Voices from The Rez’
I am doing an occasional series of stories from Native Americans that are living on the reservations or in slang terms “The Rez.” Life on the “rez” is alot different than city life. Many of the Native American tribal members of today deal with keeping the culture, traditions, language and morals alive when Western society have pushed their way into remote Native communities through internet, media and tourists. The first story is from my cousin/sister Babe Poor Bear from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. She is a young mother working with the elders to restore the culture and ways of the Lakota people. She teaches young people to keep it alive. I believe you will learn alot from her story of an event she was involved in and in the process she re-discovered the spirit of the American Indian Movement.
YoNasDa LoneWolf Hill
Wacipi Olowon Win (Star Song Woman)
Remembering the liberators and the struggle
By Babe Poor Bear -Guest Columnist-
Today I greet you with a warm and heartfelt handshake. My name is White Buffalo Calf Woman. My white name is Babe Poor Bear that is what they call me. My mother is Wilma Colhoff. My father was Quiver. His white name was Webster Poor Bear that is what they called him.
In December of 2010 Olowan Rowland and I began our journey towards reawakening the spirit of Liberation Day for our Oglala relatives, namely our youth whom are our future. It was a responsibility that we decided to take on in February of the same year when we encountered mass amounts of cross-generational confusion at the walk of Oglala Oyate Liberation Day 2010. We discovered at that time that many of our relatives never truly understood what Liberation Day was and what it stood for to the Oglala people amongst many other Indigenous people(s) across Turtle Island (North and South America). In that same regard we thought, “how could they carry on the dream of our fallen warriors, with little to no understanding of the reasons why they did what they did?”
Olowan, coming from a social work background and myself, coming from a teaching background were born into the struggle of the 70’s by parents who stood and fought for the future of the Lakota and our grandchildren. It is for those very reasons that our parents made sure that we understood what it was they were fighting for. They planted a seed into our hearts and minds as children and simply put, we just never forgot. As we grew up and fine tuned ourselves into the scheme of things as native women we decided from the beginning that we were not in control of anything. We understood that our ancestors were the ones who were guiding us and making things happen at a rapid pace. We began our journey trekking across Native America to research and find an understanding that would benefit the future. Every time we would bring someone’s name up that we heard of from the 70’s, within minutes the phone would ring and there would be a connection for us to meet with them. Some days we would just look at one another and say, “Law of attraction for our ancestors are on our side” and boom, it would happen. All of a sudden we had t-shirts, a gym to feed in, transportation, food, fliers, printing money, a laptop, a printer, etc. Everything we needed was coming so rapidly that we had no choice but to embrace our ancestors as they were truly the one’s guiding us. We both know now more than ever that our ancestors want our relatives to exist rather than to just ‘be’.
In the beginning we were provided a vehicle from my mother, which by the way didn’t have any heat. A few days in and off we went on a mission to keep the flame going so that our 8th fire can be lit and our Lakota relatives will exist once again. Unbeknown to us, through the eyes of the old we, ourselves learned how to ‘exist’ once again. We also came to the conclusion that the Ozuye (warriors) from the 70’s can never be replicated only sought after through stories and gatherings. On that same note and through the understandings that grew from the events of the 70’s, we understood that everything that we do as Lakota people we must do with prayer. So we drove to Sicangu (Rosebud) to offer tobacco to one of our Ozuye from that era, Uncle Crow Dog, so that he may come and pray on Liberation Day. We then drove to every community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to distribute fliers, we went to Rapid City on several occasions to pick up supplies; all this in my mother’s little Honda Accord with no heat. Sometimes we would be sitting on the side of the road for hours with our ring of red and a loaf of bread trying to keep warm with what little heat was coming out of the vents; all for our nation to exist once again. We would just laugh and say, “Our ancestors are on our side.”
One night we were parked at Pinky’s store in Manderson on our last leg of delivering fliers to our communities when I looked up to see a semi fly by our little reservation road. Here we were sitting there trying to keep warm like two little grandma’s each wrapped in blankets, when I looked at Olowan and said, “Sis, twelve years ago I drove through Scenic and came upon a road block on the reservation line by one of our warriors from the 70’s. He had tipi’s set up and was stopping all semis’ from entering our reservation because they were tearing up our roads. Look! It didn’t work. What are we doing wrong?” She said, “Who was it, sis?” I said, “Dave ‘C’.” She just looked off into the iced filled windshield and nodded her head. Later she told me that she remembered so many of our warriors at that very moment that made their journeys home with their battles unfinished. She was deeply saddened as was I, for both of us thought of our parents; her mom and dad and my dad, who both left with their battles unfinished as well.
