Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Painless Test Can Save Your Life



By Vi Waln

Sunday, June 5, 2016 is National Cancer Survivors Day. This day celebrates cancer free folks who’ve survived surgery and/or treatment. Courageous people currently undergoing treatment for any form of cancer are also survivors.


Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. In fact, there are many cancer survivors residing on the Rosebud Reservation. They are living proof that cancer can be beat. Early screening is the key to detecting and surviving cancer. We can beat this disease which has affected so many Lakota people.


I’ve outlived my Ina and my Unci, two women who were vital to me. Both died from colorectal cancer at a young age. When I say I’ve outlived them, I mean they were younger than I am now when they made their journey after being diagnosed with cancer.


Cancer is a disease affecting many American Indian people today. When my Ina passed away, it didn’t seem as though there were that many people dying from colorectal cancer. Ina has been gone 26 years this month. My paternal Unci passed away 50 years ago. I doubt there were many treatment options available to colorectal cancer patients in 1966.


Today, there are screening methods which can detect most cancers in early stages. Treatment can be successful. However, a key to survival is screening. Most colorectal cancer screening methods are painless. But just because there are painless screening methods available doesn’t mean our tribal citizens are taking advantage of them.


According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, colorectal cancer rates alone are 169% higher among tribal citizens than the rest of the population. Again, a way to lower this rate is to have more people screened. And the only way to rule out cancer is to get screened.


I’ve had cancer screening done because I want to live to see my youngest Takoja graduate from high school. I also want to see my Takoja have their own family; to be able to hold my first great-grandchild in my arms is something I’m looking forward to. So, even though I’m at a higher risk for colorectal cancer due to my family history, I’m going to reduce the possibility of getting cancer by having regular screening. I don’t want cancer to rob me of important events in my life.


Cancer is scary. Many people are afraid of the results that may come back with a screen. There are many of you reading this who are too scared to get screened. But there is nothing to fear in being screened for cancer. You owe it to your family to stay healthy so you can be there for important life events. Early detection increases your chances of surviving cancer.


Local residents have an opportunity this week to get screened for colorectal cancer. The first event will be from 2pm-5pm at the He Dog School on Friday, June 3, 2016. A second event will be held in Rosebud at the Veteran’s Building located on the Fairgrounds from 2pm-5pm on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.


I will continue get regular cancer screenings. I do this because my Ina and Unci weren’t here to experience many important life events with their Takoja. Early detection of cancer can save my life and yours. So, if you want to witness important milestones in your Takoja’s lives, please have a colorectal cancer screen done this week. It is free and painless.


Your family is depending on you to be there for them. Don’t let them down. Get screened today.


Never Doubt the Prayer of an Innocent Child


Chairs honoring the memory of the late Friend Hollow Horn Bear and Dora Her Pipe (Brave Bull) are displayed at a meeting between Tribal and Army officials on May 10, 2016. Hollow Horn Bear and Her Pipe were sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where they died. Both children are Sicangu Lakota and are buried in the cemetery in Carlisle, PA.

By Vi Waln

Kudos to the Sicangu Lakota Youth Council. For nearly a year, these young adults have worked passionately on an issue of great importance to us all. Their prayers and determination are what led several tribes to a meeting with the Department of Defense last week. Through the efforts of our young adults, several children buried in a cemetery in Carlisle, Pennsylvania will be disinterred and brought home for reburial.


It all began last summer when students from Rosebud traveled to Washington, DC to attend the White House Tribal Youth Gathering. As the students planned their trip, they laid out an itinerary to include visits to the National Museum of the American Indian and Georgetown University. A trip to be remembered for sure.


Yet, the most memorable stop for them was the cemetery at the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Over 10,000 children from 150 tribes were sent to Carlisle. The school was in operation from 1879 through 1918.


Visiting the cemetery was an emotional and spiritual experience for the Lakota youth. Children and teenagers their age, or younger, were forced to leave their homes on the Rosebud to attend the school. Many students who attended Carlisle were separated from their families for years. Nearly 200 students who journeyed to Carlisle never saw their relatives again. Those students died and were buried near the school.


