Responses to Green Grass Proclamation

OTHER ISSUES OF INTEREST
RESPONSES TO GREEN GRASS PROCLAMATION

 

RESPONSE TO LOOKING HORSE PROCLAMATION & SINCERE DISSENTERS APRIL 30, 2003

Green Grass Proclamation

    There are two sides to the present rift that is going on because of Arvol Looking Horse speaking out. I think Arvol is a good man and we are blessed to have him. He also is under many pressures from various spiritual leaders. They are all human and have varying values, track records and intents. There are also some deeply spiritual, sincere full blood dissenters. There are good points to both sides, and I respect the truthful intentions of those who seek to preserve the traditional Way and those who would like to see the Wah shi chu get changed thru the power of the Way. I think that the dissenters realize why the Wah shi chu needs to change. There are Four Horses of the Apocalypse if we use the white man's own Bible but it takes an Indian to identify just what those four horses names are. His Bible fails to do this. They are Heat, Thin, Gone and Too Man! y. (Heating of the Planet, Thinning Ozone, Gone Resources and Over-Population). They are on the horizon and the Wah shi chu and their values need drastic change for the future Generations Unborn. It is very important what decisions we make. What decisions are made, I hope it ultimately preserves the thoughts and advancements of the real old societies that would never allow a hierarchy or a priesthood come to control a human's spiritual beliefs especially those based on the direct observation of Nature.

    My Major concern is that Native Spirituality never evolves into a Hierarchy!

    The Aztecs had a priesthood and it destroyed their Nation. The Spanish Wah shi chu came along and easily subdued them. (They had the enthusiastic, willing help of all the surrounding tribes whose children were the Aztec's victims!) Go to Central America and see how proud the Mexicans are of being Indio. They actually deny who they are. What the Catholic Church failed to convey to them while brutally converting them was that they themselves were doing the same thing as the Aztec priests were doing at the same time in their history. The burning at the stake and torturing of millions in the 3 Great Inquisitions were no less heinous than the human sacrifices of the Aztec priests. People were being brutally killed and in the Christian situation, tortured before being murdered all over a hierarchal priest, bishop or Pope dictating that they, themselves, knew directly Creator's teachings, words, interpretations, etc. See Malleus Maleficarum, the best selling book of it's! time. This is the Great Danger of a hierarchy or a priesthood. It lives to sustain itself and seeks to gather power and control. The Northern Indians never allowed such a thing and wound up living dignified, highly moral lives and came up with the world's greatest gift from mankind to mankind- Democracy!!!

    American Indians, Northern Ones at least, never state who EXACTLY, Creator is or try and explicitly define or describe the Great Mystery. We Sioux (Lakota, Dakota) call the Ultimate One, Wakan Tanka, which means Great Mystery, Great Holy, or the Beyond One. It has a whole host of names, the Creator, the Ultimate Maker, the Benevolent Entity, the Unknown, etc. but no true traditional will try to describe explicitly other than it is way beyond any definition by human. We are the only real honest religion/spirituality when you really get down to it compared to all the other religions who are constantly fighting each other because they explicitly "know" w! ho Creator is.

    We Sioux were the last of the major tribes to "come in" and hence preserved our culture, our ceremonies and our language. Be honest. Most tribes lost their culture to a great extent. The Sioux have only been "in" for a hundred years. It is not difficult to understand why tribes who have been 200 and 300 years under and with the Wahshichu have severely lost their culture, language and religion. Those Sioux who remained in North Carolina, (Cawtaba, Waccama) where we migrated from have lost their language, religion and culture. They are all bonafide Christians. I visited them and found this out. (Note: As an older Lakota, I am more comfortable with the word Sioux, contrary to Academics.)

    What I have learned from the Sioux holy men I was under, they also never had a Devil or a Satan. They could not believe a Benevolent Creator would ever make such a thing or allow it. Why in the hell would an All -Powerful Entity have need for such a thing? Look at all IT has given us in our lives to live here upon Ina Makah! So many signs are there that IT is truly Benevolent and Providing. To a Traditional Sioux, it is an insult to the All Providing One to state that this Devil thing and its fiery hell is created by the Great Entity. Yet the Christians use it to control you. This may disappoint many of you, but if you knew the real old timers, such a thing came from the white man and now I find, the Islams also have such a foolish superstition. I say simply, "How many of you have seen it?" I know only one thing explicitly. I will never see it and not even the Christians can show me one. I have even asked them. They can never come up with one.

