|Our children are dying. Our
children are killing themselves in record numbers on our Lakota
Reservations. They are filled with despair, confusion, and hopelessness
and they see suicide as the only answer.
Many studies point to the hopelessness as being a result of generations
of genocide committed by the historical policies of the Federal
Government against the American Indians. But the policies of today are
just as damaging. These policies create a system of ďassimilate or die,Ē
just another form of genocide.
I am not racist. This is not about hatred or racism. There are many good
non-Lakota. But the damage from the Government and the mainstream
culture and its almighty dollar is killing the children of the Lakota,
Dakota, and Nakota Nations. To look for solutions from the mainstream
culture will only bring about more confusion, more genocide, and more
destruction of our culture and our people.
Yes, our children need help. Then, they also need jobs. They need work.
They need to have hope that they can survive. They need to be treated
like real citizens, free to be who they are.
The current programs are not working. Our Reservations are dry but
60-70% of our people are still affected by alcoholism and drug
addictions. There are a few non-profit organizations that do good work
on our reservations. They really do try to help. But there are also
many, many groups who only make money in our name. Weíre a commodity to
them, a way to get more and more money for themselves, while our
children are suffering. Itís the same with some of the Tribal Council
and Government programs. The money never reaches the people, it never
really helps anyone.
Our children are living in a world of confusion and chaos. We need all
the help we can get from our own people within our own culture. Gangs
and cults and programs that are ignorant of the Lakota culture are not
the answer. The Lakota child knows they are Lakota but these other
things only work to destroy that identity. They brainwash our children
into trying to assimilate rather than respecting and understanding
themselves. They contaminate our children with false mainstream ideas
and values which then only creates more desperation.
We could cure our own. We need to cure our own.
In my grandfatherís time, suicide was unknown. But today, it is
everywhere. Our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are crying
for our help. They are dying without our help.
Traditional spirituality could make the difference. But the civilized
world and Christianity have tied our hands. Our medicine men, our
medicine women, and our spiritual leaders have no standing. We are not
Yet, Traditional spirituality could make the real difference.
Traditional sweat lodge ceremonies could help purify the mind of these
children who have been so wounded by society. It can wake up the spirit
that is inside the person. It can bring healing of the mind, body, and
spirit and it could help heal the entire family. But it needs to be the
real thing, led by a legitimate traditional spiritual leader, and not
just some sauna with a few nice words.
Learning to prepare foods in the traditional way could help them, too.
It is important they understand that food prepared in a good way
nourishes the family in a good way. They need to know that food prepared
with anger and hatred only brings sickness with it.
There are many of the Traditional Ways which would work to bring about
healing and hope for these children. It can restore their identity and
become a way of life. It can teach them how to live a good life, in a
good way. It can give them direction and understanding.
But we need to stop fighting among ourselves. We need to stop looking to
the mainstream society for solutions. We need to stop looking to
outsiders for cures. We need to look to the Ways of our ancestors to
guide us. We, the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota People need to help our own
I am not asking for money. I am not asking for anything from the
Government or the BIA except that we be set free. Set us free. Donít try
to force us to live in the mainstream ways. Donít try to force us to
assimilate. Let us live in our own Ways and heal ourselves and our
children and grandchildren.
Ho heícetu yelo. I have spoken these words.
David Swallow, Wowitan Yuha Mani
Porcupine, South Dakota - The Pine Ridge Reservation