James Giago Davies: Wasicu anti-intellectualism is contagious

The following opinion by James Giago Davies appeared in the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

A game from the 2013 Lakota Nation Invitational. Photo from Facebook

Matter over Lakota mind
Wasicu anti-intellectualism is contagious
By James Giago Davies

Imagine how many ills could be cured in Indian country if we cared as much about fixing them as we do about basketball. Only deeply ingrained, socially endorsed pathologies could force Wasicu society to forego the honor and importance it generally accords sports, like when Lakota high school basketball legend Marty Waukazoo was roundly booed at the 1967 tournament precisely for playing well.

Some years back I was covering the Lakota Nation Invitational Tournament, and the tournament was so important to the Rapid City Journal, they sent a green, confused young reporter who knew nothing of the teams, the players, the coaches, the history, and probably knew even less about Indians. I graciously brought him up to speed, as much as I could, given I had a spare 10 minutes, and a basketball tournament to cover.

So there are priorities more important than Sport, but they are generally not motivated by “the better angels of our nature.”

One of the benefits of living in a blatantly anti-intellectual country like ours is so much attention gets paid to sports, and I like sports much as the next guy. Paying a man millions of dollars a year for playing catch with other men makes perfect sense to me. Of course athletes are more important than teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors, soldiers, even US presidents, and that is why we pay them accordingly. Only celebrities are as important as athletes, which is why we also glorify them as heroes and pay them large fortunes to perform.

While young, the Lakota athlete is celebrated, but that celebration ends not long after he or she leaves high school for a college program where they generally fail. Since they seldom turn professional, they never see the fame they had back in Indian country, and they definitely never see the big money. Not even Lakota want to see a 30-year-old Lakota guy dribble and shoot at the LNI.

Eventually, the glorification of sport and celebrity over the substance of mind, over the refined skills required to produce the educated professionals who hold our society together, will destroy even Wasicu culture. How much worse is such a mentality in the abject reality of modern Lakota life?

All people suffer in a society which places more importance on the body than the mind. The support structure will be geared toward the athlete, not the academic, and mentors will refine the athlete, few will seek out and refine the Lakota gifted in writing or mathematics. Not unless he has a jump shot, and then just because he has a jump shot, and never because he’s also smart.

These neglected Lakota minds will not become the next generation of leaders, will not empower the Lakota people to resist the further degradation of their culture. The celebrated athlete, who got all the pampered attention in their stead, will find that the Wasicu powers-that-be are not impressed by washed up middle-aged basketball players— you cannot dribble and shoot your way past city hall, the state legislature, the halls of Congress.

Worse still, the Lakota powers-that-be will be formed in the ugly vacuum created by this dynamic, they will be the corruptible, the opportunistic, the manipulative, the unprincipled, and people will vote them into power because they have the same name as some past hero, or because they could dribble, run and shoot when they were young, when they were not critically developing the mind and character they could seriously use once they are given undeserved power.

Many point fingers now and say the Lakota cannot meet even the paltry participatory standard of an anti-intellectual dominant culture, and yet the irony is they don’t meet this standard because they too well reflect the anti-intellectualism, not because they are repulsed by it. The distinct spiritual and social virtues evident in the history and structure of the tiospaye are not the template used to shape modern Lakota families, communities or priorities. There are no shortages of Lakota stepping up and claiming to represent these signature standards, but they only claim.

About 10 years back, an Oglala holy man came before all the tribal councils in the Dakotas. He established his bonafides by explaining his father and grandfather had all been powerful medicine men. He claimed he had an important message, claimed he spoke with Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull all the time. He warned of an impending disaster, and took credit for predicting past disasters and events, of course, after the fact, so how could he ever be wrong?

He admitted none of his spiritual peers would support his claim, and a colleague emailed me the details of his speech before a tribal council, and I emailed back and said, when this does not come to pass, email me with the same enthusiasm you have in advocating his vision. Well, San Francisco was not destroyed that spring like he predicted, none of his ridiculous claims came remotely close to coming true, and I never got an email back, which I could have predicted, so that must make me a Lakota holy man, too!

For uncounted centuries Lakota spirituality has been a gift to Lakota people, but this bogus medicine man recklessly manufactured what he wanted to be true in his brain, just to get attention, and then dishonored everything that spirituality stood for by spreading his comic book falsehood across Indian country.

You are going to have an unlimited supply of fake public servants, fake tribal policeman, fake tribal chairmen, fake Oglala medicine men, when people value the time-honored traditions that produced real men of that stature less than a skinny kid dribbling a stupid basketball.

(James Giago Davies can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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