    Our spirituality is primarily based on what we observe in Nature (Creator's direct creation). If you cannot find a devil here, then why do you believe in it? Your choice not mine. I go back to what I observe and what the old timers say. The hierarchy, priesthood ones, all use pain and fear to control. We Northern People had a rich life for tens of thousands of years. This brief contact with the Wah shi Chu is but a mere drop in the historical bucket of time. Down, down thru time we lived and came up with the greatest gift- that system that allows the most enjoyment of the precious freedoms which the Wamaskaskan, the animal brothers and sisters enjoy. Freedom! Which is also Democracy and no religious hierarchy.

Eagle Man, Oglala, OST 15287
Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.

This response comes from Ouachitalk Edited by Sky Warrior
 ( http://www.ouachitalk.com/response_to_lookinghorse.html  )

 
LAKOTA LEADERS REBUFF CHEYENNE DECLARATION
MAY 10, 2003: Bear Butte, South Dakota:

    Through the days of cold, driving rain the Lakota arrived at Bear Butte, South Dakota as best they could for the important fourth and final Protection of Ceremonies Meeting, this one hosted by the Cheyenne Nation and scheduled for May 10-11, 2003. Many Lakota Leaders who had planned to attend failed in their efforts on Saturday, stuck fast in the mud of South Dakota. Meanwhile, the scheduled sweat lodge ceremonies, breakfast meetings, and outdoor women's' circles didn't exist, leaving the people who managed to get there to drive back and forth across the area, looking to connect with others.

     And while they wandered and wondered, about 30 Lakota Spiritual Leaders, Sundance Chiefs, and other interested persons met with Chief Arvol Looking Horse in mid-morning at the Bear Butte Lodge, the large log cabin off Coyote Lane owned by the Sicangu of the Rosebud. Amidst coffee and discussion, the words centered primarily around the proposed Declaration and Request to the U.S. Government which would be presented later that day to the Lakota by the Northern Cheyenne's Chief and High Priest, Bernard Red Cherries.

    Clearly each person present was concerned that the Traditional spiritual ceremonies be protected yet most seemed to carry differing ideas as to the best way to implement that protection. But, in a rare moment of unity, the Lakota Leaders all spoke of their strong reluctance and disapproval of empowering the Federal Government to intrude or control or enforce spiritual matters in any ways other than those which already exist. They saw no need to change the existing 1978 American Indian Freedom of Religion Act. Despite the fact that Looking Horse was in favor of the Cheyenne Declaration, there was no question that the majority of those Lakota present were not.

    [editor's note: To read a copy of the proposed Cheyenne Declaration and Request, go to
    www.wambliho.homestead.com/BernardRedCherries_Ann2_May03.html  ]

    Finally everyone moved to the Bear Butte Center on the other side of the hill. Filing in through sheets of down pouring rain, past the bronze bust of the late beloved Lakota Ceremonial Chief Frank Fools Crow, the Elder women and women of all ages were allowed to enter and listen (but not speak). Eventually, over 150 people entered that building, all in a peaceful manner, all seriously intent on hearing the words of the Spiritual Leaders.

    There were numerous speakers…. Floyd [Looks For Buffalo] Hand, representing a group of Oglala Spiritual Leaders, spoke in favor of the Looking Horse Statement of March, 2003 yet also of the need to let each reservation handle their own spiritual matters and enforcement. Ponca Indian Activist Carter Camp warned that Traditional ways are tribal specific and in danger of disappearing if not restricted to the people to whom they were given. Southern Ute Sundance Leader Kenny Frost spoke of the need to protect and safeguard the Traditional ways for the future generations.

    Bernard Red Cherries, Northern Cheyenne Chief, Sacred Arrow High Priest, and Elk Scraper Society Headsman from Portland, Oregon, talked of his loaded Pipe which lay in front of the Leaders and of the incredibly heavy burden he had shouldered for the last year as he carried his Pipe on this specific mission. His words described how he had loaded his Pipe a year ago with the commitment and obligation to bring awareness and help for the People to "stand tall again….. because without their [Traditional] Ways, they are nothing." He stated his belief that his Declaration and Request to the United States Government was the means through which this would happen and that it was the "obligation of the Leaders to stand up for the People in this manner."

