Lateral violence and Lakota Culture

Lakota children deserve to learn about their culture. Our children have a right to be a part of ceremony, even if their family knows nothing about Lakota culture. We must empower our children by helping them learn about ceremony and encouraging their active participation.

Our ancestors worked hard to pass down traditional knowledge to Lakota families. Our contemporary Lakota elders, raised by parents and grandparents who lived a ceremonial way of life, are our most valuable resource. They can teach our children what it means to be Lakota.

Yet, many ancestors were forced to abandon Lakota culture. Our ceremonies were against the wasicu law for several generations. A lot of our Lakota ancestors were locked up behind bars in wasicu prisons for having ceremony. Still, our Lakota way of life persisted and today we are witness to a cultural renaissance.

Every single one of our Lakota ceremonies has an important purpose. Consequently, our ancestors realized they had to carry on our ceremonial way of life because it is crucial to our survival. A handful of brave ancestors refused to allow wasicu laws prevent them from conducting ceremony.

Thus, as Lakota people, we must all be grateful to the foresight of our long-gone ancestors. Our culture would surely have perished without the dedication of Lakota people who continued to have ceremony, despite the wasicu laws forbidding it. Because of the efforts of our ancestors, today’s Lakota children can still partake in our ceremonies.

On Rosebud, we have tribal programs employing dedicated Lakota staff who work hard to ensure our people have an opportunity to learn about their own cultural way of life. One program at Rosebud is the Child Care program. The staff there works hard to provide sessions for our people to learn skills to carry on our Lakota culture.

For instance, program staff have provided free sessions for tribal citizens to learn how to make star quilts and shawls. There was also a session on how to make choke cherry juice. Over the summer, staff invited tribal citizens to join them in harvesting medicinal plants on the Rosebud.

 

Another way the Child Care staff makes a difference is by promoting ceremony. For example, all year long the dedicated staff worked to help 70 children receive Lakota names during the Rosebud youth wacipi. Another 200 children were gifted a shawl or vest so they could participate in the wacipi.

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Rosebud’s Child Care staff distributed either a shawl or vest to over 200 children at the Youth Wacipi. Photo from Facebook.
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Staff and volunteers put in many hours creating the gifts in all sizes for the children of Rosebud. Photo from Facebook.

I understand the naming ceremony and making of wacipi regalia has traditionally been the role of family. But the persecution of our ancestors, whom were dedicated to our Lakota ceremonial way of life, resulted in the loss of traditional practices. The federal government worked hard to Christianize our people with tales of hell fire which put fear in many Lakota people. Also, the federal government established the boarding/residential schools to basically beat the culture out of Lakota people.

Christianity and the residential/boarding school experiences were devastating, not only to our culture, but our Lakota ceremonial way of life as well. These experiences continue to encourage lateral violence, which a majority of our Lakota people continue to perpetuate. For instance, I read a post on social media about how it wasn’t right to have a “mass naming” of Lakota children.

We should be applauding our relatives who work to ensure our children have an opportunity to be Lakota.

The dedication and tenacity of our ancestors was essential in the survival of our cultural ways and ceremony. I am forever grateful to my ancestors for preserving our knowledge to empower all Lakota people who are alive today.

Kudos to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Child Care Program staff for helping our children carry on our Lakota way of life!

 

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These children wear the shawls and vests given to them at the Youth Wacipi by the Rosebud Child Care staff. Photo from Facebook.

 

 

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

Lateral Violence in the Workplace

July 22 2019

Local citizens who’ve been privileged to work for their own tribal organizations are familiar with lateral violence. Wikipedia defines lateral violence as “displaced violence directed against one’s peers rather than adversaries. This construct is one way of explaining minority-on-minority violence in developed nations.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_violence

Whether we work in private, public, government or tribal sectors on the reservation, we’ve all been subject to lateral violence. When lateral violence is allowed to run unchecked, it can cause permanent damage to any organization. Let’s look at some examples of lateral violence in the workplace. Consequently, the examples outlined in the following paragraphs are fictious and don’t represent any real person or tribal organization.

