A sculpture of Black Elk at the First Nations Sculpture Garden in Rapid City, South Dakota, is seen before being vandalized. Photo by Native Sun News Today

Respect and understanding of Lakota culture are severely lacking

Native Sun News Today Columnist

There is a huge culture/communication gap between the Ikce Wicasa (Natural Man/Human) residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and its non-native neighbors. I don’t live in Rapid City but I am constantly hearing of the racial difficulties and encounters there. I experience that racism on my occasional visits there. This particular racial intolerance arrived here with Columbus in 1492.

Indigenous people have been subjected to this disparaging existence here on the Great Plains and in the He Sapa (Black Hills) area for decades. In spite of the effort made on both sides to reach out to the other in terms of reconciliation, it appears most of our non-native neighbors and natives are not interested in a “ceasefire.”

At the same time, we have open-minded people on both sides of this conceived racial boundary line but they are a silent minority. Religion, skin pigment, language, and political affiliation are the least of their concerns as lasting relationships have been formed.

Then there are those, both natives and Euro-Americans, who vehemently defend their new Euro-culture against what appears to be an “Indian” renaissance. Opinions and views, on both sides, have become narrow-minded and some are very hateful. I have heard the vile expressions on both sides of the manmade reservation boundary lines. Consequently, I have not frequented several restaurants in Rapid City since my encounters with racial intolerance by their Euro-American employees as well as from their customers. All-in-all, I’ve been taking my money to other businesses whose employees treat me with a semblance of respect even though I am completely native.

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

This racial intolerance also exists on the reservation between the so-called “mixed bloods” and “full bloods.” Is it possible to bridge this culture gap between non-natives and natives? Although there are a great number of obstacles that have deterred past reconciliation efforts, I believe it can be spanned. It is not impossible.

Next, as natives, we cannot change the current Euro-American mindset since that is their business. But, we can certainly change our own minds about who we are. We must absolutely realize that the early Euro-Americans misinterpreted our ancestral customs and ceremonies through the biased lens of their own Christian worldview. They thought our ancestors were “wild savages.”

As an unfortunate result, our culture and history today are badly distorted. I believe this is the biggest deterrent to properly addressing this situation. Many natives are unaware of their culture and no longer speak their language. So far, reservation residents have mindlessly and adamantly condemned each other. It is an accepted way of life here and in the Dakotas and adjacent areas.

There are definite cultural differences between native and Euro-American populations. Without the benefit of respect or comprehension, Lakota cultural values are now awkwardly intermingled with non-native culture. I present here a comparison from the Indian Teacher Handbook, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. It covers different areas each with opposing cultural standards.

On the environment, the ancient indigenous value promoted “respect for the earth, living in balance and harmony with nature and taking only what was needed.” The new non-native value promotes “a constant search for new ways to control and master earthly elements and takes great pride in building dams, cutting forests, and polluting the natural elements.”

The indigenous value on hunting was for sustenance only and weapons are looked upon as tools for sustenance rather than weapons of war. The non-native value “hunts for the entertainment (i.e. trophy hunting) aspect of it.” Regarding time, the native value views it as “a very relative thing. One does things as they are needed.” Non-natives values, time is of utmost importance.


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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

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