Bury my heart…

In the fall of 1971, just months into my life in the Wallowas, my mind muddled with the Peace Corps and Washington D.C. lives I’d only recently left, I got a copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in the mail from Barb, my old Peace Corps partner. Her note said she was working in a bookstore in Sun Valley, and thought the book was “great but terribly maddening.” Read The Article

The Sioux Nation, South Dakota, and Five Presidents

Amidst coronavirus and Black Lives Matter, President Trump has done what the news media and the public couldn’t seem to get to—bring attention to American Indians. Concocting something with the Republican governor of South Dakota, Trump is engineered a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore, site of the mountain carvings of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. There’s been a ten-year lapse since the last such celebration due to forest fire danger—but not this year. Read The Article

So the President lied?

Which president, which time?

President Ulysses S. Grant

Indian trails of tears are littered with Presidential lies. We could pick almost any one, but why not take the hero of the Civil War and the man on the $50 bill. He had some interesting dealings with the Nez Perce, so I am somewhat familiar with President Grant’s “Peace Policy” and stated attempts to do better by Indians than had his predecessors.

The Nez Perce had signed a treaty with the nation in 1855 that left them much of their traditional homeland, including the Wallowa Country. In 1863, gold was found on that reservation in Idaho, so the government negotiated a new treaty, centered in Lapwai, Idaho, which reduced the size of the reservation by about 90 percent. Old Joseph and the chiefs of several other Nez Perce bands did not sign, and Joseph went back to the Wallowas, where no gold had been discovered, and where he was briefly left Read The Article

Lessons from Standing Rock

According to the NY Times, there have been over 30 film crews capturing the events at Standing Rock. Some of them have been there continuously for months; others have moved in quickly for a few weeks to get a story.

A friend who has been there says that the elders have taken charge, that film crews, young environmentalists, veterans—supporters of the Sioux water protectors who have come for whatever reasons—have all listened to local elders and found wisdom and humble roles for their own participation. Or they have moved on.

The issues at Standing Rock have to do with water, and with sovereignty. The calls by North Dakota politicians and government agency workers for abiding by the “rule of law” and respect for “private” property are ironic at best! The Army Corps of Engineers has high-handedly taken land from the Sioux and ignored or abrogated treaties with impunity in its march along the Missouri and its tributaries for decades. Read The Article

Standing Rock slips away

There’s no word from Standing Rock in the New York Times or on CNN today. Indians slip into the national news on occasion—and then, on most occasions, slip out as quickly.

Both CNN and MSNBC did report yesterday about an oil spill from another pipeline just three hours from Standing Rock. The spill happened more than a week ago, on December 5. According to CNN,

“State officials estimate 4,200 barrels of crude oil, or 176,000 gallons, have leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County. Of that amount, 130,000 gallons of oil has flowed into Ash Coulee Creek, while the rest leaked onto a hillside, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager at the North Dakota Department of Health.”

Had it been in New York or Pennsylvania, the Times would have had someone on it, and it would not have slipped away from its reporters in just a day. In North Dakota and elsewhere in Indian Country, such national Read The Article

Lakota and Dakota—unfortunate “canaries” in Indian America


Alvin Josephy once noted that when the American Government wanted to show off our country to the world, it used images of Plains Indians, splendid in feathered headdresses and riding horses. It matched the image of Indians carried by most non-Indian Americans—omitting the hundreds of tribes and cultures of farming, hunting, gathering, and fishing Indians that the Europeans encountered on arrival. And putting them on European horses.
Sadly and ironically, these iconic Indians were Lakota, or Dakota, known collectively as Sioux—and, historically, some of the most hounded and abused tribal people in America!
In the early days of the Civil War, the Dakota—four major bands of Siouxian Indians—were squeezed onto smaller and smaller reservations along the Minnesota River, and promised commodities and annuity payments by solemn treaty in exchange for the hunting, farming, and gathering grounds taken from them by white settlers. Federal Indian agents and a Minnesota governor skimmed and stole
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