One instance of lateral violence would be when an employee who has worked with the organization for ten years or more, begins voicing disparaging remarks to her coworkers. All the disparaging remarks are directed at the new supervisor. Even though the supervisor is an educated, experienced tribal citizen, the employee will claim that the boss doesn’t know anything about the work the organization does.

In addition, lateral violence is perpetuated when the staff aligns with the disgruntled employee and continues the discussion amongst themselves. The on-going group discussion is focused on how unqualified they perceive the supervisor. In reality, the person hired in the leadership role has the credentials (experience and education) to qualify for the position.

Another instance of lateral violence will happen when new leadership comes into the organization. The new leader does an assessment to determine how to restructure the organization to better serve the public. When the assessment is complete and all employees informed of their role, a mandatory meeting is called to announce the restructuring plan to all staff.

Yet, the restructuring effort is undermined when one or more employees back out of the previously agreed upon job changes and refuse to attend the mandated staff meeting. Instead, the employees adopt a victim mentality by soliciting letters from their co-workers about how dissatisfied they are with the new supervisor. The letters are written on work computers and are all unsigned.

So then, the anonymous letters are handed over to a board member with questionable integrity. The fact that the staff didn’t follow the chain of command and went straight to a board member is a violation of the organization’s personnel manual. The letters are only presented to the one person on the governing body because the disgruntled staff members know they can manipulate that single board member.

As a result, the organization is thrown into turmoil. Several staff members abandon their jobs or resign due to the extremely hostile work environment. A handful of employees are left to pick up the pieces. The people served by the organization suffer.

I’m sure these examples are familiar to many of you working in organizations both on and off the reservation. One way to begin turning lateral violence around is through on-the-job training. That is, employers could empower their staff by offering regular sessions about what lateral violence can do to an organization. Another way to quash lateral violence is to offer professional training on team building and emotional intelligence.

However, there are many tribal citizens who can’t or won’t accept new ideas in the workplace. They refuse to view any training set up to empower them as something good. They will continue with disparaging remarks, like “training like this is only for wasicu.”

It’s sad our people would rather perpetuate lateral violence in the workplace. As a tribe, we will never move forward until our own people accept the fact that they need to begin their own healing. I can’t change anyone. I can only change myself and pray for everyone else.

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

 

Honoring the Memory

Vi Waln

July 7, 2019

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Lakota children died at Carlisle Indian School. Their parents likely grieved for the rest of their lives. Photo by Vi Waln.

 

July is the month to remember parents who’ve lost children. Even though every July is acknowledged as a national month of awareness, the majority of our Indigenous people work hard to comfort their grieving relatives all year round. Every Tiospaye, Clan or Band in Indian Country knows what it’s like to have lost babies, children and teenagers to an untimely or tragic death. There are many of us who’ll mourn the loss of our child or grandchild forever.

Lakota people often speak about how the spirit of a blood relative can take all the bad with them when they pass away. For a long time, I didn’t understand what this meant. When someone died, I would look for the bad to go away from that family but I didn’t see it happening very much. Some of the family members didn’t change, they still enjoyed their bad habits even though they were supposed to be in mourning.

When my five-year-old Takoja died unexpectedly from an illness, it was the saddest, most painful time of my family’s life. Those first few days after her passing were marked with emotional shock. We cried. We didn’t sleep. We wondered how we would go on. Our lives were never the same.

The anniversary of her death is still hard. We remember everything we did that day she left us. I still remember all my relatives and friends who came to my house. They came by to comfort us by bringing hugs, food, coffee and their caring presence. My Maske came and cleaned my entire house. My friends brought quilts we used for the wake. Singers brought their drum. I saw Lakota compassion in action during our time of grief.

The passing of my Takoja helped me to understand how the death of a beloved child or grandchild could take the bad with them. Emotionally, nothing seemed to matter anymore when my Takoja died. That is, I didn’t want to have any hard feelings. I didn’t want to be mad at anyone. I wanted people to be happy and be good to each other. Takoja’s death showed me how precious life really is.

