Leon Matthews: Lakota people carry on a long tradition of sharing

The following column by Leon Matthews appears in the Lakota Country Times. For more news and opinion, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times today. All content © Lakota Country Times.

Leon Matthews. Still image from YouTube

Rez Ramblings
By Leon Matthews

Feast and famine or two words I have become familiar with because of how our Lakota culture reacts to the time of the year. Summer time is full of feasting but if we were to go back hundreds of years you would be able to see how our people would be drying the meats and berries along with the turnips.

I wish I could have bought more braids of turnips. It is truly an art form and it also served to feed the people during tough times. As I ponder the past and how things were for our ancestors I think they must have been some incredible people to be able to live and thrive in the high plains.

Think about the weather and I have personally seen 109 degrees of hot summer. I know some of you probably felt hotter temps but it was what I saw and it was hot. But I do remember in the 1980s where it was so cold and the government had to take coal to the people who burnt wood.

Then in 1996 I performed the services for an elder and it was 36 degrees below 0 and I thought I was going to lose my right ear. It was very cold and the extreme weather makes me think our ancestors had great fortitude.

Well you can see there were times of great feast and famine but we live in a different day but I believe we still have some of the remnants of that lifestyle. Our people take care of each other and you can see this through the way we use our money. In the old days people would watch out for each other and if there was someone hungry they would be fed.

Today people share money and owe each other. How many times do you get paid back when you loan money? It is clear this can be seen from our ancestors and them taking care of each other.

But because we live in a different age we struggle with the old ways due to the way we eat and work. Some people say the root of evil is money, but it should say the root of evil is the love of money. Money can be a good thing and it is necessary for us to live today, which helps us to eat, travel, vacation, etc.

Greed is what changes the scheme but we can save money for leaner times and should not go against our culture. The poverty culture is very difficult to overcome because of how misinterpret the Ancestral Culture of the Lakota.

I know we are a generous people and we need to take care of our relatives. I have seen my uncles help my mother when we fell of difficult times and they were pretty awesome as they showed their love for the sister. I am working on my life and desire to empower my friends and family. We have a unique culture and need to take from the old and start to help ourselves out of the poverty.

Poverty is a root cause of our problems and if we begin to develop strategies that will move us away from this lifestyle we can help our issues. Poverty is more than not having money and resources it is a mentality. We can see some people who win the lottery go broke within a short period because since they now have money, they still have the same mentality of poverty.

I read about a basketball superstar who was panhandling in Atlanta because he was waiting for a payment that was to come due when he got older. He had millions dollars and an entourage who parties and followed him until he spent all of his money. So he ends up on the streets of Atlanta begging for money.

My point of Feast and Famine is we need to change our mentality and live within our means. I am thinking about this in my own life and I need to take control of my finances. I grew up on food stamps like many of you and it was truly the best of times.

I realize the 10th has just past and for a few days many will eat very well. There are many people who reap from the poverty because people will use the poverty culture to make decisions. We as a people can make the changes in our mentality.

I was working and going to college in Minnesota and we signed up for food stamps when we arrived. It was the way you eat and it was ingrained in my mentality. I got up one day and decided to go look for a job. I knew I had to work for my little family.

I got a job pushing carts around in a big grocery store. I just loved to work and get paid. I got a little addicted as I worked two and sometimes three jobs because I wanted to care for my family. Within two years working at the grocery store I became a manager and somewhere between those times we made to too much money to get food stamps.

I have never used an EBT card and I cannot remember even touching one. I think EBT is a good thing in hard times but should not be a lifestyle because it keeps us in the poverty mentality, time to move on and grow as a people.

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