These tribal children were denied a traditional burial ceremony in their own homelands. Today, the cemetery is designated as a National Historical Landmark. It is located next to a busy intersection in downtown Carlisle. The site is visited annually by tourists with no familial ties to the children buried there.

The group from Rosebud offered prayers at the cemetery last summer. They also placed sage and candy on each grave. The spirits of the children seemed happy with the gifts; this was evident through a swarm of fireflies appearing in the cemetery.

We hear all the time about how sacred our children are. The children who are buried in the Carlisle cemetery are also sacred. I believe many of those children did not die not from illnesses as reported by school officials. Most of the children buried at the cemetery in Carlisle died from homesickness and broken hearts. I have no doubt that our Itancan who sent their children to be educated at the boarding school so far away entertained second thoughts about their decision.

Carlisle was opened only 3 years after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. America was still angry about the defeat they suffered in Montana by the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho. I question the historical accounts that state our leaders willingly sent their precious children to be educated at Carlisle.

We have always been a highly spiritual people. I have no doubt those innocent Wakanyeja prayed every single day to go home. Each one of those children had an Ina, an Ate, an Unci and a Lala, as well as an extended Tiospaye, who also prayed for their safe return home. But nearly 200 of those children did not get to make the trip home. As a result, there was never any closure for the families whose children are buried in Carlisle.

It was those prayers of ancestors that touched the minds and hearts of our Sicangu Lakota young people as they walked through that cemetery last summer. Our contemporary youth empathized with the children who were sent to that faraway place at the turn of the century. Today, many of our Lakota students can’t fathom being torn from the love of their families and ordered to attend a boarding school nearly 1,500 miles away from home.

The prayers of our ancestors have manifested through the love of our contemporary children. That is, the Department of Army has promised to financially support the disinterment and return of the remains of our children, as well as the children of other tribes, who are buried in the Carlisle cemetery. It might be a long process, but those children buried in Pennsylvania will eventually be returned to their homelands.

This is an example of why we call our children sacred. Innocence holds great power. It was the minds and hearts of the members of the Sicangu Lakota Youth Council that heard those ancestral prayers uttered over 100 years ago. Our contemporary children have shown great love for their ancestors.

Wopila to the members of our Sicangu Lakota Youth Council, today they are an example of what being a good ancestor really means. They have helped the prayers of our ancestors become reality. The children who were sent away long ago, only to die in an unfamiliar place far away from their families, are coming home.

Do not ever doubt the prayer of an innocent child.


Lakota Elder Games Encourage Healthy Lifestyle

2010 Shinny Game

Lakota people have played the shinny game for many years. The traditional game is a featured event at the Annual Elder games held each May on the Rosebud Reservation.

By Vi Waln

ST. FRANCIS – Tribal citizens of all ages will gather here this week to celebrate 30 years of physical activities geared to encourage local elders to “Stay Active – Stay Healthy.”

The annual event, first held in 1986, welcomes local elders and families to participate in an afternoon of track & field events. The public is welcome to come and support local elders who will participate the following events: 50 yard walk, 100 yard walk, ¼ mile walk, 50 yard run, 100 yard run, ¼ mile run and ¼ mile relay. Field events include horseshoes, softball throw and basketball throw. Hand games, a 3-legged race and sack races will be offered for children.

This event, referred to as the Elder games, will be held at the old track field at St. Francis Indian School. The event was created in 1986 by the Sicangu Elderly Concerns group. These activities are supported entirely by volunteers and local businesses. According to a press release, the event neither solicits nor accepts any public funds whatsoever.

Registration begins at 11:00am on Saturday, May 21, 2016. An opening prayer will be offered at 12:00 noon by Chief Roy Stone, Sr., Elderly Concerns Board Member and Spiritual Leader. Ann Roubideaux, also a member of the Elderly Concerns Board, will give the welcome address.

