Lakota Students Need Healing Spaces

 

A majority of Lakota people raising children have a difficult time. The substance abuse epidemic continues to affect all of us, along with the school staff our young people encounter. Substance abuse drastically altered our lives. A majority of Lakota children are exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

Our Takoja are required to attend school under tribal law. We try to follow the law by registering our children for school every year. But schools aren’t safe anymore. School statistics on incidents involving drugs, a bully/gang, firearms or violence prompting a call to 911, should be shared by administrators as soon as they occur. The rumor mill has us all confused.

We understand education begins in the home. Parents, along with extended family members, may or may not work to help their children succeed in school. What we do in our homes carries into our reservation schools.

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Another thing to consider is the social environment in our local communities. Think about the community you live in and the effect it has on your family. There are communities whose residents fear leaving their homes for a number of reasons. Our communities grow more unsafe with every single day.

The health of our homes spills over into the school system. This week I read social media posts relating to incidents which allegedly happened at our reservation schools. A student said he received a 10-day suspension for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were some of our students who received two or more 3- to 10-day suspensions during the first quarter of the 2019-2020 school year.

I heard from two different tribal citizens about gun incidents in two of our local schools on Rosebud. Our K-12 students make many threats toward one another and sometimes police are involved. Most grandparents don’t have the answers but we understand the mental health of our young people is crucial to the survival of our Oyate.

A lot of our children grow up experiencing a maximum of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

When our children don’t experience a homelife which promotes healing, nothing will change. Disciplinary actions on our students are required by school policy, but they rarely help young person move any closer to healing from the experiences they lived through in childhood.

I am aware of several families who work hard to provide a safe and healthy environment for their young people. Yet, when our young relatives leave our homes, they must deal with their peers, school staff and others. Peers are the most difficult group to interact with. Middle and high school students with trauma-ridden childhoods need extra help in school; counselors are not equipped to deal with young people who are adversely affected by their environment.

I’ve learned it doesn’t do any good to visit with people working at the school. When dealing with school staff and administrators, our people often feel they are degraded. For instance, school staff will profess to be intimidated by the family of a student without a valid reason. Sometimes we are lied to when we visit our young people’s schools. Classroom management doesn’t seem to be very effective.

Some suggestions I’ve read on social media posts advocate for us to visit one another, that is, we are told to approach parents of students who continue to provoke incidents where police are summoned. It might or might not work. It could cause more problems for the people trying to resolve issues. For example, it’s a major challenge to be asked to reason with adults who perpetuate an environment which promotes adverse childhood experiences; or adults who are active alcohol or drug users.

We all must provide healing spaces for our children.

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Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Walk on Rosebud

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Participants carried the White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society banner on Oct. 26 in Antelope Community. A Domestic Violence Awareness walker carried a Silent Witness. (Vi Waln photo).

ROSEBUD RESERVATION – A small group of tribal citizens braved the chilly wind over the weekend and walked through town to bring awareness to the domestic violence epidemic plaguing the reservation.

A police escort led the walkers from the west end of town to the Sicangu Family and Child Services where refreshments were served. An open microphone was also available to participants.

One domestic violence (DV) survivor shared her story with the group as follows:

“I’d like to address a question that I hear often. Why does she stay? That disturbing question has an equally disturbing answer. Why would anyone stay with a partner who abuses them?

“In the beginning his drinking didn’t bother me. I knew he drank but I didn’t really see the extent of it until we moved in together. The abuse I endured usually happened when he got drunk. I knew once he was off to get his alcohol I was in for a rough night. Eventually I stopped going around my family. I stopped seeing my friends. Mostly because he would do things that made me feel so much shame and humiliation.

“My family would tell me that he wouldn’t stop hurting me and I needed to leave him. Did I listen? Nope! I thought that if I showed him how much I loved him he could change. He just needed a little love and understanding because he had been through so much. I hung in there because I loved him and he loved me too. He was just stressed out and it was an isolated incident and it was never going to happen again. Until it happened again. And again.

Why did I stay? I didn’t know he was abusing me, even though he held me hostage at knife point, tried to wreck the car we were in, stripped me naked and pushed me out of the house by jabbing me in the leg with his machete. Even though he killed my dog, smeared my make up when I tried to dress up, destroyed my pottery and paintings, I never thought of myself as a battered woman. Instead I was a very strong woman in love, who was in love with a deeply troubled man and I was the only person on this earth that could help him face his demons.

