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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eradicating Discrimination Goes Both Ways

I am going to breach a subject that may not make me very popular among anybody, really. The liberals may not like my indigenous view. Conservatives may not like my white view, but I have held my tongue for years and things need to be said.
   I am a white girl who grew up on the Standing Rock reservation. Yes - the reservation that is leading the charge against the Dakota Access Pipeline. My great grandfather homesteaded on the land and began raising buffalo. He and my great grandmother raised 10 children. Four of those children stayed on the land and raised cattle. My grandfather was one of them. My grandfather and grandmother raised two children on the land. One of those children was my father, who, along with my mother, raised me. We ran cattle on the land that my family owned and on land that we leased from tribal members.

   When my father was a child, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe adopted him and named him "Tatanka" in honor of my great grandfather. He still has the headdress that he wore to the ceremony. My grandmother still has the powwow dress that she wore to the ceremony. Both the headdress and the dress are stunning, and are collecting dust. Not because anyone is ashamed of them, but because the fact that we have them, as white people, is not acceptable. These were gifts given to my family by the tribe. Why do we have to hide it?
   Because, unfortunately, there is a discrimination that is sent toward white people who live on the reservations. People think we stole the land, that we are treating tribal members badly, that we believe we are superior to the Natives. I can assure you I did not steal land, neither did my father, grandfather or great grandfather. My great grandfather bought it. Now, he was able to do so because of the Dawes Act, an act which was not the best thing the federal government passed. After all, it did take land from the Natives that were within boundaries of the reservation. But, I can also assure you that my great grandfather did not buy it with the intentions of sticking it to the Natives. My family has worked hard over the generations to establish and keep good relations with tribal members. Some years have been better than others. Some relations between specific tribal members and specific family members have been better than others, but all in all it has not been bad. That is the story that can be applied to every single relationship on the planet!
   I can assure you we are not treating tribal members badly. Mostly, we go about our business of raising cattle. I can assure you we do not believe we are superior to Natives. If we believed that, we would not have friendships with tribal members.
   Now, as a child, I was met with flat-out racism, but it was certainly not in abundance. The vast majority of tribal members I met were kind and gracious. They let me spend weekends at their homes with their children and my family would let their children come into our home for the weekends. I was introduced to delicious authentic Lakota foods and received some lessons in beading.
   I recall one friend, in a small town called Little Eagle. Almost every weekend, one of us was staying at the other's home. The most vivid memory I have of my time with her family was their love of professional wrestling, her dad's impression of the Ultimate Warrior (which still makes me laugh) and a prayer her dad said before we ate supper. He prayed for a cure for my Type 1 diabetes. I had never heard anyone pray for me to be cured before. They really gave me a home away from home.
   It is those times that construct most of my memories with the Lakota. The few times I was met with racism - those were a few bad apples. And those bad apples can be found among every race of people, but it seems nowadays those apples are more plentiful.
   However, the discrimination now is coming from the outside. It is coming from people who have a deep sympathy for the indigenous people and for the wrongs that the government did to them. There were wrongs - horrific wrongs. There is no argument about that. But, how is telling me and my family about perceived sins against Natives righting those wrongs? How is creating a greater divide between whites and Natives righting those wrongs?
   Do you think, maybe just maybe, you are making it worse? Do you think, maybe just maybe, you should work on your own discrimination against whites on the rez? Do you think, maybe just maybe, that might be a small part of bringing Native and whites together in unity? Something to think about.

3 comments:

  1. Some good points and lots for us all to think about. Thank you for sharing your story.

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