Tim Giago: Native Americans follow the spirit of the sacred pipe

Tim Giago. Photo by Talli Nauman

Following the spirit of the sacred pipe
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)

Notes from Indian Country
© Native Sun News

There is a Democrat running for the soon-to-be- vacated seat of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD).

His name is Rick Weiland and in a note to me last week he wrote, “I am very disappointed, Tim. I believe this race is going to be very close between Rounds and myself. The votes Senator Pressler takes from me in Indian Country could be the difference and throw it to Rounds. Mike Rounds had a good day today.”

Weiland refers to the fact that my newspaper, Native Sun News, endorsed former Senator Larry Pressler for the senate seat.

In some of his speeches to Native Americans Weiland always comments about his idea to initiate a “Marshall Plan” to help rebuild the Indian reservations. He brought this up before some students at the Black Hills Learning Center of the United Tribes Technical College. Most of the students sat there with blank looks on their faces because they had no idea what the “Marshall Plan” was about. They weren’t even born when the Marshall Plan was enacted and I doubt very seriously if their history books are keen on this topic.

Well, 30 years ago and many times since, I have written about utilizing the Marshall Plan to restore and rebuild the Indian reservations. I believed that if the United States of America was generous enough to rebuild Japan, Germany and Italy after World War II, they should be generous enough to rebuild the Indian Nations they also totally destroyed.

By the late 1800s, Americans had become so jaded that they didn’t even raise an eyebrow when L. Frank Baum, writing for a newspaper in South Dakota, called for the genocide of the Sioux Indians, “Having wronged them before, perhaps we should wrong them one more time by wiping these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.” That little ditty was parodied in the 1930s by Adolph Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf” except he was talking about the Jews. Although the name “Sioux” is a misnomer, it ironically rhymes with Jew.

If America could rebuild the countries of its most hated enemies after World War II, why not the Indian Nations? Most Indian Nations were left with little or no hope for a future. Their villages were in shambles, their men, women and children were starving and dying from diseases to which they had no immunity, their lives were left in complete and utter disarray and hopelessness. But instead of helping them to rebuild their villages and their lives the United States set out to make them over in their own image by destroying what little they had left by attempting to assimilate them into the larger society.

“Kill the Indian and save the man” was the philosophy of the conquerors. And so America set about killing the culture, the language and the religions of the indigenous people. By keeping them in dire poverty further uprisings were negated. Why wasn’t the same approach carried out against their former enemies of World War II? Probably because America did not want to colonize Europe and Japan; they only wanted to colonize the Indians of America.

It is so ironic that a Nation that set about destroying a people by destroying their main source of food, clothing and tools; the buffalo, is now celebrating an annual buffalo roundup in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There is a sign near Custer, S. D. that reads “The last buffalo in the Black Hills was killed on this spot.” Oh, irony of ironies, now South Dakota celebrates the survival of the buffalo it tried to wipe from the face of the earth. People from all around the world come to observe this hypocritical travesty. The South Dakota Fish and Games Department has ignored my suggestion that riders from the Great Sioux Nation be allowed to participate in this roundup since the Lakota still consider the buffalo to be a part of their nation and their spirituality.

America still believes in a Marshall Plan for other nations like Iraq and Afghanistan where they have spent billions rebuilding those countries. All we, as Native Americans, can do is vote for the person we truly believe will step up to the plate and convince Congress to do the same for its indigenous people. Many of us believe that person is Larry Pressler. At least when we talk he listens. He is a Republican turned Independent and since neither the Republicans or the Democrats can see past their noses maybe an Independent can.

Perhaps it is only a pipe dream, but Native Americans have always followed the spirit of the cannupa (pipe). I wag a finger at Weiland for taking credit for my Marshall Plan idea, an idea born in the offices of the National Congress of American Indians by Suzanne Harjo, Rose Robinson, Richard LaCourse and Charles Trimble 50 years ago. I only followed their lead. Now if only Congress would do likewise. God bless America.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News and the founder of Indian Country Today. He can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com

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