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The Oglala Lakota Nation flag is seen at Camp Mni Luzahan, a tipi encampment located on land held in trust for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Photo © Independent Media Project
Rapid City Journal’s racist headlines on homelessness
Monday, December 7, 2020
Native Sun News Today Columnist

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The recent headlines in the Rapid City Journal about the homeless situation can be interpreted as racist. No amount of rationalizing will change that.

For this reason alone, the reservation governments must direct their attention on their homeless natives surviving on the mayor’s streets. Actually, many have died within city limits over the years, and forgotten because it is a burden on the city’s coffers.

One may be thinking that the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) has nothing to do with the homeless situation in the city. For starters, part of the preamble in the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s IRA constitution states “…in order to establish a more perfect organization, promote the general welfare, conserve and develop our lands and resources, secure to ourselves and our posterity…” The oath every elected official swears on is similar.

This preamble, written by non-native government official’s 80-plus years ago, explains each IRA government’s purpose and underlying philosophy. I’m not sure what the authors were intending to accomplish but Oglala Lakota County (Pine Ridge Reservation) today holds one of the nation’s “poorest county” designations. This means as much as half the residents are impacted by a long list of negative results.

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

I present a few here. Loss of language and cultural identity (forced assimilation), discontentment (many endure unresolved historical trauma), inequality (racial and economic), homelessness (multiple families living in single-family homes), child neglect (grandparents raising their grandchildren), poor education (according to state standards), little or no jobs, and an ineffective and oftentimes corrupt governing system (IRA).

The reservation’s despairing situation is the primary reasons people leave their homelands and go to Rapid City in search of a better life. Only they end up on the streets because they cannot find a job (most likely denied based on skin color) much less a place to live while they work a meaningful job. Then there is the substance abuse and addictions that merely add to the struggle.

The IRA governments can be a catalyst in moving the situation toward more positive results. Our elected officials can discuss feasible measures that will truly assist our relatives with what they need to become productive members of society. The accepted stereotypical imagery held by the majority of non-natives in this area has merely added to the homeless situation.

The combined effort of the IRA governments can accomplish what the city cannot. Let’s face it, the IRA system contributed to the homeless situation so it is only fitting for each entity to help resolve it. A suggestion is to establish an “Indian Center” similar to what our “urban” relatives have in the big cities and to staff it with qualified individuals, not relatives.

These debilitating conditions on the reservation are why many leave to seek out a better life and oftentimes end up dying on the streets of Rapid City. All the city wants is to rid themselves of those “damn good-for-nothing Indians.” Irrespective of any elected city official’s grasp of Lakota culture, of egalitarian principles, and of Christian teachings, earthborn morality should provide a good direction.

As Lakota people, we need to rethink our perception of the world because most of us (if not all) have been exposed to the European-based Christian creation of the world and no longer remember their own. Consequently, Lakota teachings are interpreted through this Christian worldview which result in serious distortions and further destruction of culture. An example is the fact that hardly anyone speaks Lakota anymore.

We should be seriously questioning our capability to re-acquaint ourselves with our own Otokahe Kagapi Wicowoyake (First Creation Story). It is not a “quaint little Indian” thing. It must be done since it establishes our culture, identity, spirituality, history, and language. As Oyate (people), if we are ever to speak Lakota again or live our culture like our ancestors did, we must reestablish our fundamental base.

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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.

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