Saturday, January 6, 2007

Memoirs of a Rez Chik~Part I "Paha Sapa"

Memoirs of a Rez Chik~Part I "Paha Sapa"

photo above, Black Hills, SD
I was thinking the other day of my heritage. Is there such a thing as being too proud?
Thinking of my step dad and how proud he was. To be Lakota. How he always showed this pride off. He wore his hair long, he married my mom traditionally, he fought for our rights to the Black Hills Land Claim.
I thought of how his lifestyle and pride helped shape me to be the woman that I am today.
It started when I was young, age 10 when they married.
Back then, my family would always tour the Black Hills. Then it was just my step-dad, mom, younger brother and me.
We would go to Bear Country and watch the animals fenced in their natural habitat but yet, able to enjoy the beautiful Black Hills.
We would go to some of the corny tourist spots like Cosmos, Reptile Gardens, & Marine Life. We would hit Custer State Park to see the buffalo and Crazy Horse Mountain. My step dad explained to me, when I asked why our people didn't like Mt. Rushmore. They (the government) illegally took this land from us for gold. Then they carve the faces in the mountain of Presidents who pretty much did us wrong. That's why, and that is why Korczak Ziolkowski was carving Crazy Horse Mountain. To honor our people. He had spoken at Korczak's funeral the year before.
I was young, unimpressed, really. I didn't understand...well, let's just say I was stupid and naive.
I couldn't understand why our people wouldn't take all the money the government was offering us for the illegal seizure of the Black Hills when the treaty of Ft. Laramie was broken.. I used to think of ways I could spend it.
I questioned my stepfather as to why we don't take the money.
"We never will." he told me, "the principle is pride, not money."
I was still puzzled. I wanted the money.
I was stupid, I used to debate him, "Why don't us Lakotas just take the money, why keep fighting for the land? It's already trashed, destroyed with tourist traps and stripmining, and RV parks. We will never be able to roam the sacred land like we used why not just take the money? After all, we could still come and visit it...enjoy it."
He would just laugh at me, tell me one day I would see the light.
Then one day we was at this place called Wild West World in Custer. It was a tourist trap with small stores that sold saltwater taffy, magnets, postcards, and tiny spoons. They had carnival rides and every hour two cowboys would re-enact a gunfight. While we were there, a storm broke out and everyone ran for cover.
We ran in a restaurant. "Might as well eat lunch here." my step dad said. He always found a way to make lemonade out of lemons.
The restaurant had a lounge area and bar. Some big men in cowboy hats sitting at the bar were clearly drunk and talking loud.
"Boy, that rain is coming down hard and fast, those injuns must have danced real hard." They all laughed.
My step dad stood up, all of his 6 foot two inches and braids.
"Oh no" I thought "Please don't embarrass us." I thought for sure he was going to try and fight that group of five men. I didn't care what they called us, I just wanted to eat and leave.
"Excuse me" he says "I am trying to enjoy dinner with my family and would appreciate you not making any derogatory remarks, so we can eat in peace."
He glared each one of them down.
"Well, sorry about that Chief, how about I buy you a beer." One of the men said
"I don't drink." My step dad said, still glaring "And I am not a Chief, I'm a lawyer."
He glared at them, as the restaurant silenced and so did the men.
Finally he turned and walked back to the table.
"That Dana, is why we will never take the money for the Black Hills. We have to much pride in ourselves."
He continued to tell me throughout the meal about this pride.
"Don't let anyone degrade you, what you stand for. People will say they are not racist, but in the same breath they will call you names, degrading you. You come from strong people and never stand for that. Always stand up for yourself."
I didn't really get it until after that. A defining point in my life...moments later.
After the rain subsided and we went to Bear Country, USA, just outside of Rapid City. I watched the bears, buffalo, elk, and other animals in their fenced in zoo. I noticed how they were able to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills from inside the fence. But it was a fence they never chose.
That's when I saw the light, at age 11, and realized why we would never sell the Black Hills.
Not in my lifetime, anyway.
*In 1980, the Supreme Court awarded eight Sioux tribes $106 million in compensation--the 1877 value of $17.5 million, plus interest. This was payment for what the court called "a taking of tribal property." This money sitting in a government account with interest, has grown to over half a billion (and is still growing.)


Kat said...

I'm glad to see you still doing the serious blogging. I was pretty dismayed when I saw your cheese blast. It seems more and more common that the community at 360 is developing a certain mindset... one that I am increasingly uncomfortable with.

Keep blogging, Dana!

Alissa said...

Oh, the hoops I have jumped through to keep up with you damn it! I heart you. Keep bloggin'.

Dana L said...

thanks guys...

JohnB said...

A very deep insight Dana…I enjoyed reading this a great deal.