Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Dave Flute says in a press release that a tribal delegation will gather at the site of the TransCanada Keystone pipeline leak in Marshall County this afternoon to gather more information about whatever impact the 5,000-barrel spill has had on local water supplies.
Public health interventions such as improved sanitation, effective tobacco-cessation counselling, regulation of alcohol outlet densities, access to culturally appropriate health services, cancer screening programmes and outreach for geographically isolated communities, and education about diet and physical activity, could all help to reduce excess mortality rates. Funding for such interventions and Indian health services should increase as a matter of urgency [“Poor Health Outcomes in Native Americans and Alaska Natives,” The Lancet, 2014.05.03].
South Dakota should do something to address the gross disparities between white and Indian health outcomes. But when we try to help, we also need to make sure our efforts aren’t diverted from direct assistance to Indian communities to the pockets of Pierre cronies, as has been wont to happen in the past.
In August, I mentioned that Attorney General Marty Jackley signed South Dakota onto a friend-of-the-court brief in a water-rights case pitting the Agua Caliente tribe of California against a local water development district. I noted that Jackley joined nine other states in arguing that surface and ground water belong to the public and that tribes and the federal government cannot take that water away from the states, a concept with implications for our soon-to-resume nonmeandered waters debate.
For over a hundred years the U.S. Supreme Court has granted Indian tribes the reserved right to surface water to accomplish the purposes of a reservation. This ruling based on the interpretation of an Indian treaty was issued in 1908 in the Winters case and has been since affirmed by numerous courts, including the U S Supreme Court again in 1976.
The Attorney General’s brief argues that states should have, “primary control over their groundwater resources.” The brief also attempts to assert that state water claims are greater than treaty water rights of Indian tribes. The Circuit Court decision, now under appeal, stated that rights reserved by treaties are not subject to appropriation under state law, nor did a state have authority to dispose of such water rights.
…The brief asserts the longstanding Winters case should apply only to surface water rights of an Indian tribe. The U S Constitution does not provide for a state setting treaty policy or imposing treaty terms. “No State shall enter into any Treaty. . .” Article I Section 10 “. . . all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Article VI [David Ganje, “South Dakota Signs onto Anti-Tribal Brief in Supreme Court Water Case,” Native Sun News via Indianz.com, 2017.10.25].
An Attorney General running for Governor supports an argument that state interests can supersede tribal rights guaranteed by federal treaty. Hmm… might candidates working to get out the vote in South Dakota’s tribal communities want to point that fact out to Lakota voters?
Thune’s Native American Day column shows no personal connection to the holiday or the culture it celebrates. His pheasant hunting column is chock full of personal observations:
For me, hunting has always been more about the experience than the number of birds I bring home. Sure, limiting out on ringnecks is great, but it’s the memories I’m able to create along the way that matter the most. As long as I’m walking the fields with friends and family, an empty hunting vest never bothers me. I’m blessed that I’m still able to enjoy hunts with my siblings and my dad who is 97 years young. My sons-in-law have also taken up pheasant hunting, which is exciting for me to be able to pass this tradition on to the next generation [Senator John Thune, weekend column, 2017.10.12].
Thune’s Native American Day column reads like a combination grade-school Thanksgiving lesson and Chamber of Commerce flyer talking up Native American groceries like Tanka Bars and Lakota Popcorn (“These are just a few examples of how tribal traditions are living on today”). He can’t even think of policies he might advocate in his policymaking position to promote Native interests.
But if we’re promoting pheasants and hunting, Thune is ready to talk policy:
For a lot of hunters, when they hear CRP mentioned, they think of pheasants. The popular and well-respected conservation program provides incentives for landowners to set aside portions of their property that can serve as nesting and brood-rearing areas for pheasants. This year’s low pheasant population and low commodity prices are great reasons to increase the number of available CRP acres. This is why I’ve introduced legislation that would boost the CRP acreage cap to 30 million acres in the next Farm Bill, which represents a 25 percent increase. I’ve introduced additional bills in Congress that would authorize a shorter-term (three-five years) conserving use program that would complement CRP, and expand the sodsaver initiative nationwide, which is something I first authored in the 2008 and 2014 farm bills [Thune, 2017.10.12].
