Love my rez


So my Labor day started with me snooping on people’s facebooks in the search of beautiful pictures from the Pine Ridge Reservation.    It really is so gorgeous, if you look past the poverty.  so I found some really good pictures on the page of a friend and then I saw a comment from a man.

I need to ask a few (probably ignorant) questions:

1. What do people do for work there?
2. Do they choose to live there?
3. Why?

I honestly don’t understand what I’m seeing here.

So I gave him a simple answer—Because it is home.

His response

‘Home’ is different things to different people. To many, their first thought is of a warm, nurturing environment, and of security. I spent a few years, though, teaching inner city young adults a trade. For most of them, it was in hopes of escaping ‘home.’ I still contend (and always will) that if ‘home’ represents a dead-end, impoverished existence then, regardless of race, creed, etc., common sense dictates that you get the hell out! That is, of course, unless you enjoy living in squalor, and/or supported by charity, welfare, etc., out of some twisted sense of principle……or if you have an aversion to working for a living!! ….and if you think that’s cold, let me show you where I grew up!! We were loved, but there was no way in hell I was staying there…or raising children to accept that place as a satisfactory lifestyle. Underachievement is a choice!

My response-

Who said everyone on the reservation are under achievers? Who said everyone lives in squalor? By home, I mean all my relatives are there. By home I have a deep sense of belonging. By home, nowhere else in America will I go and see a culture so deep, traditions passed on to even the youngest child. If I was from the inner city I would leave to. I would feel no spiritual connection. I would not have the tiyospaye, extended family I have back home. If money makes some people happy, that’s fine. My happiness is knowing I am Lakota and come from a strong people that survived everything the government did to kill them off including putting them on a reservation. I know who I am, I know where I come from, and we are a beautiful people.

His response-

.…and I never suggested anything to the contrary!! The impression I have gotten, though, from every picture I’ve seen, or account I have heard, is that a proud people with as much potential as anyone else have been squeezed onto this bleak piece of comparative wilderness with very little hope of achieving much beyond what they have now! If that’s enough for you, then God bless you…we are completely different types of people, and that’s OK, I guess. Pride and principle don’t feed hungry children, though, nor do they give those children the opportunity for a very wide range of life choices…..and that, I will never understand.

My response-

You never commented “unless you enjoy living in squalor?”

His response-

The questions each person must eventually ask themselves are: 1. Am I truly happy where I am? and 2. Do I ever wish I had a better life? If the answers are 1. Yes, and 2. No….then fine! I wish you continued happiness.

As far as the ‘government killing people off’ thing goes: How long ago was that?? While you never want to forget it (those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!), neither can you let it govern your life. While your people were being persecuted, my family was eeking out a living in Canada….so I feel no responsibility in that area, although I can empathize, to a point. My family escaped France because of an aversion to guillotines!! Revolutionary France had no ‘middle class.’ ….but unless I’m helping a grandchild with history homework, I seldom give it a thought….because it has little bearing on life in 2013.

My response-

My people stay because if we all moved away, forgot our ways, we would then be like everyone else in America who associates themselves with a bottle of Heinz 57. My father had the same job for over 30 years, so did my uncle, my grandma worked at the same school all her life. No they were not rich but they have just as strong work ethics as anyone. Not everyone is “supported by charity/welfare.” sure there are many on the rez on welfare, but that is everywhere. I am proud of where I’m from, proud of my children, two of who are in college and who plan to move back after. I will not apologize for loving my family, my land, and for being Lakota. In fact I am blessed with being Lakota.

Um let see how long ago was it, my great great grandpa fought in the battle that took Custer down, my great grandma escaped being killed at Wounded Knee, luckily my mom was not one of the women used for forced sterilization in the 70s, we just were legally able to practice our own religion in 1978. My grandparents were some of the children beaten in boarding schools, and believe me if that is all I dwelled on I would not be here pushing my kids to get their education. I would not be published. In fact if that’s all I dwelled on I would not love being Lakota.



So anyway, yes I was fired up.  He spoke of my home as if he tasted something bad.  he made me feel like crap for being where I am from for a millisecond.  And I know what people i come from?  Are we too proud so we live in poverty?  No to some of us we get by day by day and that is enough.  Is he better because he has a mortgage and all the modern conveniences?  That is up to each person…to decide.  I don’t judge him for thinking he can compare his ancestors running from France to live in Canada and I can go blue in the face trying to explain why our people love the reservation.  Granted, we were hemmed in there eventually by the government when they started killing off our people, buffalo, issuing blankets with small pox, taking our children, i mean horrible acts of genocide, some still continue today….

But we love the land, all of the land, because it is ours.  How can I expect anyone that is not Native to this land to understand our deep sense of belonging, or love, and our hope for the land.  Why do you think our people risk going to jail to protect it?  If he could spend one day on our reservation with an open mind, he would see money does not make the world go around.  He would see the deep sense of pride has nothing to do with money but who we are as a people.

No he would never understand.  his people ran from France to Canada and people like that feel loyalty to a piece of cloth flag before they do to the land.  Don’t diss my rez, man.  Ever.

Ha, I didn’t even tell him I don’t live there but I dream of moving home.

The beautiful North Point at The Stronghold, Pine Ridge Reservation.  pic by Brandon Ferguson.

The beautiful North Point at The Stronghold, Pine Ridge Reservation. pic by Brandon Ferguson.


4 thoughts on “Love my rez

  1. His family must have belong to the upper class. They oppressed the people. Only they had to fear the guillotine during the French Revolution!
    Today you call them the happy few or the 1%.

  2. here here…you absolutely nailed this one for me too…it’s Home with a capital H, nothing else matters.It is who we are..

  3. “But we love the land, all of the land, because it is ours. How can I expect anyone that is not Native to this land to understand our deep sense of belonging, or love, and our hope for the land.”

    Oh, I can understand the deep sense of belonging to the land – and by extension your feelings – even though I’m neither Native nor American. 🙂 I love *this* land. My ancestors are buried here, and they have no doubt been here since the glaciers retreated. Sometimes I refer to it as “my islands.” 🙂 I farm it, I fish it, I hunt it. It gives me food, medicines, and fuel, and it gives my partner dye plants. If I needed it to, it would also give me shelter. Above all, I feel it, and am part of it. As the old countryman who taught me about medicinal herbs, woodcraft, and hunting once told me – nearly 50 years ago now – we don’t own the land, we’re stewards. We’re here to look after it, and pass it on to the next generation. If we take only what we need, and give back to it, it will continue to give us everything that we need. I was only a child at the time, but I listened.

    Sometimes I just sit by the river with a beer, and watch the kingfishers fly over the sun-dappled waters. Sometimes I’ve sat alone, in the middle of a south-western moor, listening to the skylark singing to the setting sun, the only other sound the wind moving across the grass.

    This is home. You just have to listen to it.

    There was a time when I might have moved to the US. It would have been a wrench, but sometimes you consider things for love. 🙂 I observed of Oklahoma that I’d be living on the land, but not part of it, because as I said at the time, “none of my people are buried here.” Oklahoma felt that alien. The only place that I felt chimed was the Upper Peninsula Michigan. Why I don’t know, but itis land that I understand. Bleaker and wilder than where I’m living – it feels ‘pared down’ if that makes sense. It’s more like the south-western moors, only flatter, with trees and a *lot* more water. 🙂 Perhaps that’s why a lot of folks from the south-west stayed there.

    However, I’m glad I didn’t move, and that I’m still living in “my islands.” 🙂

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