The Stink of Lateral Oppression

It’s up to us to teach our children how damaging lateral oppression can be to our people. Photo by Vi Waln. 

By Vi Waln

I’m considering writing a short story or a novel. It would be a work of fiction, of course. I’m thinking I might focus on historical fiction, with some contemporary scenarios thrown in to make it a good read.

So, I would like to get some feedback on the ideas that are demanding attention in my writer’s brain. I want to present one for you this week to think about. Of course, this scenario is fictitious.

I want my short story or book to be a best-seller! We all want to leave something of substance to be remembered by. This short story or book would be my lasting contribution to society.

One intent I have is to help people think critically about how lateral oppression affects the choices we make in life. Personal choices often affect other tribal citizens. After all, we’re all related, aren’t we?

There are many novels that include a disclaimer at the beginning of the book. Such as, the following account is in no way intended to resemble any organization, place or thing existing in real life. Furthermore, any likeness to an actual person, either living or deceased, is purely coincidental.

The scenario that keeps playing in my mind goes something like this:

It’s a win for all when a tribal program or tribally chartered organization hires an excellent, ethical tribal citizen to come work for them. A smart, honest employee who works hard is always an asset. This person never misses a day of work. They are not the type to call in sick on the day after payday.

Every single task this conscientious employee is assigned is completed with pride. This employee contributes many good ideas, which are implemented as improvements to the tribal program or tribally chartered entity. The employee exemplifies excellence in the work place.

The tribal program or tribally chartered entity has many other employees. Some are good and others are not so good. One substandard employee, who is sort of related to the director and suffers greatly from a mental illness we call the disease of the mind, decides to put their lateral oppression skills to work.

This employee, with questionable work habits, begins to cause trouble for the top-notch employee. Trouble is stirred because that person works so damn hard they make everyone else look bad or lazy or something! And just because they have a college degree they think they are better than the rest of the workers! It’s not fair to the rest of the staff that the person has a good work ethic. Geez, they are on time every single day!

The mentally ill worker finds ways to manipulate the system so the boss or president will see how the excellent employee just isn’t working out anymore. Use your own imagination to fill in ways the boss or president is manipulated. That is, anyone with even a touch of lateral oppression thinking skills will be able to come up with enough lies to destroy the character of the hard worker.

Several weeks go by. One day the hard-working employee reports for duty and is shocked to find a termination letter in their mailbox or pinned to the company bulletin board. He/she requests to meet with the boss or president. Unfortunately, the top dog is on travel for a week. The now unemployed tribal worker spends the rest of their day wondering how they are going to put food on the table for their 3 children.

Meanwhile, the employee with the diseased mind is thinking about how to create new details on yet another hard worker. It’s not enough that a good tribal worker is pushed out of the organization with the stink of lateral oppression all over them; the mentally ill tribal citizen has to go after someone else.

And that’s the scenario commanding my attention this week. I’m not sure if I should format this scene into a short story or a book. A book would have to contain several scenarios. Unfortunately, the history of some tribal programs or tribally chartered organizations has many examples that could be drawn from.

It’s too bad that most of the instances we know about are not fiction. Lateral oppression is reality for many tribal citizens. Consequently, the people in charge of a tribal program or a tribally chartered entity are often the ones who have mastered the behaviors characteristic of lateral oppression. Their bad example often rubs off on the staff. Sadly, there’s no fiction in that.



On second thought, a positive topic to build a short story on would be more fun. If I were a Lakota child, I would want to read about good things my people have made history with. Besides, I’m afraid that outlining lateral oppression tactics in written form will encourage young people to perpetuate the cycle instead of breaking it.

It makes sense that the unborn generations of Lakota children would be better off if they had good things to read about. It would be so awesome if our great-grandchildren could go through their entire lives without a clue on how to spread the stink of lateral oppression all over their own relatives.

Published by Vi Waln


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