Monthly Archives: May 2015

A Time To Remember

Veterans of the Little Big Horn Battle. Courtesy Photo.

Veterans of the Little Big Horn Battle. Courtesy Photo.

Rosebud’s Chauncey Eagle Horn American Legion postponed their Monday services at local cemeteries due to the rain. They plan to follow their previously advertised schedule on May 30, 2015. The Sicangu Lakota Warriors could also be visiting cemeteries on Saturday. This is the traditional Memorial Day, when we visit with our friends and relatives as we also remember our family members who have made their journey.

Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember our Akicita or Soldiers. The memory of soldiers protecting the people goes back a long way for the Lakota. As tribal people, we could always remember our ancestors who fought and died so we could be here today. Family members will also remember other relatives who have made their journey more recently.

Flags and flowers are on display this week at our local cemeteries. There are two days designated as Memorial Day this week. One is the legal holiday recognized by this country. This is what gives us the three day weekend. Many people refer to it as the first official weekend of the summer. Many veterans visited local cemeteries over the weekend to acknowledge the service provided by the soldiers buried there.

Lakota families will decorate graves with flowers and other mementos. They might spend all day at the cemetery. Many will go to the cemetery on both days. Some will prepare plates filled with treats to offer their friends and relatives. Others will prepare and serve meals to veterans visiting the cemetery. The sharing of food with the living, in memory of a loved one, is an honorable expression of the Lakota virtue of generosity.

Native Americans are also known to have the highest enlistment rate in the armed forces. Yet, our tribal people are also divided on the fact that so many of our own enlist in the military. Some may view this enlistment rate as a tribute to the warrior spirit of our people. Others will believe military enlistment is something our young people shouldn’t be doing. After all, our own Lakota people are committing to serving in a force which has historically worked to annihilate us.

Despite this turbulent history our people have had with the US government, it is still a fact that Native Americans continue to enlist at a very high rate. We have tribal veterans from every war era the United States has been involved in. Many volunteered their service. For some people, military enlistment is a way to earn a steady paycheck. Many must live far away from their homelands in order to make a living.

There are veterans who have been honorably discharged and return to their reservation but remain unemployed. They may have left home with the goal of getting work experience or earning money for college. I doubt any of them intend to come home and not be able to find a job, but reality on the Rez is there is a shortage of jobs.

Also, many veterans who want to move their family home after their time in the service are often unable to find housing. There is a very long waiting list for tribal housing on most reservations. Many of our Lakota soldiers are forced to find housing and jobs away from their extended families due to shortages on the Rez.

Yet, the veterans who do live on the Rez find ways to provide for their families. Many of them participate in our local ceremonies, which only the veterans can lead. For example, we look for the Color Guard to lead in the graduation or wacipi grand entry. We also look to veterans during funerals calling for military honors; as well as Memorial Day and Veterans Day to help us honor their deceased comrades.

Lakota veterans play in integral part in our modern society. We could all learn to honor their service. They are members of our family and tribe first. This week I offer a special thank you to all the Lakota Veterans – past, present and future.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and resides on the Rosebud Reservation.

Principals Should Encourage Students


Congratulations to the seniors who graduated from area high schools over the weekend. The Class of 2015 received their high school diplomas in ceremonies held at St. Francis, Todd County and White River High Schools. You’ve made it through one of the most difficult times in your life. We are proud of all of you.

Attending elementary, middle and high school today is no easy task. Academics are difficult to get through. Students have trouble mastering algebra formulas. Other students have difficulty reading. And most students are constantly intimidated by a bully. There are young people who have taken their lives because of a bully.

Intimidation or discouragement isn’t always perpetuated by other students. Many times the school staff, faculty, administrators or school board members will also bully students. They might use subtle tactics when terrorizing a student. A young person might find it hard to identify when an adult is being a bully.