     Bernard Red Cherries, also known as Frank Reynolds and Robert Coltte, continued to relate that it is the "duty of the People to care for their Sacred Bundle Keepers who are holy." He related how the Northern Cheyenne Warrior Societies take care of every need of the Cheyenne Sacred Arrow Keeper and the Sacred Medicine Hat Keeper from chopping wood, repairing roofs, and providing food to anything else the Keepers might need. He seemed baffled and incredulous that the Lakota did not do the same.

     Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf C'anupa Bundle of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation prayed and spoke of the need to stop the abuses and the exploitation of sacred ceremony which is reaching epidemic proportions. Still standing by all the points of his controversial Statement from March, Looking Horse pointed out that he believes the Grandfathers might leave the Lakota People if their Traditional Ceremonial Ways are not restricted and protected. He stated his intent was not meant to be racist.

    Oglala Spiritual Advisor and Medicine Bundle Keeper David Swallow, Jr., prayed and pointedly spoke of the need to honor the Sacred C'anupa and the Traditional Ways of the Sacred C'anupa which demand truth and honesty and which will turn on any who do wrong by it or who speak lies on it. In stirring words, he spoke that "the C'anupa is not a pipe…. that the word, pipe, is an English word which can mean many things. But a Sacred C'anupa is very different. The Sacred C'anupa is the Blood of the Ancestors and the Tree of Life, and it has its own laws by which a person must live. To apogi a C'anupa [to load a C’anupa], a person must not kill, must not have blood on their hands, a person must not have hate or jealousy in their hearts or actions, and a person must not ever lie or fool the People or else the C'anupa will turn around on that person."

    Then Swallow turned and asked the Leaders if they were "opposed to the White Nation or to the System." He spoke of how the System had raided his Sundance a few years ago with guns and helicopters in a failed attempt to stop it and how, even last year, the BIA charged him $2000 simply to hold his Sundance on his own land in Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

    Swallow was emphatic that he does not hate the white people but he "refuses to personally receive anything from the U.S. Government System: not money, not housing, not food, not anything." And even though everyone (including the Lakota) must live in this modern world, not in the old ways, he still absolutely would not choose to live under even more of the Government System and he will not approve this proposed Cheyenne Declaration and Request.

    Swallow stated his "Grandfather and Great-Grandfather never signed a Treaty and if the decision here to go under the U.S. Government, the Long Knives, was approved that he would not do it. Not ever."

    As the day wore on, more Leaders and concerned Lakota spoke. By mid-afternoon it was clear that the Lakota Leaders were not going to approve the Cheyenne Declaration and Request to the U.S. Government. As a result, and much to everyone's surprise, Bernard Red Cherries chose to end the meeting and smoke his C'anupa with the other Leaders amidst the sound of pounding rain and hail outside.

    No further discussion was held on the Protection (and Restriction) of Ceremonies issues.

    Red Cherries stated that he was host of this meeting and his sole purpose was to seek approval and support from the Lakota Leaders for his Declaration and Request to the U.S. Government. Since that wasn't going to be obtained, Red Cherries saw no further use to continue the meeting. He promised to continue trying to convince the Lakota in the future. Calling it a "sad day for the Lakota," he stated that he would leave the building to join the Northern Cheyenne, Southern Cheyenne, Northern Arapahoe, and Southern Arapahoe Leaders who would all be signing the Declaration and Request document.

    On Sunday morning, as baffled Lakota and other Native Americans continued to arrive at Bear Butte to attend the Protection of Ceremonies Meeting which was now ended, the sun finally came out.

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.

This response comes from Ouachitalk Edited by Sky Warrior
 ( http://www.ouachitalk.com/response_to_lookinghorse.html  )

 
STATEMENT FROM: REGINALD LITTLEBRAVE SR.
MAY 23, 2003

    My name is Reginald Littlebrave Sr. and I am a full-blood Indian from the Rosebud Sioux tribe, of the White Buffalo Pipe Clan. I am Chief Caretaker and Pipe Carrier of the Black Pipe and the Black Pipe ways. I am the appointed teacher of the spiritual ways of the Black Pipe and the traditional practices of the White Buffalo Pipe Clan. I am Chief Drummer of the medicine world, as well as Chief Fire, Cedar, and Doorperson. I am the Assistant Chief Leader and Spokesman for the Native American Church of Pejuta Wakan 31-32 hailing from the state of South Dakota. I am Blackpipe.

