Your Anger Will Embarrass Your Child(ren)

January 28, 2018

Vi Waln

Our local schools are in the midst of winter sports season. Basketball teams are busy with their daily practice routines. When teams aren’t in training, they are on a bus traveling to play games against the other schools listed on their schedules. School sports is a time for our students to learn how to play fair and get along with others.

 

I haven’t been to the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) sports event for a couple of years. One memory I have of LNI is how poorly the adults behave during games played in the Civic Center. For instance, one year I sat in an area where I didn’t know anyone to watch a boys’ basketball game. It was a big mistake.

 

After the game got underway, I was soon appalled at the bad behavior of the adults. They were booing and shouting at the referees. Many had no shortage of cuss words as they discussed amongst themselves what was happening on the court. I spoke out, to no one in general and loud enough for many to hear, about how we were supposed to model good sportsmanship, but no one listened. I left the game at halftime.

 

I was horribly embarrassed for those high school basketball players. They were out there trying to enjoy themselves at what might have been the biggest event in their life, yet they had to listen to their parents and other relatives holler around and belittle the officials. The loud booing was terrible. Those adults brought shame to their family, school, community and tribe.

 

Not much has changed. In fact, the bad behavior modeled by parents and other relatives is often magnified when the team is playing on their home court. There are also many coaches who model bad behavior. Some of you are grandparents, yet you still act like angry, undisciplined children at basketball games.

 

As adults, we are role models no matter what we do. Some of you reading this will think “I never asked to be a role model.” Well it’s time to wake up folks because the behavior you engage in determines the type of role model you are. You’re in denial if you believe your behavior affects no one but you. You are teaching your children how to act.

 

Our children will behave in the same manner we do when they are adults. For example, some of those parents (and coaches) who’ve modeled poor sportsmanship at LNI now have grown children acting the same way. It’s to be expected that the grandchildren of that negative role model grandpa or grandma will also be booing and hollering at the referees when they are the adults.

 

I’ve got to emphasize how embarrassing your bad behavior is to many people. When you act up at a game and scream at the referee or boo at the other team, you are showing us what kind of person you really are.

 

Many people make a conscious choice to carry around their anger. For example, many of our people do nothing to process and let go of their anger. So, it’s to be expected that the anger surfaces when they are sitting in the bleachers watching their children or grandchildren’s team play a losing game.

 

The repressed anger comes out and is inappropriately directed at the referee. Or their repressed anger might be directed at the other team’s coach. Or the coach is directing repressed anger at the officials. Or maybe adults are having a heated discussion, full of cuss words, with a family member about how much they don’t like the star player of the other team. It’s so inappropriate.

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So, the next time you want to show off your bad behavior at an elementary, middle or high school sports event, please remember all those young, impressionable minds watching you. Your actions show them how to behave. Please don’t be surprised when your children and grandchildren grow up to act in a way that brings embarrassment to your family.

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I really empathize with all of our young, smart, talented athletes. I also feel for the game officials and some school coaches. The coaches have to answer pointed questions asked by young, impressionable players about the poor sportsmanship modeled by the adults.

 

It’s especially inappropriate to behave badly at elementary and middle school games. Those small children are being giving a lesson on how to behave when they are grown-ups. Please act appropriately!

 

Our children play these games to learn how to be a good sport. They play to learn skills that will help them get along with other people. Adults who behave badly must stop and think about who is watching. Bad behavior at a public event is conduct unbecoming Lakota people.

 

Our children watch everything we do. The children you are responsible for usually grow up to be just like you. Please model positive encouragement for the players at games, don’t be that embarrassing adult throwing a tantrum at public sporting events.

 

 

 

 

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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women #MMIW

January 22, 2018

Vi Waln

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  Many tend to believe these crimes don’t apply to us because we live on isolated Indian reservations. The truth is our people are just as vulnerable to victimization as anyone else.

 

This past weekend there were countless women’s marches across Turtle Island. This movement amped up awareness efforts the day after the presidential inauguration in January 2017. Many women are marching in response to the election of the 45th president of the United States, a man who openly displays misogynistic tendencies and has admitted to sexual assault.

 

Many Indigenous women joined these marches to bring attention to our missing female relatives, many of whom have likely been murdered. It’s also possible that many of our missing women have been abducted, held hostage and trafficked by evil people. We must make a collective effort to inform our women about the dangers they may encounter.

 

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An Indigenous woman holds a sign during the Women’s March in Phoenix, AZ on 01-21-2018. Photo from Facebook

 

Many missing women have not been seen nor heard from for long periods of time. The list of unsolved murder cases involving Indigenous women continues to grow. These incidents have sparked many Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women awareness campaigns. The hashtag #MMIW is often used to identify these campaigns.

 

Social media is used by many to share information about missing women. It’s heartbreaking to see photos of our beautiful women who are missing posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Sadly, many missing women were later found dead by law enforcement or family members. Some murder cases were prosecuted, while others remain unsolved.

 

In this era of open acceptance of misogyny and racial discrimination by high ranking government officials, its no wonder that instances of missing and murdered women have increased. We are in an era where it has become dangerous for Lakota women to travel alone, even in South Dakota. Again, we have to teach our young women and children how dangerous it can be, both in this state and across Turtle Island.

 

This brings to mind a story shared with me about places where Indigenous women risk being abducted. Details about this story are generalized to protect the victim. Indigenous people living in South Dakota must always be aware of what is happening around us, especially in public places.

 

Young women who hitchhike in strange areas are at high risk for abduction. There are no safe places for Indigenous women traveling alone or with small children. Even public truck stops in South Dakota are no longer safe.

 

For example, recently a young woman was trying to get home and wound up at an unfamiliar truck stop. Soon several men enter the truck stop restaurant wearing masks, the kind that motorcycle riders wear. They sit at a table where the young woman can hear them talking.

 

The topic of their conversation is what they do with Indigenous women after they abduct them. The young woman grows afraid and calls a relative, who tells her to stay there until someone arrives. She leaves her table to visit the restroom. Upon returning to her table, she takes a drink of her coffee. She immediately feels the effect of an unknown drug. She wants to pass out and struggles to keep her eyes open. She consciously fights the effects of the drug because she knows if she passes out, they will take her.

 

Soon, she receives a call from the relative who is waiting outside. She runs to get in the car, where she immediately passes out from the drug that was slipped into her coffee.

 

Be careful when you travel. Never leave your food or drink unattended in a public restaurant. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Check in with family at every stop you make.

 

In this evil era of slavery and human trafficking, none of us are safe.

 

 

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Our Children Deserve to be Exposed to Healthy Adults

January 15, 2018

Vi Waln

 

Lakota people have survived generations of historical trauma. Some seek professional help to overcome destructive behavior. There are also many Lakota people healing their inner trauma through ceremony.

 

However, there are many others still self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Other Lakota people engage in immature or inappropriate behavior because they don’t understand how trauma affects them. These people are treating others, including our children, badly.

 

Adults working in our schools carry their unresolved trauma into the school building. Many will unwittingly project the pain of their individual trauma on the students they work with. Local school boards are encouraged to deal with this serious issue by implementing a more thorough screening process of all applicants who have direct contact with students.

 

Professional school staff includes administrators, teachers and counselors. These staff members are required to have certain credentials before they are hired to work in a school. All school staff members are also required to pass a drug test and clear a criminal background investigation.

 

Consequently, many parents and grandparents want our local schools to hire emotionally intelligent staff. Our children are in dire need of exposure to adults who are emotionally intelligent. Yet, school boards are still putting professional, paraprofessional and support staff who don’t understand emotional intelligence to work in our schools.

 

There are many parents actively complaining about the behavior of staff members at our schools. However, it seems as though nothing is being done to resolve the complaints. School administrators defend their staff, even when their staff are in the wrong. When I worked in a local school, I witnessed the bad behavior exhibited by many staff members.

 

An example of bad behavior is when an administrator, teacher, paraprofessional or support staff member unofficially determines that a child is a “problem.” The unofficial determination in the adults’ mind affects every future interaction they have with the student. For instance, the employee forever judges the student as a “problem,” giving up any faith in the learning ability of the student.

 

Body language is a way to gauge what is going on inside another person. Those of us who watch body language closely, can easily see how students are judged by watching how the principals, teachers, paraprofessionals or support staff react.

 

For example, the facial expression of an adult visibly changes when they see the “problem” student in the hallway or when the student enters the classroom. Our children are smart, they know when an administrator or a member of the teaching or paraprofessional or support staff has labeled them as a “problem.” Most of the time, the student will work hard to live up to that negative label they’ve been given by the school employee. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Another example of body language I witnessed happened when I went into a local school recently to visit with an administrator. While I was in the office, a staff member came in with a very surly look on his face. He didn’t smile or say hello to either one of us, he just dropped a piece of paper on the principal’s desk and walked out. He looked pure miserable to me.

 

The obvious look on his face showed me that he didn’t want to be there. The incident made me regret the choice of school my Takoja picked to attend. It made me wonder if all the staff members’ faces looked like his. I felt bad for our children, who suffer having to look at adult faces like that every school day.

 

Adults who want to work in schools need lots of training. Specific training should be required in the effects of trauma. Other in-service must be offered in emotional intelligence because when you have staff members who lack this crucial skill, the students have zero faith in them. The student will continue to challenge the staff member and then laugh at the bad behavior they’ve provoked in the adult.

 

Our schools must also get serious about employing alcohol and drug free individuals. We live in a very small world and our children know which school employees are using drugs and which ones are heavy drinkers.

 

Many parents would like to see every staff member submit to a breathalyzer before they can clock in. We would feel a lot safer if we knew for sure that staff members aren’t showing up hungover at school. We would also like to see policies updated to have more frequent drug tests for all staff, as well as school board members.

 

Our students must walk through a metal detector when they enter the school building every morning. It’s too bad there isn’t a detector which school staff can walk through to measure their level of emotional intelligence, or their tendency to judge our children, or if they have alcohol and drug residual in their body.

 

Our children deserve to be exposed to healthy adults to help them grow into the tribal leaders they are destined to be.

 

 

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Our Ancestors Live In Our Youth

January 2, 2018

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Sophie Brings Plenty was the youngest Lakota in the Wounded Knee Survivors Run. The run is held to remember the massacre survivors who fled north after their relatives were killed in 1890 by the 7th Cavalry.  Photo from Facebook.

By Vi Waln

The resilience of our ancestors is found in our youth. It was emotional to watch the video of Sophie Brings Plenty running on a snow packed road, carrying an eagle feather staff in the Wounded Knee Survivors Run. Indigenous young people were also a part of the Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride, the Water Walk to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the ride to remember the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Our people have survived with the effects of historical trauma for centuries. Consequently, there are still many of our people who don’t value education. Yet, education is what helps us learn how to heal ourselves of intergenerational trauma.

Education doesn’t always mean attending the schools built by the wasicu. But we do have Indigenous health professionals who are working with our young people to help them overcome their trauma. For instance, Dr. Darryl Tonemah (Kiowa/Comanche/Tuscarora) is a psychologist who works with adults and children in numerous communities on Turtle Island. We appreciate his sacrifice in earning professional credentials. He uses his education to help our people better understand and overcome the effects of trauma.

We would do well to educate ourselves by learning about our ancestors and embracing what they stood for. Our ancestors fought and died so we could be here today. They also carried historical trauma but they never gave up. We have to embrace our cultural heritage as a way to educate ourselves on how historical trauma affects our daily lives.

Healing from intergenerational or historical trauma isn’t going to come from a pill prescribed from an Indian Health Service physician. Individuals must work on themselves to heal from the pain carried in their DNA. Attending the ceremonies still being held in our homelands is one way to heal.

Prayer is important when we are walking the path of healing. Many of us are taught not to pray for ourselves as many believe we should only pray for others. Still, I encourage you to pray for yourself every single day.

I’ve learned to pray for myself because I have to heal myself so I can be an example for people who don’t understand why they are the way they are. When we suffer from historical trauma, we will often turn to substance abuse to numb our pain. Many of our young people are severely traumatized but they don’t really understand it.

It’s up to the adults to show our young people the healing path. We can do that by being a positive role model. Yet, it’s hard to be a positive role model when you are an adult who doesn’t understand what historical trauma is. Again, we have to educate ourselves on what trauma is and how we can move forward to heal. Once you understand why you are the way you are, you can’t go back. You can only move forward into wellness.

I am truly grateful to all our relatives who continue to bring awareness to historical trauma by riding, running and walking every December, often in subzero temperatures. Wopila for remembering our ancestors executed in the 19th century by the 7th Cavalry and President Lincoln. Wopila for praying for our Water. Wopila for praying for the Indigenous women who are missing and those who’ve been murdered. You are good relatives setting a positive example for our children. We can heal!

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Black Friday, Trauma and PTSD

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November 24, 2017

Vi Waln

Today is Native American Heritage Day in the United States. It’s also one of the biggest shopping days in our modern commercial society. Customers are getting a jump start on Christmas shopping by cashing in on Black Friday sales.

When you live on an Indian reservation marked by abject poverty, Black Friday deals are often limited to just viewing the photos of the trending products advertised on television or the internet. November and December are just like any other time of the year for many living on Indian reservations; people struggle to pay utility bills and buy food just like they do every month. In many cases, there is nothing left to purchase Christmas gifts or food for a big dinner.

November is designated as Native American Heritage Month. This is also the time of year when our historical or intergenerational trauma is triggered. We will remember many traumatic events over the coming weeks.

Several historical dates are approaching in which our ancestors were slaughtered by the US military forces. How ironic for the US government to declare Black Friday as Native American Heritage Day when it coincides with the start of some of the bloodiest anniversaries in our memory.

For example, on November 27, 1868, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer attacked Chief Black Kettle’s band of Cheyenne near the Washita River in Oklahoma. Black Kettle had been promised safety by the nearby Commander of Fort Cobb. The massacre resulted in the death of the Chief and 103 of his people, many of which were women and children.

Another event in our collective memory is the November 29, 1864 massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek in Colorado. Most of the people killed were women and children. Soldiers also mutilated many bodies and paraded through nearby towns displaying the bloody genitals of women.

Back then, mutilated body parts were called redskins, since they were freshly stained with the victims’ blood. There were often posters advertising cash payments to people who turned in fresh redskins. Today, the world knows redskins as a football team’s mascot. They can’t understand why we are offended.

December is a traumatic month for the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. Chief Sitting Bull was murdered on December 15, 1890 on the present day Standing Rock reservation by Lakota police officers. In addition, President Lincoln gave the order that resulted in the mass execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862.

And the most infamous massacre was at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, when the 7th Cavalry murdered Chief Big Foot’s band and left their bodies to freeze after a blizzard hit the area. The murdered Lakota were buried in a mass grave that is now visited by hundreds of tourists every summer.

Even though the government recognizes modern-day tribes by designating November as Native American Heritage Month, that honor means nothing to many of us who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) deep in our genes. Consequently, there is an upswing of substance abuse during the last 2 months of the year. Many of us believe that increased drinking and drugging is due to the PTSD carried in our collective memory.

We can overcome the effects of historical or intergenerational trauma. It takes an effort by the individual to recognize trauma and begin the hard work to release it. Letting go of trauma isn’t easy and it can be extremely painful. Yet, it’s the only way we will heal.

Many of us are in denial about the effect historical or intergenerational trauma has on our family. If you look at today’s society, there are young people and children suffering horribly on our reservations. The majority of this suffering is likely caused by the trauma we carry in our collective memory.

As long as we do nothing to heal the trauma we carry, our children will continue to be abused, sexually molested and taken away from us by state sanctioned social workers. Our refusal to heal will result in more intergenerational trauma for our descendants.

I can’t tell you to heal, you have to do that on your own. We all have the strength to overcome the obstacles in front of us to begin walking the path to healing. Lakota prayer and ceremony have healed many of us. When you make a conscious effort to work on healing the historical trauma you carry, it will have a positive effect on your children and grandchildren.

Ask for healing in your daily prayer and then be ready to embrace it.

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Pay Attention To The Red Flags

November 19, 2017

By Vi Waln

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Statistics tell us that Native American women are sexually assaulted at a much higher rate than any other group. Assaults against Indigenous women are not limited to rape. There are countless women out there suffering from sexual harassment. In addition, too many Lakota women suffer from mental, emotional, physical and spiritual abuse inflicted by their romantic partners every single day.

Men, women and children now living on our reservations are victims of physical, mental, emotionally, sexual and spiritual abuse. Much of this abuse is rooted in intergenerational or historical trauma. The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society on the Rosebud Reservation offers services to help both male and female victims. Despite the many victims, I want to focus on men who abuse women.

Unfortunately, the majority of men have forgotten the teaching that women are sacred. Even in thought, women are to be held sacred. If you don’t understand what that means, you can look to the story passed down by our Lakota ancestors about the coming of Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman) and the Cannunpa she gifted us. In short, the story is about a man who paid with his life after having a bad thought about Pte San Win.

Women are the givers of life. In Lakota society, women own the home and nurture their families. Today, many women living on Indian reservations are financially supporting a household of people. Women also care for extended family members. Still, we continue to be abused on many levels by the men in our lives.

There are Lakota men living on our reservations who regularly display misogynistic behavior. As a result, heterosexual women must be careful when choosing a romantic partner. Women must put their own personal safety first.

When you look around our reservations, you will see many couples getting serious about one another very quickly. These couples might move in together or publicly announce an engagement soon after meeting. It isn’t healthy behavior, yet many view it as normal.

Many women who found the strength and courage to leave a violent relationship can testify to the abuse they suffered. They will tell you about how the abuser said all the right things in the courtship stage of the relationship. He may have sympathized with the woman about a serious illness, or her problems at work, or the issues she might have with children and other family members. Abusers wear the honeymoon mask well; they know how to say all the things women want to hear.

When a woman is falls in love with an abuser, she will overlook her own intuitive red flags about his behavior. She will also ignore the advice of family and friends. Women who might come to her with stories about how the man she is involved with is a violent abuser, are viewed as jealous or even spiteful. She truly believes the man has changed for the better since his last abusive relationship.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. He hasn’t changed. Abusers who haven’t been through a treatment or anger management program will continue to hurt their partners on many levels. He can profess to love you and still beat the heck out of you. He might even kill you.

There is a reason he was single when you met him. Single men over the age of 35, who have children with one or several women, are the type we need to stay away from.

Many women watch with heartbreak when a good friend gets romantically involved with a violent man. But we refrain from telling her the details of the violent incidents in his past because we risk bringing harm to ourselves or our family. We make a choice to allow the woman to learn for herself how abusive he can be. We also pray she is not murdered during the course of the relationship.

Ladies, please take an honest look at your relationship. Pay attention to the red flags because they are never wrong. Maybe you could ask the man you’re involved with, the real reason why he left his last 2 or 3 or 4 relationships. Watch carefully his reaction to questions about his former partners. You also need to know if he’s financially supporting his minor children. It’d be great if he had a job where he earned enough money to financially support all of his children and help you pay your bills too.

There is only one of you. You, as well as your children, have a right to be safe in your own home. Please be careful about the man you choose to be your partner.

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Historical Trauma Impacts Us All

November 12, 2017

Vi Waln

Historical or intergenerational trauma is real among our people. Many issues our teenagers and children are dealing with today are rooted in historical or intergenerational trauma. Our lives, as well as those of our descendants, will be affected by trauma as long as we don’t make a conscious effort to heal.

People who tell you that the effects of historical or intergenerational trauma shouldn’t be talked about are in denial. We have to heal our past to understand the issues of today and work for a better future. Don’t let anyone tell you to be quiet about the trauma we’ve suffered. Again, we have to consciously face traumatic events of the past so we can bring healing for ourselves and our unborn generations.

One glaring example of how historical or intergenerational trauma impacts us in the present is the sexual molestation and sexual assault of our children. Many children being sexually abused today are victimized by people who were also sexually molested. Children sexually molesting other children is more common than you believe. It’s been going on since before I was a child.

When a child is sexually molested they may have no idea of what is happening. They are forced by the abuser to feel what they wouldn’t usually experience until adulthood. An innocent child has no idea of what they’ve experienced as being wrong, especially if it felt good.

Many children who’ve been sexually abused tend to block out the memory of who molested them. However, the behavior children exhibit in public is generally a dead giveaway that they’ve been sexually molested. Sometimes the sexual behavior of molested children manifests in a classroom setting, other times it shows up at home.

Innocent children are often oblivious to the sexual behavior they may exhibit in public. A teacher or daycare provider might notice the sexual behavior of a child. It’s best to report any unusual behavior at school to the principal or counselor. If nothing is done at school to address the sexual behavior of children, it should be reported to law enforcement, a medical provider or social services. Keep reporting until someone investigates. In many cases, it’s quite possible the child is being regularly victimized at home.

Trauma impacts every single one of us. Even if you don’t believe you are affected, you are. Because of the horrendous experiences our grandparents survived, trauma is in our genes. We were also born with the genetic trauma of our ancestors, who were brutalized in a number of ways. This genetic trauma is passed down to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If we don’t live a healthy life, we can exacerbate the trauma effects our children suffer.

Trauma affects our entire life. Many of our people suffer from drug and alcohol addictions their whole life because of trauma. Other people are incarcerated because of genetic trauma. That is, many of our people will spend decades behind bars because genetic trauma worked in way to bring about the violent or sexual victimization of an innocent adult or child.

Please don’t let an ignorant educator, or any other uninformed adult, tell you that trauma is simply historical and doesn’t need to be addressed. Nothing is going to heal your trauma and the impact it has on your life until you face it. Healing can be found in many places but the process has to start somewhere.

Our children will continue to be brutalized until we face and heal our trauma. It’s up to all of us to stop the sexual victimization of small children. The sexual abuse of small children is happening right now in homes located on every single Indian reservation on this continent. It will continue as long as we look away and refuse to talk about ways to heal our trauma.

It isn’t easy to face the wrongs we’ve committed. Yet, admitting that you’ve acted from a place of historical or intergenerational trauma is a start. Please don’t be afraid to face your trauma. Don’t be afraid to seek help. It’s the first step to healing.

Our children and unborn generations are depending on us to heal our historical trauma.

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Akicita Isnala Najin

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October 29, 2017

By Vi Waln

“I will never ever give up on finding my brother. I will bring him home someday.” Eva Iyotte, Swift Bear Community.