I’ve been told of three instances involving students where principals exhibited what I believe was inappropriate behavior. I would categorize their actions as bullying. A teacher sent me a message recently telling me about an incident at an elementary school involving a student and the principal. The student wanted to sing at the drum during a school wacipi. He started making his way to the drum. The principal told him he couldn’t go to the drum. The principal made the student go back to his seat.

What do you think this experience did to the self-esteem of the student? It always makes me feel happy when I see young people, especially children, take an interest in our Lakota culture. It’s great to see children singing at the big drum, it shows me our songs will be carried on by the younger generation. But now I wonder if that little boy will ever try to make his way to the drum again. The behavior of the principal might have quashed his desire to sing. I would bet money the experience was severely traumatizing to the student.

Another incident I became aware of was posted on social media. A parent was upset because a high school principal called a middle school student ignorant. What kind of administrator calls a student ignorant? We have a hard enough time motivating our children to go to school every day. They have all kinds of issues at school. But when a principal chimes in with the rest of the bullying population by calling their students names, well I think it’s time to find a new principal.

This week I received an email informing about the behavior of still another high school principal. Apparently, a high school student is struggling to get passing grades. Those of you who have students attending high school know how hard it is for our young people during the last few weeks of school. Our students are using all of their energy for that last push to pass their classes.

When the student approached the principal to discuss how hard they were working to bring up their grade, the administrator was discouraging. Instead of praising the student on the effort put into the work to bring the grade up, the principal suggested the student drop out and start over next year. The principal allegedly has favorites in the school. Administrators shouldn’t display favoritism. Our young people see more than we think they do.

The principals we have working in our schools on the Rez could be doing more to encourage the students they are supposed to be guiding. The principals are supposed to encourage the students to stay in school. They could be telling their student body how important education is. But according to some parents and students, the administrators are behaving inappropriately. Our children are suffering because of this behavior.

The family members of the principals I referred to can make all kinds of excuses justifying the administrator’s behavior. But we have to begin calling out the behavior for what it really is—these principals are bullying students. This is happening on both the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.

I want our young people to keep moving forward. I want them to stay in school and graduate even when the school staff, teachers, principals and school board members are bullying them. Our Lakota students are the future. If the current administrators can’t recognize their own bad behavior for what it really is, it might be time to replace them with principals who have the students’ best interests at heart.

Tobacco is Sacred, Cigarettes are Not

The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Building has red signs posted at the entrances declaring the building a "Smoke Free Environment" yet employees are allowed to smoke inside the furnace room.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Building has red signs posted at the entrances declaring the building a “Smoke Free Environment” yet employees are allowed to smoke inside the furnace room.

