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"We were trying to think of someone at Spirit Lake [with a disability], and after a few minutes we realized, oh yeah, Erich Longie is a vocational rehabilitation "success story". Now, maybe if you just walked by Erich in the airport when he was walking with two canes because he had a really long way to go through the terminal, you'd think, "There goes a person with a disability." However, I can guarantee you would never think of that if you knew him. Willie and I have both known Erich well over 20 years, he's one of my best friends, I was at his graduation when he was the first enrolled member to receive a doctorate, he was my boss when he was tribal college president, we founded a company together and when asked to name someone on the Spirit Lake Nation who had the education and experience to be a disability advocate - I didn't think of him.  Neither did Willie, so it's not just me.

If you know Erich, when you think of him, probably one of the first things is he's very family-oriented. He was a single father for many years, and now he's raising his grandchildren. He was a major force in the fight against the Sioux nickname. He's been quite politically involved over the years, particularly in education, as school board president, member of the tribal college board. He's been immensely involved in American Indian education - adult basic education instructor, Even Start Director, elementary school teacher, college academic vice-president, written a masters thesis and dissertation on issues in Indian education, published articles in academic journals. He's an avid pool player, drives like a stunt double for the Dukes of Hazzard (or Grand Theft Auto, if you're too young to remember that), he's survived the Marine corps, cancer, alcoholism, the death of his son and an exceptional number of ex-wives. All of this maybe explains why it took Willie and I about twenty minutes of trying to think of someone with a disability to say, "Oh, yeah, Erich was in a car accident and walks with a cane, sometimes two." - Annmaria Demars



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Many years ago, Apsáalooke collected eagle feathers in a unique way. They would dig a dugout in high location. Over the dugout they would place branches and twigs and cover it with grass and they extend a skinned rabbit from the pit. They eagle trapper would hide in the trap and wait for eagles to come inspect the rabbit. The trapper would grab the legs of the eagle and pluck the middle feather and the two on either side of the middle.

            A young warrior named Yellow Leggings was out trapping eagles in this manner. While he was in the trap a boulder above him rolled down and trapped him in. Yellow Leggings was certain that he would die in this trap when a mouse talked to him. The mouse told Yellow Leggings to follow him into a hole on the floor of the trap. Yellow Leggings followed the mouse through the tunnel till they emerged on the other side to a world he did not recognize.

Yellow Leggings walked around till he found a lodge. He walked up to the lodge and a voice inside said, "Come in. I have been expecting you." Yellow Leggings entered to find an old man and an old woman. The old man wanted Yellow Leggings to have a seat. Yellow Leggings seen a human hand in the soup and said we do not eat other humans. The old man said, "I forgot that you do not eat humans. Go outside and find something to eat. When you are finished return. I have some things I want to talk to you about." Yellow Leggings did as he was instructed. After eating and returning to the old mans lodge, Yellow Leggings was instructed to kill the elk who controlled the winds and caused havoc among the birds and animals. The old man gave him the location of where he will find the elk and that before he goes to the elk that he should find animals that will help him if were to cry.

Yellow Leggings then went on his way to the elk. He came across a certain bird and Yellow Leggings sat and started to weep. The bird asked what was wrong. Yellow leggings explained that he was tasked with killing this elk. The bird told Yellow Leggings that this truly was a hard task that is impossible. The bird advised Yellow Leggings to go to a near bush and cry near it. Yellow Leggings did as instructed. A mole came to Yellow Leggings and said why do you cry. Yellow Leggings explained to the mole with what he was tasked to do. The mole said that this was nearly an impossible task. The reason was that the elk had helpers on his antlers. The coyote sat on his right antlers and protected the elk by day and an owl on his left antlers to protect him at night. If anything came near the elk the helpers would alert the elk and he would go and kill the intruders with his antlers. The mole said he will help Yellow Leggings by digging a tunnel under the elk where the coyote and the owl will not see them. Then when they were under him Yellow Leggings was to shoot an arrow directly into the heart of the elk. The mole said they had one try because the elk will be alerted he will surely kill them both if they failed. When they finally were directly under the elk Yellow Leggings shot his arrow. They started running back through the tunnel. The elk was wounded for sure and he stuck his antler into the ground where the tunnel was and chased after the two till he fell over dead.

Yellow Leggings thanked mole for his help and asked what he can do for the mole. The mole instructed him to leave food near his mounds when he needs help in solving a situation and he will help Yellow Leggings again. He also told Yellow Leggings that if didn't want to be seen he can take dirt and rub it on himself so that he could not be found.

Yellow Leggings returned to the old man with the head of the elk. White owl thanked him for completing his task. He then said that Yellow Leggings must go after the scalp of colored Hair who lived on the other side of the river. Yellow Leggings agreed to the quest.

