Sicangu Scribe Scribblings
2011-08-24 / Voices
Lakota people, along with all of the other Indian tribes living on this continent, were not supposed to survive. Our ancestors were systematically attacked and killed. The buffalo herd we depended on for sustenance was decimated. The foreigners who came from the east so long ago had an agenda filled with greed. It seemed they would stop at nothing to get what they wanted.
The coming of the wasicu saw many of our ways lost. Our people gave up much to survive. We have assimilated to the point where we live in the houses brought to us by the wasicu. We drive his cars. We go to school to learn his language. We shop in his grocery stores. Our children wear the clothes and shoes sold in the malls built by the wasicu.
So there are hardly any Indian people left who can actually say we are not assimilated because all of us have adapted to this wasicu way of life to some extent. I have visited some self-contained villages on reservations in the Southwest, but I doubt the Lakota people could survive a plains winter living in a tipi. We are accustomed to living in a house with a furnace or wood stove. We are also dependent upon electricity and indoor plumbing. How many of us actually live all year without these conveniences?
Even though we have adapted so well into the wasicu way of life, we still have those customs that differentiate our people from mainstream society. At the risk of sounding cliché, I have to say there are many Lakota people who still walk in two worlds. Many of us are still strong in our language and culture. We still have the cannunpa and sacred rites brought to us by Pte San Win. And we have completed another extremely powerful season of Wi Wang Waci. The people will survive another year on Unci Maka. Our prayer keeps us alive.
We may be semi-assimilated but there are still some of us who refuse to succumb to colonized thinking. When you are a colonized thinker your mind operates like a wasicu. You might think it is better to just let go of everything that is inherently Lakota and embrace the way of life the federal government wants us to lead. In my opinion, it is better to keep my mind in a place where I can clearly see where my conversion to a 100% colonized brain will take me. Colonized thought has only led our people down the path of cultural destruction.
Colonized thinkers believe our ceremonies should be put away. They believe our prayers are better off heard in the wasicu churches. Why should we suffer any longer in the Wi Wang Waci? It’s so much easier sitting for an hour every week in an air conditioned church with a taste of bread and wine than it is praying without food or water for four days.
Recently, I witnessed the Sinte Gleska Tiospaye honor their elders. The Sinte Gleska Tiospaye was probably one of the first to settle in the area where Parmelee is now located. I remember my late Grandmother used to talk about when she lived in Salt Camp, located east of Parmelee.
Dennis and Pearl Spotted Tail raised a family who honored them with a public meal and giveaway. Some families still uphold the custom of honoring their elders by recognizing them at public gatherings. We honor our families and children by sharing our food with everyone. We also honor them by distributing gifts to the public. It made me feel really good to see this tradition is still being carried on.
It was awesome to see Dennis Spotted Tail, Ray Spotted Tail, Steven Spotted Tail and Zach Spotted Tail enter the wacipi arbor on horses. Today, it is an extremely rare event to witness four generations of a family descended from our most famous Itancan all together in one place. I believe Chief Spotted Tail would be proud to know that his descendants still carry on some of the customs his family knew when he walked the earth during the nineteenth century.
Spotted Tail pondered the future of his people. “The closing years of Sinte Gleska’s life are considered the most significant in the terms of contributions made to the Sicangu Lakota, and quite possibly Native Americans in general. It was during these years that he began to look at long-range goals and the struggles that the Sicangu people were to endure. As one of the important Lakota leaders, Sinte Gleska viewed people from the highest position and perspective. Viewing people from his level and dealing with the U.S. government at its highest level, the Sicangu Itancan (leader) caught a brief glimpse of the future of the Sicangu.
“What he foresaw in the twentieth century, due to the deteriorating condition of the Lakota and the extremely aggressive policies of the U.S. government, was shocking. Based on this observation and reaction, Sinte Gleska revealed that unless the Lakota were able to cope with this situation, they would not survive as a people. This need for survival prompted him to stress and advocate the idea of accepting the minimal, but basic, aspects of the Wasicu tool of education for survival in the white dominated world. He optimistically envisioned that a certain portion of the Lakota population would master the Wasicu basic skills of learning, and eventually these people would supplant the untrustworthy Wasicu working as clerks, translators, and other agency officials. This would then ensure the survival of the Lakota…
“Today, Sinte Gleska lies buried on the crest of the nearest northern hill overlooking the Rosebud Agency, where the hub of activity between U.S. government and the Sicangu people is enacted on a daily basis.” http://www.sintegleska.edu/HistoryofSinteGleska. htm
Spotted Tail worked hard to ensure our survival. His decisions were based on his desire to see us live. We must follow his example and ensure the survival of our unborn generations.
Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She can be reached through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.