Kudos to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for taking a huge step forward and being the first Lakota tribe to outlaw smoking in public places. The CRST Smoke-Free Air Act took effect on May 1, 2015 and bans smoking in “any enclosed public place.” Smoking is also not allowed “within fifty feet of outside entrances to public buildings.” Violators are subject to a fine.
Unfortunately, there are many of us living on the Rosebud Reservation who can’t visit certain places because of cigarette smoke. For instance, our casino allows patrons to smoke indoors. Those of you who don’t smoke are adversely affected by the toxic blue smoke that fills the Rosebud Casino. Non-smokers walk away from an outing at the casino reeking of cigarette smoke. They will also cough for an extended period of time after inhaling all that deadly second hand smoke.
Also, the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Building has red signs at all the entrances proclaiming it to be a “Smoke Free Environment.” But the employees who work there know this isn’t true. Smokers will gather in packs in the room where the furnace is to smoke indoors. The toxic blue smoke wafts through the vents to permeate the entire building. That’s why you can often smell cigarette smoke in some offices in the Tribal Building.
I challenge all tribal councils to follow Cheyenne River’s lead and enact the same type of smoking ban on all reservations. Cigarette smoke is deadly. When children are inside a building where people are allowed to smoke, they are affected by it because the smoke goes everywhere. And those non-smoking areas sitting right next to the smoking sections don’t really do much good because cigarette smoke permeates everything.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offer us some staggering numbers regarding American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) who are currently smoking cigarettes. For instance, in 2013, 26.1% of AI/AN adults in the United States smoked cigarettes, compared with 17.8% of U.S. adults overall. That means over one quarter of people in Indian Country are cigarette smokers.
The CDC also reported that the prevalence of current cigarette smoking was higher among AI/AN men (32.1%) than among AI/AN women (22.0%). Some good news is that from 2005 to 2013, current cigarette smoking prevalence decreased among AI/AN adults (from 32.0% in 2005 to 26.1% in 2013). That means in 2013 there were 5.9% less cigarette smokers in Indian Country than there were in 2005. I have to wonder if that percentage decreased by 5.9% because those cigarette smokers died before they quit smoking.
Cigarettes will definitely kill you. Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death among our people. Still, I know how the mind of a cigarette smoker reasons out the addiction. I can list all the statistics and health risks that smoking causes but it will never be enough to convince you to put out your cigarette for good. You have to do that on your own.
In January 2008, after decades of nicotine addiction, I put my cigarette out to begin a new life as a non-smoker. After smoking up to a pack or more each day, I have not smoked a cigarette in over seven years. I searched for resources to help me overcome my drug addiction. I bought several books to read. One of them was The Easy Way To Stop Smoking, written by Allen Carr. His book was down-to-earth and made total sense to me.
“If you are apprehensive, panic-stricken, or feel that the time is not right for you to give up, then let me assure you that your apprehension or panic is caused by fear,” Carr wrote. “That fear is not relieved by cigarettes, but created by them. You didn’t decide to fall into the nicotine trap. But like all traps, it is designed to ensure that you remain trapped. Ask yourself, when you lit those first experimental cigarettes, did you decide to remain a smoker as long as you have? So when are you going to quit? Tomorrow? Next year? Stop kidding yourself! The trap is designed to hold you for life. Why else do you think all these other smokers don’t quit before it kills them?”
Today, I am happy to be a non-smoker. There are people on my Rez who have terrible health problems caused by their addiction to cigarette smoking. Yet, they continue to buy and smoke those deadly cigarettes. Sometimes I see them at the post office or the hospital, gasping for air as they drag an oxygen tank behind them. Watching those people struggle to breathe helps me feel even more grateful that I overcame my addiction.
A recent report issued by the American Lung Association states that “today’s children are now being cultivated to become tomorrow’s tobacco users.” So remember—when you smoke cigarettes, you show your children and grandchildren that it’s an acceptable addiction.
Wopila to the Canli Coalition and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for setting an example for all other Tribes to follow.

Tribal Council, Constitutional Officer Seats Open for Election at Rosebud

The public can view an updated list of candidates for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe 2015 Election. The list is on display at the Tribal Secretary’s office in Rosebud, SD. Photo by Vi Waln.

The public can view an updated list of candidates for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe 2015 Election. The list is on display at the Tribal Secretary’s office in Rosebud, SD. Photo by Vi Waln.

ROSEBUD, SD – The Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Election Board recently issued a Public Notice announcing both the Primary and General Elections scheduled for this summer.

Registered voters will select a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. In addition, there are ten (10) Tribal Council Representative positions up for election. The Antelope, St. Francis, Rosebud, Corn Creek, Ring Thunder, Horse Creek, Swift Bear, Bull Creek, He Dog and Upper Cut Meat tribal council seats are all being advertised as open for candidate hopefuls.

As of press time, no candidates have yet filed affidavits for the Tribal Secretary position. In addition, there have not been any candidates filing for the Tribal Council Representative positions in the communities of Rosebud, St. Francis, Corn Creek, Bull Creek and Upper Cut Meat. The following candidates have filed their nominating affidavits:

President: Willie Kindle, James Iron Shell, Dwight D. Spotted Tail, Richard Tuffy Lunderman, Steve DeNoyer, Jr. Vice President: Glen Yellow Eagle and Scott Herman. Treasurer: Byron Barney Wright and Muriel Fast Horse.