    This is my opinion on what I have been recently hearing about our ancient spiritual ways of life.

    I am concerned for the future of our children and our grandchildren, the children of tomorrow and the children of their tomorrows.

    God's way must continue on. The Pipe that they talk about is God's way. I believe God's way shall continue on even if the heavens and earth pass away. The Pipe needs to continue on through our children so God's way can continue on through them.

    The Cheyenne say they are protecting the native ways of life. If that is what they are doing, they need a wise human being to speak for them. They need to explain what they are saying and doing and what they want to accomplish, because they are throwing out a negative energy to the world. The Pipe believes in and gathers God's children from the four corners of the earth. The Cheyenne are scattering God's children to the four corners. Whosoever scattereth, God is not there. If the intent of the Cheyenne is to protect these ways, they need some wise spokes agent. From my point of view, what they are saying does not make sense. If the Cheyenne knew what they were saying, there would not be a negative energy created among the people.

    I do not believe the United States government and those who make laws and caretake the freedom of religion should walk into the Native American ways of life and prayers because these are the only things we have left to find freedom in.

    I strongly believe that if the Cheyenne know for a fact who is misusing the sacred instruments and ceremonies, they should address them directly. Why should all the non-natives be punished for the actions of a few? And still, there are those who abuse these ways of life that are native. No religion or way of life on this earth is 100% secure from the errors of humanity.

    The reason I am fighting this is because my kids are what the Cheyenne call iyeska (mixed breeds or half-bloods). Some of my family are what they call non-native. What is a half-blood or non-native? Are we not all native to the land unto which we were born? There are those whom they call non-natives who have grown up in these ways of life, within these ceremonies, and this is all they know. It is thus their way of life, what was shown to them by their fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. What will happen to them if their way of life is taken from them? What will happen to our children who will not be able to carry on our sacred traditions into tomorrow because they are not full bloods or natives? What will happen to our spiritual traditions? They will die out. Our ceremonies may be "protected", but they will not be preserved.

    The Cheyenne should really think about these things before they present the paper (Declaration to Amend Freedom of Religion Act of 1978) to the United States government saying all Lakota agree. This is not true. The Pipe they are talking about was given to the Lakota people, including the seven sacred ceremonies, a few of which are the Sundance, Inipi (sweat lodge), Hunka (relative-making), and Hanblecha (vision quest) rites. The only ones that have authority to tell the Lakota Oyate anything about the pipe is Almighty God Himself and the White Buffalo Calf Woman – no one else. Who has given the Cheyenne the permission to speak for all Native American peoples and ways of life? Are they breaking spiritual laws or trying to steal spiritual gifts? Only Almighty God has the authority to guide and protect the ways we communicate with Him. No man can own a way of prayer.

    I wonder if anyone who is speaking for this Pipe has asked the Pipe how it feels. Have these people considered the feelings of this sacred instrument and how it wants to be used? At the conference in Bear Butte, SD on May 10, I personally witnessed how the Cheyenne used the sacred pipe. They neither sang pipe songs, nor spoke in the native tongue of the Lakota, who were gifted these pipe ways of life. If the Cheyenne want to protect the sacred traditions of the pipe, they must learn how to respect them too.

    If the Cheyenne open this door, the government will soon enter into the Native American Church, Powwows, and any ceremonies that have to do with Native American ways of this continent. We will soon have to have a license for our instruments, and eventually have to borrow them from the United States government. We may have to show ID to go to pray.

    I wonder what other Cheyennes are saying, only 4 or 5 came to the conference at Bear Butte on May 10. Is there any wise men among the Cheyenne that can come to speak for them? Why haven't the Cheyenne asked the Native American Church Lakota peoples who pray with the pipe how they feel? Did they ask the Powwow people who use the pipe in their Hunka ceremonies? How about the Sundance peoples? The people who do Inipi, Yuwipi, and Lowanpi ceremonies? Did the Cheyenne take their point of view to the Rosebud Tribal Office or other Lakota spokes agents? They have only asked the Bundle Keeper, who is my nephew. They did not ask me, a Sicangu full-blood from the heart of the Rosebud reservation. Do they truly have any idea what they are doing and how it may affect us all?

