Priests and Brothers of St. Francis Mission sexually abused Sicangu Lakota children/women

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is no coincidence that alcohol and sexual assault are being focused on during the same month. Many children are living with these two issues on a daily basis on our Indian Reservations.

There are many people locked away in prisons and jails because of a crime they committed while under the influence of alcohol. A majority of sexual assaults occur because someone drank too much vodka/whiskey/beer/etc. Alcohol is never a legitimate excuse for criminal or inappropriate behavior. After all, the decision to drink alcoholic beverages is a personal choice. No one forces you to ingest gallons of that deadly drink.

Even though I hear lots of clamor about how it’s totally legal to use, alcohol remains an addictive depressant drug. Addicts are constantly looking for ways to be under its influence. Heavy drinkers are committing a slow suicide.

Have you questioned why alcohol is called spirits? I never thought about why booze is called spirits until I stopped drinking. Now I wonder about the hard core alcoholics who die while under the influence of alcohol. Does their spirit carry the drinking addiction into the spirit world? When you die drunk, are you eternally drunk in the spirit world? This is something I have often wondered about.

The nature of addiction is very powerful. You become heavily attached (more like chained) to the substances you are addicted to. If you have not dealt with your addictions in this life, what makes you think they will all just fade away with death? Alcohol has a spirit – that’s why it is called spirits, in my opinion.

Many people give permission to the spirit (perhaps we should call it a demon) of alcohol to possess them on a regular basis. We have all seen the people acting pure stupid or obnoxious or violent while they are drunk. People commit horrendous crimes while they are under the influence of alcohol. I really believe the alcohol takes over your spirit at some point during the time you are overdosing on the drink. Could this be what is called an alcoholic blackout?

When I was overdosing on alcohol on a regular basis I experienced countless blackouts. It was scary to wake up and not remember what I did the night before. I felt bad when my friends would tell me things I did which I could not even recall.

Did the alcohol spirit chase my own spirit out of my body during those times? Maybe, but it was still my own personal choice to drink enough booze to put myself into a stupor where I could not remember what I did. So even if some alcohol spirit/demon came in and took over my body, actions and memory — it was still my choice to summon that entity by drinking all those bottles of liquid drugs; right? I have no excuse. I have no one to blame but myself.

Anyway, this column will most likely touch a few nerves if you are someone who likes to ingest alcohol on a regular basis. I suppose I will again be called names or be accused of being judgmental by those who drink heavily. Still, I have to write about alcohol because it affects nearly everyone living on my Rez.

Alcohol and sexual assault walk side-by-side here on the Rosebud Reservation. How many of our people who are convicted of sex crimes were drunk when they committed a sexual assault? Did a demonic spirit come out of that bottle of vodka to take over the drinker’s body to induce an alcohol blackout where a sexual assault took place?

Even if this is what happens, it is not the demonic spirit who will have to sit in a jail cell to serve time for a sexual assault which the perpetrator has no memory of. It is the human being, man or woman, who will have to live with that crime. It’s best to not even start drinking at all.

What about our Lakota children who are sexually assaulted by adults? Even if the adult is not under the influence of alcohol when they sexually abuse or assault a child, the child’s life is altered forever. It’s much worse when the adult is a person who holds a position of trust within their community.

Last week I visited the South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) website and read an article written by Charles Michael Ray. The article has links to copies of letters written by Jesuit priests who served St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

The writings are “A set of letters recently filed in a court case against the Catholic Church [which] detail allegations of sexual abuse against Native American children at the Saint Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The plaintiffs in the case consider these documents a kind of smoking gun. They say the letters that are written by clergy at the mission prove that church officials knew of continual sexual abuse at the boarding school. The letters also show the alleged abusers were not removed or reported to proper authorities.”

The letters, written by priests many of us trusted, are glaring proof of the sexual abuse suffered by our people. Read them and draw your own conclusions. These graphic letters, outlining alcohol and sexual abuse, are signed by Fathers Jones, Eglsaer, Fagan and Neenan. A 1994 letter signed by the late Father Fagan is a confession of his transgressions regarding alcohol use and sexual activity.

What a bunch of hypocrites! The Lakota people who comprise the Catholic population of the Rosebud Reservation were deceived for decades! St. Francis Mission should offer mental health counselors at no cost for the Lakota people who were sexually abused by the Jesuits/Brothers.

How many lives were ruined because of the actions of these men? How many Lakota people died drinking because they were sexually abused as children by perverts serving the Catholic Church?

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