Lakota people have always considered the HeSapa and surrounding area our home. Our people were guaranteed access to HeSapa by the treaties our ancestors signed with the federal government. However, when gold was discovered, the federal government passed the Act of 1877 – which was the illegal confiscation of our treaty land, now known as the Black Hills.
My late Unci was born in 1917. As a child, she attended the Rapid City Indian boarding school. She often spoke of the families who would camp along Rapid Creek, waiting for the school year to end so they could be with their children again.
This camp was called Osh Kosh Camp. Some people called it the Indian Camp and today the area is known as Founders Park. The camp consisted of not only family members waiting for their school children, but also included Lakota people who relocated to Rapid City looking for work.
On October 2, 2020, the Rapid City Journal published an opinion piece written by Oglala grandmother Beverly (Stabber) Warne. An excerpt of her letter reads: “In the 1950s, to keep Native residents far from tourists’ eyes, local leaders collaborated to dismantle the Indian camp and force the Native families north of I-90 to the ‘Sioux Addition,’ which, today, is adjacent to Lakota Homes.”
Many Lakota relatives still live in Rapid City. In fact, many are without a house of their own and still camp along Rapid Creek. Last week, the Mniluzahan Creek Patrol set up the tipis near the fairgrounds as a solution to shelter relatives during the cold weather.
However, the city government and police department continue to work hard to keep Lakota people from camping along Rapid Creek. Police make regular sweeps along Rapid Creek, confiscating blankets, tents and other belongings of the Lakota people sleeping there. The city has also placed large boulders under bridges along Rapid Creek to stop relatives from seeking shelter.
The Mniluzahan Creek Patrol set up four tipis on October 16, 2020 to provide immediate, unconditional shelter to Lakota people camped along the creek. The mission of Mniluzahan Creek Patrol is to offer care and protection to our beloved unsheltered relatives through offerings of food, blankets and cold weather gear as well as protection from police and settler harassment and violence.
The tipis were erected along Rapid Creek within city limits. Of course, the police threw a fit and ordered the tipis removed. Several live streams were shared on social media from the site.
Consequently, a group of Lakota people who were singing ceremony songs in a tipi were arrested and taken to Pennington County Jail. A Lakota woman, who was seen being dragged out of the tipi by police, is reportedly facing about 30 criminal charges. The live streams showed a majority of the police force (along with a team dressed in riot gear hiding in a dark area), an ambulance and fire truck on the scene to make sure our people left the area.
The city government, led by former police chief Steve Allender, claims they have proposed solutions to get people off the street. Homeless shelters, detox and treatment centers are some of their proposed solutions. Yet, some of our relatives would rather camp along the creek.
The tipis were an immediate solution and were erected to make sure the relatives with nowhere to go had shelter for the first snow of the season. But according to the police, the area was in a dangerous flood plain. We are currently experiencing a drought and it would likely take more than one rainstorm for the creek to overflow its banks. Chief Crow Dog said it best when he told the police chief “it’s not going to flood tonight.”
This incident is another example of government paternalism. That is, when our Lakota leadership comes up with a quick solution to deal with an issue at hand, it’s never good enough for most wasicu – including the mayor and his cops.
It’s the same old story – wasicu solutions are better than ours, even though the people who chose to stay along the creek are our relatives. Every level of wasicu government has consistently tried to force their policy down our throats. The wasicu still believe their way is better than our way. They work hard to take our freedom of choice away.
Perhaps they are just čanzeka over the loss of revenue the city is suffering because of the cancellation of the Black Hills Powwow (and likely December’s Lakota Nation Invitational). These events always brought big bucks to city businesses.
Also, we are affected by intergenerational trauma passed down from our ancestors. It’s up to each one of us to heal the painful cellular memory we are born with. We carry the trauma of our ancestors whom the wasicu tried to exterminate.
Consequently, the wasicu have their own form of historical or intergenerational trauma. The policy of their ancestors was to kill us all. Yet, we are still here.
The plan to kill off our ancestors failed miserably, so many wasicu work hard to ensure we never get ahead – especially in Rapid City, SD. The wasicu shame and guilt they hold in their cellular memory is their historical trauma. The wasicu who haven’t worked on healing their historical trauma feel čanzeka when they see a Lakota relative camped along Rapid Creek.
Just think, if the city officials would give even a few acres of #LandBack along Rapid Creek, unhoused Lakota relatives could build tiny houses or live in tipis like our ancestors did.
Kudos to everyone who had a hand in setting up the tipi camp on October 18, 2020 on tribal land outside of city limits away from the čanzeka city officials and their police.
A parcel of land owned by several Lakota tribes is now the site of a camp in HeSapa for our relatives to stay. Visit the Camp Mniluzahan site to learn how you can support this effort to house Lakota relatives in HeSapa.
Prayers for all Indigenous people suffering the corrupt systems put in place by the wasicu.
Vi Waln can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org