Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Indian Boy in the City

As a young boy my earliest memories were of this area located just east of Downtown Denver.  Across the street to the right is a Safeway Supermarket and my life started here or at least my earliest memories.  I lived less than a block away from this church and yet I never really understood the importance it would have on my life.  I would walk by and hear the most beautiful music coming out of the open windows.  It was a black congregation and the music was heavenly as I would walk by the church on my way to the Supermarket. 
I would walk by this church often running errands for my mother to the store and I would hear the songs and be amazed.  I was attending classes to learn about God in the Catholic Nunnery and remember one day I was blowing bubbles as I listened to the stories.  Of course the Nun was not happy and came to the back of the room and scolded me.  It was all good and I paid closer attention but there seemed to be something missing in my formative years and the Nuns were not really doing a great job. 
I was picked to attend a field trip through the Nunnery and I said I would go with them.  I was taken to a Training/College place for priests and I was shown around the campus.  I saw the biggest books I have ever seen in my life and I was astounded because it seemed like a place of growing and learning and I really wanted to learn about God.  It was a passion of mine and I wanted to learn all I could but things were going to change in my young life. 
So here is how my life was changed for the rest of my life and I write for my grandchildren because I know they will wonder where they came from and how we lived early and in 2014.  As I was walking by the Anglican Methodist Episcopal Church, which is an African American Church and the name is confusing but the Black Folks could sing and I thought many times before, God must be in that church because people who sing like this have to know God.  So one day at the age of 8 years old I was walking by the church and looked up and basically told God I did not know him, I looked at the steeple and was very clear with God.  Eight years old and I realized I did not know the Creator and things were gonna changed.
Well it took four years after hearing about God and Jesus.  It was clear there was a message for me but it did not happen until I was 12 years old and I was in the Black Forest near Colorado Springs and I heard a message on John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believes in HIM would not parish and have everlasting life.  The guy speaking said is there anyone who would like to give their life to Jesus.  I raised my hand and this burley white man came up and prayed with me.  I gave my life to Jesus that night and it changed me. 
I eventually went back to the city and found myself floundering a bit but then our family moved to Pine Ridge and it was a sad day leaving the city.  I had no choice and was being removed from my surroundings.  I did not want to leave but I was only fourteen and things were going to change even faster for my life.  I arrived in Pine Ridge and met my relatives and was lost a bit since I prayed to receive Jesus.  But I came to a church called Pine Ridge Gospel Mission and found a home and started listening to the word of God and it was powerful as I sat and took in all that was said.
Eventually I felt a calling to attend Bible College and wound up in Minnesota but life was not even close to perfect, we face a sick baby and bad decisions and struggle even up to today but I assure you God never left and I have some great things happen in my life and I know God has me in his arms. 
My faith is mine and I trust the Father and what Jesus did on the cross. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Protesting the Oglala Sioux Tribe

Protesting peacefully across from the Oglala Sioux Tribal building on July 29, 2014.  It was organized to stop the South Unit development of creating a Tribal National Park and a reintroduction of Bison.  Many people are protesting the lease land because they feel the tribe is taking away their livelihood.  I thought the picture above was interesting as they were next to Subway and then you see a Tipi and about fifty people with chairs and having lunch.  

 A line was drawn when the tipi was set up and the protestors were told not to cross the line or they would be arrested and taken to jail.  While this protest was going on the Tribal Council was having a regular scheduled council meeting.

 The signs were made and set on both sides of the Tipi and people seemed to be enjoying the day.  The council meeting was on the radio so they were listening what was going on.  The council voted to table the issues of the South Unit and I expect the pro South Unit Development Tribal/National Park people will begin to make their case in front of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Jeff Whalen and Floyd Hand were visiting about the issues and were working on getting their documents ready to distribute.  Floyd is on the Treaty Council and it was great to see him out protesting.  Even though the line was drawn with construction paint.  Floyd was in his chair on the other side of the line.  Refusing to follow the directives of the council and wanting to be heard on his issues.  He eventually went into the Council Meeting. 

I must admit I do not have all of the issues right and I do have an opinion but I am really unsure of what is actually going on.  I know the Tribe voted to take away some leases from Ranchers near the badlands.  Some of the Families have been there for half a century and now the is a move to develop the South Unit and bring in tourists.  I heard today from a person for the Park that Oglala Members would be working and then you have people who believe the tribe is taking land away from people.  I have been to a couple of the meetings, one by the council and BIA but it seems like many people are confused on what is happening. 

