The Hill and Jameson Annex, which is part of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, hosted the Anti-Meth Conference, Spiritual Conference and Prison Powwow. Photo by Richie Richards

Native Sun News Today: Indian inmates urged to reconnect to their tribal heritages

Inmates urged to re-identify as Indians

By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

SIOUX FALLS – Am anti-meth event brought several Lakota leaders to the medium-maximum prison in Sioux Falls last week. The LDN (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota) Group hosted the Anti-Meth Conference, Spiritual Conference and Powwow.

On October 19 inside Jameson Annex and The Hill Chapel, part of the South Dakota Department of Corrections state penitentiary system, LDN presented the Anti-Meth Conference with nearly 50 inmates from both facilities in attendance.

Invited guests included, Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice-President Darla Black, former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe President Joseph Brings Plenty, CRST Liaison Toni Handboy, Jodi Zephier and Ebony Tiger of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Gene Tyon of Oaye Luta Okolakiciye and Rapid City-based journalist Richie Richards of Native Sun News Today.

The anti-meth event began with a pipe ceremony held by Joe Circle Bear (CRST) and inmate pipe carrier Robert Kelly. Inmates were able to partake in the prayer ceremony alongside invited guests inside the gymnasium in the Jameson Annex beginning 7:45 a.m. on Thursday.

Speakers presented their work in their community, including Handboy and Brings Plenty who presented their work with the youth of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Part of their speech included the emotional testimony of Handboy who is a recovering meth addict, sober for a number of years and now uses her experience to teach others.

Following their presentation, Handboy and Brings Plenty headed back to Cheyenne River for the “Awakening of Spirituality” Wellness Conference. The work of advocates and providers is never ending as evidenced by the quick departure of the CRST leaders.

A central theme during the Anti-Meth Conference was identity. The inmates listened to lessons provided by the speakers who wanted them to re-identify as Lakota, Dakota and Nakota men. The theme of loss of identity was explained as the losing of their identity during their criminal activity is partially what led to their incarceration.

According to the Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice-President Black, bringing back their spirit and identifying as Native men is going to help in their recovery and will make doing time a little easier as they prepare for life on the outside.

Following the simultaneous presentations at the Hill Chapel and Jameson Annex, speakers switched facilities and presented in the other penitentiary in the afternoon.

During the presentations in the Hill Chapel on Thursday afternoon, a very emotional prayer in the Lakota language was spoken by longtime inmate, George Blue Bird, who honored his friend, Wade Aikens, who passed away on Saturday, October 14 inside his cell.

Blue Bird requested that inmates honored his friend, who before his incarceration in 1985, was a rodeo star. Native Sun News Today contacted Aikens’ sister, Stephanie Bolman Altamira, who said, “My brother Wade is back home in Fort (Thompson). We had a beautiful processional from Chamberlain to Fort Thompson; lots of riders and a drum led him home.” Wade Aikens was serving a life term for killing a police officer in Lawrence County.

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