Thune’s consecutive “holiday” columns show the Senator is more tuned in to the interests of his gun-toting companions than of Native South Dakotans.
Join us tonight from 5-6 p.m. at the SE corner of 10th Street and Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls, SD to send a message of unity and love in response to the racist homecoming incident in Sturgis, SD earlier this week. We will gather with signs showing our community’s support for Native students in South Dakota.
Materials for making signs will be provided. Please share information about this demonstration to help spread the word! [Facebook event page, 2017.10.13]
“That’s not what western South Dakota or Sturgis is about,” [Superintendent Don] Kirkegaard said. “I can’t defend those actions, but I can try my best to make sure it never happens again.”
Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said the greater community needed to also make a statement condemning the incident and reaffirming inclusive values. He planned to meet with city council members soon to consider the options.
The imminent rally in Sioux Falls is 370 miles away from the Sturgis football field darkened by its young residents’ thoughtless (we can only hope) racism, but one racist outburst in one South Dakota town makes all of South Dakota look bad. Reconciliation is a statewide effort. Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, and Sturgis must consider each other neighbors as surely as we have to start thinking of Pine Ridge and Agency Village as our neighbors.
But does canonization merely culminate colonization?
Some voice no resentment. “It wasn’t so bad,” one Lakota-speaking elder says in passing about Red Cloud School, where children are enrolled from kindergarten through high school. “I learned religion there.” But history has scarred many, and the desire to escape anything related to the colonial past is strong. For some, there is the feeling that the canonization of Black Elk would be a continuation of the church’s role in colonialism. This makes them wary of the process, as if the church is appropriating something that is not hers to take. Once a participant in the cultural persecution of the Lakota, this thinking goes, the church is now using what is left to cover its sins in Native garb [Damian Costello and Jon M. Sweeney, “Black Elk, the Lakota Medicine Man Turned Catholic Teacher, Is Promoted for Sainthood,” America: The Jesuit Review, 2017.10.01].
Maka Clifford, educator and descendant of Black Elk, says making Black Elk a saint would help both whites and Lakota better understand the complicated indigenous identity:
The most important issue at the moment for Maka Clifford and his students is to figure out how to be indigenous in modern society: “History has produced a society that feels the need to authenticate itself.” He says that participating in activities deemed nontraditional leaves people open to the criticism that they are “not Indian enough.” The witness of Black Elk, as both indigenous and a potential Catholic saint, is a resource in the process of decolonization and healing, he says. “My hope is that we can learn that we can be indigenous and all these other things: Catholic, worldly, a diplomat, a scientist, etc. My hope is that being indigenous is not limited. And Black Elk is part of that conversation” [Costello and Sweeney, 2017.10.01].
Father Joe Daoust, leader of the Jesuit community on Pine Ridge, explains how Black Elk fits a history of other cultures changing Catholicism:
The analogy of St. Thomas Aquinas and his use of Aristotle comes to mind. It is easy to forget how innovative it was for the Catholic theologian to draw upon the work of the Greek philosopher, but this method gave the church a new and deeper understanding of God and God’s work in the world. What was once controversial is now seen as one of the most traditional sources of Catholic theology. In a similar way, indigenous thought has the potential to give the church a new method for understanding and interacting with God’s creation, what Father Daoust calls “a gift of Native American spirituality to the church.”
Ultimately, Father Daoust is hopeful about Black Elk’s cause. “Pope Francis has spoken of indigenous spirituality in “Laudato Si’,” and I think he will be particularly receptive to the cause” [Costello and Sweeney, 2017.10.01].
Besides the thorny business of colonization, the Catholic Church needs to address whether Black Elk meets the basic criteria for sainthood. I’ll defer to communicant readers on Church law, but saints need to be martyrs or miracle workers. Black Elk spent the last half of his long life following Catholic ways and bringing hundreds of his people to the Church. But he died peacefully, and the evidence of miracles by Black Elk seems thin.
Black Elk’s own interest in Catholicism began when a Catholic priest interrupted him in performing what a Lakota medicine ritual. I’ll not stamp my approval on any culture’s claims of magic, but Black Elk’s entrance into the church hinges on his being told by a white priest, “Don’t practice Lakota miracle-making; practice the Catholic brand instead!”
The Catholics have one American Indian saint, Kateri Tekewitha of the Mohawk people. Maybe another Indian saint would be good for the Catholic Church… but would canonizing Black Elk be good for the Lakota people?
South Dakota sorta-kinda observed its pioneering Native American Day today. Aberdeen took the day off school; Webster did not.
Native American Day, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, does not lend itself to the holiday frivolity and tacky capitalist excess typical of Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, and Mothers’ Day. These two holidays invite historical discussion of entire peoples who have been denied full access to the American dream, not to mention our frivolity and capitalist excess.
Pat, I rarely detect any warmth from you and others on this side of the aisle toward SD natives. What does “happy Native American day” mean to you? Or maybe others can answer. Honest question. Don’t mean to jibe.
It’s my view SD’s greatest challenge is that we have third world living conditions within our borders, hopelessness and hurting people— and excuses… it’s a Federal problem, tribes are corrupt, personal responsibility, yada yada. Our national guard can go to Puerto Rico or wherever to help and that’s fine but where is good ole SD neighborliness toward natives?
We need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to get the past on the table so we can deal with it properly and set out on a good future together.
Mickelson has the mantle and we need a leader like him. That what I tell him. I’ve asked him to start a Mickelson foundation for reconciliation and get those big donors in our state to invest in something that matters, not more stadiums. I was bummed he didn’t run for governor but maybe that day will come. I’ve told him no one will remember a governor who rides the waves of the economy in a certain decade but the governor who does who can be done to fundamentally change things for the better in relations with natives and quality of life for them will leave a legacy long long remembered.
My family is deeply vested in this matter and that’s why I won’t shut up about it. No other issue in the state is near as important unless we just don’t care that human beings are really suffering [Steve Hickey, comment on Native American Day, in response to and censored from Dakota War College, 2017.10.09].
I won’t presume to know the hearts of my Lakota neighbors, but I speculate that some might consider the happiest Native American Day would be the day we immigrants all go back to Europe. Absent that prospect, I suggest that, for now, a happy Native American Day in South Dakota is a day we spend speaking with our neighbors about our shared history, our not entirely willingly shared land, and our practical ideas for more equitable sharing.
The discussion of Neihardt’s book “Black Elk Speaks” will be led by humanities scholar Jace DeCory, assistant professor emeritus at Black Hills State University in Spearfish. The program will begin at 7 p.m. CDT.
“Taking place the day after Native American Day in South Dakota, this is an opportunity to learn more about Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk,” said Michael Lewis, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.
Amy Kucera is also going to speak about the John G. Neihardt Foundation and State Historic Site in Bancroft, Neb. She is the former director of that site and now works for the South Dakota Historical Society Press at the Cultural Heritage Center.
The foundation and the As the Pages Turn Book Club in Pierre are sponsoring the free program, made possible by a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Everyone is welcome to attend.
“Hehaka Sapa – Black Elk, is one of the most influential and celebrated Oglala Lakota individuals of all time,” DeCory said. “Black Elk’s teachings and experiences should be shared and discussed in order to better understand his spiritual legacy as a holy man. As an early cultural mediator, Black Elk continues to give special insights into Lakota culture and people” [South Dakota State Historical Society, press release, 2017.10.02].
Admission is free, and interested readers can borrow copies of Black Elk Speaks before the program from the Cultural Heritage Center.
I read Black Elk Speaks at SDSU in 1993, in the David Nelson philosophy class where I sat fifteen feet from my future wife but never spoke to her. Eight years later, when we finally did speak, I reread a chapter from Black Elk Speaks aloud as entertainment during our walk in the woods. 16 years after that, our copies of that book share shelf space with our child’s numerous tomes, and the tallest peak in South Dakota, which the three of us have climbed together, has been renamed in Black Elk’s honor.
