Today the majority of our people live in a world of unending violence. We have several communities on the rez where violence is totally out of control. Many of our people also live in homes with family members who act on their violent thoughts and regularly abuse those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Our young people and children are hurting one another because they have witnessed the adults thoughtlessly commit violent acts in front of them. Violence can manifest in many ways. For instance, this week America observes their Independence Day on the 4th of July. This time of year brings out what seems like a million fireworks vendors marketing dangerous Chinese made products loaded with flammable black gunpowder.
Consequently, those fireworks are being used by young adults, teenagers and children to purposely hurt one another in our communities this week. Many young people are awake all hours of the night shooting one another in the streets with bottle rockets or artillery shells. There are also innocent people who are being kept awake all night because there is so much noise from the fireworks explosions. During this fireworks season pray for everyone to be safe, please.
Another area of extreme violence which is also exploding can be seen within the circles of our teenaged girls. Our girls learn how to act by imitating the many women in their families and communities who prefer to walk through their lives as violent role models. Women who physically assault other women are successfully teaching our precious girls to viciously fight one another.
My hands are tools. I use my hands to write this column every week. And like most women, I prepare meals for my family with my hands. It isn’t right to hit someone with the same hands I prepare food with. Furthermore, it seems as though your prayers are rendered useless when you assault someone with the very same hands you use to make your prayer ties with. As Lakota women we would do much better as conscious, non-violent role models for our daughters and granddaughters. No one else is going to teach our girls how to do good things with their hands.
This violence amongst our girls is glaringly apparent in the countless videos on Facebook and You Tube which feature many young ladies using their hands to hurt one another. These assaults are happening in school restrooms, on the streets and in our homes. It seems as though our children have nothing better to do than fight and post up their violent encounters online like they are part of some kind of sideshow. These videos are very real and often extremely violent. I believe our young people are seeking the attention they lack at home by uploading these videos to be viewed by the entire online world.
Most of the violence we are witness to stems from the subculture of addiction which manifested during the era when our people were forced onto reservations. Violence is an addiction all by itself, in my opinion. There are many people who have overcome their addiction to substances or behaviors but they are still very violent in their thoughts and actions. They are the people regularly terrorize their family members.
Columnist Chris Hedges states “Violence is a disease, a disease that corrupts all who use it regardless of the cause.” So if violence is a disease; what is the cure? It is up to us to cure our society by breaking this vicious cycle of violence. We can start working to change our thought process to one influenced by peace instead of violence. Only you can change your thought process. And when you seek the path of healing it really does help to have a healthy support system.
One example of a healthy support system is Lakota/Dakota/Nakota ceremony. Our people do various ceremonies, both public and private, all year round. Summer is when our sun dance is held. This is also the time of year when the Ihanktonwan Cante Ohitika Okodakiciye (Brave Heart Society) hosts the Isnati Awica Dowanpi.
The mission of the Brave Heart Society is: “To enhance and preserve the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota culture for coming generations, thereby creating strong, competent, worldly families with a strong foundation of values, morals, and worldview.” I believe this mission statement succinctly states what we could all be working toward as Indigenous people.
I hear many of my own Lakota people state that the women’s ceremonies are lost. This is not true as I was part of a most powerful women’s ceremony last week. I watched eleven young ladies spend four days praying and learning skills which will help them get through life as competent Lakota/Dakota/Nakota women. It was a very powerful experience for them. I was very happy to see them embrace their own way of life.
These young ladies are now part of the Cante Ohitika Okodakiciye, which has seen over 100 members complete the Isnati Awica Dowanpi. This ceremony is held to acknowledge puberty. Those who participate are given a myriad of teachings to help them move through their adult lives better equipped to deal with womanhood. Our young women were shown how to use their hands in productive ways. These young ladies are role models which even women my age could learn something from.
I watched these young ladies complete tasks which many Lakota people believe are no longer possible. These young ladies matured in many ways over their four day ceremony. One day in the future, they will be the women who continue the teachings of the Isnati Awica Dowanpi so their granddaughters can learn the same life skills they did.
I want to say Wopila to the Sisters, Moms, Aunties and Grandmas who supported their girls throughout the Isnati Awica Dowanpi. I also want to thank the organizers of the Cante Ohitika Okodakiciye for their valuable work in ensuring that our women carry on the teachings left for us by our Lakota/Dakota/Nakota ancestors.