Yellow Leggings left on his quest. Again he came across the bird and he wept. The bird asked why he was crying and Yellow Leggings told him the new quest he was on. The bird said that this quest was indeed a tougher quest. The bird explained that people that go on this quest are eaten by Dyed Hair. Yellow Legging was instructed to seek the help of a young woman that lived beyond the ridge in front of him.

Yellow Leggings traveled beyond the ridge and found a lodge. At the lodge he met a young woman. The young woman's name was Ant Woman. She explained that Colored Hair has been pursuing her so that they may marry. Ant Woman devised a plan where Yellow Leggings will go in the form of her. Ant Woman instructed Yellow Leggings to take off his clothes and she would do the same. They will stand at opposite ends of the tipi and then meet each other in the middle where they will embrace and Yellow Leggings will say he is Ant Woman and ant Woman will say she is Yellow Leggings. When they did this they switched bodies. Ant Woman instructed Yellow Leggings not to allow Colored hair to touch him for three days and to keep him awake during the day time. After four days allow Colored Hair to have his way with you. When he is finished he will fall into a deep sleep. This will be Yellow Leggings chance to slit Dyed Hair's throat and place the louse on the pillow. 

Ant Woman then gave Yellow Leggings five corn balls. She instructed him that when he reaches the river there will be a dog. Yellow Leggings was instructed to mount the dog and slip a corn ball in his mouth and the dog will walk across the river carrying him. He did as he was instructed when he got to the river. It took two corn balls to cross the river. After he crossed the river he walked till he reached a forest. At the forest Yellow Leggings began to weep. A chipmunk came to Yellow Leggings and asked what was wrong. Yellow Leggings told him that he had to kill Colored Hair and didn't know how to complete his task. The chipmunk said that the only thing he can help with his quest was a louse. The chipmunk instructed Yellow Legging to keep the louse behind his ear till he kills Colored Hair and places the louse on his pillow and it will take care of everything from there on. The chipmunk instructed Yellow Leggings to weep when he was near magpie. When Yellow Leggings was near magpie he started to weep. Magpie asked what was wrong. Yellow Leggings explained his situation. Magpie said that there was a mound that was on Colored Hair's mother's head that she could project out and uses to fly in the air and that it will be hard to out run her. Magpie instructed Yellow Leggings that as he is running and when he is tired to throw the middle feather of the magpie in the air and magpie will carry him farther.

When Yellow Leggings arrived at Colored Hair's lodge he was not home. His mother was there and she was not happy that Ant Woman showed up. Colored Hair's Mother was very suspicious of Ant Woman coming to see her son. When Colored Hair arrived he was happy to see that Ant Woman finally came to his lodge. When they went to bed Ant Woman rejected his advances. He laid there and could not sleep all night. The next day Ant Woman kept Colored Hair busy showing her the place. Again that night she rejected his advances saying she was tire. Again Colored Hair stayed awake all night excited that Ant Woman finally came to his lodge. When Colored Hair fell asleep his mother kept calling to him because she was suspicious of Ant Woman. Colored Hair would respond but he was so tired that he fell into a deep sleep. Ant woman touch and pinched Colored Hair but he was sound asleep. She quietly slit his through and removed the louse from behind his ear and placed it on his pillow. She cut Colored Hair's head off and quietly sneaked out of the lodge. Colored Hair's mother yelled out to Colored Hair and from his bed he heard a response in the voice of Colored Hair saying "quit bothering me, we are trying to sleep." This was louse speaking. All night long Colored Hair's mother would say his name and ask a question and the louse would answer. Finally in the morning Colored Hair's mother got up to check and his head was gone. "I knew Ant Woman was up to no good. She will never get away." She raised the weapon on her head and flew after her. Yellow Leggings was running as fast as his legs will take him till he got tire. He said "magpie help me" and raised the feather and he started to fly. Yellow Leggings would fly until the magpie got tired and he would run for little bit and then raise the feather again and he would fly through the air. He made good ground but Colored Hair's mother was catching up to him. He got to the river and fed the dog with a corn ball and the dog crossed the river. He kept feeding the dog the last of the corn balls as they ran to Ant Woman's lodge. He was instructed to run around the lodge four times. Still on the dogs back they ran around the lodge four times and on the fourth time they ran in. Colored Hair's mother threw her weapon on her head to the lodge but on the fourth run around the lodge it had turned to stoned. Some of the stone fell off. Ant Woman, still in Yellow Leggings form quickly used mud from the ground and replaced the stone that had fallen off. Colored Hair's mother finally said, "You have defeated me. I just want to see his face one more time. Ant Woman instructed Yellow Leggings to open the door. He opened it a crack but Colored Hair's mother said, "Please open it little more so I can see him more clearly." Yellow Leggings opened enough for her to stick her head in. Colored Hair's mother said, "Ha I have fooled you," but Yellow Leggings quickly shut the heavy door chopping Colored Hair's mother's head off.