Takoja’s death changed my Tiwahe forever. It was the hardest thing we ever lived through. My family is still coping with our devastating loss. Every single day, we wonder what her life would have been like as an adult.

Those of us living in Indian Country understand the suffocating sadness that comes with the death of a child. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of our people show their willingness to let go of hard feelings, to let go of grudges that have perhaps been carried on for generations. This gives me hope. We want our Tiospaye to live happy. The only way we can truly be happy is to let all the bad go.

I believe our loved ones in the spirit world feel our sadness. And as hard as the death of a child is, the spirit world wants living relatives to be happy, not sad. They are in a spiritual place where they have the ability to take all our bad away. It’s up to us to let the bad go with them. They are in a beautiful place where deep sadness can be instantly transformed into unconditional love. They are preparing a place of beauty for us when it’s our time to walk on the Milky Way.

Pray for all parents who have lost a child. Remember the parents whose precious children are locked in cages at the border. Let’s honor the memory of our children who have passed on by being good to each other. Nothing will change until we live the changes ourselves.

 

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

Indigenous Children in Cages are Sacred

Vi Waln

July 3, 2019

Most Lakota people are aware of teachings which tell us our children are sacred. However, a lot of our people have forgotten the true meaning of sacred children. Every day we see the suffering of our Lakota children. For example, there are children being raised by grandparents because the mother or father is lost in alcohol/drug addiction. Our young mothers and fathers sometimes abandon their children when they get involved in a new romantic relationship.

Indigenous children all over the world are suffering, their basic needs are not being met because of poverty. Even worse, the so-called leaders of this country have established detention centers at the border crossings to house Indigenous children forcibly taken from their parents who sought asylum in the USA from Central and Meso America. News reports are now telling us that several children have died in these detention centers.

Indigenous children are currently being denied basic hygiene, bedding, clothing, water and food. The children being detained in cages are also reporting sexual and other physical abuse by adults who are assigned to look after them. Many parents of these children are gone, either deported back to the area of Turtle Island where they fled from or detained in other centers established by the United States of America. We sit back and do nothing.

The children detained in cages at American borders are also sacred. They followed their parents who fled from living conditions much worse than our people are experiencing. These are Indigenous people that the United States is terrorizing.

It seems the sitting President of the United States (POTUS) is basing his 2020 election campaign on rounding up illegal “immigrants” and deporting them back to where they came from. I don’t understand how a human being can deny a child their parents and basic needs; especially when these families are fleeing from areas filled with violence from gangs and drug cartels.

Anyone who doesn’t have compassion for all the helpless Indigenous children being held in cages at the borders of this country is definitely not human. I believe those in favor of these children being kept in torturous conditions should be labeled as subhuman, since they obviously lack the emotional body that many of us are born with.

For instance, one editorial cartoon of POTUS playing golf while the bodies of a father and child lay in the water nearby cost a cartoonist his job. I saw nothing wrong with the cartoon, I believe it summed up the truth very well: Indigenous people are dying because of the policies of the POTUS. But the truth is the very thing your POTUS doesn’t want people to read, speak or hear.

 

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Marty Two Bull’s editorial cartoon contrasts the conditions of two populations. That is, while prisoners housed in tribal, city, county, state and federal detention facilities receive a bed to sleep on, health care and three meals a day – the Indigenous children and their parents detained in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities sleep on concrete floors or on the ground without adequate food or medical care.

As I write this piece, the news is reporting POTUS as the first to set foot in North Korea to visit with their dictator/leader. This is a distraction folks. POTUS does these “firsts” to appease his racist voters. These POTUS publicity stunts are also orchestrated to draw our attention away from the fact that there are hundreds of Indigenous children suffering in cages at the borders of this country.

While the USA is again celebrating their Independence Day this week, remember the caged humans at the USA borders are Indigenous to Turtle Island. The caged children, teens, adults and elders are our relatives.

