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Oglala Sioux Require Outside Christian Groups to Register, Boot Rapid City Preacher for Demonizing Lakota Spirituality

Russia requires outside religious groups to register with the government. Now so does the Oglala Sioux Tribe, although it has backed away from a more radical suspension of all Christian missions:

On Wednesday, July 27, the Oglala Sioux Tribal (OST) Council voted that churches and missions can continue day-to-day operations, but must register within 90 days. The tribal council voted 10-7 to rescind Tuesday’s ordinance, which put a stop to all activities by churches and missions on the reservation.

Native American Churches and traditional Native American services are excluded from the registration requirement [Darren Thompson, “Oglala Sioux Tribe Rescinds Ordinance Suspending Churches and Missions,” Native News Online, 2022.07.30].

Russia criminalizes “offending the feelings of religious believers.” The Oglala Sioux Tribe ordered Rapid City political preacher Matthew Monfore and his “Jesus Is King” Mission off Pine Ridge for offending the feelings of its religious believers:

On Friday, July 22, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and its President, Kevin Killer, issued a statement demanding that the Jesus is King Mission leave the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after pamphlets were distributed that promoted that Jesus, not Tunkasila (a Lakota word for Creator), is the “true god.”

“This week the Jesus is King Missionary was found distributing material that literally demonizes the Lakota Culture and Faith,” said the Oglala Sioux Tribe in a statement. “This is unacceptable and completely disrespectful. It is the view of the President and Council that these ‘pamphlets’ seek to promote Hate instead of Peace. Hate has no place on Oglala land.”

…“The ability to practice the faith of our choosing, voice our concerns, and address our problems is based on one underlying principle—respect. While the President and Council adhere to the Oglala Lakota Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the President and Council also have an obligation to ensure that the Colonizing principles of the past are not asserted against the Lakota people again,” said the tribe [Darren Thompson, “Christian Mission Ousted from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation After Distribution of Hate Materials,” Native News Online, 2022.07.25].

Monfore sticks to his own religious absolutism:

Monfore said he recognizes the document is offensive to those who believe in Lakota spirituality.

“According to the Bible, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by him,” Monfore said. “I know that may not be considered politically correct, or it might be considered intolerant or bigoted, but that’s what Christ said” [Lee Strubinger, “Tribe Requires Visiting Churches, Missions to Register After Inflammatory Pamphlet Circulates,” SDPB, 2022.08.02].

The tribe, sounding a bit like the Monforian Trumpist QAnoners who couch all of their arguments in accusations that liberals are exploiting children, says its action is about protecting kids from exploitative missionaries:

Besides the uproar over the pamphlet, some tribal members are concerned about a lack of vetting for groups that interact with children.

“We just want to ensure that our kids are safe when they go with these groups,” said Councilman Ryan Jumping Eagle.

He said the tribe is also concerned about pictures of Native children being used for fundraising efforts.

“They’re soliciting funds on behalf of our kids. Does that money really come back to our reservation?” Jumping Eagle said. “We wanted them to, basically, take those pictures off their websites until they register. They’re exploiting our kids for money, which isn’t right” [Strubinger, 2022.08.02].

The Lakota tribe has good reason to resist colonial exploitation conducted under the guise of Christianity. And I certainly don’t want to spend a lot of time defending a sloppy theologian like Monfore.

But the Oglala Sioux Tribe Constitution includes Article 12, a Bill of Rights. The first right listed mirrors the federal First Amendment: “The Tribal Council in exercising its inherent powers of self-governance, shall not make any tribal law or enforce any tribal, state or federal law that: (a) Prohibits the full exercise of Lakota culture and spirituality or any other religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances….”

Yeah, but the Russian Constitution claims to protect freedom of religion, too.

At the core of its actions against Monfore and outside churches, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is suppressing an idea, a rather common and basic religious idea, that the one’s religion gets right certain concepts of reality that another’s religion gets wrong. The full exercise of Christian religion seems to include the free expression of the statement Monfore correctly attributes to the founder of his religion. Article 12 appears to give Christians as much right to say Lakota spirituality gets some things wrong as it gives Lakota believers to say Christianity gets some things wrong.

And Article 12 seems to give me, culturally Christian but philosophically atheist, as much right to say Christians and Lakota believers alike are mistaken about at least one central fact of the cosmos. Since my beliefs tell me there is no divine Jesus or Tunkasila, that there is no Creation but merely Existence, will the Oglala Sioux Tribe block Dakota Free Press from the Pine Ridge Internet?


  1. larry kurtz 2022-08-03

    There are currently 1,644 children in the custody of DSS.

    St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota fleeces $50 million a year from unwitting donors selling Chinese-made goods that appropriate Native culture all with the approval of a rubber-stamp red state legislature.

  2. jkl 2022-08-03

    Intolerance and fear comes at a person from all angles.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-08-03

    In South Dakota white people steal money slated for American Indian education and murder their families when the jig is up then place a complicit attorney general at the head of the investigation.

    Tatewin Means is from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota, Oglala Lakota, and Inhanktonwan nations and is the daughter of the late Lakota activist, Russell Means. She is Executive Director of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation.

    In the effort to create educational systems that are free of white supremacy, the church, whiteness, and settler colonialism, we are shifting the narrative in Indigenous Education to recognize that our languages and lifeways are, and have always been, our educational system. TVCDC believes that in order to create a school founded in our language, lifeways, and philosophy, we can not depend on anyone to do it for us. We want and desire a place where our children can openly and freely be Lakota in every aspect of their mind, spirit, body, and life. We are doubling down on the liberation of our children.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-03

    Liberating children and teaching them their native culture is fine (although let’s be careful when Kristi Noem applies that phrase to her efforts to bring Hillsdale College in to indoctrinate South Dakota kids to vote for her and American apartheid). But to what extent can a government bound by a constitutional promise of freedom of religion and speech ban individuals who question the validity of the prevailing/majority religion?

