The virus that now threatens every human inhabitant worldwide poses a specifically even more harmful threat to the lives of not only the Oglala Lakota Nation, but also to indigenous Peoples the world over. Wigmuke Was’te Win (“Beautiful Rainbow Woman”) notes in her recent article for the Lakota Times, that for reasons not clear yet, this virus – as well as similar viruses (the Spanish flu in the early 1900’s and most other cases of influenzas) – dramatically impacts her People at rates almost four times that of European derived populations. Some of this might have to do with genetic differences. Clearly, there are also factors linked to conditions of poverty, unequal healthcare and differences in diet – all of which are related to the systematic oppression Native American’s have been subjected to for generations.
And so, the Oglala Lakota Nation has moved aggressively to protect its People from this virus. Not only because it is a clear and present danger to them physically, but also because it gives rise to historic fears of diseases brought by the Europeans in the 18th century that devastated their populations.
They have blockaded roads leading into the reservation in perhaps a futile attempt to keep the virus from crossing a line.
Last year’s harvest of sage and cedar is virtually impossible to find anymore as the bundles kept in closets and hanging on walls have been burned day and night.
Many traditional families have set up tents and tipis next to their homes – refusing to send their infected family members to quarantine sites away from their homes and loved ones.
And they have listened and adapted to this new world, incorporating guidance and teachings as much from their elders and Spiritual leaders as from the scientific information being offered from the outside.
The borders will open again at some point. The virus and fear will recede. And good will come out of it. Perhaps the social and economic legacies of colonialism will finally be meaningfully addressed as they were exposed by the Pandemic. As with so many of the other fissures that have been exposed as the Coronavirus pulled back the curtain, perhaps the reality that there are significant parts of our population that still live without running water, healthy homes and adequate food will be too obvious in the death tolls to ignore. Our belief is that in the midst of this chaos and upheaval there is an opportunity to see more clearly what we have become – and where we want, and need, to go as a species.
Hecel lena Oyate kin nipi ket – so that our People may live.
Our young people are warrioring up!
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it's easy to find legitimate threats, reasons to fear and to then turn towards hopelessness. After all, even our neighbors who approach us in the store or on an evening stroll by our home, now pose at least the possibility of a viral threat. Additionally, the discord and disorganization of many of those in positions of leadership engender more hopelessness and frustration than they do inspiration and direction. And so, the virus attacks not only our lungs and breath, but moves on in its assault on our confidence and strength as communities, neighbors and families.
Our youth are called to in a time like this. Their bodies are healthier and better able to withstand the threat of a virus. The elders now must be protected and kept in place at home and away from others -- at least for the moment and while the threat is highest. The young people's inherent fearlessness is also of value now, if tempered by guidance and knowledge. This is also the time for them to learn that the world is bigger than their phones, drama, personal interests and needs. They have always had a profound responsibility to find their place in their communities. To find their unique gift, and to give that gift to their People. However, in the modern world, the obligation to be of service to others, is often obscured by the illusion that we can survive as a species in selfish and self - indulgent ways.
Part of the gift of Coronavirus is that it has laid bare many of our lies and mistakes. The fact is that we ARE all related. We DO need each other. The Earth IS our mother and will bring us back into balance if we do not do so on our own. And our youth DO have a profound responsibility to play an integral role in our communities. And this demands of them sacrifice, courage and strength. The selfishness, shortsightedness, greed and me-ness of the past few generations is being ravaged by the virus. This is a good thing.
In the time since the virus humbled many of us, we have called on you to support our Covid Action Initiative and your response (we are already 25% to our goal) has allowed us to call on Gen7 and other young people- both on and off Pine Ridge - to take action and ease the fear and suffering in their communities. Each week they identify families in need- some now suffering from the effects of Covid 19. They send us a list of their needs (food, diapers, hygiene supplies, water, etc.) and request help on behalf of those not able to reach out because of access, fear or remoteness. Supplies are then ordered, disinfected and distributed. Logs and firewood have also been cut, loaded and transported for the upcoming winter. Young Lakota men are milling logs to build a log home for a family with far too many people living in too small a space. Seeds are being planted and gardens started so fresh vegetables can be grown and used as medicine.
The virus has closed the schools, stopped the athletic competitions, malls, family gatherings and so much more. There is a lot to grieve in that to be sure, but there are openings too and much to be grateful for in this time. For those young people who have stepped up to help -- and our supporters who have made it possible -- we are incredibly grateful for all of you.
Wopila (a deep and immeasurable gratitude),
COVID-19 began to hit the US and it became evident that this wasn’t going to blow over so easily. I was in Hawaii, thousands of miles from my home in Colorado. I began to fear getting stuck in Hawaii away from my family, and so I decided to cut my volunteer trip short by a week and a half. Traveling home, I could feel the tension in the air. Within less than a week of getting home, my state went into a stay at home order, issued by the governor. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home all the time except for a few runs to the grocery store. My mom on the other hand, works in the lab at a hospital and is considered an essential worker right now. We are taking all the precautions we can to stay clean and healthy.
The hardest part for me is being separated from my peers. I am usually very social, so now I am separated from my friends which is slowly wearing on me. I do get afraid sometimes about the consequences of the virus, but know that my family is doing what we can to stay safe. I'm grateful to be back with my family, and that we are all still healthy. I worry for those in other parts of the country and the world that are getting hit harder by the virus. I’m praying that good can come from this slow down in many areas of the world.
I want to be out in the world more, but I know it's better to stay at home until things are cleared up more. This is something that my generation has never experienced, even our parents haven’t. This feels like it could be a turning point in many people's lives.
I see Gen7 as a powerful way to empower the world’s youth to cooperate and communicate on the issues that face us. It’s really important, especially going forward. There’s a lot of good that was done by previous generations, but also a lot of hurt. Now I feel it’s a matter of integrating everything together and healing all of the intergenerational and intercultural trauma. I’m working on a project with a friend in Colorado to create a discussion group to build each other's perspectives and work on respectful disagreement and building consensus. With Gen7, our cooperative projects with CYL are a great way of doing this as well. It allows more people to learn about a culture and lifestyle different than their own, and work on building intercultural communication skills. On top of this it helps give back to the world community.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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