 

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

 

#MMIW

May 5, 2019

Vi Waln

Sicangu Scribe

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Sicangu Lakota citizens walked to remember the Missing and Murdered Women, Men, Teens and Children on May 5, 2019 on the Rosebud Reservation. Photo courtesy of Charlene Young.

May 5 is the day designated to acknowledge and remember the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. The hashtag #MMIW is used throughout our society to bring awareness to the fact we are still looking for women, men, teenagers and children who have gone missing or were murdered on Turtle Island.

Kudos to all of you who walked or ran to remember our missing or murdered relatives on Sunday. Many of you wore red clothing to bring awareness to the MMIW problem in our communities. We appreciate you offering prayers for the safe return of our relatives who are no longer here with us. Please continue to educate one another about how serious the issue of missing or murdered relatives is on Turtle Island.

As Indigenous people, we face a myriad of dangers living in this modern world. Our relatives disappear without a trace more often than we want to admit. For example, our Oglala relatives are still looking for Larissa Lone Hill, a young Lakota woman who disappeared on October 2, 2016. Also missing is Alex Vasquez, who disappeared on October 29, 2015. Someone knows something about what happened to these relatives. Please come forward and share what you know about these disappearances with law enforcement.

Many young Indigenous women have been kidnapped and never seen again on Turtle Island. It’s a sad fact that some of them were later found murdered. One case has been highlighted recently because a cold-blooded killer was granted parole from a 100-year prison sentence.

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Candace “Candy” Rough Surface disappeared in 1979. Courtesy photo.

Standing Rock tribal citizen Candace Rough Surface disappeared in the summer of 1979. In May 1980, her remains were found near the Missouri River. Law enforcement had no information on her murder and the case went cold. In 1995, James Stroh confessed to law enforcement that he and Nicholas Scherr murdered Candace Rough Surface.

Stroh and Scherr were teens when they met Candace at a bar and later took her to a party. Stroh told law enforcement that Candace got angry at how she was treated at the party. Stroh and Scherr left with Candace. They then raped her and both of them took turns shooting her. They then took the money from her purse. They chained her to the back of the truck and drug her almost a mile to the Missouri River where they dumped her.

Stroh only came forward in 1995 because he had previously confessed to family and in-laws about his involvement in the murder of Candace Rough Surface. If he had not gone though a bitter divorce, many of us wonder if he would have confessed at all. Both men took plea bargains in the case. Stroh was released from prison in 2004.

Nicholas Scherr was pardoned from his 100-year prison sentence last week and will soon walk free. Both men were responsible for the rape and brutal murder of 18-year-old Candace Rough Surface. Many of us believe both murderers should have died in prison.

Lakota people are sacred. Kidnapping, sexual assault and murder are crimes. I challenge our tribal, state and nationally elected officials to look at the laws which govern kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. http://www.justicefornativewomen.com/2016/03/the-murder-of-candace-rough-surface.html

MMIW is also linked to the oil industry, including the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Another real threat which comes with the construction of the KXL pipeline is the thousands of workers who will flock to our area for jobs. These workers will need a place to live. Thus, several man camps will be established near the proposed route of the KXL pipeline. Those camps are a true threat with a serious potential to devastate the lives of our people.

Be aware of your surroundings, we live in dangerous times.

 

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

 

 

 

Misogyny is alive and well

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April 11, 2019

Vi Waln

Lakota people, as well as other Indigenous nations, speak about the sacredness of women. As women, we hold the power to navigate the transformation of spirit into a human body through childbirth. Our power to bring children into this world is an essence of our sacredness.

Lakota people wouldn’t have a ceremonial foundation without the power of women. That is, Pte San Win is perhaps the most sacred woman known to our people. She is also referred to as Woope because she brought the laws we are to follow when it comes to our ceremonial way of life. Pte San Win gifted the Lakota people the Cannunpa, which is kept in the Green Grass Community on Cheyenne River. The Cannunpa is used in all of our ceremonies.

