Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hunkpapa means HOSTILE

Growing up as an orphan, I was told many stories about how our people, the Hunkpapa, came to be living in a concentrated cluster housing project. Asking my grandfather, where was our tipi and he started telling me the history of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.

I am related to several families in Bullhead, South Dakota, collectively known as the Hunkpapa, loosely translated as the northern horn. The Hunkpapa are related to a larger group of families known as the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires.

We are totally dispossessed and have been persecuted by others even our own tribal government since the day my relatives returned from political exile in Canada. The reason for our exile was the 1876 honorable defeat of General Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Afterwards my relatives, the Hunkpapa headed north into Canada where they stayed for nearly 5 years under starvation and exposure to the elements, yet they endured this hardship since they knew that returning to the US was to concede defeat and would become great suffering to our people.

In 1881 Sitting Bull returned to the US and was imprisoned but was released to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. Although many say that he led the Ghost Dance, he really didn't have anything to do with it. In 1890 they assassinated Sitting Bull, causing an mass exodus south to the Pine Ridge Reservation where the Hunkpapa again sought political asylum under Chief Red Cloud. Rumors and the stories told me that he refused to help my relatives then and even refused to greet them before they rounded up and slaughtered in cold blood at Wounded Knee by the 7th Cavalry.

This caused my relatives still staying on Standing Rock to withdraw from the tribal and federal government, moving to the southwestern corner of Standing Rock. It was here that our ceremonies were held in secrecy.

During the following years, the massive cattle herds polluted the drinking water, causing my relatives to move further and further east to where they finally formed the Rock Creek community, formally known as Bullhead, South Dakota.

Prior to this, other than having bad drinking water, they were totally self-sufficient. They even opposed the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act and the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act as they knew these were against our human rights and were instruments of genocide.

In 1976, my relatives also opposed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act for the same reasons which they knew to be contrary to self-sufficiency and would cause great harm and deaths to our small group of families.

It was during these times of great change, falling upon our people that I became aware of my duty, my sacred mission in life. The American Indian Movement was out there fighting for our rights but other than the 1974 International Treaty Council, their impact on improving our living conditions was barely felt. But they did help us in one way, they gave us back our spirit of resistance and showed us that we were very special since we never agreed to the selling of the Black Hills or the Allotment Act as well as the following Acts that are genocidal.

During 1985 while staying south on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation with my friends that were teaching me the old ways and the ceremonies, I was given a copy of the Sioux Nation Black Hills Act. Immediately after reading it, I saw more acts of genocide and treachery within its highfalutin words. I returned the next day to Standing Rock where I showed my cousin who was on the tribal council what I had read. He replied that those sections weren't in the first readings and they were inserted after the tribes agreed to accept the money and the land to be returned. On the next day he introduced the motion to refuse the Sioux Nation Black Hills Settlement Act; like a strong wind the rest of the tribes also refused the act.

My point for this slight history of my past is to show you that one person can make changes that are right and just! Ever since that time, I was being taught our sovereign treaty rights, our superior water rights, our rights to have a safe and pure environment.

Then, in 1997, I was told about the uranium mine contamination out at the Cave Hills. Studying this mine has become a very dear fascination to me. I fully oppose all actions out there as they are a cover-up for the genocide being perpetuated against my relatives downstream who had no choice but to drink the radiologically contaminated water during the late 60's. We no longer have that many elders left in our community, they are all dying from cancer and diabetes. Our younger relatives are experiencing miscarriages, diabetes and cancer. Recently I was told by a federal employee that the reasons for this is that we drink, we smoke cigarettes, and we have a bad diet; little did that person know that I was already given this answer: that before the upstream mining in the 50's and 60's cancer, diabetes and miscarriages were totally unknown and they did drink, smoke and have a bad diet so that statement just reflects their prejudice, racism and further the genocide against my relatives.

In 2004 I approached the Defenders of the Black Hills while they were celebrating their success stopping the proposed shooting range that would have been built by Bear Butte. Giving them maps and documents, I left knowing that they'd help us get our genocide publicized in the mainstream media. Then I became one of their advocates and volunteers. My other purpose is to find lawyers and doctor sympathetic to us and our health crises so that our leaders can make better decisions on unbiased scientific studies at the Cave Hills. Just recently the US Forest Service and the potentially responsible party Tronox outsourced the reclamation of the Riley Pass abandoned uranium mine to two companies: ENSR; and Millenium Science and Engineering; which I feel only adds more controversy to our charge of racial genocide and environmental justice.

And now I am doing what I asked of the Defenders of the Black Hills and received their approval; this is to start approaching all the environmental movements involved in water pollution issues, radiation contamination, and air pollution, seeking to build bridges because the war against our environment, against the people, is still going on, even though the aggressors know that in the long run, they are on a path of suicide.

To add more to this conundrum, my tribe is lacking the technical capacity to truly make these decisions and are just fence sitting. I am not relying on them for this but they are also watching me with great curiosity.

Ending this I'll say that this is our cause, our duty, our can't be compartmentalized into a radiation poisoning issue, or water contamination issue, or an air pollution issue; rather it is a total assault on every human being on this earth! Our earth is dying, we are killing her, we have to learn how to work with her or she will kill us! We are the hostiles!

No comments: