WHICH CENTURY ARE WE LIVING IN?
By Alberta Iron Cloud Miller, Knife Chief
The pine Ridge Reservation is giving birth to a new Oglala child; a child bearing
gifts of hope and renewal and a new way of looking at ourselves and the way we relate to
our relatives. Many of our relatives are beginning to awaken to our situation and
"Mitakuye Oyasin" is taking on a new meaning as we begin to examine our separate
realities at the Red Cloud Building at the Pine Ridge Agency. The birthing process in the
form of the occupation of tribal headquarters is now past the 40 day mark and will no
doubt continue until the new Oglala childs "camp" is clean, warm and safe.
For over 40 days we have been discussing our pain and our dreams. It seems we are
living in different dimensions and different levels of extremes here on the Pine Ridge
Reservation. On the outside, we are credited with having an abundance of spirituality,
which we do, and this same spirituality has been adopted by the non-Indian to promote
their own peaceful existence. However, here on the Reservation, these same rituals are
often used to promote fear through the use of power and control over others. At the other
extreme, there are circles of people whose only source of survival is rooted in the power
of the prayers and our sacred Lakota ceremonies. What do you pray for first if you have no
car, if you have no telephone, if you have no home, if you poor health, if you cannot
provide for your children and if you are not safe as a woman or a child? Many of our
people still live under these conditions and yet manage to stay alive. If many of your
tribal families still live under these conditions, how different is this way of life from
a hundred years ago?
As a mother and grandmother, it is very hard to hear the stories and even harder to
express my frustration on paper. Alone I can fume and rage and cry about the stories I
hear from our people who have been disempowered in their own "country", meaning
the Reservation. I listened to an elder lady as she expressed how she was humiliated when
she approached a public official for financial assistance. She was told by this official
that he didnt put her in this position so he shouldnt be expected to help her.
He did relent by authorizing a $50 purchase order from the local shopping center. I
pictured my mother, my aunties or maybe my sisters, having to experience this
embarrassment and then the tears set in. How about this one? I met a young Lakota mother
who is now homeless. Her five children are separated until she can find a home. Her
daughter and her three children are sleeping in their grandmothers basement on the
floor. This young woman had told me last year when we first met, that she would be happy
with a one room cabin on her own land. She said shoe would be happy to chop wood and haul
water, as long as she and her children could have a place of their own.
On the other end of the spectrum are the individuals whose families, relatives,
mistresses and in-laws prosper because they are able to access the "goods" at
the "fort". The latest figures from the Oglala Sioux Tribes General Fund
ledger and Indirect Cost ledger reveal that our income and revenues are completely
mismanaged. The situation here resembles life on the Reservation a hundred years ago.
Again, which century are we living in?
Valentine Macgillicudy, an agent on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the late 1800s,
described how a "ring" of individuals (both Lakota and wasicu) schemed on the
treaty goods and rations which were sent to the Reservation for distribution to the new
residents of the Reservation. He described how some wasicu deliberately made their homes
on the southern border of the Reservation in order to capture the goods that came off the
trains. Apparently, the local ringmasters worked with official in Washington, D. C. so
they knew exactly when the freight was coming in and what was being sent in. The collusion
of the locals and the wasicu in staling the goods and rations resulted in the Oglalas
receiving less than what was intended for them. Does it not seem that we are still
operation under the same policy? Our goods and resources now end up at the First National
Bank in Gordon, Nebraska. Recently, a bank official from the First National Bank, without
Tribal Council approval and knowledge, transferred $12,7by wire to Dakota Travel
Agency, Lead, SD, to allow several suspended officials (Wesley "Chuck" Jacobs,
Paul Little and Mike Her Many Horses) to travel to Washington, D.C. Once again, who is in
charge of our goods and rations? Is it still the ring?
The occupation of the Red Cloud building at the Agency has caused many of our people to
awaken to the reality that we can no longer tolerate for "fort" mentality. Our
people are slowly awakening to the reality of our being. I was told that corruption, as a
by-product of oppression, is one way of making society manageable and that this process
has been used for centuries to control indigenous populations. Now, many mothers and
grandmothers are forced to confront corruption and deception. We are asking ourselves how
we can help so that our children will survive in the new century. We are also asking how
we can bring back the reverence for our sacred ways of respect, honesty, generosity,
fortitude and humility. We put forth the following questions. How can your children become
educated here on the Pine Ridge Reservation, if your child doesnt have a bed to
sleep in, doesnt have clothing or isnt safe at the school? What if your
child is homeless? What hopes and dreams do the young people have in a world where they
have no rights? This reservation does not have a theater, a public swimming pool,
recreation centers, and all other things needed by the youth. What are their alternatives?
You know the answer-gang involvement, gang rapes, indiscriminate sexual activity, drinking
alcohol, smoking weed, snorting cocaine, etc.
Our Reservation is gifted with individuals who retain the knowledge, wisdom and power
to promote healing and balance yet they are often overlooked and ignored so those teaching
remain invisible except to the active seeker. As mothers and grandmothers we must stand
together to rebuild our families and to restore balance in your lives. We must nourish our
spirits with that which is rightfully ours. When we were children and we traveled away
from home, our mother would often tell us to call our spirits back y calling our names. In
this way, we would be peaceful and happy. Perhaps it is time for all Oglala Oyate to call
back their spirits from the "fort". Mitakuye Oyasin.