Antelope: Calvin Hawkeye Waln (incumbent), Santiago Morales, Eddie Sonny Farmer, Jr. and Shawn Bordeaux. Ring Thunder: Patricia Douville. Horse Creek: Fremont Fallis. He Dog: Mary F. Waln (incumbent) and Royal Yellow Hawk. Swift Bear: Delano Clairmont.

The first day to file a nominating affidavit was May 1, 2015. Prospective candidates have until May 29, 2015 at 5pm to file an affidavit. Candidates must pass a criminal background check and meet other qualifications as outlined in the Election Code. Affidavits can be picked up from the Tribal Secretary.

Prospective candidate must be members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, with at least one quarter of Indian blood listed on their tribal abstract. Candidates for the Tribal Council, Secretary and Treasurer positions must have reached their 25th birthday by the date of the General Election. Candidates seeking the President or Vice President position must have reached their 45th birthday.

Candidates must not have been found guilty by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council of misconduct in tribal affairs. In addition, candidates must not have been found guilty of any major crimes by any jurisdiction. Also, they may not have been found guilty of any tribal, state or federal court of law, or the tribal ethics commission to have performed any act containing an element of violence, perjury, forgery, bribery, dishonesty or abuse of public office compromising the welfare of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe or nay of its members.

Candidates must also prove some degree of leadership in their affidavit. Tribal Council candidates must also have been living in the community of candidacy for at least one year preceding the date of the Primary Election. Candidates for the office of President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary must have been living within the original boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation for at least one year preceding the date of the Primary Election.

A filing fee of $300.00 is required for the offices of President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary must be paid by money order to the Tribal Finance Office. Tribal Council Candidates are required to pay a filing fee of $150.00.

An updated list of all candidates who have filed a nominating affidavit is on display at the Tribal Secretary’s Office.

The Election Board members are Gerald Eagle Bear, Ronald Neiss, Ed Clairmont, Patti Romero and Meredith Kills In Water. For more information you can contact the Election Board Office at (605) 856-2373.

Musical Talent Showcased at He Dog School

The He Dog School Band is led by Conductor Sarah Nelson at the Spring Concert. Band members include Judd Cortier, Elena Murray, Jordan Smith, Anthony Stone, Callie Olson and Danya Witt. Photo by Vi Waln.

The He Dog School Band is led by Conductor Sarah Nelson at the Spring Concert. Band members include Judd Cortier, Elena Murray, Jordan Smith, Anthony Stone, Callie Olson and Danya Witt. Photo by Vi Waln.

PARMELEE, SD – The elementary students at He Dog School dedicated many hours practicing to present a successful Spring Concert to parents, grandparents and community members last week.

Sarah Nelson is the Vocal/Instrumental Director at He Dog. She led the school band in their presentation. Playing the clarinet were Judd Cortier, Elena Murray, Jordan Smith and Anthony Stone. Callie Olson played the Alto Saxophone. On the trumpet was Dayna Witt. They played Farm Out, Lightly Row, Melody and Star Chase.

The musical continued with the fourth grade students demonstrating their skills with the recorders. They played three songs—Mary’s Little Cha-Cha, Country Hoedown and the Cabbage Song.

Students in the other grades sang several songs for the crowd. The first grade did a great job with Down in the Valley, I Love the Mountains and The Garden Song. The Kindergarten A and B students were a big hit with their families. They sang Sandy Land, Over in the Meadow and Down the River.

Also combining their vocal talents as a group were the fourth and fifth grade students. They sang Simple Gifts, Lift Every Voice and Sing and The Water is Wide. The second and third grade student group wrapped up the musical presentations with Blue Skies, Home on the Range and What a Wonderful World.

Named after the Lakota Chief He Dog, the elementary school is one of the oldest on the Rosebud Reservation. The original He Dog Day School opened in 1893. In 1935, the new consolidated He Dog Day School was opened. In August of 1950, He Dog School became part of the Todd County School District.

