Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Violence Against Native Women knows no boundaries

“In my opinion, Kevin Cramer is the epitome of white male privilege.  He did not come to the meeting with the intention to listen.  He came with his own agenda.  He made threats of violence towards my Tribal leaders, spoke of how dysfunctional our people are, and focused on how unfair the Tribal Court system would treat a non-Native offender.  This man represents North Dakota on a national level.  There are 5 reservations in North Dakota.  From the way he spoke, he cares nothing of them, and in fact seems to think we are beneath him.  It is 2013.  One would think racism would not be as prevalent and blatant as those 30 minutes spent with Congressman Kevin Cramer proved to be.  If he is comfortable speaking so openly against natives, it frightens me to think of how he speaks of us behind closed doors.” Read more here: http://lastrealindians.com/north-dakota-congressman-kevin-cramer-verbally-attacks-native-victims-assistance-program-director-at-state-meeting-threatens-to-ring-spirit-lake-tribal-councils-necks-by-melissa-me/

A teaching certificate doesn’t guarantee integrity

It is really hard for our children to stay in school. The intensity of issues they deal with can be overwhelming. When I was in school I didn’t questioned why I had to be there. Most of the time school was fun for me. I enjoyed learning. Of course, every student has their difficult days and I remember those days very well. I also remember the good days which were fun. Times are different now for our children.

 

I recall the time in the middle school as being the most difficult. It hasn’t really changed much as I believe our middle school students are the ones who have the hardest time with peer pressure, bullying and the other students they call their haters. And when I look at the family of the student who is mean or a bully, I can see why the student turned out the way they did. When adult bullies have children, they usually raise those children to be just as mean as they are. Parents are the first teachers so it makes sense that if you are mean you are likely to have cruel children.

 

I also remember the principals, teachers and coaches in my elementary, middle and high schools. While in elementary school I recall my teachers/coaches and principals being adults with high expectations, they wanted us to succeed so they made us work hard. We were encouraged to be high achievers.

 

I had an elementary teacher who pushed me hard to become a good reader. I believe it was her efforts which helped me develop my reading skills. I remember the speed reading exercises she would put me through. It was a challenge but it didn’t seem like it back then because I loved to read!

 

When I got to high school, the social issues I faced were more of a challenge. Still, they were not as difficult as they are for our students today. There were bullies to deal with but I think I only saw one fist fight while I was in high school. Today you can watch fights on YouTube featuring our local high school girls.

 

I had two excellent teachers in high school who were determined to teach me Algebra. I also had two amazing teachers who pushed us to learn all we could about science. Still another teacher influenced me to perfect my typing skills. These outstanding teachers helped me develop my academic skills so I could be the person I am today.

 

Today I hear a lot of negative things about the mission schools and how they abused our people. I know many of my classmates had issues with our teachers. Still, I have to say that the best teachers I had were some of the priests, brothers and sisters of St. Francis Mission. Even though I realize that many of my peers would disagree with me, I have to say that my experience with them was good. For the most part, the ones I encountered were ethical people with integrity who had our best interests at heart.

 

Furthermore, I had mature coaches in school. Sometimes they would get emotional but I never did hear them cuss us out. They never called us derogatory names either. They possessed an admirable amount of self-control. Their behavior was always appropriate.

 

Nowadays we have all kinds. There are teachers, coaches, administrators and even school board members who do not have the level of integrity which the people who held these positions had when I attended school. In my opinion, it is dangerous to have unscrupulous people in the same schools as our children.

 

A teaching certificate does not guarantee ethics or integrity or appropriate behavior. School boards should be looking more closely at the character of the teachers they hire, right? But sometimes we elect people to school boards who do not act in the best interest of our children. They often act in the best interest of the adults.

 

On January 30, 2013, a teacher who is employed with the Todd County School District was publicly reprimanded by the South Dakota Professional Teachers Practices and Standards Commission. Last week, someone provided me with the document and asked me how they could get it published in a local newspaper. For those of you who have not seen the document signed by Chairman Aaron Weaver, the contents of the Public Reprimand issued against a local teacher are provided here:

 

“A hearing was held before the South Dakota Professional Teachers Practices and Standards Commission regarding allegations that Robert D. Boyd Jr., a teacher, violated the South Dakota Code of Professional Ethics for Teachers. The Commission has determined that Robert D. Boyd Jr. violated the following provisions of the South Dakota Code of Professional Ethics for Teachers: ARSD 24:08:03:01. Obligations to students. In fulfilling their obligations to the students, educators shall act as follows: (5) Conduct professional business in such a way that they do not expose the students to unnecessary intimidation, embarrassment, or disparagement; (7) Maintain professional relationships with students without exploitation of a student for personal gain or advantage; As a result of these violations of the Code of Professional Ethics for Teachers, the Commission hereby issues this PUBLIC REPRIMAND against Robert D. Boyd Jr.”