    I wonder about many more things, but I am going to go about this far. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Thank you,
Reginald Littlebrave Sr.
pejuta3132@lycos.com
P.O. Box 1088
Port Hadlock, WA 98339

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.

This response comes from Ouachitalk Edited by Sky Warrior
 ( http://www.ouachitalk.com/response_to_lookinghorse.html  )

 
RESPONSE FROM: OGLALA LAKOTA SPIRITUAL ELDER
Grandmother Waynonaha
MAY 23, 2003

Council Fires (Elders)

    For thousands of years we indigenous people have held our councils. The Sacred Fires are kept from one generation to another. Our Elders, who spoke the wisdom, were revered and cared for as they were the heart of the people.

    In times before the coming of the boat people we sat in peace, listening to our Elders speak. The "words that come before all things" were held by the Keepers of the Wisdom.

    This was the Great Law that we all lived by, one of simplicity, honesty, and respect. All was in balance and all in peace within our land and our lives.

    Soon this all changed and our ears were taken by the monster of ego and greed. The selling of the land began, we turned our ears away from the Elders' voices. We followed the White Man's religion and ways.

    As we now returned to council the fire, it was not honored, the prayers were forgotten. The time of great sadness started to cover the Earth Mother.

    The gourd of ashes, that held the council fires of long ago, was put away and not added to nor taken from. All things ceased to flow in a balanced way. Our disconnection from the Tree of Life had started. Time saw our people starving and beaten into submission, the women were bartered like cattle. Women and children were sold for whisky and guns. Sacred bundles were taken by, or sold to, the Fat Takers. Some to this day lay in museums in far away places, the medicine lost to the ones who understand the meaning it holds.

   The sickness spread into our lodges and continued to eat out our hearts. The raven came and spoke to the people in a harsh loud voice asking them to listen to the voice of Creator. Their ears had grown closed to even the voice of the birds. The signs of destruction in our family and our Nation were seen in the faces of our children. .

    The sweet voices of our women silenced into darkness. Our children were taken and shipped off to schools that abused them and took their spirits. The children were mocked and spit on in public. A great shame passed over the Nation once so proud. The laughter died and our children went hungry for food and for wisdom. The language dried up and was sifted into dust on the land. The Sacred Ways held only by a few who risked their lives to continue the prayers. Water no longer flowed with the sweetness that our Grandparents had tasted. The bitter roots of disease and greed grew where the once tall and strong Nation stood.

    One by one the Elders stood and pulled their blankets around themselves. The Elders then turned their backs on the fire and left the people. No one noticed, they no longer listened to the "Old Ways", it was not good to listen in this way to the Elders. Many were too busy ripping the land up and selling the precious minerals and water that lay under it. The legacy of our children was sold for material gains.

    The Ego of a few was fed on the sorrow of many with the disease of the Fat Takers. Brother and Sisters turned upon each other and the disease of the soul stealers had started.

    The Fat Takers bought some voices of the people to continue the process of destruction that waged a war of the souls. The Government GOONS were at work destroying their very own families and Sacred Ways. Voices that dared to speak out against this were attacked by the followers of the ones who had taken their ears. Soon the monsters had many chains of ears around their necks, each person who added their ears supported and helped the sickness to grow.

    The truth could not be heard or seen in all the confusion as they ripped the heart from the people.

    Sickness followed into the lodges, creating anger, jealousy and greed. The Sacred Hoop of life that connected us all to the Sacred Tree was shattered. The rope that held the wisdom was stretched thin and held many knots.

    Now the gourd is taken out of hiding and the fires are rekindled. We sit in the circle waiting for the wisdom to return. Hollow words and anger pour out into the circle of our people. All serving some self-appointed need to revenge ourselves on each other.

    The snake now catches its own tail and proceeds to devour the very wisdom it seeks to protect. Will we manage to destroy the only thing we have left of our culture? Will we, in our own need to heal the hurting, close ourselves away from the light of wisdom?

    I sit and watch this and listen with ears that are trying hard to hear the truth and the justice of the words. I see much, and hear much, but the words that come before all things are yet to be spoken. The Elders stand in the distance with their blankets wrapped around them, shadows in the darkness, watching.