Eva’s statement appears online at the Korean War Memorial of South Dakota: In Memory of US Army Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte. Last week, the Sicangu Lakota people witnessed the Iyotte Tiospaye prayer being answered. The homecoming of the late Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte was an event which united the Lakota people.

Born on December 22, 1929, Phillip James Iyotte was a teenager when he volunteered for the US Army. He was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 21 Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. According to the Korean War Memorial site, his “battalion was one of the first sent into battle. On September 2, 1950, Sergeant Iyotte was wounded in battle, but he recovered and returned to the front lines on September 21, 1950. . . [he was] taken as a prisoner of war on February 9, 1951. . .He died on September 10, 1951, while held captive by the North Koreans.”

Lakota culture includes stories about the Tokala or Sash Wearers. These were the Akicita who went into battle with no intent of return. They vowed to stake themselves to the ground and fight the enemy to death. Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte was a true Tokala. Only the Tokala is strong enough to return to the front lines of a war zone 19 days after being seriously wounded in battle.

Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte’s parents were the late Joseph Iyotte Jr. and Florence Menard of White River, South Dakota. His late siblings included Judy Iyotte Black Elk, LeRoy Iyotte and Lawrence Iyotte Sr. He is survived by his youngest sister Eva, as well as a large extended family of nieces and nephews. Eva prayed every day to fulfill her fathers’ wish – to find her brother and bring him home. What a powerful prayer!

Our communities are known for great hardship. Today, many Lakota people reside in counties designated as the poorest in the country. Yet, the homecoming of Sergeant Phillip Iyotte was a rich display of Lakota culture, love and support for an Akicita. He was a Tokala who willingly went to war to protect his Tiospaye, knowing full well he might not return.

The technology of today allowed the whole world to watch the Lakota bury their long-lost soldier. From the time Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte’s remains landed in the HeSapa, to the time he was buried next to his late father, our Akicita did an excellent job of honoring one of their own.

Lakota people in the Eagle Nest, Corn Creek, Wososo, Rosebud, Horse Creek and Swift Bear areas decorated the highway with American flags. Large groups of veterans, singers, students and tribal families welcomed Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte as the motorcade passed through our communities. His niece Dera provided impromptu narratives through Facebook live streams, which included a wealth of family and community history, as the procession traveled through Lakota territory.

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When the motorcade arrived in the Swift Bear Community, a large crowd of relatives and veterans were waiting. Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte arrived at his Sister’s residence by horse drawn wagon. The Bad Hand singers rendered many Red Leaf songs outside of the painted tipi, where our fallen Akicita laid in state until dusk. The Red Leaf songs recounted a remarkable story of Akicita Isnala Najin, the young soldier who traveled far from home to serve as a courageous Tokala. It was a beautiful tribute to one of the bravest Akicita the Sicangu Lakota have ever known.

The outpouring of support by numerous veteran groups and community people was a display of heartfelt grief marked by Lakota honor and generosity. There are too many who were involved to list here individually. The Lakota Oyate appreciates all the veterans from different eras who came in support of Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte and his Tiospaye.

We acknowledge our Sicangu Lakota Akicita Eugene Iron Shell Sr., Homer Whirlwind Soldier Sr. and all veterans of the Korean War. The homecoming of Sergeant Phillip Iyotte helped many of us realize how fortunate we are to have our Leksi Iron Shell and Leksi Whirlwind Soldier in our lives all these years. They both served on active duty in Korea and returned home to care for their families.

We also want to recognize all the American Legion Posts and Lakota Warrior Societies who helped bring Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte home to his final resting place in Two Kettle. The Chauncey Eagle Horn Post 125 of Rosebud provided a tremendous service to their fallen comrade. We are grateful to all veterans and active duty soldiers who paid tribute to one of their own.

As I watched the internet live streams on the day Sergeant Phillip James Iyotte came home to Swift Bear, I saw my people come together as one to honor a fallen soldier. Please pray for continued unity in our everyday lives as we work to overcome our hardships and provide the basic necessities for our families.

Wopila Tanka. Mitakuye Oyasin.

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Lakota Teachings Do Not Advocate Suicide

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September 23, 2017

By Vi Waln

September is designated as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. “Take a Minute, Change a Life,” is this year’s theme. Many Lakota people have been affected by the suicide of a loved one. If you are contemplating suicide, please take a minute to read on, it could change your life.

Lakota people grounded in spirituality understand the sacredness of human life. It doesn’t really matter how you pray, the important thing to remember is Tunkasila, Wakan Tanka, Creator or Father God puts every human being on Earth for a purpose. Each one of us has a certain amount of time on Earth to fulfill our life purpose. You were born with the inner strength to complete your life’s mission.