Ultimately, we discovered so much about ourselves and what it means to be a Lakota in modern times. After the many visits and many research tactics we found out that the American Indian Movement didn’t originate within the Oglala. It was a ‘movement’ that began soon after the Relocation Act of 1956 which placed Indigenous people out of their reservations and into the cities. It was these groups of families who were outraged at the atrocities that were bestowed upon Indigenous people(s) of Turtle Island that started the American Indian Movement. Of these families they had grandmas who wanted something done so that America would never forget that there were still Indigenous people(s) here and we were still alive, most importantly the struggle lives on. They came up with the name American Indian Movement.
Almost simultaneously a group of elders here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation came together and they called for AIM to come and help them. There were countless sufferings that were taken place during that time which included numerous murders within the Oglala people. Many of the murders were by our own relatives. This is why sometimes you will hear people refer to these times as ‘AIM and GOON days’. Yet, what we discovered with that was that it was another ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep our relatives in oppression. At that moment we knew that we had to truly look through the eyes of the elders of those times in order to comprehend the reasons why they did what they did. We came up with this; when the elders here within the Oglala called AIM in to come and help it was their last leg, their last chance, their last hope to save the future of their grandchildren for they were watching Oglala’s kill Oglala’s. It was a sad, sad time.
When AIM came in, countless members of our Oglala relatives joined the movement and that is why you will find people stating today, “I am a second generation AIM baby.” These comments are being made today because these are the ones that are the seeds of our relatives who were very proud of the changes that took place within our communities after the 71 day stand-off that took place in 1973. It was after this day that we didn’t have to run with our pots of soup and duck and hide to have ceremony. It was after this day that our men wore long braids once again. It was after this day that Lakota names became more prominent. It was after this day that the elders seen a better tomorrow for their grandchildren. It was after this day that we began our journey towards the path to which the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ on the other side intended us to live; collectively. It is because of this 71 day stand-off that you will see our relatives speak their language, attend ceremony, have naming ceremonies and go to sweat lodge today. I was born in 1977, four years after the events that took place in 1973 and I was born with a Lakota name. If 73′ didn’t happen I could have been a Barbara Ann or a Sally Marie or something crazy like that. Yet, because I was born into the struggle, I came here Lakota and remain Lakota to this day.
On February 27th, 2011 something beautiful happened; a flame was sparked and it was cross-generational. Through the four directional spiritual walk and ride, the ones who will one day fill our moccasins were able to see the reasons why 1973 happened through the eyes of our elders. Through the spirit of our AIM song, the spirit of those who walked before us in 1973 was reawakened through the eyes of the future. Through prayer and belief our peers were compelled to step up to the plate and find their warrior within so that our future may thrive. Through honor and courage we seen people come out and share about their loved ones. Through strength and willingness we were able to hear the anger within many of our relatives in the ‘homeland’ because of what happened in 1973. Yet through it all we saw healing taking place within each generation that were present on this very good red day. It is because of these things that we are able to heal, able to come alive and most of all; able to levitate our elders’ dream into the next generation(s) so that they may pick up the dream and carry it on for the next 40 years.
Mitakuyapi (all my relatives), this event is living proof that 1973 didn’t happen for nothing. On this day today in 2011 a spark took place from within; from those not yet born all the way up to the elders. They all walked away feeling proud once again to be Lakota. The elders and ancestors on the other side are smiling for they know now that the Oglala will ‘exist’ once again.
All these things I speak of I want you to know that my sister Olowan and I had nothing to do with it. It was all of our ancestors who are on the other side dancing and singing our nation strong, we merely chose to embrace them and become the flexible stem of a plant so that they may be able to work through us to bring healing to our nation.
To our elders: Please forgive us for our hearts are pure, everything we did was in honor of you; our warriors who sparked our souls before we were even thought of in 1973. WE cherish you.
To our youth: Please understand that everything that we did was in your honor for one day you will precede us in maintaining the flame from within. WE believe in you.
To our peers: We challenge you to come and help us next year. WE believe in your warrior.
Hecetu We Ksto (that is the way it is)
Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relatives)
Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman)