Tuffy Lunderman: Five hundred years of Indian Country resilience

Richard "Tuffy" Lunderman. Photo by Alfred Walking Bull / The Sicangu Eyapaha

500 Years of Resilience
Let the truth be told
By Tuffy Lunderman
For the Lakota Country Times

Historians believe Moses received the Ten Commandments somewhere around 1220 BC. These Ten Commandments were to serve as the principles of behavior for the human race. In other words, the “Laws of Mankind."

When confronted, Jesus told the religious scholars of his day there were two great commandments: The first, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul.” The second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This was some 1,200-1,400 years after Moses received the Laws of Mankind and millions of years after God created the great universes, this great planet, its continents and Mankind.

Did God mean Love your White Christian neighbor only as yourself? That appears to be what the second great commandment evolved into. Some 2,700 years after Moses was given the Ten Commandments, Pope Nicholas V issued the Papal Bull, Dum Diversas on June 18, 1452. This Bull authorized Alfonso V, the King of Portugal, to dehumanize and reduce any “Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers” to perpetual slavery, including children. If they refused, there were no limits on what could be done to them(murder, rape, cutting of limbs, taking and redistributing all of their possessions, etc.) and this continued well into the 19th century in the U.S. This Bull is the most significant document in the history of the United States regarding this “unique” relationship the Lakota have with the federal government and the evolvement and development of “Indian Law”. Dum Diversas is known as the “Doctrine of Discovery”.

The dehumanization of indigenous people is based upon religion and race. If Christians didn’t occupy the land then those lands could be “discovered” and claimed for the discovering European Christian sovereign and those Christian governments could transfer land by treaty. Is this why a treaty is supposed to be the supreme law of the land? Ironically, the U. S. has abrogated every treaty it has with a Lakota nation.

When history is read, the Lakota were friendly to the Europeans and assisted them in acclimating to this new land and its inhabitants. But, because the Lakota lacked an immigration policy they went from being 100% of the population to approximately 1% today. It is estimated that as many as 50 million native Lakota died through contact with European immigrants!

Vi Waln on YouTube: Tuffy Lunderman at the South Dakota State Capitol

Everywhere the Lakota go they are under the jurisdiction of some government, but the Lakota could not promulgate laws protecting themselves from the white guy within their own jurisdiction(s). The white guy had to give his consent for this to happen (see the Violence Against Women Act). This control and validation creates racist attitudes of superiority and perceptions of inferiority and these perceptions are perpetuated in the public schools throughout the U.S. Reinforcement of the racist founding principles of the U.S. allows the privileged to continue in their comfort zone and not have to face the realities of their oppressive actions.

I am not a secular scholar, but I can comprehend and I do not believe the Creator intended for “Love your neighbor as yourself” to mean, your white Christian neighbor. Are Lakota people supposed to submit to Christianity and accept their dehumanization as part of the process? Are Lakota people supposed to accept they were less than human (soulless)and needed to be civilized (Christianized/Assimilated) and all of the horrific, inhumane and oppressive practices of the process were/are ok because their spiritual beliefs and practices did not conform to other religious beliefs, therefore they have no place in the Creator’s (GOD’s) universe.

Are Lakota people supposed to accept all of the genocidal practices as OK and believe the Oppressors sins are OK because of the infallibility of the Pope? Is total submission the answer? The Lakota have the right to exist as a distinct ethnic group in perpetuity and this right has been affirmed in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I use “Lakota” universally because I do not know the name of every Indigenous society (Tribe) that exists, but I do know that we are not “Indians”! Indians come from India! Think about it, Indians come from India! Think about it, Indians come from India! Think about it, Indians come from India! Think about it, Indians come from India! Lumping all the Native people living in this county into the generic category of “Indian” is the most disrespectful thing ever! This allows for the privileged to not have to learn about and/or understand and it allows the privileged to continue to oppress and we do not have to be recognized for who we are, but for who they say we are.

Trans-generational trauma is the leading cause of the dysfunction existing within Native nations and until there is acknowledgement and the historical truth is taught, ethnic healing will not occur. Collectively, White and privileged Christians don’t have a clue about the effects of Trans-generational trauma and as long as they validate Natives (“Indians”), their ignorance and privilege goes on and on and on.

The dehumanization of the Lakota commenced in 1452 in northern Africa and continues today through the trans-generational trauma resulting from the genocidal practices of the Europeans. It has lead to the destruction of the societies, communities, customs, traditions, practices, etc. that once made the “Great Sioux Nation” GREAT! It has made the Lakota the statistical leader nationally and in some instances, world wide in rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, suicide as proclaimed by Newt Gingrich, low school attendance rates, low graduation rates, lowest test scores, highest unemployment rates, highest poverty rates.

All of these things lead to a couple of significant factors that cannot continue to go unrecognized, depression and low self-esteem. In my opinion these are the two most significant factors resulting from the continued genocidal practices, federal policies, regulations, etc. which directly affect the state of Lakota Nations today. More specifically, they are the major factors negatively affecting Lakota student academic performance.

It only stands to reason that if the Lakota were considered less than human, then all of the horrific things that were done to students in the boarding schools were justified and there wasn’t any need to have a conscience about the deeds done. This is the 21st century and we cannot change history, but there can and must be an acknowledgement of the wrongs and then there must be healing. The healing cannot be one-sided, both sides need to heal.

Once again, the call goes out to the Pope to repudiate the appropriate Papal Bulls. And to educators and legislators (Lakota/White), everyone has to wake up, we need to be proactive for the benefit of Lakota students and future students of our Lakota Nations. We need the cooperation and understanding of our white Christian neighbors for the creation of an effective and appropriate educational system, not necessarily a public school system, but a system that incorporates the best educational, learning and teaching practices and one that we control and will focus on classroom achievement. But, let’s make sure students, whether they be Lakota or white, are taught historical truths.

The current systems are not meeting the educational and social/emotional needs of Lakota students, therefore, the national needs required through effective leadership are not being met. Trans-generational trauma has created unsafe, anxiety riddled environments that are reactive and not proactive. Communities, schools, homes, etc. are not emotionally safe and that anxiety driven insecurity results in behavior that is driven by poor decision-making that is highly personal and ignores the collective. Historically and traditionally, everything the Lakota did was for the preservation of the collective.

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Regarding Black lives, President Obama stated, “We must use our history to propel us to the future!” Our future is knowing our history, knowing, understanding and respecting the sacrifices made by our ancestors so we can be here today; knowing and understanding how the socio-political status of Lakota nations came to be.

Over five hundred years of genocidal oppression effects an entire population inhumanely. Teaching, learning and understanding historical truth as it relates to trans-generational trauma can be the first giant step for mankind living the Creator’s law. This experiment in assimilation must be recognized for the failure that it is and must cease!

(Richard "Tuffy" Lunderman is a former vice chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.)

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