Lakota teachings do not advocate suicide. Lakota spirituality focuses on life. A central prayer is for Wicozani or health. Most of the sacred songs we hear at Sundance, Inipi, Lowanpi and Yuwipi ask for strength and courage to live in this world. The Native American Church prayers and songs also focus on life.

Still, many Lakota people suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness or other afflictions invisible to those around them. These conditions are hard to overcome, especially when you are young. Healing is always possible, no matter how dark your life might seem.

Suicide is not an escape. You will not have an easy time when you choose to end your own life. Lakota teachings say birth involves certain Spirit helpers who assist our transition into the human body when we are born.

It is believed these same Spirit helpers are there to help us make the end of life transition when Death comes. However, you must consider the possibility that those Spirit helpers might not be there if it isn’t your time to leave this world. The spiritual pain you experience could be intense when you commit suicide.

Love will overcome all your darkness. Family members often pay attention to one another to make sure they are okay. Yet, there are times when no one can see a suicide coming. A person makes a rash decision to end their life.

As difficult as it may be, you must think about the enormous pain your self-inflicted death will cause those who love you. You must also remember that if it isn’t your time to die, the risk is great. That is, the spiritual help you might expect when you kill yourself might not be there. Your Spirit will have to depend on the prayers of the human family you’ve left behind.

In 2003, my oldest Takoja walked into the spirit world. My family was devastated. The loss of a child is something you never really get over. My Takoja passed away from an infection called Group A streptococcus, which you may hear people refer to as strep throat.

A temporary doctor working for the Indian Health Service Hospital at Rosebud, SD failed to diagnose her illness. She was 5 years old. I filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the US Government and won a settlement.

On the day of Takoja’s funeral, the late Dinah Crow Dog-Running brought a small basket filled with spiritual food (wasna). I had watched her make spiritual food many times during her life. Tunwin Dinah would often blend 3 sacred foods into her wasna. This is the kind of wasna she would serve to the public when she was asked to pray at a gathering.

Sacred food generally refers to the 3 bowls of wasna served with the morning water in the Native American Church (tobacco/cornhusk) prayer services. Dried buffalo or deer meat, dried chokecherries and dried corn are each prepared into an individual wasna. After the morning water is shared, the 3 bowls of wasna (morning food) are served to the people.

The basket Tunwin Dinah prepared for my Takoja was covered with a piece of red felt. She uncovered the basket and I saw a tipi made from sage on the wasna. She told me to use my finger to make a door in the tipi and to take some wasna to put in the small bundle she prepared for my Takoja. I did as she asked and then shared the sacred food with my family.

With a prayer, she helped me put the small bundle of food in my Takoja’s hands. We stepped back when we were done and stood looking at my Takoja. Then an incredulous look came over Tunwin Dinah’s face and she whispered, “they all followed her.”

She told me there are many lost Spirits who don’t know where to go when they die. On the day we buried my Takoja, many of those Spirits followed her to the other side. My Takoja helped them find the way to where they are supposed to go. I believe many of those Spirits who followed her were relatives who committed suicide and left this world before their time.

It’s important to remember who we are. The way a Lakota family buries a blood relative can bring spiritual help in ways we may not understand. Spiritual help can come when the family prepares spiritual food with a prayer to send with the loved one making their journey. The prayer put into that sacred food creates a path for many to follow.

It’s time for all Lakota people to live their culture. The Lakota teachings we still carry weren’t left to us for nothing. When families begin regularly making the spiritual food with a prayer, we will see our society turn itself around. Consequently, wasna is meant to be shared regularly, not just when someone dies.

Life might seem hard, but please know that wandering on the other side will likely devastate your spirit even more. Many believe the suffering in the spirit world is more intense than the pain we experience in our body.

People love you! Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone who cares, or text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

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Vote in the RST General Election

August 19, 2017

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The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will have a General Election on Thursday, August 24. Voters will elect a tribal secretary and 10 tribal council representatives. Since Wayne Boyd was the only candidate to file for tribal treasurer, he will remain in that position.

According to the Election Board, there are approximately 7,306 tribal citizens registered to vote on the Rosebud. This number does not include anyone who registered in the last 2 weeks. 2,041 (28%) of Rosebud’s registered voters cast a ballot in the Primary Election. This is the highest turnout we’ve ever had for a tribal election.

Elections are important. It’s an opportunity for you to have a say in your government. In the past, Rosebud has had a 22-26% voter turnout in tribal elections. This means less than 1/3 of people registered to vote on the reservation decide who is elected to serve in tribal government.

