PRESS & MEDIA
PRESS & MEDIA
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.
Our last day of school in persxn was March, 13. I remember that because it was Friday the 13. I really miss my friends and relatives that I usually see daily. now we can’t see each other, But at least we are keeping others and ourselves safe. The school I attend was the first school in the state to start virtual schooling, they were planning weeks before the Covid-19 hit us. We are planning to finish school this way. Persxnally my Expirience with the shelter in place is going okay, I just miss my relatives. I also miss going places,but now my family only leaves if it 100% necessary. The first case of Covid-19 was a really nice womxn who isn’t from here, who I know persxnally. She immediately followed protocol and stayed at home with her family. She then went to a hospital, in Rapid city, Sd, to get tested. She tested positive and our tribal council banned her and her family from coming back to Pine Ridge, but I believe they are able to lift the ban. So far, that has been the first known cases here on the Rez. Our lockdown for our reservation started April, 20 and has now ended on the 26. During the lockdown we couldn’t leave our house from 8pm-6am, unless we were Essential workers. On our borders cops had checkpoints to make sure folx were only leaving if it was essential.
We find ourselves in these uncertain times - with all of you - and wonder in what ways it will change our lives, our work and play, in the long run. We look at pictures, like the one above, and remember that day: the hugs, the hard work and the joy that came from being in service – physically and together - in service.
We LOVE what we do, and we love WHO we do it with: our Lakota friends and relatives, our amazing community of volunteers and supporters. When we look at the calendar that we set for 2020 it was FULL (in January we joked that our next break in activities would be in December). We had A LOT to do, for and with our friends on Pine Ridge. Like so many of you, our call to action has become to figure out how to shift, how to flow and how to make the greatest, mission informed impact while doing things differently- very differently!
This is where Covid-19 Action Initiative comes in which is something we can coordinate remotely while targeting the part of our mission aimed at alleviating conditions of poverty. The initiative provides income to our friends on Pine Ridge who are doing the on-the-ground work, aids in helping to keep more people staying safely at home and provides desperately needed food and supplies to the families most impacted. Of course, that is a hard call to make, as so many on Pine Ridge are facing deep poverty and food insecurity. Our Covid-19 Action Fund campaign will help us grow this new, emergency effort in order to make the greatest possible impact through the summer of 2020.
Other activities such as the online Lakota Culture Workshop Series and our re-imagined Gen7 virtual activities are ways that we hope to continue to advance those parts of our mission that aim to honor indigenous wisdom and work toward reconciling a deeply complicated and painful history. We are currently discussing other ways to advance our mission in this new context and welcome any input from anyone who is reading this!
While we have cancelled all April – June in-person events, we are closely monitoring the evolving Covid-19 situation and the needs and restrictions on Pine Ridge (there is a current travel ban on Pine Ridge). We will make a decision by May 15th as to our ability to effectively and safely launch LakotaRide 2020, which is scheduled for July 10 – 31. And for our fall volunteer groups, Gen7 events and the Race to Winterize, it is too early to call but please know that we will thoughtfully weigh all of the factors and make a decision that is in the best of our interest of all involved.
And so, Tipi Raisers is moving forward and we are deeply grateful to you, our community, for your ongoing support and for your dedication to helping us get this messy work right! We are optimistic about the future and remain steadfastly committed to you all - and to this work -as we are shown new ways to navigate what we do and how we do it.
