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Opinion
Tim Giago: Parallels in Texas and Indian Country


The upstanding and righteous Christian community had to do something. The people living near them had a religion that was so different than their own that it had to be considered as heathen. They didn’t believe in Jesus Christ so they had to be on the wrong path.

What’s more they were living in deep sin by practicing polygamy. Why some of the men had as many as three or four wives. What kind of damage was this doing to the innocent children?

The Christian community saw only one conclusion. They had to go in and rescue the children. If that meant sending law enforcement officials into the community to forcibly take the children from their parents, so be it. It would lead to a much better life for the children so the parents be damned. After all, what did these backward people know about raising children properly?

No, I am not talking about the fiasco at San Angelo, Texas. I am talking about what happened to the children of Native Americans across America in the late 1800s. Thousands of children were ripped from the arms of their mothers and fathers and shipped off to far away schools that would endeavor to turn them into God fearing Christians, but not before they were shorn of their identities, their culture, religion and traditions.

By isolating them from the very source of their identities, their parents and grandparents, the Indian children could then be indoctrinated into a new lifestyle that would eventually assimilate them into the mainstream society. This, of course, would be done in the name of Christian charity and for their own good.

Heaven forbid that a community or a race of people live differently than the mainstream of society. And so in a repetition of events that nearly destroyed the Indian people, the citizens of Texas set out to destroy a polygamist sect based on the lies of a chronic complainer living in Colorado.

The allegations for the audacious acts of the Texas lawmakers was that there was sexual abuse taking place within the compound. If there was one or two cases of sexual abuse taking place in a community, say Rapid City, SD, does that give law enforcement the right to come into the community and take away all of the children from their parents?

Nearly 460 children were taken into custody and placed into foster care homes. The custody case, considered to be the largest in U. S. history, is expected to cost more than 1.5 million a month in housing and medical fees, according to Time Magazine.

The mainstream media once again makes the mistake of reporting that this is the largest such happening in U. S. history. They made the same mistake when reporting on the school shootings at the college in Virginia calling it the largest such massacre in American history. How could they have overlooked Sand Creek, Washita or Wounded Knee, to name but a few of the terrible massacres committed against Native Americans?

When Indian children were rounded up and herded into boarding schools throughout America at the turn of the century the mass media went along with it because they believed it was the right thing to do. Indians had no basic rights, civil or human. In order to make America a homogenous society, certain measures had to be taken. The end, as society records it, would justify the means.

Texas officials say they hope to reunite the families but not before the parents attend psychological counseling and parenting classes. Wow, such generous civility.

I am reminded of the great Lakota warrior Tatanka Iyotanka, Sitting Bull. The story goes that a Catholic priest decided to confront Sitting Bull because he believed the man to be living in sin with two wives. He approached Sitting Bull as he was seated with his two wives at the entrance to his home. The priest said, “You are living in sin and against the teachings of the Holy Bible by keeping two wives.”

When the priest had finished his tirade, Sitting Bull looked him up and down and said, “There are my two wives. Now you tell them which one has to go.”

Polygamy occurred in the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation for obvious reasons that were apparently too difficult to discern by the clergy. If a warrior died by accident or in war he usually left a widow and children. What would happen to his family after his death? There were no welfare programs or commodity distributions to help feed, clothe and shelter the family. They would certainly die if not for the traditional practice of having able bodied warriors taken them under their protection as second wives and of course second families. It was the nasty minds of the Christians that turned this cultural practice into something dirty.

I make the analogy to the San Angelo fiasco to point out that it is never a good thing when one segment of society forces its beliefs upon another.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He can be reached at najournalist@msn.com or by writing him at P.O. Box 818, Rapid City, SD 57709.

More Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Time Magazine snubs Indians again (5/19)
Tim Giago: Role models for today's Indian youth (5/12)
Tim Giago: It's time for action on the Black Hills (5/5)
Tim Giago: How Native people feel about mascots (4/28)
Tim Giago: Indian health care a national tragedy (4/21)
Tim Giago: CBC goes after Cherokee Nation (4/14)
Tim Giago: Thirty years and 1,560 columns later... (4/7)
Tim Giago: Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee (3/31)
Tim Giago: Indians lost in race relations debate (3/24)
Tim Giago: Disenfranchising the Oglala Lakota people (3/10)
Tim Giago: Paying tribute to Harold Iron Shield (2/27)
Tim Giago: No celebrating at Pine Ridge Reservation (2/25)
Tim Giago: Apology of no use for Native Americans (2/18)
Tim Giago: The education of Jerry Reynolds (2/11)
Tim Giago: In honor of Carole Anne Heart (2/4)
Tim Giago: Claiming Indian status to get ahead (1/28)
Tim Giago: Wounded Knee book a must read (1/21)
Tim Giago: Sen. Barack Obama and the 'R-Word' (1/14)
Tim Giago: The medicine of Michael Haney (1/7)