Colonization brought many ills into the Indigenous world. The mentality of colonizers is one which views women as second-class citizens. Colonizers invaded our land with misogyny embedded into their psyche. We’ve come a long way in terms of women’s rights; but the psyche of the colonizer still tends to subjugate women.

The online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, defines misogyny as “a hatred of women.” Throughout my life, I’ve encountered many misogynists living on Lakota land. Most of my experiences are on the job or happen regularly during meetings I attend. Consequently, misogyny is not Lakota tradition. Our ancestors deeply understood the sacred power every woman holds.

Unfortunately, I’ve met many Lakota men in my lifetime who are active misogynists, even though they believe their disdain for women is hidden. Many of them also profess to be spiritual while they secretly harbor hate or deep-seated resentment for women. Most women can identify these closet misogynists by the way they talk to us in public.

For instance, the next time you attend a public meeting on any reservation, pay attention to how women are treated. Watch the expressions on the faces of the men when the women are talking and compare it to how they look when other men are speaking.

I’ve gotten really good at reading the non-verbal language of other people. Much of the time, I can spot these misogynists just by the way they look at me or other women when we speak out in public. The difference in how the closet misogynist treats women is subtle. Women are known for our intuition. If something doesn’t feel right about the way you are treated by a man in a public setting, then there is likely some closet misogyny going on.

It’s ironic that many closet misogynists will also speak in public about the damage colonization has done to our people. They will present eloquent, passionate speeches about how colonization was responsible for the murder of our ancestors, the continued imprisonment of Indigenous people and the abuse our people suffered in boarding schools. Yet, these same closet misogynistic men will continuously point out what they think a woman is doing wrong, especially in the work place. Their misogynistic psyche also criticizes everything women do.

Misogyny is prevalent in Indian country. While most of us look outside ourselves to solve problems, the key to overcoming misogyny begins at home. Our tribal programs, tribal councils and tribal schools can also take steps to overcome the misogynistic mindset of our males.

As parents and grandparents, it is up to us to instill values into our boys. Today, many of our small children, teenagers and young adults are running amuck with zero guidance and no sense of spirituality. We are responsible for teaching our young Lakota people how to behave.

Please help your children understand the sacredness of women. Don’t let the misogynistic mentality poison the minds of our male relatives.

 

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

Peyote Exemption Will Remain in Place

March 5, 2019

Vi Waln, Sicangu Scribe

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has no intent to change Title Five of the Law and Order Code exempting possession, transport or ingestion of peyote as a crime for bona fide members of the Native American Church.

Our medicine people fought hard to guarantee our freedom to attend our sacred Native American Church (NAC) ceremonies where peyote is considered a sacrament. There are many Lakota-Dakota-Nakota people, as well as citizens of several other federally recognized tribes, who attend NAC ceremonies where peyote is ingested. Our right to harvest, possess and pray with the sacred medicine known as peyote is protected by tribal, state and federal laws.

Recently, a rumor was started by some unscrupulous individual regarding criminal law surrounding the use of peyote. There are several families on Rosebud who attend NAC ceremony on a regular basis. The gossip prompted a phone call from NAC officials to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Attorney General’s office.

“I have never supported or suggested that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe make the use of Peyote illegal as it pertains the ceremonies our people practice,” stated Janet Routzen, an attorney employed in the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. “It is true I am working on our criminal code, but I fully support ceremonies and practices that our people use to pray and keep the culture. I do not make decisions about the laws, I am only the coordinator for those who do make those decisions, which is the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council.”

Currently, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Law and Order Code includes a clearly defined exemption for NAC members who ingest peyote. Title 5, Chapter 28, Section 12 (5-28-12) provides for a peyote exemption for tribal citizens. It reads “PEYOTE EXEMPTION. The provisions of this Act relating to the possession and distribution of peyote shall not apply to the use of peyote by members of the Native American Church in bona fide religious ceremonies of the church.” (page 98)

In addition, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) Amendments of 1994 were established to protect members of federally recognized Indian tribes who attend Native American Church (NAC) ceremonies and ingest peyote. The AIRFA also allows members of federally recognized tribes to obtain permits to buy, possess, and transport peyote for use in bona fide ceremonies.