Lori and Dave
Han mitakuyapi, cante waste nape cuzape. Lakota eya Kimimila Taoniye Win emaciyapi, na wasicu eya Miya Wahpaha I'Cu emiciyapi. Mitawaki ti'ma hel unka win ye, Ina wayeki Mert Garnette eciyapi, na ate wayeki Leon Takes War Bonnett eciyapi. Hello my relatives, I greet you with a good heart. My Lakota name is Butterfly Breath Woman and my English name is Miya Takes War Bonnett. I was born in December, my mother's name is Mert Garnette and my father's name is Leon Takes War Bonnett Jr. I live in Kyle, South Dakota which is part of the Pine Ridge Reservation, life during quarantine has challenges. Many jobs have been canceled along with school, food and money are becoming an issue. But thank you to Little Wound school for delivering food for the kids still in school, whether they're walkers or bus riders. My step dad has been working along with my mother. They take precautions to make sure they're not in anyway exposed to the virus. This also means the kids along with myself can't have people over who we don't know/trust. Essentials are now becoming harder to get to, Kyle doesn't have that much options to get them. Sure, we (my family) have our struggles but we make it through whatever we face. We believe this will pass, it just takes time. Take the authority to keep yourself clean, eat healthy, and pray. Pray it'll pass, pray for your loved ones, and pray for everyone in the world. Mitákuye Oyasin (we are all related), take care of one another. Pilamaya ye, thank you.
Hello my name is Justina I’m a part of Gen7 and have been for a little over a year now . I was born and am living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I am sixteen years old and am a sophomore. With the COVID-19 pandemic happening a lot has changed here and all over the world. I will be informing you on what’s personally happening to me and my family. There have been a lot of tribal meetings on how we will protect our people and especially our elders. Recently they have set a curfew that is from 10pm-6am, they have also shut down our rez to non-residents , essential travel can still pass by though. I’m extremely lucky that I go to the only private school on the rez. We haven’t gone to school in three weeks but the school has supplied every student with chromebooks , and we’ve been doing Zoom meetings , along with many other apps to help us learn from home. They also send out lunches that have a lot of food in them to students. It’s definitely taken some adjustment though. My family stocked up on food , in Rapid City as soon as we got out of school. My father still has work still , he’s road maintenance for the tribe. My mother is a teacher so she helps us at home while she is working. We’ve had no cases so far , but we did have a scare , thank Tunkasila the test came back negative. The day we were informed about distance learning at school , we prayed , we had an elder speak , we sang and all came together, and we also smudged twice , once during the prayer and again when students left to go home. We all are continuing to pray in our own ways , for our families and for the world. I feel the panic is there because of how unpredictable the sickness is. We keep reminding ourselves that we are strong indigenous people , our people have survived “the end of the world” many times before. We will get through this, we just need to continue protecting ourselves. I’m spending my time by going on walks with my family in our land , I’ve been focusing on myself a lot more too. People can help us by praying , or acknowledging to keep our elders protected and safe and to please stay home. We will overcome this if we all come together to fight it.
I was drawn to this as there is some history of my family coming out as settlers to the far-west and some interaction there that I took for normal growing up - not really realizing the history. As I’ve learned more about that it’s led me to feel that I have a debt here. So, I poked around trying to find appropriate opportunities because I have a sensitivity of groups that go into communities to impose what they think is best for them. Tipi Raisers sounded to me like it was making efforts to be grounded in cooperative decision making with those who live here on Pine Ridge and has a track record of having been here for quite some time.
The highlight of the weekend for me was having Mary Weasel Bear join us as we delivered donations across the reservation. Mary provided an informative tour and was able to convey how to honor the space. She shared her family history and expressed her hurt - the personal and historical hurt. But she also expressed hope in the sentiment that “We’re here, yes this all happened but we’re here in modern times and we’re here to stay!” Mary stressed how important it is that people are properly educated on both the past and the current realities on the reservation. It was a tearful moment for me, hearing Mary speak at Wounded Knee, both heart-breaking and heart-opening. – Karen, Volunteer from Boulder, CO
Reflections on my June trip to the Navajo Nation in Arizona
I have been going on trips to the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation for about two years now to volunteer. This last June, a group of young people including myself went to the Navajo Nation in Kayenta, Arizona. Some people I had met before, some I was meeting for the first time. We had all gathered together with the intentions of getting to know each other, of bonding, and figuring out how to work together to make a better world between us, a world in which there was trust between us, the Native and non-Native.
