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Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) speaks with Marcella LeBeau, a veteran from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, following an event at the U.S. Capitol on June 24, 2019, LeBeau, who turned 101 on October 26, served in World War II. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Notes from Indian Country
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Piya Wiconi is a new beginning

In the Lakota language we sometimes say Piya Wiconi, or a new life, a new beginning. On this day of change, with a new president and vice president elected nationally and a new president and vice president elected on the Pine Ridge Reservation, it truly is a Piya Wiconi.

A Native woman from the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, Deb Haaland, also won re-election to the U. S. Congress for a second term. This column is directed to her.

Deb, there has long been a historic connection between the Native Americans of the Southwest and the peoples of the Great Sioux Nation. It all started in the 1800s after the United States decimated the once mighty herds of buffalo and forced the Sioux people to sign their treaties or starve. Overnight they accomplished what they set out to do and the Sioux people did begin to starve, even after their leaders had signed the treaties. There were however some politicians who found this situation deplorable and set out on a quest to find a way to feed the starving Sioux people since their main source of food, the buffalo, had been decimated. They decided to bring some of the herds of cattle from Texas to the Dakota Territory and distribute them to the Sioux people.

Herds were rounded up and they began their long journey to the Dakota Territory. As they made their way through New Mexico the cattle drivers often found themselves shorthanded and so they hired drovers along the way to fill the ranks. Those new drovers often came from the Pueblos of New Mexico. And so in the mid-1800s there were Pueblo family members named Garcia, Hernandez, Gallego, Mendoza and more driving those cows on to the Indian reservations of South Dakota. Often the drovers met beautiful Lakota, Dakota and Nakota women, fell in love, got married and resettled into the Dakota lands.

As an example my great grandfather was an Abeita from the Pueblo of Isleta. My other great grandfather was a Tapio from Ohkay Owingeh. Great grandfather Abeita met and married a beautiful Lakota woman named Lucy Good Shell Woman. My grandmother Sophia was a child of that marriage. My great grandfather Tapio met and married a Lakota woman named Holy Woman. That was more than 100 years ago and the merger in marriage between the Pueblo men and Lakota women produced many children that are now more Lakota and Dakota than Pueblo.

The Gallego name became Giago because Gallego was pronounced Guy-A-Go and that is the way the Bureau of Indian Affairs interpreted the name and spelled it phonetically. But the language spoken in the Giago home was Lakota.

The newcomers from New Mexico became citizens of Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River and Rosebud. They settled on Lakota lands and farmed and ranched. My great grandfathers became teamsters and used their long wagons to haul goods from the railheads at Kadoka and Rushville, Nebraska to the reservations. They farmed and ranched along Three-Mile-Creek near Kyle.

Ironically my cousin Bob Giago met a lady named Millie from the Laguna Pueblo when they were students at Haskell many years ago. They carried on the long traditions of their ancestors and married.

And so it is in this tradition of the joining of the Pueblo Natives with the Lakota that the Lakota people are now asking a member of the Laguna Tribe of New Mexico, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), to join us and take up our cause to get a portion of the Black Hills returned to us. Haaland and her staff are now talking with Oglala Lakota attorney Mario Gonzalez, the man who drafted the original Bradly Bill, and looking at ways to come up with a Haaland Bill, to take up where the Bradley Bill dropped off.

Indianz.Com Video: Deb Haaland | Thakini Wichacinzin Win | Defender of the Wounded Knee People

I am writing this column today to let Ms. Haaland know about the long history between her people and of their relationship to the Lakota people. Many of the Pueblo cattle drovers joined in marriage to Lakota women, raised families and then joined in the historic fight to get land in the Black Hills returned to its rightful owners.

And so Ms. Haaland, we feel we have every reason to ask you to lead the fight for us with the U. S. Congress. And so many of the Lakota now fighting for a return of Black Hills land are also descendants of the Pueblo people. Ironic, but true.

We call this time Piya Wiconi, a new life and a new beginning. It is also a new venture for Ms. Haaland to embark upon and to lead us on a fight that has been ongoing for more than 100 years.


Contact Tim Giago at najournalist1@gmail.com. Tim is the founder of the Native American Journalists Association and of Indian Country Today.

Note: Content © Tim Giago