  5. larry kurtz 2022-08-03

    The Pine Ridge is a sovereign nation where the US Army committed at least one war crime still blessed by South Dakota’s Republican congressional delegation. Revisionist history turned the Wounded Knee Massacre into a battle but Senator Mike Rounds (NAZI-SD) said he won’t vote for the Senate companion to the Remove the Stain Act that would annul Congressional Medals of Honor for twenty war criminals responsible for the slaughter of children, women and men in 1890 at Wounded Knee in occupied South Dakota.

  6. cibvet 2022-08-03

    It seems that Monfore would try to clean up his own religion ( incest, rape, pedophilia, etc) before stepping
    onto the rez and insulting an entire nation of their religion. White supremacy at its best.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-08-03

    It’s more appropriate to compare the sovereign Lakotah nation to Israel than to Russia. The Lakotah government is a government of the Lakotah religion just as the Hebrew religion is the government of Israel. An overzealous proponent of the white jesus is the one who’s “off his reservation”.

  8. All Mammal 2022-08-03

    Evacuate the whole state, burn it, give it a decade to heal. Give the land a break. It is all sick and hurting. All caused by man. Once the land is healthy, we might be able to reconcile and heal ourselves. Sometimes the mist complicated questions have the simplest answers. Don’t make it too difficult.

  9. Chubby Native 2022-08-03

    Why hasn’t the Tribal Council passed resolutions against drug dealers and other pushers?

  10. John 2022-08-03

    I’d like to see the tribes create a scheme to tax churches. A fee is a tax in another name.
    Certainly some good came from churches; but the long toll of the history with churches (i.e. the “christian religion”) is a negative experience for the tribes.
    We should empathize with the tribes striving to protect their culture.
    Read Joseph Campbell’s 1949 classic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to gain an understanding of the universality of humans to create myths, stories, and legends that share a fundamental structure.

  11. DaveFN 2022-08-04

    P. Witch

    One Abrahamic religion as it has crystallized today in its doctrines from purported genealogical roots millennia ago is as foolish today in its beliefs as as another.

    The religion of the Lakota is no less foolish.

  12. larry kurtz 2022-08-04

    Some 23,000 years ago human footprints were pressed into the mud along the shore of prehistoric Lake Otero now called Alkali Flat just west of the gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. It’s believed the hunters who made that trackway carried spears tipped with the large fluted stone points of the Clovis culture.

    Exploiting the gap between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets during the Wisconsin Glacial Episode those Clovis People were the first humans to see the Missouri Buttes and Mahto Tipila in Wyoming. The Clovis culture thrived on the high plains and in the Black Hills before settling the rest of the Mississippi basin but those pioneers had already explored parts of Montana long before they found Clovis, New Mexico where their stone tools were unearthed in the 1920s.

    Before US 14 was widened a team led by Adrien Hannus from Augustana University uncovered evidence of human habitation from over 12,000 years ago in a cave in Boulder Canyon near Sturgis, South Dakota. At one excavation site in Wyoming evidence revealed that humans killed a mammoth with a Clovis pointed spear launched from an atlatl, a type of throwing stick.

    Sure, the Lakota acquired horses around 1742 then used them as weapons of mass destruction conquering most of the northern plains and the Black Hills region. But, likely with help from dogs for some ten thousand years before that the ancestors of the Crow, Arikara and others drove bison over cliffs and into sinkholes like the Vore site near Beulah, Wyoming.

    President Thomas Jefferson used an executive order to defy the US Constitution, begin the Native American Genocide and purchase the Louisiana Territory from a country that didn’t even own it. Wovoka witnessed a solar eclipse on peyote that compelled a generation of Ghost Dancers. As a result of ingesting psychoactive fungi Heȟáka Sápa or Nicholas Black Elk rejected catholicism and returned to Lakota ways after he realized the Roman Church was committing crimes against his people.

    In July of 1997, two and a half years after my younger sister was killed in a car/bicycle accident (she was on the bike), I was drowning my sorrows at Orman Dam.

    The full moon nuzzled Bear Butte as a thunderstorm erupting on the western horizon directed the remnants of sunset at the Hills; slashes of fire, then blood splashed the mirror in the south. My sister, out there dancing with Terry Peak in that crescendo of existence-or-not-epiphania said to me, “I am Living Rock, I am Water. All Life begins here.”

    Bake a man a pie and he’ll learn to divide by seven. Teach a man piety and he’ll crucify the apples then say they died for his sins.

  13. Ryan 2022-08-04

    Of all the inspirations for the separation of man from his true tribal culture…
    Of all the inspirations for the acts of violence from one man onto another…
    From one nation onto another, from one oppressor onto the oppressed…
    There are no more guilty parties and inspirations than those books known
    as the holy bible, the koran, and the bhagavad gita to spread separation of mankind.

    genie, give me one wish and i will erase religion from every crevice of humanity.

  14. Laurisa 2022-08-04

    Apparently, Jesus is King Mission and such other similar so-called “Christian” groups haven’t read “The Pipe and Christ”, written by a Catholic priest several decades ago and widely available in the state. The author was sent to serve in Rosebud and came to realize the many similarities between true Christianity and Lakota spirituality and combined the two during his ministry. It’s a truly fascinating book (I also studied it at my liberal seminary) that remains really relevant today, perhaps especially so.

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