    When the wisdom returns to the Sacred Council Fire, when the words that come before all else are spoken, then will the Elders who still keep the wisdom of the Sacred Words return and sit with us. I wait for you to return, I make a place ready for you to sit. I will prepare the food for you to eat. My heart cries out for the words that are waiting to be spoken. The old truth that will return reason to our people. I am listening, my Grandfathers and Grandmothers, for your voices to Speak. I sit with my ears, and heart, open for your healing wisdom.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Waynonaha (one who remembers that she is a human being.)

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.

This response comes from Ouachitalk Edited by Sky Warrior
 ( http://www.ouachitalk.com/response_to_lookinghorse.html  )

 

 
Mitakuye Oyasin: A response to the Looking Horse Proclamation
by: Tom Kanatakeniate Cook
APRIL 25, 2003

On behalf of the elders of the Afraid of Bear/American Horse Sun Dance:

    * Basil Brave Heart (Intercessor)
    * Robert Brave Heart Sr.
    * Vern American Horse
    * Joe American Horse
    * Dave American Horse
    * Clifton American Horse
    * Ernest Afraid Of Bear Sr.
    * Patrolman Ernest Afraid Of Bear Jr.
    * Mike Afraid Of Bear
    * Al Weasel Bear
    * Beatrice Weasel Bear
    * Milo Yellow Hair
    * Owen Warrior
    * Robert Grey Eagle Esq.
    * Solomon Red Bear
    * Tom Red Bear

"Anyone may dance the sun dance if he will do as the Oglalas do," – Chief American Horse (Sept. 14, 1896)

    Mitakuye Oyasin! We say this all the time. But what does it really mean? Are some of us more related than others? After discussions and consultations since the Looking Horse Pipe Proclamation was issued, the tiospayes involved in our Sun Dance in the Black Hills feel they can not endorse the ethnic limitations placed on the use of the Sacred Pipe, as of March 9, 2003.

    The elder Overseers of the Afraid Of Bear/American Horse Tiospaye Sun Dance celebrated at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in the Black Hills, believe that tiospayes are inherent sovereign entities in matters of life and religion. The people to whom the sacred pipe was given own the instrument and the religion that goes with it.

    This has left my wife and I, as sponsors and lead sun dancers, along with the elders of our tiospaye, with conclusions different than those expressed in the proclamation issued as a result the Medicine Bundle Keepers' meeting at Eagle Butte.

    These words to be expressed we offer with no animosity or disrespect. We appreciate it will be difficult to arrive at the best ways of protecting and strengthening our ceremonies. We also appreciate that it is a very complicated world now, for our tribal relatives. We appreciate that Arvol Looking Horse is initiating the discussion on these important issues. We see his proclamation as a good start on this, even when we disagree strongly with his first conclusions.

    In the southwestern Pine Ridge community of Slim Buttes, we follow the teachings of the brothers Ernest and Larue Afraid Of Bear, elders who provided us the reason and justification for making prayers and offerings as we do.

    These respected elders who gave our Sun Dance its directions are great-grandsons of Afraid Of Bear and Sword, themselves brothers a hundred years ago. The two ancestors had been leaders in the buffalo-hunting days of the Oglalas, and their knowledge, thoughts, and commentary are available to anyone in the book Lakota Belief and Ritual, University of Nebraska Press, 1980. (Anyone wondering about primary source material should consult these narratives collected at the turn of the 20th Century by Dr. James Walker of the Pine Ridge Agency.)

    These two knowledgeable Oglala elders of the Afraid Of Bear tisopaye, along with others in their circle of families, requested that our Sun Dance respect all life, all colors of the human being, as long as respect for life and culture prevailed and as long as the intent of the heart of the prayer was good. We are only continuing the altar of prayer they have brought forward from time immemorial.

    The historical autonomy of tiospayes, reflected in the fact that headmen of bands signed the treaties, applies to other facets of Lakota life such as the spiritual business at issue here. All tiospaye bloodlines own the Lakota cultural property rights, along with the power to act on them for the survival and prosperity of their relatives. In this way, respect is most assured.

