When contemplating what to write about each week, lateral violence nearly always tops my list. Wikipedia says: “Lateral Violence occurs within marginalized groups where members strike out at each other as a result of being oppressed. The oppressed become the oppressors of themselves and each other. Common behaviors that prevent positive change from occurring include gossiping, bullying, finger-pointing, backstabbing and shunning.”
Today, there’s a lot of lateral violence occurring on social media. Lakota people who haven’t worked to heal their issues are good at promoting lateral violence. For instance, they will lash out at others through dramatic, hateful social media posts.
Lots of social media keyboard warriors don’t give a second thought about what they’ve written, or who will read it. That is, many of our children learn how to perpetuate lateral violence tactics from their parents or other extended family members. This results in many of our young Lakota people tormenting their classmates both in person and online.
September is suicide prevention month. We’ve lost young people who were suffering from lateral violence to suicide. Today is a great time to talk to your children about how harmful it is to perpetuate lateral violence.
Healthy Lakota people are aware of the many relatives who haven’t taken the time to heal their individual trauma. Unhealthy people will deny promoting lateral violence. For example, there are people on our reservations who look down on their fellow tribal citizens because of the federal government-imposed blood quantum. Full-bloods, half-bloods and lineal descendants have all suffered some sort of lateral violence because of the fraction listed on their tribal abstract.
One example of lateral violence would be a tribal council refusing to grant tribal membership to an applicant who is less than one-quarter Lakota, despite the constitution allowing such memberships. Tribal council members will verbalize a variety of reasons for refusing tribal membership. The lateral violence tribal officials perpetuate comes from a place of fear. This fear is based in the belief that the potential lineal descent tribal members will somehow take over the abundance of wonderful benefits the tribe supposedly offers their citizens.
Also, there’s a lot of lateral violence in the tribal workplace. This is evident in the number of written complaints tribal workers compose on computers while on the clock. Tribally-chartered entities also engage in lateral violence by filing complaints on tribal officials. A lot of time is wasted by officials sorting out the hurt feelings of employees or citizens. The time spent trying to figure out who is right, could instead be focusing on improving the program services. There isn’t any benefit in attempting to destroy a fellow tribal worker.
We are in the midst of a lot of change. The weather we are experiencing has caused hardship for many of our people, especially elders. Yet, we’d rather worry about tearing apart our fellow tribal citizens on social media. Many of you live for the gossip we hear from our so-called friends. And we can’t wait tell everyone our version of the gossip we just heard.
Yet, I never give up the hope that Lakota people will change. Our ancestors worked hard to survive. Their summers were spent hunting, gathering and storing food in preparation for brutal winters. They had no time to gossip about one another in derogatory ways. They lived for the entire tribe.
Modern day Lakota people have no idea what it would be like to live for the whole tribe. It would mean giving up the time we waste gossiping, bullying, finger-pointing, backstabbing and shunning our own people. Use your time wisely and work on healing.
Emotional health clears your mind and heart of all the lateral violence you’ve perpetrated.
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org