Track & field events will begin at 12:30pm. Other events will be held as time permits. There will be something for everyone interested in participating. Awards will be given to the following age divisions for both men and women: 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 and 80 & over. It is interesting to note that many former volunteers are now active participants and their children currently serve as volunteers.

A traditional Lakota Shinny game will take place after the track and field events. A meal will also be served. Certificates and medals, along with special recognitions, will be presented immediately following the day’s events.

Everyone over 50 years of age is invited to come out to participate in the track & field events. You are invited to attend this event to support your local elders. People interested in volunteering their time are asked to report to the registration table at 11am on Saturday, May 21.

For more information, please contact Elder Games Committee members Wendell Big Crow at 828-3095, Lynelle Hairy Shirt at 828-7575 or event coordinator Chris Horvath at 856-2547.

Come out and have a good time.

Rebuilders Meet in Spearfish Canyon


Members of Cohort 7 pause for a photo. Pictured in back row (L-R) are Jayme Davis, Jess Hall, Eric Grey Cloud, BJ Rainbow, Travis Albers, Alayna Eagle Shield, Josh Flute and Nacole Walker. Front Row (L-R) Amber Finley, Janie Schroeder-Herman, CPN Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett, Pearl Walker-Swaney, Vi Waln and Sunshine Carlow.

By Vi Waln

SPEARFISH CANYON – Cohort 7 of the Native Nation Rebuilders recently participated in a 3-day session here, which focused on community assessment and a case study of tribal governance.


The highlight of the session was a presentation by John “Rocky” Barrett, Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN). Barrett, who began as CPN Vice-Chairman in 1973, stated the tribe had 2.5 acres of land and $550 in the bank when he initially took office. The tribal headquarters was located in an abandoned mobile home once occupied by the Corp of Engineers.


“I am the 8th generation of my family to be Chairman of my Tribe,” Barrett stated. Today, the CPN owns and operates the First National Bank and Trust. They own $310 million in assets and their bank has a $500-million-dollar lending capital. He attributes the tribe’s economic success to the re-investing of all revenue brought in by their gaming operations.


The Native Nation Rebuilders (NNR) program is sponsored by the Bush Foundation, the Native Governance Center and the Native Nations Institute. The program selects several citizens each year to participate in a cohort. Each cohort is selected from applicants who are members of 23 tribes.


Cohort members come together to learn new ways of strengthening tribal governance. They study innovative tribal governance practices, while strengthening their leadership skills. Each member is passionate about building a brighter future for their respective tribe.


Cohort members, referred to as Rebuilders, must make a 2-year commitment to participate in the program. During their first year, Rebuilders develop their knowledge, skills and connections to effectively lead nation-building efforts. During year 2, Rebuilders develop and implement an action plan within their community to accomplish local nation-building projects.


The Rebuilders of Cohort 7 include 20 citizens from the following tribes:


Standing Rock: Alayna Eagle Shield, Eric Grey Cloud, Nacole Walker, Pearl Walker-Swaney and Sunshine Carlow.


Turtle Mountain Chippewa: Travis Albers, Jayme Davis, BJ Rainbow, Kenneth Davis and Janie Schroeder-Herman.


Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara: Allan Demarey, David Walker, Jess Hall and Amber Finley.


Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa: Herb Fineday, Jr. and Donna Ennis.


White Earth Band of Ojibwe: Margaret Rousu.


Bois Forte Chippewa: Nicole Pieratos.


Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe: Josh Flute.


Rosebud Sioux Tribe: Viola Waln.


The Native Nation Rebuilders project encourages applications from enrolled members of the 23 tribes that share geography with Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Rebuilders must have a strong interest in tribal governance, commit to attend 4 in-person session and complete assignments between sessions. Applicants must be at least 25 years old by the date of the first session and currently reside in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or one of the 23 Native nations.


The application period for Cohort 8 will open this summer. Applicants must complete an online application. In addition, references from 2 non-relatives who have knowledge of the applicant’s values, character and goals are also required.


For more information on the Rebuilders Fellowship, visit the Native Nation Rebuilders