Ivan Star Comes Out: Native people are still searching for equality

Ivan F. Star Comes Out

Racial equality a longtime goal of Native Americans
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

About two years ago, I experienced a truly awkward moment in a South Dakota state courtroom. I and the wife were attending a hearing for our youngest son. We entered and proceeded to take a seat when a uniformed officer came rushing towards us. His urgency matched the scowl on his face. He was clearly upset and looked as if he wanted to do some physical harm.

My hearing loss prevented me from comprehending his whispered words but since he pointed to his head, I quickly surmised that he wanted me to remove my cap. Instinctively, I jerked it off my head. I know it is a show of respect to remove headgear for a presiding judge in a court room. However, I don’t spend all of my time in courtrooms so I simply forgot to take my cap off.

This officer’s demeanor and action left a clear impression on me. I saw his overbearing respect for the law but I also sensed his right-wing attitude. In other words, the situation was an opportunity for him to apply his personal bigotry. I left the court room that day angry and resentful. I still feel strongly that he used the judicial system to promote his deep-rooted conservative ideology.

Amongst Native populations, South Dakota has a common practice of sending young Indians to prison even for minor offenses. A white and a native may commit the same crime but the white guy usually gets a slap on the hand while the “Indian” is sent to prison. I don’t know if this has any substance but it seems typical of the state’s “Indian-white relations.

Nonetheless, Indians have been making a determined effort to promote racial reconciliation. At the behest of Editor Emeritus Tim Giago (Native Sun News Today), the late Governor George Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as the Year of Reconciliation. The document was signed by former tribal presidents Charles Murphy (Hunkpapa) and the late Paul Iron Cloud (Oglala).

The South Dakota legislature, again at the behest of Giago, became the first in the union to change Columbus Day to Native American Day that same year. Also, the state reluctantly changed Harney Peak, the highest peak in the He Sapa (Black Mountain Range), to Black Elk Peak in 2016. The peak had been named in 1855 to honor General William S. Harney, known as one of those “Indian fighters.”

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Racial equality a longtime goal of Native Americans

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at PO Box 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448 or via email at mato_nasula2@outlook.com)

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