According to Wikipedia, Section 2 of the Act speaks to the “Traditional Indian Religious Use of the Peyote Sacrament,” and reads in part: (c) For purposes of this section – (1) the term ‘Indian’ means a member of an Indian tribe; (2) the term ‘Indian tribe’ means any tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community of Indians. . .(3) the term ‘Indian religion’ means any religion – (A) which is practiced by Indians, and (B) the origin and interpretation of which is from within a traditional Indian culture or community; and (4) the term ‘State’ means any State of the United States, and any political subdivision thereof.”

The statute expressly and exclusively provides an exemption to federal and state drug laws for members of federally recognized Indian tribes who use peyote in traditional Indian religious practices.

More information on the Peyote Exemption for the Native American Church is posted on the Department of Justice website

In addition, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 (PUBLIC LAW 103-344 [H.R. 4230]; October 6, 1994) are available to view online.

South Dakota Codified Law 34-20B-14 (17) provides additional exemption for peyote. “Peyote, except that when used as a sacramental in services of the Native American church in a natural state which is unaltered except for drying or curing and cutting or slicing, it is hereby excepted.”

One must be an enrolled citizen of a federally recognized tribe to either possess peyote or attend NAC services. Concerned NAC members can rest assured that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has absolutely no intent to change the Law and Order Code eliminating the peyote exemption.

 

 

 

When Ignorant People Terrorize Indigenous People

January 21, 2019

Vi Waln

 

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Indigenous People from across Turtle Island carried banners, flag, staffs and drums as they marched and sang in Washington DC on January 19, 2019. Photo courtesy of Lakota People’s Law Project.

 

The strength of Nathan Phillips, an Indigenous elder and veteran, was witnessed by many over the past week. Perhaps the most important teaching to emerge from the Indigenous People’s March last Friday is the world knows we still exist as a spiritual people; singing our prayer songs for all living beings, while advocating to make Mother Earth a peaceful world.

There are many times we as Indigenous people feel invisible. For instance, many people believe we were annihilated by Manifest Destiny. Yet, a crucial issue brought to light from the incident in Washington DC is the way we are treated as “the other” every day of our lives. The world now knows what we often go through every single day. The way we are looked at by white privilege is no longer invisible.

The incident involving students from a Catholic High School at the Indigenous Peoples March showed the online world what our people have suffered since the wasicu arrived. In fact, we suffer from these types of arrogant incidents every day in our homelands. Pitiful are the human beings whom get high on terrorizing Indigenous people.

Yet, we still pray and sing for these diseased minds to heal from the influence of their religion, family and teachers. Consequently, individual behavior as adults generally stems from traumatic events suffered at some point in our lives. Some traumatized humans are driven daily by their deep-seated religious teachings of fear, pain, anger and open hate for “the other.” Catholic children like the boy wearing the MAGA hat, smirking in an Indigenous elder’s face, are being traumatized as you read this. These human children desperately need Indigenous ceremonial prayers and songs.

The Catholic Church continues to prove the agenda of their faith. For example, traumatized Indigenous people and sexually abused children, are irreparably scarred. We pray for the day when humanity recognizes the abuse Catholicism has inflicted on society.

 

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Nathan Phillips
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Phillips, pictured here with Phyllis Young of Standing Rock, was honored with a star quilt at an Indigenous Peoples Movement Leadership Meeting held in Washington DC over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Cante Heart.

 

As a Lakota woman living in South Dakota, I recognized the facial expression in the photo of the Catholic boy from Kentucky as he stood in front of Omaha elder Nathan Phillips. The mere look on this kid’s face is what he did wrong. His expression is an unmasked display of his personal attitude toward an Indigenous elder and Vietnam veteran sending love through song. When ignorant people decide to terrorize Indigenous people, they do it by donning the same facial expression displayed by the arrogant Catholic boy. He offended the entire world. Sadly, this behavior is probably justified through teachings of his parents and religion.

I was raised in a Catholic home because my family chose to follow the church several generations ago. My ancestors believed they had no choice but to embrace Catholicism. The government’s attitude toward Indigenous people was either pray and be educated as a Catholic or starve as a hostile savage. That attitude lingers.

I left the Catholic church as a young adult. The confusion between being Catholic and Lakota at the same time wouldn’t allow me to continue praying in a wasicu religion. My spirit didn’t understand guilt, misogyny or threats of eternal damnation. Instead, I went to pray in Inikaga.

My life changed when I embraced the spirituality of my ancestors. However, I’m not writing this to condemn my relatives who still pray in the Catholic church. I realize not all Catholics are horrible people. Many Catholics are very spiritual and I know they are also hurting because of this ignorant display of disrespect.

This ignorant Catholic boy will bear the trauma of having to live with the world-wide social media embarrassment he brought upon himself. Pray for him, his family and all descendants of the failed operation known as Manifest Destiny.

 

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

 

Why We Remember Wounded Knee

December 27, 2018

Vi Waln

Dewey Beard
Spotted Elks band on their way to Pine Ridge Agency was intercepted by soldiers. They had their Hotchkiss guns ready for battle, soldiers waiting guns loaded. Wasu Maza aka Dewey Beard rode ahead of the caravan, approached the soldiers. He dismounted and shoved his arm down the barrel of the Hotchkiss gun! Counting coup! Let the soldiers know he wasn’t afraid, still upset over the murder of Sitting Bull. Although many of his family were murdered that next day, himself wounded badly, he lived to be 97 years old. Courtesy photo.

It is winter on the Great Plains. This is the time of the year when our ancestors fled after the murder of Sitting Bull. There were sick, elderly, children and women all traveling in the caravan. They headed south towards Pine Ridge, walking as fast as they could. They were intercepted by the Seventh Cavalry near Porcupine Butte and were escorted to Wounded Knee Creek. Despite a white flag of surrender raised by Chief Spotted Elk, many in the group were viciously murdered by soldiers armed with Hotchkiss guns on December 29, 1890.

Soon after the guns went silent, a prairie blizzard covered the killing fields, halting any recovery efforts for three days. After the storm subsided, those who traveled to the massacre site were witness to the frozen bodies of our murdered ancestors. A photographer documented the horror of the Wounded Knee massacre for all of eternity.

Recently, I was asked “what the memory of the massacre Wounded Knee means to the folks on Pine Ridge and beyond; why it is so important for it to be remembered?”

The memory of the Wounded Knee massacre lives in all of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people, as well as Indigenous citizens of other nations. There are times when I wonder about the photos. If the photographer hadn’t been there during the recovery of bodies, we would not have seen how the killing fields looked after the blizzard. So, the eternal memory of a mass burial of our murdered ancestors was captured by the photographer.

Another memory ingrained in the minds of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people is that our ancestors were killed and then buried without proper ceremony. That is, there was no sacred food sent to the spirit world with Chief Spotted Elk or any other of the relatives murdered.

Our ancestors were starving. They also were living in an era when there was little hope of survival for those whom refused to be contained by the fenced in reservation, which was perceived to be a prisoner of war camp. Our ancestors embraced the Ghost Dance brought by Short Bull, with the blessing of Wovoka.

The Ghost Dance ceremony was initially held by a Paiute prophet named Wodziwob. The Ghost Dance movement, subsequently founded by Wovoka, promised a return to the way of life before the coming of the wasicu. Our people began praying and dancing with faith the ceremony would save them from the wasicu.

Shortly after the Wounded Knee massacre, rituals and ceremony brought to the Lakota by Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman), were outlawed by the federal government. During this time, our people conducted ceremony in secret. Our spiritual ways were never lost, as many of our ancestors risked being imprisoned to keep the Lakota ceremonies alive and far away from the scrutiny of the wasicu police.