 

I’m not sure about you but I am now extremely apprehensive about Robert D. Boyd Jr. being anywhere near my Takoja when they enter the grade levels where he teaches or coaches. There must have been enough evidence to warrant a Public Reprimand to be issued by a State Commission. So why didn’t the local school board reprimand, sanction, fine or even terminated Boyd? Isn’t it the job of the adults to look after the best interest of the students?

 

The system failed in this instance. This concerns our children. Our students deserve the best, do they not? If Boyd acted unethically or unprofessionally with students before, how do I know that he will not do something inappropriate

The lowest of the low

Bootleggers on the Rez have got to be the lowest of the low. I hardly ever hear of bootleggers getting busted anymore. I read about drug dealers going to jail but I don’t remember any bootleggers getting arrested.

 

Oh wait. Maybe they aren’t being arrested because alcohol is a legal drug. Never mind our cemeteries are full of young Lakota people who took their lives while under the influence of alcohol or that there are many other Lakota people buried in those same cemeteries because they drank themselves to death. Even though alcohol is the most devastating drug the Lakota people have become addicted to, it is still legal.

 

In my opinion, most businesses which have a liquor license also have the blood of my people on their hands. The bootleggers also have blood on their hands. You might counter my statement with the argument that drinking is a personal choice but someone has to sell the booze. Obtaining a liquor license or bootlegging vodka is also a personal choice. I don’t have any blood on my hands because I am not a drug dealer of alcohol. I do not own a bar or an off-sale liquor/beer establishment nor am I a bootlegger. When you sell alcohol your hands carry the blood of the people who die from drinking.

 

When I post a status on Facebook about how bad the drinking is on my Rez I draw a slew of mixed reactions. The sober people who watch every single day what booze is doing to our people usually agree with me. The people who still actively drink the drug are the ones who call me names or label me as judgmental.  

 

There are bootleggers in nearly every community on my Rez. As a child I had a parent who bootlegged to people. I didn’t like it. I remember there was always someone knocking at the door. I knew where the tin cup full of quarters was kept; it was there to give change because the green bottled pints sold for $1.50 back then.

 

Nowadays there are many people living on fixed incomes and since our lives are now nearly dominated by technology there are ATM cards which people are issued in order to receive their monthly cash (TANF, SSI, etc.) or food benefits (SNAP). I learned that the bootleggers take these cards too. Some of our people can easily drink up all their money and/or benefits. They don’t buy food. They don’t pay their bills. They just drink.

 

Thus, the children of alcohol overdosers (who are not already in the custody of the South Dakota Department of Social Services or are not already placed in a non-Indian foster home) are stuck in the drinker’s home and often live with no power, no heat and no food. Many children do not even have adequate clothing for the winter months. 

 

Many of the gift cards issued a few months back by my tribe for the purpose of buying coats or boots for school children were traded to the bootlegger so he/she could buy more cheap booze to sell for ridiculously marked up prices to the drinkers in the community. Or the gift cards were sold for cash at half of their value so the drinking parent could go sit in the bar. Did you buy one of those $150 cards for $75? If so, you helped deprive a child of some much needed clothing or shoes.

 

The children of active alcoholics rarely have any sober role models in the home. I grew up watching many family members and community people drink. It was all around me. There was absolutely no escape. Today I wonder if I would have succumbed to the many years I devoted to alcohol overdosing if I had grown up around sober people. After all, the people whom I watched overdose on alcohol when I was a child were the ones who showed me how to drink. When most of the family boozes, it must be okay for you to drink alcohol as an adult, right?

 

Still, I cannot blame any one person for the many years I was an active drinker. It was my choice to do all of that but it might have been different if alcohol was not so readily available to me. In any case, I am fortunate to have summoned the strength and the courage to put the booze away. Many of the people I drank heavily with are still at it.

 

This column was sparked through a message sent to me by a young person who wanted advice on how to stop the bootlegging in their community. In my opinion, the only way people can quash the bootleggers is to take back their community. It has to be a grass roots effort and I would hope that local law enforcement could assist with such a movement.

 

Look at what happened at White Clay, NE over the weekend. The Oglala have had enough of those liquor establishments selling the poison to their people so they marched on them for several days in a row. The Oglala Lakota successfully shut the stores down from doing any more business on those days! Not even the Nebraska police could stop the Oglala. The people were led by their Tribal President Bryan Brewer. The Oglala Lakota are showing the world they are serious about stopping the sale of alcohol on their border. They are taking back their own community.