Pine Ridge Reservation seems to always be a hotbed of activity and it is because people have a distrust in tribal government and this brings out the protestors.  I caught up with one counsel man early and asked him about the alcohol issue and even though it has been a year they still do not have it in place.  Personally I believe they need to stop taking people to jail for consumption.  As an Oglala Member if you drink a beer and the police stop you and see that you have been drinking, they will take you to jail for at least eight hours.  It seems like people are afraid and want to keep the things the way they are on the Pine Ridge.  Of course the people in the border towns are making lots of money and this is hurting our economy.  Pine Ridge is the last of the Nine Reservation to not sell alcohol within their borders.  People protest for lots of reasons but I would like to see people start protesting the joblessness we have on the Pine Ridge.  It is time to move and grow and build a sustainable economy for our children and our children's children. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Vision of Russell Means

I went to White Clay today and decided to pull out my camera and get some shots of people giving food and water to the Relatives on the streets.  This young brother wanted a picture with me and I have to say, I do not like to be in the photos because I like to be behind the camera.  We had some young Lakota youth with us and one of them was taking pictures with my camera and so I decided it would be ok and we took this shot.  Oh about Russell Means and his vision for me, he told me he wanted me to write, write, and write.  He sat me down in his living room and told me he wanted to see me write about the issues and continue the fight through different media.  So I have decided I needed to write since I have my computer back.  It makes it easier when you have your own computer.  I thought she took a great picture and it proves that the 7th Generation can calm the storms of pain our people have in their lives.  I saw it first had and when the youth would come up to the people they would soften.  Of course people raise money and try to use their pictures to enhance their own ministries or careers. 

 This is one of the most powerful pictures I have ever taken and it shows the generations.  She wants me to put together some photos she took and maybe she will become a great photographer but I already know she is great with the people.  He was so respectful and a great brother of mine and always greets me with a handshake and hug.  Our Youth can change the lives of people and they have the ability to make a difference.  I have seen some great things in my life but this captures the Future of Young Lakota People changing the world. 

I had the opportunity to meet a fine young Peruvian lady who has been in the United States since she was three years old.  She was praying with this Lakota woman who just lost her brother.  The Lakota Lady was seized with grief and this young lady prayed with her and it gives me great hope in the future as the young South American woman is Indigenous to the Americas.  You might ask me why I chose to take this picture, it is because I told our Youth that we must look for a picture that is special and different.  We as photographers are the artists and we must seek to help the world see what we see through our lenses. 

 My friend Jeff is sitting with the people and I let one of the girls take my camera and take this picture.  I am proud of the girls for being so willing to give out some food and water to our relatives in White Clay.  Jeff has been coming to Pine Ridge for a few years now and it feels like I have known him always.  He is a great friend and continues to work for our people. 

One of the Ladies on the streets asked me what I was doing with the photos.  I told her I they were my photos and I always try to stay respectful with them.  She told me the ministries in White Clay take pictures and get money for them.  I told her some day I would like to do a book on the faces of the Lakota people in Pine Ridge and I was hones.  I truly do not want to document the pain of our people but I do believe the youth have the key to helping the older ones find health and fullness. 