After the ceremonies were declared against the law, the wasicu attempted to replace our spiritual way of life with Christianity, which was another form of trauma that many of us still suffer from today. Yet, Christian prayer will not stop the ceremonial renaissance we see today. The attempts to colonize our people away from the Cannunpa have failed.

So, when I am asked “what the memory of the massacre Wounded Knee means to the folks on Pine Ridge and beyond; why it is so important for it to be remembered?” I have to say our memories are important as they have resulted in many Lakota people leading our children back to ceremony.

The knowledge of what the wasicu is capable of, specifically the murder of innocent Lakota/Dakota/Nakota and the attempt to strip the Oyate of our spirituality, is why it is so important to remember Wounded Knee.

It’s LNI Week

December 9, 2018

Vi Waln

The Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) will once again host large groups of student athletes and scholars as they compete in a full program of high school activities. The forty second annual Lakota Nation Invitational will celebrate the athletic talents, academic skills and cultural knowledge of our Indigenous youth.

What began as a small All-Indian Boys Basketball Tourney on the Pine Ridge Reservation has evolved into an action-packed program of athletic events which include the showcasing of talent in in basketball, cheerleading, cross-country, golf, volleyball, wrestling and archery. LNI also has academic competitions and cultural activities for students. These include the Art Show, Lakota Language Bowl, Business Plan Writing, Poetry Slam, Hand Game Tournament and the Knowledge/Quiz Bowl. Friday’s Grand Entry of Lakota veterans, wacipi dancers, athletes, officials and participants of all LNI activities is always a high-energy event to attend.

Lakota children are the crown jewel of our Oyate. It’s an awesome way to end the year by supporting the talent of our young people as they participate in sports, cultural and academic events. The youth whom participate are often the current role models for countless grade school students who are now dreaming of showcasing their sport, academic and cultural skills at a future LNI event.

Many of our families travel to watch the fast-paced basketball action played on several courts throughout the four-day tourney. Some of the best high school basketball games in the region are played during the LNI Tourney. The basketball tourney is certainly on par with any state basketball championship tourney and often attracts national attention.

It takes a lot of hard work and requires year-round planning by the Board of Directors to organize a successful LNI. Participating schools send staff members as volunteers to work at the events throughout the weekend. These school employees devote their free time by working long hours to help the event run smoothly. We appreciate their sacrifice as unofficial ambassadors of this winter holiday classic.

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Tonya Whirlwind Soldier participated in many runs during her life, including a Cancer Awareness Run held in the He Dog Community. Photo by Vi Waln.

Sadly, most of our people and students attending the 2018 Lakota Nation Invitational are in mourning. In fact, this year’s LNI excitement is dampened by the untimely death of Tonya Whirlwind Soldier, a Sicangu Lakota woman who lost her battle with cancer yesterday.

Tonya was a long-time cross-country coach from Todd County High School. She was one of the organizers of LNI and worked tirelessly every year to help host a memorable event for student participants. Her death on December 8 left a great void in the lives of her children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, co-workers and the students whose lives she touched.

Tonya was loved by everyone she encountered. It didn’t matter what was happening in her life, she always had a smile, a happy-to-see-you greeting, along with a bear hug for her cherished family and friends. Even after she became seriously ill, it didn’t stop her from treating everyone she knew with kindness and love.

Tonya was a lifetime athlete. Many of us will remember her as she ran her daily miles on local reservation roadways, waving at us when we honked our car horn at her as we passed. As sick as she was, Tonya didn’t let her illness overcome her as she remained as active as her ailing body would allow.

Tonya’s sons and grandchildren were the joy of her life. She cherished them and was proud of their accomplishments. She held her parents, Homer and Rosalie Whirlwind Soldier, in high regard. She set an example for all of us in the way she treated her Tiwahe. We offer our prayers for Tonya’s Tiospaye.

Lakota Country Times and the LNI Board of Directors offers our condolences to all who loved Tonya Whirlwind Soldier.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and has been a journalist since 2001. She can be reached through email editor@lakotacountrytimes.com.