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.
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Copyright © 2018 The Tipi Raisers