Back To Work

I apologize for the gap in my blog postings. I have been traveling in the Midwest and am now ready to begin writing again. I spent nine days on the PineRidge Indian Reservation and three days in Kansas City with my SIFE team. Two distinct groups of students, yet in both cases I am very proud of what we accomplished. This is an inside joke with the SIFE team.

I wrote down some comments after the second day in South Dakota. The comments I initially wrote down had been confirmed repeatedly during the nine days of ministry. During our days on the reservation it was evident that the warrior mentality of the Lakota male has evolved into despair and alcoholism. The fact that men on the reservation have few opportunities to provide for their families leave them with a sense of helplessness. The only problem is the women on the Rez are tired of excuses, and are taking matters in their own hands. (Sound familiar? The same thing is happening in the white world too. Women are tired of men playing nothing but video games.) Three women spent some time with us and told us they are tired of excuses.

Rocky is working at a youth corrections facility. She has a career and is moving forward without a man in her life. Joni and Marie are Rocky’s sisters and have jobs that provide a stable life for their families. They were raised well by Eula their mother. Each of these women are standing up and taking care of business.

There is also a group of seven women in the town of PineRidge that have done the same thing. Autumn Two-Bulls and her comrades are attempting to make a difference. They were part of a group that helped close down the Sioux Nation, a locally owned super market that is a part of the affiliated foods midwest coop. The reason for the closure was the selling of bad meat. The women are tired of tribal corruption and want to see change.

The fact is the men have lost their way. The Oglala Lakota’s are one of the seven tribes that make up the Teton Sioux. Robert Ruby captures to dilemma of these people well in his book “The Oglala Sioux: Warriors in Transition.” After telling his readers that sentimentality is not what these people need, he states, “The Oglala Sioux Indians of today are not like their ancestors of one hundred years ago.” Although this book was written in 1955, he words are just as true today. The Sioux resisted the federal government longer than any other tribe, “their lives, attitudes, and practices are a mixture of primitive habits, sifted through modern teachings and customs, which has produced a complex tribal personality.” The draw of the Rez is strong and a reality for these people. They are the only ones that can fix, if you want to use that word, their situation. The question in my mind is what needs to happen?

In my opinion the solution involves spiritual, economic, and social actions. The colonization of early missionaries is still having an impact on the Lakota people. Therefore, contextualized ministry is critical. The Lakota people need to meet Jesus Christ and then minister to each other. Indigenous leadership is critical. The ethnocentric elements of short term missions needs to change. The white church does not have the answers for the Lakota, but Jesus does. All we need to do is walk along side the Lakota.

The second step involves economic actions. Unlike other reservations the Lakota have not found oil. Also, the location of this Rez is not convenient for gamblers. The Prairie Winds Casino is nothing like Spirit Mountain in Oregon. The Lakota cannot even buy underwear on the Rez. So money that could benefit the Rez goes to Rapid City, Gordon, or Chadron. Therefore, corporations need to look at the Rez as a marketing opportunity. However, this means that tribal leadership must look at this a bit differently.

The third step is social. The social systems of the Rez actually work against the youth. Gangs, drugs, and alcohol are prevalent and a destructive influence. A twenty year old man committed suicide while we were there. Suicide is far too common on the Rez. Men must be convinced that being a warrior means providing for their family. It is no different today than it was before the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. This means tribal leadership needs to look at the Rez as a system, and then pursue a change that involves serious adjustments to the configuration of the Rez social system.

The Lakota are the only ones that can do this. I asked many people on the Rez if they saw the Diane Sawyer report on the four children in PineRidge. Many said yes, and several said they had heard of it. Every person said they felt it portrayed the Lakota negatively. However, the time is now to change stereotype. The only people that can pursue this change is the Lakota themselves.

And that is my thought for the day!


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