Royalle Azure gathers signatures on a petition to put Death with Dignity South Dakota on the ballot in 2018. Photo by Alaina Adakai
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Native Sun News Today: Does 'Death with Dignity' go against Lakota tradition?

Does ‘Death with Dignity’ go against Lakota ways?

By Alaina Adakai
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

EAGLE BUTTE –– Physician-assisted death may be on the ballot in 2018, if the Death with Dignity South Dakota organization can reach their goal of gathering 14,000 signatures on their petition.

Death with Dignity, also known as “right to die”, allows eligible terminally-ill adults the choice to voluntarily end their lives by self-administering lethal medications prescribed by a physician.

Currently five states, including the District of Columbia, have the Death with Dignity Act laws in place.

Eagle Butte resident and Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member, Royalle Azure, is a volunteer with New Approach, an organization that has teamed up with Death with Dignity South Dakota.

Azure is circulating a petition for Death with Dignity and recently set up an information booth at the Art In the Park event in Eagle Butte.

Azure, a self-described Christian, says her personal spiritual beliefs have her “fifty-fifty” about the petition, but said she also believes that, “a terminally-ill person should have options. They shouldn’t only be allowed to suffer.”

“If I was given 6 months left to live, and was told I would face a painful death, I would let myself suffer through that, I would not end my life.”

Asked if she encountered any objections from the public, “Surprisingly, no. I met supportive people,” Azure said.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse has a different outlook about “right to die.”

Looking Horse, renown as the Keeper of the Sacred Pipe, says that Death with Dignity “is basically a person committing suicide.”

According to him, traditional Lakota teachings forbid suicide.

“Every life is sacred. With our canupa (sacred pipe), we pray for life, not to take away life,” he said. “When a person commits suicide, their spirit does not enter the spirit world. When a spirit does not leave this world naturally, ceremonies must be performed to help guide the spirit. If no ceremony is performed, the spirit roams, lost, on this earth.”

“Man-made laws do not apply to us Lakota people. We have natural laws, given to us by the Creator,” Looking Horse said in response to the petition to establish laws protecting a person’s right to die.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Does ‘Death with Dignity’ go against Lakota ways?

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