“Why didn’t I just walk out? To me that is the saddest and most painful question that people ask because we victims know something that the rest of you don’t. It’s incredibly dangerous to leave your abuser because the final step in the domestic violence pattern is to kill her. Over 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim ended the relationship.

“And still we ask why doesn’t she just leave. Well, I was able to leave after one final sadistic beating. I realized that the man I loved so much was going to kill me if I let him. So, I broke the silence. I told everyone. My family and friends, the police, my coworkers, total strangers. I am here today because they all listened and helped me.

“We tend to stereotype DV victims; as grizzly headlines, self-destructive women, damaged goods. The question ‘why does she stay’ is code for some people to think it’s her fault for staying. As if we choose to intentionally fall in love with men intent on destroying us.

“I am now married to a strong, kind, hardworking, gentle man. We live together with our fur baby and we have a happy, supportive and healthy relationship. What I will never have again is another knife held to my face, a chain wrapped around my neck, or cuts and bruises from a man who says he loves me.

“I promise you that you know someone currently being abused, who were abused as children or who are abusers. Abuse can be affecting your daughter, your sister, your best friend right now

“I was able to end my own crazy love story by breaking the silence. Talk about what you heard here. Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence simply by shining light on it. Show abuse the light of day by talking about it with your children, your coworkers, your friends and family. Recast survivors as wonderful loveable people with bright futures. Recognize the early warning signs and conscientiously intervene. Show our relatives a safe way out. Together we can make our homes, our communities, our nation the safe haven that it could be. Wopila!”

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The Silent Witnesses rode in the back of the truck with the Red Leaf singers. These particular Red Ladies represent real Sicangu Lakota women from Rosebud who were murdered by their husband or boyfriend. (Vi Waln photo).

 

 

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

 

 

 

I don’t trust cops

Technology is a great tool for us to seek new information to improve our outlook on life. Yet, technology is also abused on a daily basis by unscrupulous users. Prior to the internet, computers, cell phones and social media – we had to rely on eye witness accounts or unreliable gossip to get our updates about what was going on around us. Today, we can just open an online news website or log into our social media account and watch a video filmed on someone’s cell phone. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because there’s a ton of information available right at our fingertips. For example, today’s students are especially fortunate because researching a topic for a class assignment is much easier when you have a computer or other device to access the internet.

However, technology is also a curse because it’s a way for people to bully one another from an internet connected device. And there is a whole lot of bullying going on through social media sites, email accounts and text messages. Sadly, young people have committed suicide after being viciously bullied through a computer, electronic tablet or cell phone.

Another advantage of technology is impromptu video. We can now watch videos uploaded to the internet by amateur recorders using just a cell phone. We can also watch videos depicting police brutality. Police can no longer deny they’ve used excessive force to subdue someone or even killed a person running in the opposite direction, as there is always a camera nearby. All of us, including the police, are under constant surveillance.

In light of numerous written reports and online video depicting police brutality, along with the “justified homicide” of countless unarmed suspects, I’ve stopped calling the police to my home. I couldn’t live with myself if a relative was killed by a cop wielding a police-issued firearm after I’d called for help. Judge me as you will; I don’t trust cops.

Consequently, on Rosebud we’ve seen our share of “justified homicides” by tribal police. This country has also witnessed the brutal killing of unarmed brown or black people by police. It’s time to protect ourselves and our family from trigger happy cops.

Last week, two young girls got into a fist fight at a middle school in Rapid City, South Dakota. With today’s technology in everyone’s hands, the fight was captured on cell phone video and shared widely on social media. The video also captured the unnecessary assault by a Rapid City cop when he stepped in to stop the fight.

There is much division surrounding this incident. Some people believe the cop was justified in using force to stop the fight. Others are appalled that the cop would use such force on middle school girls. One photo circulating on Facebook shows the girl with her neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Would it have been a “justified homicide/injury” if the girl’s neck was broken? Many of us hope there is no permanent damage to the girls. I believe the cop used unnecessary excessive force.

