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.