 

I encourage the people on the Rosebud Rez to take back our community. One way to draw attention to the problem is to organize a walk with stops at the houses where the known bootleggers live. It was pointed out to me that even our school children know where these houses are. When a walk is scheduled please contact me. I will bring my camera to photograph the bootlegger’s houses. I will post the pictures on my Facebook and WordPress pages.

Have you ever tried to explain to a child why the time has to be changed?

On my rez, daylight saving time is most commonly known as “time change.” Many people use the phrase “spring forward, fall back” to remember which way to turn the hands on their clocks. We perform this ritual of moving the hands on our clocks twice each year. I always wonder why.

Maybe I should be saying that we fast forward the settings on our digital clocks because most all timepieces are digital nowadays. In any case, it seems really useless to me to be moving the clocks forward or backward. Some of you might believe the practice gives us an extra hour of daylight. I believe the practice is a total illusion. Are we really that gullible to the illusion of it all? If you believe that moving your clock forward or backward gives you more time then you are definitely caught up in the illusion of it. The sun will continue to rise and set each day whether we move the hands on our clock or not.

We are told to move the hands of our clocks before going to sleep on the night before the time is slated to change. How many of you forgot to do this last Saturday? The time change always happens at the mysterious hour of 2:00 am on Sunday mornings.

Have you ever tried to explain to a child why the time has to be changed? Oftentimes children see through the illusions the adults are caught up in. In any case, if you forget to move the hour of your clock forward or backward you woke up on Sunday morning either an hour behind or ahead. Some of you totally forgot to mess with the clock until you realized you were an hour late for work on Monday morning.

Seems as though we all barely get our sleep patterns straightened out and then it is time to change the clocks again. But I suppose we are bound by the often pointless laws or customs, such as daylight saving time, of our tribe, state, country, region or continent. Many countries of the world have never observed daylight saving time. Some countries used to observe daylight saving time but must have realized the illusion of it all because they don’t move their clocks around anymore.

Two states do not move their clocks forward or backward at all. People living in the states of Arizona and Hawaii enjoy waking up at the same time all year round. They are not subject to daylight saving time. At one time I lived in Arizona. I thought it was great to not have to live under the illusion of “losing” or “gaining” an hour in the spring and fall.

I guess I should say that the only part of Arizona which actually observes daylight saving time is the Navajo Reservation. I suppose the tribe suffers less confusion by observing the time change rules throughout their lands simply because of the fact that their reservation extends across three states. It is probably easier for everyone to be on the same time.

Another thing I do not believe is that time change saves energy. If daylight saving time really saved energy everyone on the reservation would have electricity, propane, wood and coal all year long. Each month of the year every household in Indian country would all be able to afford the outrageous prices charged for electricity and heating or cooling costs. If daylight saving time were so efficient there would not be one house on any rez sitting in the dark because someone couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill.

 

In fact, daylight saving time can actually increase energy consumption. For instance, “A 2008 study examined billing data in Indiana before and after it adopted DST in 2006, and concluded that DST increased overall residential electricity consumption by 1% to 4%, due mostly to extra afternoon cooling and extra morning heating; the main increases came in the fall. The overall annual cos t of DST to Indiana households was estimated to be $ 9 million, with an additional $ 1.7– 5.5 million for social costs due to increased pollution” http:// en. wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Daylight_ saving_ time

The lifestyles of our ancestors were not determined by a clock. The people once moved according to the seasons and the stars. Daylight was taken advantage of in terms of gathering food and fuel. I believe our ancestors used the time they had wisely because they did not enjoy all the energy consuming conveniences that we now have. They had to consume their own energy to make sure the lives of their families continued.

Another illusion I believe we get caught up in is the concept of “Indian time.” Some people use this phrase in a derogatory manner. For instance, when an event or person is running late people might say they are on Indian time. To me, Indian time is when something happens according to when everything has been prepared for it to take place.

For example, we don’t see ceremony running on a clock or daylight saving time. Ceremony is conducted in a timeless space and manner. The creation of sacred energy is not complete until all the prayers have been offered. We don’t hear spirit say “okay I am only here for sixty minutes and then I have to leave or I will be late for the next ceremony.”

I doubt I can change the fact that most of the North Amer ican cont inent observes daylight saving time. I do question whether the ritual of moving clocks forward or backward every six months serves any real purpose. Those of you who have children in school or work full time will know what I mean when I say daylight saving time is disruptive.