Despite having been on trips with the Tipi Raisers before, I found this experience to be something even a bit more special, if that could be possible. There were nine of us, six girls and three boys. The six of us crowded into a modern hogan, sharing beds and sinks and showers and stories. Within a day, the girls in my room felt like sisters. Sharing my space with them felt only natural and desirable, there was never a feeling of loneliness. As the days passed, we all spent time together in the circles, talking, opening our hearts, learning about ourselves and each other. It was a profound feeling to realize that these people who had been strangers only a day before felt the same exact feelings as I did, the same joys, delights, even sorrows. I had felt quite alone for a while, and suddenly I was within a family that welcomed me and held my heart and my hands and let me be exactly who I am, no expectations, only honesty.
We were met in this amazing place by two incredibly beautiful people; a woman called Belinda and a medicine man called Darryl. These people, who were also strangers before, came in and became family as well, and it felt as if we’d all been around each other all our lives. To look across the circle and see these suddenly familiar faces, to walk into my room and see five sleeping girls that were now my sisters changed my life. All barriers that might have existed vanished. Despite being one of the two non-Native out of the nine of us, it never crossed my mind that I was the only non-Native girl in the room. To me I was simply with my sisters, and I knew they felt the same way. We shared our cultures and memories and hopes and dreams, and all I felt was a sense of unity and oneness. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye at the end of the week, but our hearts are still connected; there’s a string that holds us together until we can see each other again.
This was Crazy Horse’s vision. That Native and non-Native would unite and share their worlds, to feel like one family, to share one hope and goal, to have love between us despite having grown up different. To address and heal our traumas together, to hold hands and bring our hearts close together and realize that we are truly the same.
This trip truly brought the dream that Crazy Horse had 7 generations ago to life. It has become my mission to make sure that I, a youth in the 7th generation, refuse to let our differences divide us, to work with my Native and non-Native brothers and sisters to make a better world for all of us. Mitakuye Oasin.
Back in March of this year I joined Gen7, a group for Native and Non-Native youth to come together, learn about Native cultures, help their communities, and grow as people. When I joined I had little to no idea of what lie ahead or the people I would meet. Despite this I was hopeful. Hopeful that I would meet new people, experience once in a lifetime opportunity, become more in touch with my Choctaw heritage, and learn lifelong lessons. Little did I know I would get this and so much more within just five days of being with the Gen7 group in Monument Valley.
On June 6th I woke up at 4 AM and began a ten-hour drive, with ten people I’d never met, to the Navajo Nation. The ride was awkward and uncomfortable, yet strangely exciting. When we arrived, I participated in my first ever circle, where I learned 16 new names that I will never forget. Although, it wasn't until the second day my life began to change forever. On that day I and the rest of the Youth Ambassadors listened to a Navajo woman, named Belinda Eriacho, tell us the history of her people as well as teach us to focus on the solution, not the problem. Her wise words will forever hold a place in my heart, along with the trip we took later that day to take a tour of Monument Valley. As we climbed up the rocks, rolled down the sand dunes, and got a clearer view into the Navajo culture I began to connect with the other youth ambassadors.
Over the next few days, I would have many more adventures and lessons, but most importantly I would get to know everyone’s stories. As time progressed our morning and evening circles would get longer and people opened up more. In these circles I learned bits and pieces of everyone’s trauma and was able to bring my wall down. I figured if they allowed me to see the true them I could let them see me too.
By the time I began my journey home on June 10th the Gen7 group had become my family. They had taught me to be present and vulnerable. Additionally, they made me want to make my Choctaw culture a larger part of my life. In the end, I am thankful beyond words for this experience.
The Tipi Raisers is registered as a 501(c)(3) non profit organization in the State of South Dakota. All donations are tax deductible and a receipt will be mailed or emailed.
Donations can be made online or mailed to:
7830 W. Alameda Ave. Ste. 103-186
Lakewood, CO 80226
All media/graphics/photographs on this website © 2013 The Tipi Raisers/Ti Ikciya Pa Slata Pi.