Indian or Native American plus

The Church Defined in the 21st Century and how does it effect the Lakota people as well as other Indigenous People around the world is what I will seek to develop and think about in this blog post, plus the people in the picture.  There are many incidents around the Globe throughout the History of the world but the People of the Western hemisphere have seen people who called themselves Christian but do horrible things toward the them.  Many people struggle to be politically correct and wonder what we as Indigenous people of American want to be called.  American Indian is what I prefer because I believe it is important to remember the United States made agreements with the Indians and had the Indian Affairs in the 1800s and now we have the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  So I will write Indian throughout my writing as well as Lakota. 
So the other day I saw a Jesuit Priest come into the Higher Ground Coffee House and I asked him if  he had reconciled what the church had done to the Indians.  He was shocked because he started to mutter and sputter but he was able to tell me it happened all around the world.  Of course it did but he was in Lakota Country and I wanted to know if he thought about the killing of the Southwest Indians by cutting off their heads if they did not swear allegiance to the Catholic Church.  He was able to pull himself together and went on to drink his latte.  I think I like to challenge priests because there were involved in the things done against the Indians by their Church throughout the European history of being in the Americas.
So the picture is of a Short Term Mission group which came to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and in this picture I see some at least two Indians a Korean, a few Black people and some white people.  Oh and also a Peruvian who is also Indigenous from the Americas. Now on the right is the saying Jesus is the Way, which is cool in my mind because I am a follower of Jesus and this means that I seek to follow his teachings.  Let me tell you how I got to this point and how easy it was to become a follower.  I gave my life to Christ when I was 12 years old and it was easy because I put my faith in what Jesus did for me.  He died for me and I accepted his gift.  Too Easy?  Your thinking there must be a catch right?  No it is simple, accept the gift of God for what his son did  on the cross, he died for my wrongdoings and things that kept me from God.  All of my sin not just some of it.
Now I want to explain something to you, these people in the photo are my family because we have our faith in common.  I can go anywhere in the world and find my family because the faith is powerful because it is God Moved.  You cannot stop it but here is the problem, some people maybe even a lot of people did some terrible things because they started with a wrong premise.  They followed people who were greedy for land and resource and this continues today with the Euro/Americans because they seek power and money.  This is not the teaching of Jesus, Jesus taught people if you want to be the most powerful, you must become the biggest servant.  So to get power you must first serve, this is not the American way so you must understand greed does not lead to heaven. 
Historically the churches came to the Indians and were the ones who would do the killing of the Indian and saving of the man.  They brought out rule books and told the Indians they could not be Indian any longer.  This was not the way of Jesus but it was the way of America.  And then they stole the land and resources.  I look at my friends who have had a history of coming to Pine Ridge for over thirty years and they are wonderful people, many of them may have issues but they seem to do well and have a great experience and remember the students they teach for a week.  Oh and yes they serve the people here help with projects and overall I believe they live as the first century church lived with things in common.  They share meals and work together as a family.  They become a tiospaye or extended family for a week and that is closer to how Jesus lived as well as the way of our Ancestors the Indians lived. 
It is important to understand that we have many things in common with the way Jesus lived and taught.  He thought about the poor as our Lakota people understand taking compassion on someone down is important.  He told a Rich young ruler to go and sell everything he had and it seemed at that moment that was too hard and the young man walked away. 
It is not rules and we are set free from bondage because Jesus no longer has us required to pay or give and offering.  A great friend of mine told me I need to define my faith, and it is difficult because I have severely swindled by many Euro/American people but I have been blessed by them as well.  I hope to see people as friends as the Lakota did you years ago.  It was told to me by a friend and brother that our people held an open hand of friendship until someone proved otherwise.  So now I will trust people are honorable until I see they are not I will speak the truth.  I love being an Indian and sharing my knowledge with people and I hope to attack the issues with solutions but the thing I love the most is being a follower of Jesus.  Who would not want the Creator of the Universe on his or her side.  So I will continue to share more and we can discuss what went wrong and where do we go from here as the American Indians.  Because We Live!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kill the Food Source

As I share with people who come to Pine Ridge about what was done systematically to our people they really cannot understand.  We have a great company on the Pine Ridge Reservation and their product is healthy foods.  The Tanka Bar is a mix of fruit and bison and every where I go and I see the product I ask how it is selling.  I was at a Pizza Place and the owner was asking about the jerky and wanted to know what I thought.  I took a piece of the jerky and it was good but I don't like to mix my fruits with my proteins.  I come across photographs and when I think it is interesting I will save them and then share them on my blog.  A picture is worth a thousand words and when you see the skull pile you will understand they wanted to kill us off in a systematic way.  Just like when Hitler was marching the Jews to the ovens and gas chambers, the Americans were doing their genocide fifty years earlier.
Today I saw a man with a Jesuit Shirt on and so I asked him if he had reconciled the fact that the Catholic Church played a large role in the genocide of the American Indians.  He told me no, and I felt a guilt or shame  from him but he went on to say that he believed it happened all over the world.  I disagreed because  the Europeans wiped out 95% of the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, and what other continent has seen this type of distructions.  He also said disease killed a lot of people but when you see the food source of the Lakota and other plains tribes wiped out you can see it was a system to take the land and resource. 
We have compounded problems and I struggle because I do not believe the Mascot Issue is the topic we should be worried about for now.  If were able to take care of the issues we have today the Mascot Issue will take care of itself.  I am committed to keep sharing my thoughts about the issues I feel our important.