Why must we always follow blindly along with the rest of the country? Our all knowing, all powerful tribal councils should change daylight saving time to Indian Time and stop the wasicu illusion of “losing” or “gaining” an hour every six months.

 

Local Teacher is Publicly Reprimanded

Robert D. Boyd, Jr. is a teacher/coach for the Todd County School District in Mission, SD on the Rosebud Reservation.
Parents! Please do not hesitate to file complaints on local teachers if you believe their behavior is inappropriate or unprofessional.
Our children deserve the best!

Look in the mirror to see how NOT to act

What image is conjured when you hear the phrase crabs in a bucket? When I use this phrase in my writing, I use it in reference to my own people. There are many Lakota people who seem to be content in perpetuating a very unhealthy crab in the bucket approach to life. I am not sure what to do about it because people have to change themselves. I cannot change anyone. The only person I can change is me.

 

I used to like living with a crab in the bucket mentality. It was an excellent way of justifying my bad behavior. Looking back, the most troubling part of it was I didn’t realize I was living my daily life chained to that debilitating crab in the bucket mentality. I was blind to my own arrogance and denial. I could not see how badly I was treating my own people. I would hear about the crab in the bucket mentality all the time but I really didn’t believe it applied to my life.

 

Now maybe you are thinking to yourself “oh she isn’t writing about me, I am open-minded, I care about all of my Lakota people no matter who they are or what they do.” That’s what I used to tell myself too. But our inner thoughts are a common way to justify our actual behavior. So many self-proclaimed traditional people living on my Rez are locked in the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality. Are you one of them?

 

Nowadays, many of our people use the phrases internalized oppression and lateral violence. I did a little research on these phrases and found the following definitions:

 

“Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, and anxiety. . . In sociology and psychology, internalized oppression is the manner in which members of an oppressed group come to internalize the oppressive attitudes of others toward themselves and those like them. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes. Examples include internalized racism, internalized sexism, and internalized homophobia.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internalized_oppression#Internalized_oppression

“Lateral Violence occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being oppressed. The oppressed become the oppressors of themselves and each other. Common behaviors that prevent positive change from occurring include gossiping, bullying, finger-pointing, backstabbing and shunning.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_violence

 

On the Rez, these concepts manifest as an all too common us-against-them mentality. This might be apparent in, for instance, the full-blood versus mixed-blood versus lineal descent drama which is happening on my Rez. Some of you get really heated up over the fractions listed on the papers we all have on file at the tribal office. Four quarters hating on one quarters or vice-versa is really comical when you think about it. It’s also an excellent example of internalized oppression and lateral violence!

 

Also, internalized oppression and lateral violence behaviors are often carried into ceremony by many Lakota people. I see many of my own Lakota people trying very hard to outdo one another when it comes to ceremony. Is it not enough to say a simple prayer? Instead I hear people trash talking one another all the time about how so-and-so shouldn’t be praying with the Cannunpa because of <insert your own personal list of one zillion reasons here>

 

Another great example of internalized oppression and lateral violence is division between the Lakota-speakers and the non-Lakota speakers. We have even more drama over who is fluent in the language and who is not fluent. Do we have to teach our children how to put one another down? Don’t we all carry the blood of famous Lakota Chiefs? 

 

Internalized oppression and lateral violence have turned many Lakota people into very dark-hearted human beings. Are you even human when your heart has become black? When you can read the energy of other humans you will feel instinctively what those people are really like inside.

 

And it doesn’t matter how gracious the dark-hearted people are to your face, it doesn’t matter how hard they shake your hand, it doesn’t matter how genuine their smile seems – if you are an energy reader you see right through their false front. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to mask your real motives from a skilled energy reader. Some spiritual leaders are skilled energy readers. I bet they see more about a person’s true intent than they would like to.

 

So many of our good Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people are attacked every single day by their fellow tribal members; when you are leading people down a good road which is paving a path for our future generations to follow, you can be sure that your own people will have negative things to say about you at some point. I want to encourage you to keep moving forward in your work to bring positive change for our coming generations.

 

Also, if you are employed at a job or involved in a cause and hold a lot of excitement about the positive change you are working to bring to the people, stay strong! You can be sure your good work will be noticed by those corrupt crabs that do absolutely nothing to deserve their biweekly paycheck. You are a threat to them because your hard work to do good things and bring change will eventually draw the attention of their supervisors, who might one day see them for the unproductive employees they really are.

 

Even when someone is really good at justifying why it is okay to hurt their own fellow human beings, remember that Creator sees everything in their heart. People who use lateral violence/internal oppression tactics are like mirrors. You can always look to them to see how NOT to act.