Monthly Archives: January 2017

I am a Lakota Woman and I know My Place

Vi Waln

The Lakota people have always been a matriarchal society. The Lakota men who understand what a matriarchal society involves, were raised to show respect for women. In Lakota culture, women are the givers of life and are considered sacred beings.

As women, we have always had an important voice in Lakota society. Our women were consulted in every aspect of life, including the negotiation of the treaties we negotiated with the federal government in the 19th century. Our voices are crucial in the decision making process.

Our women own the home. We take care of the family. Many of us are now the sole breadwinners for our families.

As women, we have always brought necessary balance to our society. We are the backbone. Ladies, please remember that without us there would not be a Lakota society. In fact, without women, there would be no society at all.

America has always been a male dominated society. Since 1492, males have exerted unsolicited and unwelcome influence over our people. They’ve planted many seeds of doubt within the minds of our people. Those seeds have germinated over the past 525 years.

Many of our Lakota men have succumbed to the notion of male dominance. Some of them laugh when we remind them of the sacredness of women. Others disrespect women to the point of assaulting them physically, sexually, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. In fact, there are Lakota men who made the choice to spend their lives in prison when they murdered their female companion.

However, there are still a great number of Lakota men who show respect for themselves and the women in their lives. These are the men who treat women as equal partners in relationships or marriages. They don’t view themselves as being above the woman.

Consequently, America has elected a very disrespectful man to its highest office. I didn’t watch the inauguration last week. However, I did see several pictures and videos on social media since he was sworn in. I didn’t like what I saw.

This man treated his wife very disrespectfully. The men and women who embrace the notion of a male-dominated society probably saw nothing wrong with his behavior. The pictures and video you may have viewed on the internet, actually portrayed the former President and First Lady as showing more respect for the incoming First Lady than her own husband did.

Consequently, many people look to America’s President as a role model for the rest of society. The behavior many people witnessed on his inauguration day didn’t demonstrate actions of a positive role model. The behavior some of us witnessed is typical of men who believe women should be subservient to them.

Actions like this are what influence our men to behave as wasicu. Just because you see a wasicu man behave badly toward women, it doesn’t give you license to treat Lakota women in the same manner. Remember, it’s the wasicu thought process that places men above women. If you are a Lakota man, you must treat women with respect. This means you do things as equal partners in a relationship. Lakota women have never given up their roles. We are not subservient like many of the wasicu women are.

You all know that the majority of Lakota women are the ones supporting most of the Lakota Oyate. I don’t write this to make anyone feel bad, I write it because it’s the truth. Lakota women must be treated as the sacred beings they are. We are the doorway for the coming generations.

If you believe Lakota women were put on earth to be your servants or your punching bags, you might need to find a treatment program to cleanse your thought process. Or maybe some good hot sweats will help your mind. Just because the wasicu act a certain way doesn’t mean you can act the same way.

Many Lakota women have a very hard time in this life. They work full-time jobs, often at minimum wage to feed a houseful of people. Many raise a family all alone. A lot of them put up with relatives who are alcoholics or drug addicts. The women who are raising rebellious teenagers all alone are often stressed out or worried sick about them.

This new administration is going to be a test for all Indigenous people. Please don’t make it any harder by treating us the same way those wasicu treat their women. Respect yourself by respecting us.

As a Lakota woman, I know my place and it is to speak up for my Sisters, along with all the other Lakota people who have no voice. Wopila for your readership, it is greatly appreciated.

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Human Trafficking is Closer than you Think

By Vi Waln

Last month, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Proclamation stating “Whether through violence, deceit, or the promises of a better life, some of the most vulnerable populations among us — including migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or disaster, homeless LGBT youth, Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls, and children in poverty — are preyed upon by human traffickers.

President Obama’s Executive Order designates January 2017 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In addition, February 1st will be observed as National Freedom Day. It’s our right to be free from slavery and human trafficking. The crimes of human trafficking may seem far removed from the Rez. Yet, many of our own people fall victim to human trafficking.

We are all at risk for slavery and human trafficking. Today, there are many pictures circulating on social media of American Indian men, women and children who are missing. It’s likely that many of these people are victims of human trafficking and/or slavery.

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We must educate ourselves and our children on what constitutes human trafficking—especially sex trafficking. Our female relatives, as well as our children and teenagers, could be at risk of being exploited by sex predators. Pimp is just another word for predator.

Pimps are sex offenders. They are predators, always watching for people whom they can exploit for profit. We have to work together to protect our men, women and children from these unscrupulous monsters. Some of the most heinous crimes prosecuted in South Dakota have involved human trafficking.