There’s a ton of parent shaming also going on through social media posts. It’s really easy to be the judge and jury when you are posting from a cell phone or from behind a computer screen. I urge you to think about how you would respond if it were your child pictured with a twisted neck in that photo.

The black and brown people living in this country are all too familiar with police brutality. When a brown or black child is killed by a Rapid City cop, will the investigation lead to a final written report which clears the police officer of “justified homicide?”

 

 

 

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

 

Children are still in cages

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Children kept in cages by Trump administration. AP photo.

This week, the United States of America is celebrating Christopher Columbus, the lost Italian who has long been credited for the discovery of the North American continent. Even though Columbus landed on some island in the Bahamas in 1492, he is still lauded in most history books as the European who discovered America.

In South Dakota, the second Monday in October has been designated as Native American Day since 1990. Still, many non-Native Americans will overlook the fact that the state legislature changed the holiday from Columbus to Native American. Perhaps it’s out of ignorance that they refuse to acknowledge the change of the holiday name. Or maybe it’s because Christopher Columbus will always be their hero.

The working people on South Dakota’s Indian reservations probably don’t give a second thought to what the day is called, they enjoy the holiday as a paid vacation day. Many people in South Dakota have also forgotten that the late Governor George Mickelson asked the state legislature to declare 1990 as a Year of Reconciliation.  Yet, there has not really been any reconciliation between the State of South Dakota and the tribal citizens living on the nine reservations.

Contemporary tribal citizens are making a conscious choice to call themselves by the names used by their ancestors. For instance, many people at Rosebud prefer to be called Sicangu Lakota instead of Rosebud Sioux. In addition, other states in this country are changing the name of the Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day to recognize the struggles we continue to suffer as rightful residents of Turtle Island.

Some prefer Indigenous Peoples Day because it connotates what we’ve known forever – our ancestors were thriving on Turtle Island long before Columbus stumbled onto an unnamed island in the Bahamas. Oral tradition tells us our long-ago ancestors emerged from Wind Cave. But American history books continue to confuse modern day Lakota students by perpetuating the fallacy that our ancestors walked across an ice bridge to settle here.

Over the weekend there were many celebrations of Indigenous Peoples Day across this continent. Parades were held in many cities to remind the descendants of all who immigrated to this continent that Indigenous people have always been here. We are still strong in our cultures and ceremonies. Indigenous children all across Turtle Island are growing up immersed in their own culture and attending ceremony on a regular basis.

Yet, there are many of us who see no reason to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day or Native American Day. The choice to not celebrate a holiday initially declared to acknowledge a lost Italian – and later the Native American or Indigenous people he attempted to annihilate – is personal. It’s great to have a paid day off for the working people. But I don’t feel good about celebrating Native American or Indigenous Peoples Day when there are cages full of brown children at the borders of the United States.

Our ancestors were thriving when Columbus landed on that unnamed island in the Bahamas. It’s said our ancestors welcomed the immigrants with open arms; providing shelter and food when they had none. Look where our generosity got us.

Today there is no attempt at reconciliation in South Dakota. Instead, our people continue to be racially profiled when we travel to the sacred HeSapa. Wasicu cops watch for license plates from counties designated as Indian reservations and look for any reason to stop our people. Our children continue to be abused in the state-controlled social services system.

The Indigenous people of America are still referred to as “merciless Indian Savages” in the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

I can’t celebrate any holiday when there are still countless Indigenous children dying in American-built cages.

 

 

 

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

Boarding School Survivors Healing Day at Rosebud

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On September 30, 2019, Lakota students wore orange t-shirts printed with I survived boarding schools now I must re-remember. Facebook photo.

 

ROSEBUD – Tribal citizens organized an event to acknowledge the suffering some survivors of boarding schools lived through on the Rosebud Reservation.

Wokiksuye naha Wayuonihan was held in the tribal council chambers for contemporary boarding school survivors. The event also remembered students who never came home after leaving for boarding school. President Rodney Bordeaux issued an Executive Proclamation designating September 30 “as a day of healing for all those members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe that survived the Boarding School era and for those tribal members that never returned home.”

The proclamation also read “In 1900 there were approximately 20,000 children attending the schools and by 1926 the number of children increased to 60,889. The state of South Dakota had a total of 23 boarding schools through the state. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, St. Francis Mission and Bishop Hare home for boys were three of those schools that were built on the Rosebud Reservation.”