Many tribal citizens complain that the same people are elected to office over and over. Since the voter turnout has been historically low, it’s safe to say that the same people are voting in tribal elections. Tribal citizens have the power to change the outcome of any election when they register to vote and act by casting a ballot.

There were 5,265 registered tribal voters who didn’t vote in the July 27 Primary Election. Those voters alone have the potential to change the outcome of an election. If you are a tribal citizen who is registered but choose not to vote, please reconsider. We need your input.

Voters must consider each candidate running for tribal council. Look at what they have contributed to our society. Those of you who watch or attend tribal council meetings know who speaks for the people and who sits silent.

Here is a list of candidates on the General Election ballot:

Tribal Secretary
Martina “Teema” LaDeaux
Linda Marshall

Black Pipe
Russell Eagle Bear
William Morrison

Bull Creek
Byron Andrews
Alfred Old Lodge

Butte Creek
C. Steve Brave
Paul Joseph

Grass Mountain
Vanessa Red Hawk Thompson
Rita Means

Ideal
Gabriel Medicine Eagle
Shizue M. LaPointe

Okreek
Steven L. DeNoyer
Wayne W. Frederick

Parmelee
Eileen Shot
Brian K. Dillon

Spring Creek
Pamela J. Kills In Water
Lila Kills In Sight

Soldier Creek
Kathleen Wooden Knife
Dennis Charlie Spotted Tail

Two Strike
Richard “Smokey” Whipple
Ben Black Bear III

We elect candidates to vote on issues during tribal council meetings. When elected representatives abstain from the tribal council vote, they’ve made a choice to not represent the people who put them there.

Voters are also encouraged to examine the employment record of candidates. If a candidate wasn’t performing well at their job, they likely won’t perform as a tribal council representative either. Just because an employee has a long history of employment, it doesn’t mean they excelled at their job or saved the tribe money.

It is crucial for voters to consider the criminal records of tribal council candidates. Tribal council representatives make decisions about all our programs. This includes law enforcement, health, education, finance, etc.

It’s true that people with felony convictions may have changed their lives for the better since being released from prison or probation. Yet, there’s a reason for a criminal conviction remaining on one’s record for the rest of their lives. People with felony records are eligible to register and vote in tribal elections.

However, in terms of candidates for tribal council, it isn’t appropriate to elect people with criminal records to positions where they have decision-making authority over tribal programs.

Many tribal programs are funded through federal contracts. Currently, the federal government is represented by people whom we’ve never considered to be our friends. The federal government may seem distracted by other issues, yet they will be reviewing their relationship with tribal governments at some point.

We have to protect our interests by electing tribal citizens who can clear a criminal background investigation. There are tribal citizens who don’t vote for candidates with larceny, illegal drug or other non-violent felonies on their criminal record. We are responsible for our children and must act to protect their future. Giving decision making power over federal dollars to convicted felons could jeopardize our funding.

Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc. (St. Francis Indian School), a chartered entity of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, will hold their school board election in conjunction with the General Election. All registered tribal voters are eligible to cast a vote to elect school board members. Please vote for candidates who will work to ensure that SFIS is accountable as a student-oriented institution.

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Tribal government belongs to all of us. St. Francis Indian School is a tribally chartered entity which receives federal funding through the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. It is an educational institution belonging to our families and children.

Other chartered entities include Tribal Land Enterprises (TLE), Sinte Gleska University (SGU), Sicangu Wicoti Awayankapi, Inc. (SWA) and the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, Inc. (REDCO).

Article IV of the Constitution of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe addresses the Powers of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council. Section 1 lists the Enumerated Powers, including the following excerpts:

(n) To charter subordinate organizations for economic purposes and to regulate the activities of all cooperative associations of members of the Tribe. . .
(u) To delegate to subordinate boards or tribal officials, to the several communities, or to cooperative associations, which are open to all members of the Tribe any of the foregoing powers, reserving the right to review any action taken by virtue of such delegated power.

The constitution authorizes the governing body to oversee chartered organizations, communities, boards and associations. Your tribal council has the authority “to review any action taken” by the tribal entities it oversees. In addition, charters approved by the tribal council can be suspended, revoked or dissolved. The tribal council is elected to work for all of us. Tribal voters have the right to question actions they disagree with and bring issues to the tribal council.

The future of our Nation depends on our tribal voters. We have a responsibility to our children to elect tribal council and school board representatives who will work for what is in the best interest for all our people. Excessive travel, felony criminal records and absenteeism aren’t really in the peoples’ best interest.

Please vote on August 24, 2017.

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