The part of Black Elk Speaks that sticks in my mind (thanks to Dr. Nelson’s emphasis) is the concept of the “hoop”, what we may interpret as “worldview.” Black Elk saw the white man’s coming as the destruction of his people’s belief system. He saw the Indians hanging around the fort, living off the government’s rations, while other tribes who resisted the colonizers’ restriction and tried to stay free on the plains suffered from the decimation of the buffalo, and he lamented, “How could men get fat by being bad, and starve by being good?” His people’s suffering called into question his worldview, his belief that his people could rid themselves of the white man and restore their greatness if they held to their Lakota ways. That belief—that “hoop”—was further “broken and scattered” by the massacre at Wounded Knee.
Black Elk’s discussion of the breaking of his hoop is about the centrality of philosophy to our lives. All of us require some framework of beliefs to make sense of the world and guide our actions. Great change—invasion, immigration, technological innovation—can present new situations of which our hoop cannot makes sense. If the new world refutes our hoop, our hope breaks, and we will live in despair if we cannot repair our beliefs to make sense of the world and our place in it.
Borrow a copy of Black Elk Speaks from the Cultural Heritage Center. Take that copy out to Black Elk Peak this weekend and read a bit from the mountaintop that figured centrally in Black Elk’s vision and to which he ventured as an old man in 1931 to pray to his gods for his people. Then join Dr. DeCory to discuss Black Elk’s book on Tuesday, October 10, in Pierre.
American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option.
Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.
…“Our beliefs, that I was raised with, say that no one has a right to take away a life except the Creator. Period,” [Blackfoot tribal member Theda] New Breast said. “End of story.”
Congress expanded the list of death-penalty eligible crimes in the mid-1990s, allowing tribes to decide if they wanted their citizens subject to the death penalty. Legal experts say they are aware of only one tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, that has opted in [Felicia Fonseca and Russell Contreras, “,” AP via Washington Post, 2017.08.21].
That Blackfoot belief about life and the Creator sounds pretty Christian.
American Indians resist the death penalty even though they are twice as likely to be victims of crime than we trembling, “hang ’em high” white folks… and 57% of the violent crimes and 80% of the sexual assaults against Indians are perpetrated by whites.
Fall River and Oglala Lakota counties will provide early voting at satellite centers in western and southern Pine Ridge for the full 46 days of voting in the 2018 primary and general elections.
Tripp County will provide early voting at a satellite center on the Rosebud for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Dewey County will open a satellite voting center on the Cheyenne River Reservation for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Jackson County will open a satellite voting center in northeastern Pine Ridge for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Buffalo County will open a voting center on Crow Creek for nine days prior to the general election.
Why are Tripp, Dewey, Jackson, and Buffalo counties offering their economically and geographically disadvantages Native populations only a fraction of the early-voting access that other South Dakotans enjoy just by their good fortune of living closer to their county courthouses? Because that’s all their county commissioners asked for… and don’t come asking for more explanation:
Krebs said county commissions decide what they want to offer, and the HAVA board acts on their requests for funding. At publication time, email and phone efforts to reach Buffalo County commissioners for a comment on their decision-making process had proven unsuccessful. The commissioners “do not have offices,” said an unidentified woman who answered a phone number on the county’s website; she hung up abruptly when she learned the call was from a representative of the media [Stephanie Woodard, “Native Voting Rights in South Dakota—We Do the Math,” Indian Country Media, 2017.08.01].
As of the end of June, the state had $9 million in HAVA funds on hand, including $2,395,000.06 in HAVA funds designated to individual counties. Buffalo County auditor Elaine J. Wulff requested $2,100 to open the Crow Creek satellite voting station on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for three weeks in October 2018. Multiply that request by 10.2 to get a full 92 satellite voting center operating days (46 primary, 46 general) at a cost of $21,500, and we could fund the six satellite voting stations for seven elections, through 2030, for a total cost of $1 million, one ninth of the HAVA funds South Dakota has on hand now.