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Monday, July 15, 2013


As I reflect on the last 130 year I am realizing what are people have endured and the loss of a beautiful way of life.  Lakota have survived the worst winter storms and summer droughts the plains could throw at them as they lived in Freedom.  The Oyate Tatanka/Buffalo Nation was brought to the point of extinction because of the greedy railroad men who wanted to expand and make money.   Men like Crazy Horse, Spotted Tail, Big Foot, and Sitting Bull were being taken out of the way and life was becoming difficult to live.  At the forefront of the issues of those days in the latter part of the 19th Century was the Ghost Dance.  The Ghost Dance can be considered a millennium religion because they were looking at a new century and wanting to establish hope.  Many of the people turned to Christianity but it was not the faith of the Bible it was a de-cultural tool of the Government.  My mother was a member of the Episcopal Church and would talk about her religion and respected the people who turned to the Lakota Spiritual Ways.

                Back to the Ghost Dance, it was a new religion mixing the Paiute Ways and an idea of a Savior or the Christ.  It promised a few things, like the old people would return, white people would go away, and the old ways along with the Bison would return.  The Christ would come and save the people and this is why people were desperate for the old ways.  As the Reservations were established as concentration camps, Red Cloud was the strong Statesman and he served the people well.  He wanted Education for the children and brought the Black Robes or Jesuits to train the children at Holy Rosary.  From that point on my family was engaged in kinship with the Red Cloud family.  My grandfather Wallace Red Shirt was a cousin to Oliver Red Cloud the Traditional Itanca (Chief/Leader). 

                Grandpa Oliver gave me a message when I was turning 40 years old.  We would visit often but my first visit was with my mother and grandpa Oliver.  I drove her out to his place and he was alone and invited us into his home.  My mother referred to him as Uncle/Leksi and I was just listening, but I was introduced and sat quietly.  They talked about the relatives and it was a very beautiful meeting of family members.  I would run into the Chief at gathering places and would shake his hand and give my respect.  It was amazing that he would often tease me because I was a young man.  I worked hard to share my experience of Jesus; who I met in Colorado and walked the Jesus Road on the Rez. 

                I have experienced many “Christians” during my time on the Reservation and many were good people just living out their lives.  We must remember many of the “Christians” came to Lakota country in a move to colonize the people.  They were sent by the government to destroy our people.  I am not a Sun Dancer and I do not practice the old ways because I follow Jesus.  I fail and work to get back up and walk in forgiveness.  Jesus died for my faults and imperfections and yes the bad thoughts and bad deeds.  I have forgotten something Grandfather Oliver told me in the conversation that brought me into adulthood and away from being a young man.

                We were at a funeral and my son came up to me and said, “Dad that man wants to talk with you.”  I saw that it was Grandpa Oliver and walked over to him to see what he wanted.  I had just finished my prayers and my message.  He addressed me as grandson and began to tell me, “I use to make fun and tease you.  But, now I will no longer do this because you are a Wicasa or Man.”  He heard my prayers and knew my grandmothers who were beautiful singers and he was now going to treat me as an adult.  He told me he wanted me to share with our people the afterlife and because they needed to hear about the Jesus way and what would happen in the afterlife

                I am thankful for the opportunity to know my relatives and how they have brought me to a better understanding of the struggles we have been faced with.  The Way of Jesus is narrow and many people would rather travel their own way.  I get that and respect it because it was the way I was brought up as a child.  But my duty to God and Wanikiya or Jesus is to share the Good News, which is he loves us so much we do not have to do anything for salvation but accept the gift.  I was taught it was disrespectful not to accept a gift.  I am not a perfect man but I am a man of Passion and this passion is to see my relatives come to understand the God of the Bible and not the god of the Government.  We only have a few short years in our lives and our forefathers walked that road and now we must follow them.  My goal is to get healthy and work harder and seek to live up to what Grandpa Oliver asked me to do.  We will miss him and I want to share with the family I am praying for you. 

                My difficulties are we were misled, not by the alcohol or the greed of the Wasicu, but by the churches who came to our people and tried to teach us religion.  Religion is a nasty thing and has caused death in many areas around the world.  When I talk about the Jesus road it is a following of the teachings and not the religion of men.  Nazi Germany had re-training camps as did the Red Chinese and their evil Communism and a destruction of people.  America took the children and started in Pennsylvania at Carlyle Indian School and began a brainwashing machine.  Indian people were hungry and had to send their children off to school or they would die.  A once proud people lived and thrived on the Plains of North America.  It is said, Red Cloud’s and Spotted Tail’s children were the first to travel 1600 miles away from their families.  It was the worst time in history where 100 million Indigenous People lost their lives and their land.    

3 comments:

Horace Smith said...

In my 80 winters, as Russell means taught me to say, I have never known a man that I respect and admire more than the Reverend Leon 'Blunt Horn' Matthews. Back in 2004 when I impulsively loaded some stuff in the van and drove to Pine Ridge I was just following the intuition that always comes with "Sought through prayer and meditation to increase our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.", AA's step 11. Nothing has changed my life and my consciousness as much as that trip.

Leon is up there with the great Sioux chiefs for me. I am hopeful that my son, Vern, who is Leon's age and much like him, will come soon and drive this old man back to Pine Ridge one more time.

Brock Townsend said...

Well said and you can stop on the way to NC.:)

Igmu Gleska said...

I'm beginning to love this blog! Well done, thoughtful.