“We acknowledge that our relatives who attended these schools have their own personal accounts and experiences during their time of attendance. We also acknowledge the lives of our relatives that were lost during their time attending school.”

“We want to honor these individuals for their resiliency and strength to persevere during this time to ensure our nation continues to exist. We want our future generations to understand the hardships for our relatives but to also see the power we carry as people to overcome adversary and remain true to our Lakota ways. Today we begin our healing journey here in Sicangu country by acknowledging our history in connection to the boarding schools and honor our relatives.”

The event was coordinated by Toy Lunderman and Sunrise Black Bull. They chose September 30 because it was the day in 1879 that the first group of Sicangu children left Spotted Tail Agency to board a train for the week-long trip to Carlisle. Sadly, there were many children who got sick and died while at the school. They were buried in a cemetery on school grounds.

The following Sicangu children are buried in Carlisle, Pennsylvania:

Dora (Her Pipe) Brave Bull, a 16-year-old female student who arrived at the school on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 04/24/1881.

Ernest Knocks Off-White Thunder, an 18-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 12/14/1880.

Lucy Pretty Eagle (Takes the Tail), a 10-year-old female, who arrived at the school on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 03/09/1884.

Warren Painter-Bear Paints Dirt, a 15-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 11/30/1882 and passed away on 09/30/1884.

Friend Hollow Horn Bear, a 17-year-old male, who arrived at the school on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 05/21/1886.

Young Eagle-Foot Canoe, a 14-year-old male, who arrived on 11/14/1883 and passed away on 06/28/1886.

Dennis Strikes First- Blue Tomahawk, a 12-year-old male, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 01/19/1881.

Rose Long Face, an 18-year-old female, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 04/29/1881.

Maud Swift Bear, a 15-year-old female, who arrived on 10/06/1879 and passed away on 12/14/1880.

Alavan or Alvan (One That Kills Horse), a male who passed away on 03/22/1881.

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Lakota memorials for children buried in a Carlisle, PA cemetery, were displayed at a 2016 meeting between tribal officials from the Rosebud and Northern Arapaho tribe and Department of Defense/Army officials. Photo by Vi Waln.

The Sicangu Youth Council and the Tribal Historical Preservation Office began working on having the remains of the children buried in the Carlisle cemetery returned to Rosebud in 2016. The Sicangu Youth Council and the Tokala Inajinyo Suicide Prevention Mentoring Program created a display memorial for each child. Each memorial included photos, a Pendleton covered folding chair, an abalone shell and sacred herbs. The memorials were on display in the tribal council chambers on September 30. Officials continue to pressure the Department of Army to allow the remains of these students to be returned to Rosebud. All of the Lakota children buried in the Carlisle cemetery are remembered in ceremony.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Historical Preservation Office, St. Francis Indian School, RST Diabetes Prevention Program and Inyan Hocoka Tipi Ki Family Resource Center helped make the event a success. Students and staff from SFIS, He Dog School and Todd County School District attended the event. A student drum group sang honor songs. A meal was provided by SFIS.

Peter Gibbs of the RST Historical Preservation Office was honored for all the work he has done to bring the remains of the children buried at Carlisle home to Rosebud.

“We plan to have another event next year in a larger venue,” stated Toy Lunderman. “We also want to create some smaller gatherings through the year just for the survivors for them to enjoy each other, share, cry, smile, laugh and most importantly, heal.”

 

 

 

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

Hate Speech

Lakota people have different definitions of what they deem as hate speech. Most of us living on Indian Reservations experience hate speech, either in person or online. Social media has empowered those who thrive on hate. Still, the majority of social media users regularly posting hateful speech are cowards at heart.

I did an informal poll on social media by asking my friends to define what they believe is hate speech. All of the answers were based on how Lakota people are treated by the wasicu when they travel off the reservation. Sometimes remarks made by the wasicu are ignorant and most of the time hateful speech is actually fear-based.

I’ve learned there are only two emotions: love and fear. All the good feelings and acts of kindness come from love. The negativity we all experience in life (the bully, anger, violence, racism, discrimination, etc.) stem from fear. Hate is basically fear. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about – maybe it’s a person, an idea, the government or something else – we tend to hate what we fear.