In 2014, then US Attorney Brendan Johnson spoke at a Tribal consultation on the Violence Against Women Act. He talked about women from Rosebud who were exploited for profit by a sex predator. This man took advantage of at risk females by luring them to his apartment where he kept them drunk or stoned. He physically assaulted them. They were forced to have sex with strangers for profit.

He was soon caught and convicted by a federal jury of Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of a Minor, Sex Trafficking of a Minor by Force, Fraud or Coercion, as well as Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud or Coercion. Some of his victims were only 14 years old. He is now serving 4 life sentences for his crimes, which were all committed in Sioux Falls—a city where many of our Lakota people migrate to in order to find housing and jobs.

In addition, a famous activity in South Dakota where women and children are at risk of being sexually exploited, is at the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis. In 2013, nine men who were seeking to have sex with teenagers were prosecuted and convicted of Commercial Sex Trafficking after they were caught by undercover agents.

The details of these crimes are outlined in the 2013 Annual Report published by Johnson. In all, there are fourteen criminal sex trafficking cases highlighted in the 2013 Annual Report. The report also includes other criminal cases from Indian Reservations and can be accessed online.

Our people also travel to oil boom areas, such as the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, to find work. Young people run the risk of being trapped in a man camp as a sex slave. In 2014, Damon Buckley, a Rosebud tribal citizen, did an in-depth interview with Grace Her Many Horses, Rosebud’s former Chief of Police, about the atrocities suffered by young people and children at the hands of workers living in man camps.

In October 2016, Jonathan Cohen, a Sioux Falls physician, was arrested for Soliciting a Minor, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor and Engaging in Prostitution. Law enforcement has dubbed the case one of human trafficking as the Cohen paid for the girl to travel from Georgia. One news headline about this story reads Sioux Falls Doctor Arrested For Human Trafficking of Native American Women.

It’s up to all of us to educate our relatives about the risks of migrating to an area where they may have no access to resources. Human trafficking and slavery are crimes. Please protect yourself from dangerous predators who wouldn’t think twice of selling you for sex.

 

Our People are Addicted to Commercial Tobacco

By Vi Waln

According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among American Indians. You will greatly reduce your chances of getting cancer if you are a non-smoker. Unfortunately, American Indians probably have the highest rates of tobacco use in the world.

Contrary to what you may believe, commercial tobacco is not ceremonial. Ceremonial tobacco is a plant grown organically, without the additives found in the commercial tobacco we all can buy in local stores. The cigarettes, loose tobacco and chewing tobacco you purchase at grocery or convenience stores are all loaded with carcinogens. A carcinogen is a substance which is known to cause cancer.

Today, there are countless social events in Indian Country where a lot of people are smoking too many cigarettes or stuffing their mouths with that nasty chewing tobacco. Pow-wows, meetings, conferences, high school sporting events, tribal program offices and even ceremonies are all marked by our people huddled in a designated smoking area, puffing on those killer cigarettes. Those of you who smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco are role modeling a deadly behavior.

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Commercial tobacco users are showing our young people that it’s okay to use a deadly substance that will inevitably cause serious illness. Tobacco use greatly contributes to failing health and even death. Today, many of people have found the strength to quit using tobacco. They are enjoying a healthier life.

Nicotine is a drug and is highly addictive. Cigarette smoking and chewing tobacco are addictions. Babies and children can die from a nicotine overdose. People who stop using nicotine may report intense withdrawals. The withdrawal experience from cigarette smoking may be just as intense as that of a heroin addict. Still, it is possible to completely stop smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Non-smokers are adversely affected by the second-hand smoke exhaled from cigarette smokers. Employees who work in many Indian casinos where cigarette smoking is allowed, have eventually developed respiratory or other health problems due to breathing in the toxic cigarette smoke permeating their workplace. It’s not fair to subject non-smokers to the second-hand smoke that fills the Rosebud Casino today. Many people do not patronize Indian Casinos because of the cigarette smoke.

Cigarette smoke also leaves behind a residual known as third hand smoke. This is the brownish or yellowish film that gets on everything in a room where a person smokes cigarettes. If you smoke inside your car, this residual can be wiped off of your inner car windows. Just think, this brownish/yellowish residual also gets on everyone who is riding in the car with you when you are smoking that cigarette. Your children don’t deserve this kind of contamination.

This week marks my ninth year of a smoke free life. Before that, I lived most of my life as a cigarette smoker. Still, I found the strength and courage to quit smoking cigarettes. My youngest Takoja have never seen me with a lit cigarette in my mouth. They are the reason why I chose to stop role modeling the deadly behavior of cigarette smoking.

If I can quit, so can you.