Independence Day rolls around once again with the ohs and ahs of the pretty fireworks, the annoying sound of firecrackers, and the into all hours of the night bottle rocket wars. People all over have cook outs and enjoy family time. Some people use it as an excuse to drink.
Many people don’t look at it as more than a holiday to spend time with loved one, a day off from work, or little boys look at it as a chance to explode some things.
I never liked the holiday myself. To me it represented my fear of loud things popping and exploding. Yes, there is such a thing, such as a fear of balloons, and don’t come near me with one. When I was 8 years old I was in the hospital in Gordon, Nebraska because my appendix nearly burst. It happened the day before the 4th of July and this was back in the day when hospitals actually cared about you and let you take time to heal up from even minor surgeries. I had recently been with a friend when she picked her brother up limping from the hospital after his appendix surgery. I asked when he went in and she said that morning. It was as if he went through a drive through surgery, I am sure those are next.Then again this was back when hospitals belonged to the city it was in and not some corporation and doctors cared for you instead of sending you off to a heart hospital or a spine hospital.
Anyway, I remember the nurses feeling bad for me because I would be missing the 4th of July at home. “I don’t care, I said. I hate it.”
“Don’t say that,” the nurse said. “This is the day we celebrate freedom.”
I said nothing back, because I didn’t know what freedom was. I asked around when I returned home. Everyone had the same answers, we celebrate our soldiers fighting for us. We celebrate our independence. I was satisfied with that answer.
Then I grew up.
Now, I realize why people do celebrate the 4th because they want to be with family and enjoy a fun time. But as I see people back home all fighting each other, mad at council. The tribal council very few of the people vote into place fighting each other, no one getting along because of suspicion of funds misused, etc. It makes me wonder, at what point were we Lakota ever “independent?” Sure we can walk off and leave our reservation and home and people behind, but is that independence knowing everything and everyone back home and every job with the tribe is dependent on the government who broke every single treaty with us? Knowing that after all the government took from us, what they give us is being fought over like scraps thrown to dogs?
How do we celebrate Independence Day when we are so dependent on a government who set us up in a system to keep us poor? Is independence living on a reservation with horrible healthcare while the rest of the country has top of the line healthcare they have to pay through the nose for? Is independence being able to say this is your land, and you can sell it back to the tribe, but you can never take a loan out on it because it is in government trust?
Are we really independent when we have to fight for the rights of our land, our water, and everything is regulated even down to what we hunt and fish to provide for our family?
So are you going to celebrate your independence? Or you going to find it?