Debra White Plume in Native Condition. Discussion »
"As long as the water flows and the sweet grass grows" are words Red Nations people take seriously, like in Treaty Making. We have learned the so-called United States is a trickster. They are settler invaders who occupy our lands across Turtle Island. As Lakota people, we know who we are and where we come from. We went deep underground for generations, and emerged through Wind Cave in the sacred Black Hills, a place that is located in the middle of this land, to live on Mother Earth again.
Debra White Plume - Oglala Lakota
We call the Black Hills He Sapa. In our Lakota language, we call He Sapa "The Heart of Everything That Is," it is sacred land.
To make a long story short, our Lakota Nation fought the United States military for decades for our freedom and territory. We made treaties with them in 1851 and 1868 after they begged for peace. We retained a land base, including the He Sapa. After the United States made bounty on the Buffalo Nation and almost wiped them out as part of the Scorched Earth Policy to get us off the land (in violation of the Treaties), we came in to be counted. We were each given an Indian number, and assigned to Prisoner of War Camps. Pine Ridge Reservation was POW Camp 344.
We, the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation, live the closest of the Tetuwan Oyate to the He Sapa, the other Lakota and Dakota bands located nearby.
When our ancestors came in off the land they had a star map and a land map they had preserved through decades of warfare with the United States. The Star Map shows constellations, the Earth map shows land where our people are to be when the stars are in a certain position, and what ceremony we are to have in that place at that time.
As traditional Lakota people, we are schooled in this way from the womb, so by adulthood, we know this deep in our spirits, hearts and minds. We teach it on to the next generation, and to those who grew up assimilated and colonized but want to reclaim their Lakota identity. We are to hold our ceremonies at a certain place on Mother Earth when the stars travel to their special place in the sky during the seasons. When done this way by the Lakota people, we call this the Good Red Road. This is what Lakota people are talking about when we say we are walking the Good Red Road. It means we are traveling through He Sapa in ceremony just as the stars are traveling through the sky. We also say "He Sapa is the Heart of Our Home, He Sapa is the Home of our Heart" so our ancestors fought for it, and so do we. Love is a very powerful force!
One part of the Good Red Road is a prairie area called Pe' Sla, in Treaty Territory that the United States stole when gold was discovered.
Unilaterally approving laws in violation of the Treaty, the United States made land available to settlers through gradual encroachment. The Reynolds family began obtaining parcels of land on Pe' Sla 136 years ago. Local legend has it they tried to mine for gold there, but found none. No one did, so they bought out the other settlers, one by one.
Now the descendants of the early settlers want to sell the land through auction on August 25 in Rapid City.
Every bone in my body tells me this is wrong. Not only is it just illegal, but also, it is wrong. It tears at my heart to think part of our Good Red Road is being auctioned. Pe' Sla is a place that fills your heart with love and joy, and when you go there, you just want to cry, and the healing tears fall, the power there is so strong. It is a place where generations of Lakota have sent their voices to the Universe. We want our generations to be able to go there, too. All of our Lakota ways belong to our children's children, and so on. We are keeping care of the Lakota way, for them, to carry on. So we are in a dilemma.
Certain circumstances can prevail upon a person to behave in a manner that is fundamentally contrary to one's belief system, instincts, and historical frame of reference. To even sporadically arrive at this conclusion is shocking! Talk about a paradigm shift!
Such is the situation when faced with a very real possibility that sacred ancestral land, that in living memory has not been available to the people, is suddenly obtainable! Imagine that YOU must get permission from those who withhold it, when you want to pray in ceremony, how would that make you feel? Deprived of your ancestral identity, who will you be? Our Lakota ceremonies are who we are. Without our ceremonies, we cease to be Lakota. We must have access to our sacred places that collectively make up the Good Red Road, for us, here on earth.
Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota author and activist from the Pine Ridge Homeland, is devoted to preserving the Lakota Way of Life, Treaty Rights and Human Rights. She has organized to preserve water rights to raise public and political awareness of the threat posed by the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the drinking water of the Oglala Lakota Nation.
photo credit brenda norrell; posted August 22, 2012 8:40 am edt