Today, the He Dog School campus has eight buildings housing classrooms and offices, a gymnasium, bus garage and several housing units for staff. The school long served students in pre-school through the eighth grade. However, district restructuring saw the sixth through eighth grades moved to the Todd County Middle School several years ago. The school currently serves students from pre-school through the fifth grade.

He Dog School is located on the western end of the Rosebud Reservation near Parmelee. It is one of nine elementary schools in the Todd County School District. He Dog School currently serves over 100 students from three communities—He Dog, Upper Cut Meat and Parmelee. The student body is 100% Native American. Principal is Deb Boyd.

Sicangu Lakota Educator Honored

Dr. Bordeaux’s family accompanied him in the honor song rendered by the Red Leaf Singers. Community members, students and staff stepped forward to acknowledge his accomplishments as TCSD Superintendent. Photo by Vi Waln.

Dr. Bordeaux’s family accompanied him in the honor song rendered by the Red Leaf Singers. Community members, students and staff stepped forward to acknowledge his accomplishments as TCSD Superintendent. Photo by Vi Waln.

PARMELEE, SD – The accomplishments of Dr. Roger Bordeaux, Superintendent of the Todd County School District, were acknowledged in a special honoring ceremony at the He Dog School 30th Annual Wacipi.

Dr. Bordeaux has served as Superintendent at Todd County since 2012. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe issued an Executive Proclamation naming May 1, 2015 as Dr. Roger Bordeaux Day on the Rosebud Reservation. Students, staff and community members came forward to shake his hand during an honor song rendered by the Red Leaf Singers at the Wacipi.

“He is the greatest Educator that Indian Country has,” stated Hawkeye Waln, who spoke on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council.

Dr. Bordeaux has a lifetime of educational accomplishments. He carries the Lakota name. Wounspe Wawokiya Yuha Mani (Walks and Helps Others) as well as a Dakota name Wambdi Ob Mani (Walks With Eagles). His parents are the late Bo and Rose Bordeaux of St. Francis, SD.

Roger graduated from St. Francis Indian School in 1970. He went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts Degree in August 1974 at the University of South Dakota, where he majored in Mass Communication. He minored in Indian Studies and the Dakota Language. He completed a Master of Arts Degree in Education Administration in August 1988. And in August 1990 he completed his Doctor of Education Degree. He also holds a Secondary Certification from Black Hills State University as well as a School Improvement Specialist Certificate from the University of Nebraska.

Dr. Bordeaux has a very impressive resume. He has dedicated his educational career to Indian students in several capacities. He served as the Principal Advisor for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He served on the American Association of School Administrator’s Rural School Study Group and the College Board’s Indian Education Issues Group. He provided testimony on behalf of Indian Education in front of various Committees of the United States Congress. He is a founding member of the Association of Contract Tribal Schools and the Dakota Association of Contract Tribal Schools.

Dr. Bordeaux holds numerous awards and recognition for his distinguished accomplishments in the field of Indian Education. He was named Administrator of the Year by the National Indian School Board Association. He received the Distinguished Service Award by the South Dakota High School Activities Association, as well as the Education Leadership Award by the Dakota Oyate Challenge.

Dr. Bordeaux has held professional memberships with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, American Association of School Administrators and the Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity. In the past, he has offered presentations on school reform, school administration, curriculum development, assessment and testing, school facilities, systemic reform, school correlates, student data and accreditation, as well as writing several scholarly articles on education.

Last month, Dr. Bordeaux was appointed to the Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council by Governor Daugaard. He is working with several other Indian educators to identify strategies to improve the achievement and graduation rates among Indian students in South Dakota. The Advisory Council will report their findings to the Governor in December 2015.

When his contract as TCSD Superintendent ends on June 30, Dr. Bordeaux plans to reside in Sisseton, SD and serve as an Educational Consultant.

