Ivan F. Star Comes Out. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Ivan Star Comes Out: Our children aren't growing up with our culture

Did the children disown their Lakota culture and history?

By Ivan Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

As with all our reservation schools, Isnala Wicasa Owayawa (Lone Man School) awarded 18 students their diplomas indicating their satisfactory completion of an elementary course of study. Not to rain on anyone’s contentment, but the fact that our school system is founded on an “English education” as provisioned in the Fort Laramie Peace treaty of 1868, should be predominant in people’s minds.

A nagging question comes to mind as to how many will graduate from high school? This question was on my mind during the graduation ceremony at Lone Man School. An even more troubling question is how many will earn a college degree?

Our ancestors have always encouraged us to go to school so we could live cohesively in the new society. As for academics, or “English education,” there is not a problem in administering that to our children. I’m can only hope they are prepared for high school. The greatest expectation a parent can have for their children is for them to graduate with a degree, whether it is a Bachelors, Masters, or a Ph.D.

This is what our ancestors wanted. Our ancestors believed that as students of this “English education,” we would keep our Indian identity throughout. However, something went awry in the process. They did not expect our language, culture, and history to be obliterated. A sad outcome of this is when our college graduates came home speaking English only and are culturally inept.

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From what I have witnessed during my 60-plus years of life here, most of our college graduates are culturally handicapped and they do not speak Lakota, the ancient language of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Fires). The part that hurts the most is that they set about diligently stimulating the new order. They appear as if they disowned their ancient Lakota culture and history.

The old ones knew we had to be able to function in both worlds if we want to live good happy lives. This is possible but requires a person to be equally knowledgeable of both worlds. In other words, we have been struggling to survive in an unbalanced world. Unbalanced meaning our ancient way is being continually obliterated while the new order is promoted and is thus dominant.

Cultural identity has been defined as a person’s sense of belonging to a particular cultural group. Normally, people adopt the beliefs, values, norms, and social practices of their culture and identify themselves with that culture. In essence, the culture becomes part of their self-concept.

Those who are doing what they can within the system to instill our language and culture in our young people’s minds are to be commended. The reality of this situation is that their efforts are beginning to take root with each graduating elementary and high school class. On the other hand, our language and culture is sadly diminished among our older college-educated members.

This scenario is real and sugar-coating it will not benefit anyone. It only endorses and continues the federal government’s 1800s “Kill the Indian, save the man” policy. Truthfully, it is still being implemented today in our schools. I have seen many instances where this policy has proven detrimental to our youth. Whether it is intentional or inadvertent is not as important as the fact that it is still present in the 21st century.

Now, I am wondering many will discredit what I have “laid on the table” here. I expect some vehement retorts and some of that old “cold shoulder” treatment which I have been coping with as President of the Lone Man School Board. Whatever is laid in my path does not truly matter. What matters is that we come together and begin working together for the sake of our posterity.


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Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at P.O. Box 147, Oglala, South Dakota, 57764; via phone at 605-867-2448 or via email at mato_nasula2@outlook.com.

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today