Our ancestors understood love. This can be seen in how the camp took care of everyone. There were no homeless people. There was no hunger (unless it was a time of famine when everyone went hungry). Our virtue of generosity stems from love.

Christianity is a fear-based religion. The Catholic church teaches that when a follower commits a mortal sin, they’re going to hell when they die. The fear of an afterlife in hell was systematically instilled in a majority of Indigenous people. Many ancestors gave up our Lakota way of life, as the clergy said they would go to hell if they continued to hold ceremony. Christian agents worked to devastate our spirituality by preaching fear.

Christianity and the bible continue to encourage hate speech among our people. Last month, an Oglala tribal citizen spoke out against the same sex marriage ordinance recently adopted at Pine Ridge. She said:

“This law [same sex marriage] is a moral sin, it is unnatural, ungodly and the most gruesome, repulsive act. It is an abomination unto our Lord God of the Bible. We are not dogs; we are humans and we are created by the most holy God.  In Genesis, God created man and woman. And this is the design that God planned for men and women, he told them to replenish the earth. Homosexuality falsifies God’s design. In Leviticus 20:13 if there is a man who lies with a male, as those who lie with a woman, both have committed a detestable act, they shall surely be put to death and their blood guilt is upon them. The Lord God said defile not yourselves in any of these things. Nations are defiled. Those that God cut off therefore he said I will visit the iniquity of man and he said that the land will spew you out of this land. The severe consequences of men laying together, women laying together, there’s severe consequences in that. They shall surely be put to death and their blood guilt is on them.”

This example shows us that hate speech is being uttered by our own Lakota people. Hate speech, like the words spoken by the Oglala tribal citizen, is everywhere. It even comes from our own relatives.

I appreciate the legislation recently approved by the tribal council at Pine Ridge approving same sex marriage. I also applaud the legislation passed by the tribal council banning hate speech. This legislation ban means that when Lakota people come to verbalize their inner fear of our Two Spirit relatives at a public meeting, tribal officials can stop them from speaking their hate out loud.

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Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

Cannabis can end disease and poverty

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White Plume Hemp Harvest was held on September 20. Photo by Vi Waln.

I attended the White Plume Hemp Harvest near Wounded Knee creek on Saturday. It was a perfect day to be outside and visit with friends. A prayer of gratitude was offered for the Hemp relatives that would be harvested for medicine. It was an awesome day in the sun witnessing an absolutely legal harvest of mature hemp plants in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota.

Alex White Plume has been growing hemp for decades. Initial crops were confiscated by federal agents, as hemp was considered an illegal drug for the miniscule amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the plant contains.

Cannabis plants include both marijuana and hemp. Both types contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which are natural compounds of the plants.

Industrial hemp, which was declared legal when the federal government passed the recent Farm Bill, is a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Marijuana is also a cannabis plant, containing a much higher concentration of THC. High levels of THC in a cannabis plant provides the intense psychoactive effect which marijuana recreational users seek.

Kristi Noem, Governor of South Dakota, made her stand on industrial hemp known to the entire globe through a recent editorial published in the Wall Street Journal. She chooses to overlook the medicinal benefits of hemp because “Hemp and marijuana look and smell the same. Police officers can’t tell the difference between them during a traffic stop.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-i-wont-support-legalizing-hemp-11568068697

Consequently, South Dakota – as well as the rest of the country – is battling a war against methamphetamine. A majority of Lakota people have been affected by meth, either by succumbing to addiction or watching a family member lose everything because of their drug use.

The Governor could make better use of her time by focusing on how to eradicate meth from this state, instead of worrying about how the cops are going to tell the difference between cannabis plants. Many of us wonder why she’s demonizing a natural medicine that might actually help meth users overcome their addiction.

Cannabis users, whether it’s marijuana or hemp, will give testimony to the healing properties of CBD/THC. For instance, numerous people who use CBD products can tell you how the medicine has changed their lives. People who suffered from chronic pain are now going through life either free of hurt or cured from a terrible disease. CBD works better than any pain medication on the market. Even more effective is the fact that CBD products don’t have a mile-long list of side effects, often cited in television commercials marketing new-drugs.