Politically Educated Officials


As the end of another academic school year comes to a close, I want to address the importance of education. Learning is a never ending process. I was always encouraged by family and educators to stay in school when I was young. We are never too old to learn something new.

Today, we listen to parents, tribal officials, community members and school personnel harp on students about how extremely important education is to our people. We encourage our young people to finish high school. We push our young people to pursue college degrees after they graduate from high school. We tell them that a college degree is something that can never be taken away from you.

Still, I see many Lakota people who have worked diligently to earn higher education degrees pushed out of jobs they are highly qualified for by disgruntled community members. What is the point of becoming a college educated Lakota if you are only going to be pushed out by your own people? Sometimes I wonder if the high drop-out rate on the Rez is due to our young people watching educated adults let go from the jobs they worked so hard to get.

We tell our children to go off to college to earn a degree. We encourage them to be role models by staying in school. We also tell them to come home and work for us so other young people can perhaps have a better way of life. After all, who better to lead us than our own people, right?

Yet, I am pondering what to tell my Takoja when they graduate from college with a degree they worked very hard to earn. Should I encourage them to apply for local jobs? I really don’t know. Maybe I should tell them to find jobs far away from their homelands so they will have a better chance of holding that job. I have witnessed so many educated Sicangu people being run off or fired from jobs they are highly qualified for. The worst part of all this is the power to hire and fire is usually placed in the hands of uneducated people.

That is, these people who are in charge of determining who is hired or fired for jobs requiring a college degree are generally not educated people. Many of them never attended college. The only education they have pursued and excelled at are the everyday lessons on how to play politics. And most of the political education on the Rez is driven by the crab-in-a-bucket mentality.

Do we want our children to be college educated or politically educated? When you are politically educated, most of your decisions are based on ego. You listen to your constituents complain about things that have happened in their lives and you make a decision, which affects many people, based on what you think your constituents want or, even worse, on what your ego dictates to you. When you work from an egotistical mentality, everyone you are supposed to be working for loses.

The following two paragraphs are excerpts from the January 12, 2015 Todd County School Board minutes: “Moved by DeAnn Eastman-Jansen, seconded by Travis Wooden Knife, to renew the Superintendent’s (Dr. Roger Bordeaux) contract effective July 1, 2015. Motion failed with a vote of 2-3, with Lavern Lanz, Charlie Moe and Melissa Whipple voting no.”

“Moved by Lavern Lanz, seconded by Melissa Whipple and carried to non-renew the Superintendent’s (Dr. Roger Bordeaux) contract, effective June 30, 2015. Motion carried with a vote of 3-2, with DeAnn Eastman-Jansen and Travis Wooden Knife voting no.”

Todd County School District is a public school funded by the State of South Dakota. The school district is located on the Rosebud Reservation. The majority of the students enrolled in the TCSD are Sicangu Lakota. So, it’s a real slap in the face to all of us when a handful of school board members asserts a hidden agenda and votes to fire a highly qualified Sicangu Lakota educator.

I don’t think it is right that he didn’t have his contract renewed. But that’s what happens when people armed with a political education are voted into seats of power. They vote from ego. They have pushed out one of our most highly educated Sicangu Lakota people. Yet, that’s what happens when the people in charge are motivated by a political education rather than a college education. It’s a great example of personal ego in action.

Unfortunately, our children on the Rosebud have witnessed yet another real life example of why it doesn’t matter if you stay in school or not. The politically educated people in power will always vote their ego. They will always vote to pull you down, despite how hard you’ve worked to earn a college degree so you could come home and help your own children.

The Sicangu Lakota have lost Dr. Bordeaux’s skills as an Indian Educator. He has dedicated his life to improving educational systems for Indian children all across Indian Country. I join the Sicangu Lakota Oyate in wishing him well in his future endeavors.

Please be sure to vote for college educated people who have the best interest of our Sicangu Lakota students in mind during the next Todd County School Board election.