    Our actual dance overseers Vern and Joe American Horse are grandsons of Chief American Horse, an Oglala Shirtwearer installed in 1865, who was a signer of the 1868 Treaty at the end of the war with the United States that he helped lead. These elders, whom we hold in the utmost respect, having directed our dance, have never expressed any concern over the non-native dancers or whites in attendance. In fact, they have consistently endorsed the approach of respect for "all our relations," again, as long as respect for origin and place is provided and as long as it is understood that the home of these prayers resides in the tiospaye line.

    Based as it is on race, we feel the Pipe Proclamation contains an unfortunate racial foundation, and we can not, in the spirit of these ancient prayers, endorse a racist approach. It appears to be an attempt at ethnic cleansing of the ways, and in effect, says, "This is just for us." Not only does this approach run counter to the cultural value of generosity for which the people are known, it presents other complications regarding Hunka relatives, and non-Indian spouses married into the tribe. Based on the teachings we are following from our elders, we have difficulty thus endorsing the potential inhumanity and the heartbreak of exclusivity inherent in the idea behind the proclamation.

    Having put our minds together, we respectfully submit that the purpose and extent of our prayers can not always be limited by the color of skin nor national origin. The important thing, we find, is intent and the strength of commitment and the history of relations with each and every individual family that our elders host in our annual Sun Dance in the Black Hills. This is the paramount importance to us. Rather than deny or separate our peoples from the range of relatives who pray with us, we say that our prayers and our people are best served by the extension of reverence and goodwill to the Four Directions.

    We see death and destruction going on in the world along ethnic and religious lines. It is a horrible negative energy based upon fear and paranoia, and seems to be gaining ground everywhere. One could call it worldwide religious extremism whose reactionary conservatism has also affected Native peoples.

    Exploitations may have occurred and may be occurring, but over-reaction to abuse won't solve the problem.

    We have to react to abuse specific to the wrongdoer instead of banishing the rest of humanity for the disrespectful actions of a few. It is one thing to strive to protect our ceremonies from abuse and expropriation; it is another thing to dictate to long-established Lakota tiospayes how they must run their sacred ceremonies and to attempt to tell our respected elders that the deepest intent of prayers long held in their hearts is somehow wrong and must be discarded.

    The issues in the Looking Horse Proclamation have to do with Hunka – "the making of relatives" – and these are approaches that were proclaimed already nearly one hundred years ago, as far as we are concerned. In a 1904 narrative titled "Hunka and the White Man," Afraid Of Bear said, "I can perform the ceremony for anyone who is chosen in the right way. I can do it for a white man."

    His younger brother Sword said in the same year, "White men were not invited unless they were to be made Hunka. A few white men have been made Hunka."

    My wife is a direct descendent of Sword and Afraid Of Bear, and both she and I naturally follow their words over recent conclusions on the same subjects 100 years later.

    When I came back to Pine Ridge for good in the spring of 1975, I became a participant in the Afraid Of Bear Inipi, an authentic tiospaye altar. I followed what I saw and copied things as I witnessed them being done.

    After sundancing for 23 straight years (four of them at Green Grass), Larue Afraid Of Bear named me to lead a Sun Dance he and his brothers wanted to establish at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in the Black Hills, a place of ceremony for the past 10,000 years. We are approaching our sixth year there (my 28th altogether), on private land. Well versed with the protocols attendant to ceremonial abuse and other issues concerning the protection of what we hold sacred, we have been satisfied that our ceremony is proper.

    From time immemorial, the sacred pipe has acted to bring stability to the lives of individuals and families of the people. It has been so for me and my relatives. To the extent we have been successful for 30 years, I attribute to our adherence to this sacred pipe religion and by doing things with a good heart.

    We are all related, and certainly some of us are more related than others. Let us not deny our relatives, our relationships, our inter-relatedness, or the great need of the world around us to understand and relate to all the elements of our universe.

   To those who believe Native people should hold their ways only to themselves, our elders say, "they should know the spirit of The People is in the converging flow of the river." Mitakuye Oyasin!

Tom Kanatekeniate Cook is Wolf Clan Mohawk from Akwesasne married on Pine Ridge. He is Field Coordinator for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a member of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, President of the High Plains Community Development Corporation, and President of the Chadron Native American Center. He and his wife Loretta (Afraid Of Bear), of Slim Buttes community, reside in Chadron, Neb., and are Sun Dance leaders and co-sponsors of the American Horse/Afraid Of Bear Sun Dance in the Black Hills.

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication.

This response comes from Indian Country
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