As Lakota people, we’ve always shown reverence to our elders. Any person who is older than you are is considered your elder. Lakota people at least 55 years old are likely tribal citizens carrying an abundance of our ancestral cultural knowledge. The majority of fluent Lakota speakers are people in this age bracket.
It’s an election year again on the Rosebud. We are already seeing signs posted across the reservation advertising candidate’s names. Many of our candidates for public office campaign on improving conditions for the youth and elders. Yet, there are still young Lakota people taking their own lives. Lakota elders are still suffering in deplorable conditions. No one cares.
Today, we have parents and grandparents sacrificing a great deal to raise their families. Working a full-time job on the reservation is a huge sacrifice, as a majority of our employed people spend 40 hours a week or more at a thankless job. They sacrifice to work at their full-time jobs to financially support their families. There’s also many employed Lakota people financially supporting more than one household. For example, they could be paying the electricity bill for unemployed relatives who can’t find jobs.
Consequently, there are adults who’ve never developed a work ethic. These are our people whom would rather scheme their way through life. They are the ones standing in line at various programs demanding a hand out. The lack of a strong work ethic goes back to generations of public assistance. Depending on public assistance to pay our way through life is showing our children that it’s acceptable to have tribal/state/federal programs subsidize rent, electricity, food, clothing or other necessities.
Of course, we do have a lot of families living in poverty. Yet, there are also unfilled jobs advertised on the Tribe’s website. TECRO is another program where people can apply to work, especially with all the construction projects happening now. Still, it’s a hard fact that many Lakota people cannot pass a drug or background screen.
Some adults won’t qualify for employment due to their drug use. Reservations also have a high drop-out rate. We hear many excuses as to why people can’t complete school. High school diplomas are required for many jobs. With Sinte Gleska University offering GED and college classes, daily roundtrip rides to attend college and student meals, there’s no excuse to work on becoming an employable tribal citizen.
Unfortunately, there are elders living on small amounts of income also supporting adult children and grandchildren. Some of those elders were evicted from their homes last year due to the drug use of adult family members living in the house. Other elders are abused for the fixed income they receive every month. A lot of our older men and women are intimidated by their adult children into handing over their meager resources. The money is then wasted on buying alcoholic drinks, meth, prescription pills or gambled away.
There are also Lakota grandparents raising small children. It’s heartbreaking to see the many Lakota babies who’ve been abandoned by their parents. We all know of grandmas or grandpas whom are financially responsible for grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. When these small children reach their teenage years, many of them put undue stress on our old folks.
Our elders deserve to enjoy their remaining years. Of course, many of them could outright refuse to support their small grandchildren, but it’s also the Lakota way to make sure your family has enough to live. I cringe to think about how our society will be when my grandchildren are the Unci and Lala.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. We must do more to support our Lakota Elders on the Rosebud Reservation.
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