Are you guided by integrity?

I clearly remember the very first letter I ever wrote to the editor of a newspaper. I was 18 years old and wanted to express my opinion about the campaign tactics surrounding the tribal election. I submitted my unsigned letter through the mail but it didn’t get printed. Newspapers worth their salt require you sign your name.


To this day I know that letter made good points. When I turned 18 years old I was excited to be old enough to vote in the tribal election. And even though I was still a teenager, I was appalled at the dirty tactics used by the candidates running for office in the tribal election. I remember feeling very embarrassed for the people who publicly tore apart their fellow tribal members in the name of politics.


Not much has changed since then. In fact, politics seem worse now. People who run for office today have to be prepared for anything. We are finishing a tribal election here on Rosebud and some campaign tactics were awful, in my opinion. There were a lot of underhanded things done by candidates to make their public image appear better than their opponents.


You can fool a lot of the people most of the time but you can’t fool everyone all of the time. Many political candidates fool themselves. For instance, some candidates will hand out flyers outlining all the things they believe should be changed in tribal government. They also talk to people about what is written on the flyers. They make it sound all good by telling you exactly what you want to hear. But we all know it is usually a different story when they are actually put into office.


Many candidates also created campaign signs which they placed across the Rez. Some signs looked really nice while others were questionable. The effort taken to put up a sign gets our attention; the candidate wants voters to be familiar with their name. Political signs can be a positive thing in any campaign.


However, some of the signs were vandalized before the election even took place. When a candidates’ sign is vandalized, it reflects back on all his or her political opponents. When I saw the signs that were ruined by vandals, it immediately made me suspect the opponents as the ones who committed the vandalism. How childish for adults to sneak around the Rez vandalizing political signs. People should grow up and find something more constructive to do with their time. Or maybe they were paid money to vandalize signs. Again, this recent campaign on the Rosebud was one of the ugliest I’ve ever witnessed.


Another unethical strategy was used with campaign flyers. Not all of the flyers were handed out by the candidates as promotional or informational. I saw some papers circulating around the Rez which contained negative information which probably wasn’t even true. Again, people could use their time to find something more constructive to do. But I suppose when people need to publicly smear their opponents they will resort to anything.


I am a writer. I could probably have sat in front of my computer and wrote up all kinds of stuff about the people running for office. Then I could have printed them out and left them laying around like trash for people to read. And you would have believed everything I wrote about the candidates, wouldn’t you? That’s just it, people will believe anything.


I have always told people not to believe everything they read or hear. Most of the information floating around on the Rez is based on vicious gossip. We would all do better to find more constructive things to do with our time. It all goes back to personal integrity. You either have it or you don’t.


When you are guided by your own integrity there is not much you will do to compromise your own ethical principles. You have stopped fooling yourself. You believe in honesty and truth. These are the values upon which you base your everyday life.


When you do not have any integrity, anything goes. You will continue to lie to yourself and others. You will stumble through life with a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. People will eventually see you for the hypocrite that you are. Your credibility will soon disintegrate when people realize you really don’t have any personal integrity.


Also, I have often wondered about the national political campaigns. They are in full force now; they are also very dirty. Not a day goes by when some candidate puts his or her foot squarely inside their mouth by saying something which angers many people. Then they have to scramble around to apologize or justify whatever was said that offended voters. It just proves that most people do not take the time to think through what they want to say, they just blurt it out. Some of the things being said are pretty stupid, in my opinion.


I suppose our local tribal political candidates follow the standards set by the national campaigns. It makes sense that this would happen. For instance, many of our contemporary tribal constitutions and governing bodies were created through the standards set by federal legislation known as the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.


Our people who approved to accept the IRA most likely could not see the ramifications which would come from it. For instance, I believe the standards of conduct are set at the top. That is, when the Lakota people accepted the IRA as our form of government, we basically accepted all the flaws which accompany federal legislation. Thus, when the federal political campaigns are dirty, then the tribal political campaigns will also be dirty.


Standards set at the top trickle down to the bottom; right? Tribal politicians we’ve recently elected to office have the power to set new standards. I really do hope they all have enough personal integrity to make real changes.

Published by Vi Waln


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