Healing properties contained in many plants, trees, animals and water were the medicines our ancestors used. Nature is a living being and has guided Indigenous people to medicines needed for our ailments. Indigenous people carry this knowledge and we will pass it on to our children.

We must wean ourselves off of the poisons prescribed by Indian Health Service providers. Too many of us watch our own good health deteriorate as the list of prescriptions we take home increases.

It’s time for us to reclaim the plant-based cures for the diseases our people suffer; synthetic drugs have already killed too many of our relatives. Scientists working with cannabis plants have developed strains to focus on specific illnesses, like cancer or diabetes. I’m grateful to the sovereign tribal governments in South Dakota who’ve developed, and continue to draft, legislation legalizing cannabis plants.

Hemp, along with medical/recreational marijuana, has the potential to end the abject poverty affecting the majority of our tribal citizens. That is, tribal entrepreneurs and businesses could prosper from taxed, retail sales of cannabis.

Kudos to the White Plume Tiospaye for their persistence in caring for our cannabis plant relatives in Lakota country.

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Rosebud White Plume and Tyson White Plume will manage the White Plume Hemp business. Alex White Plume will focus on developing hemp seed. Photo by Vi Waln.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com

 

 

 

More on Lateral Violence

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.

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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 vi@lakotatimes.com

Lakota Elders: A Precious Resource

Methamphetamine has changed our lives in Indian Country. Even if we’ve never taken a hit of the drug, most of us know at least one person whose life has been devastated by meth.

For example, Sicangu Wicoti Awayankape (SWA) is the entity which oversees subsidized housing on my reservation. A lease must be agreed to and signed by the person who is head of household upon moving in; there are a lot of rules the tenants have to follow to keep the house.

With the influx of meth use on our reservation, a large number of families on Rosebud have been evicted from their SWA housing units. Many heads of household were evicted in tribal court for the high levels of methamphetamines present in their home, resulting in the entire family becoming homeless.

A lot of those homes were leased for years by elders. As Lakota people, we’ve always taken care of our relatives. Our grandparents are the type of people who will take in their children or grandchildren when they have no where else to go. In the majority of the evictions on Rosebud, the head of household had no idea meth was being used in the home.

Bewildered grandparents found themselves homeless due to methamphetamines. It isn’t fair to them, but it’s a written law in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy that tenants can be evicted for illegal drug use. If you think about it, behavior resulting in a Lakota elder being evicted from their home is elder abuse. Many of those elders are still homeless.

Other elders are still living in HUD homes in Indian Country. Many of them live in fear of the adult relatives residing with them. Lakota grandparents are the type of compassionate humans who can’t bear to see their adult children suffer. So, against their better judgement, they do what they can to provide for their adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Lakota elders and children participate in the annual Rosebud parade. Photo by Vi Waln.

Also, lots of our contemporary Lakota adults misunderstand the role of grandparents in child-rearing. For instance, many Lakota children have been deserted by their parents and we see many of our abandoned children living with grandparents or even great-grandparents. Other less fortunate Lakota children, who were taken into custody by social workers, are now living with non-Indian foster families off the reservation – largely because they had no grandparents to take them.

The myriad of effects going back to the trauma our people have suffered over the last five centuries has contributed to our people turning to drugs or alcohol to numb their pain. It’s a fact that meth use has crippled the ability of many Lakota people to care for their small children and teenagers.

It’s a given that Lakota grandparents will step in to fill the needs created by absent or incapable parents. So, there is no such thing as retirement for many Lakota grandparents who are financially supporting their Takoja. The contribution of our Uncis and Lalas to our contemporary Lakota society is priceless.

Parents who’ve lost custody of their children would do well to start paying one or more monthly bills for their elder relatives who are providing financial support for those same wakanyeja. Grandparents who are financially supporting school aged students need extra help to care for those children. Electricity and other bills must be paid every month. Winter is coming, buy Unci some groceries or fill up her propane tank. If Lala has a wood stove, pay for all his wood.

September is National Grandparents Month. Grandparents Day is on Sunday, September 8, 2019. Those of you fortunate enough to have living grandparents, please buy them dinner or pay their electricity bill.

Lakota elders are a precious resource.

Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email vi@lakotatimes.com