30. The meeting, to the credit of the administration and council, was broadcast on RST 19, streamed on The Sicangu Eyapaha’s Web site and on KOYA Radio for public record. Unfortunately, prejudice against non-members and discriminatory interpretations of policy were used to justify the actions of the elected body.

Regardless of how one personally feels about Her Many Horses, what happened was nothing less than untempered rage and fear-based demagoguery. Sicangu exceptionalism was bandied about with pride that tribal enrollment primacy counted above the rule of law and the due process of the personnel policy. We – as the same tribal members – must also expect more from our government. We must expect this government to weigh all sides of an argument, whether in executive session or in a public forum, impartially and without prejudice. We expect these things because we believe in the rule of law and under the law, all are equal and all are afforded the benefits of justice.

 

The matters that sparked the protests and brought out every complaint from the woodwork are regrettable for everyone involved. But the results of the protests are more regrettable for future generations of Sicangu. With the single act of passing broad legislation, the council set the precedent that it will target anyone – regardless of enrollment – who is complained about. The council has effectively lessened itself from a legislative body to a 20-member personnel committee that will exercise any action it wants.

 

The motion passed on May 30 did not name Grace Her Many Horses; it named the Chief of Police for, “a lack of leadership.” Ergo, any future chief of police’s critics can cite this motion as precedent for termination. And one could argue that any tribal employee – even this writer – can be fired for any reason without due process.

 

It falls now to the council to rescind its original motion or let it stand. If it rescinds the motion, the future of any tribal employee is secure under the personnel policies of the tribe; if the motion stands, we simply wait for the next group of protesters to come knocking and the council is obliged to follow its own precedent. What happens after that is dangerous territory.

 

In 2011, the federal government withheld housing funds from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma for exercising undue authority when it came to denying equality under the law for its Freedmen members (Freedmen are descendants of the slaves of the Cherokee Nation prior to the Emancipation Proclamation). And so, with this motion by our council, our tribe risked an oversight by the federal government, by denying Her Many Horses her right as an employee (regardless of enrollment) to make her side of the case before being terminated. Should she choose to sue this tribe for the original violation of her due process as an employee, she’ll win and our tribe will lose and we will all bear the consequences.

 

Despite what’s written here, there will always be radicals and revolutionaries within our tribe who cannot accept the legislative, judicial and personnel review process of our tribe. They will see any disagreement with their demagoguery as standing against the people, the people being those who agree with them. As a member of this tribe, it’s also this writer’s duty to point out that when our government denies anyone, regardless of enrollment, their due process, all people lose.

 

There is some small victory for the rule of law in all of this, Her Many Horses will seek a grievance hearing and her case will be heard. Even if all the charges against the police chief are substantiated and her termination is upheld, or if we learn new facts that support her position, it’s a win for our tribe because it has afforded the opportunity for all sides to be heard.

 

We must hold our government to a higher stand because we have entrusted it with our traditions of always being fair, hearing all sides of an issue and protecting the least of us, even if the least of us is unpopular at the moment; and looking forward and considering all consequences of its actions. Because due process and justice aren’t popularity contests, they are much more than that; they are at the core of what we are as Sicangu and as Lakota.

 

Alfred Walking Bull is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and graduate of the American Indian Journalism Institute. The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the views of the tribal administration, employees or any tribal entity.

Crazy Horse Canyon still burning

The fire which started on June 14, 2012 about 1/4 mile west of Chases The Woman Dam is approximately 80% contained as of 9:30 am today June 18. According to BIA Fire Officer Dana Cook, the cause of the fire is under investigation. As of this morning, at least 305 acres of timber have been lost in this fire. More updates as they become available.  Thank you for your prayers.