Ant Woman informed Yellow Leggings that those two have been tricking people and then eating them. Ant Woman instructed Yellow Leggings to take Colored Hair's head back to the old man but she will be keeping his mother's head to keep her from coming back so that she can no longer harm people. They again stood on one side of the lodge and walked to the middle where they embraced. Yellow Leggings said "I am Yellow Leggings" and Ant Woman said "I am Ant Woman." They transformed back to their own selves. The young woman turned back into an ant. Ant Woman told Yellow Leggings that the mole helped you and it goes the same with her. If you need help in a situation place some food near an ant pile and state what you need help with and I will find a solution.

When he returned to the old man he was very pleased. He told Yellow Leggings to go and come back in the morning. As he was leaving the old man's wife told Yellow Leggings outside of the lodge and instructed him to that the old man will lay out his spirit helpers tomorrow and when he asks Yellow Leggings which one he wants, to ask for the old man.

In the morning when he returned the old man laid out all his spirit helpers and said, "You have taken the elk that had a hold of the four winds and the four directions but I have that power now. I will not keep it like the elk did. Ant Woman's lodge is the form of lodge that you will use with the four base poles. These four base poles represent the four directions where the four winds blow and it also represents the four seasons. Then asked Yellow Leggings which one he wants. Yellow Leggings did as he was instructed and said, "I will take you." The old man said, "Aaahh, my wife must have told you to say that."  The old man transformed himself into a white owl. The old man instructed Yellow Leggings that they must respect the tipi. The old man's pet was a bear and the old man tied his pet to the left door of the tipi. The bear will watch the door and prevent anything bad from getting in. The old man, who is the white owl told Yellow Leggings, "When you leave here you will meet four woman. You need to avoid their advances. Use this driftwood or this quartz on them.

Yellow Leggings started on his journey home. Yellow Leggings encountered a woman like no other. She was very beautiful. She was making advances so Yellow Leggings waved the driftwood at her. Instantly she turned into an elk and ran away. Again Yellow Leggings encountered a second woman. This woman was like no other. She was more beautiful than the first one. This woman made advances so Yellow Leggings waved the driftwood at her and she instantly transformed into a white-tailed doe and ran away. Yellow Leggings continued his journey home. Again he encountered a woman like no other. She was more beautiful than the previous two with eyes like berries. When she made her advances at Yellow Leggings, he waved the driftwood at her and she instantly turned into a mink and ran away. Yellow Leggings continued his voyage home. Again he encountered a woman. He pulled out the driftwood and waved it at her but she did not mind. He took out the quartz and waved it at her and still she did not mind. So Yellow Leggings married her.

Yellow Leggings and his wife went to her camp. When they approached the camp a young boy ran to meet them. The young boy had a mountain lion as a pet. The mountain lion was about to charge but the young man said, "this is my brother-in-law." The mountain lion relaxed. The young boy was named Juniper Between The Eyes. The young boy said that his brothers were out hunting.

When Juniper Between The Eyes' brother returned from their hunt they started to tease Yellow Leggings. They were pulling of the legs and the head off a stuffed fawn that Yellow Leggings had. Yellow Leggings open the bundle that had the white owl in and the owl flew up and hooted. The fawn bleated and the legs of the brothers started to hurt. They yelled that they quit. The brothers were ashamed for teasing their brother-in-law. They said that they don't belong on earth anymore. They decided to join the seven stars. Before they left Juniper Between The Eyes said that he was taking his pet with him but the spirit will remain in the right door pole. When you look up at the seven starts at night the faint star near the last star is Juniper Between The Eyes' mountain lion.

They said that it was time to leave. They told Yellow Leggings to offer the pipe to them whenever he needed them. When he was in a tight spot, or when he was happy, or when he was alone.

That night Yellow Legging wife said go smoke with your brother-in-laws. Yellow Leggings offered the pipe to his brother-in-laws. His brother-in-laws said. "No matter what happens don't forget the old man. The lodge is a woman. The tipi is the place you come home to. It is your second mother. The earth is your first mother. It is the earth that you finally return. When you smoke offer your mother earth the pipe too. The animals that you respect, the animals that are messengers you believe in are all represented at the poles. The four wind directions and the four seasons of the year are represented by the four base poles. Group all these together in a tipi and occupy it. When you sit in the tipi, sit along the poles because that is where man lives. No man should sit in the middle of the tipi. This place is reserved for the elements.  (Old Coyote, H., 1974: 33-56)


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Mission Period

Before the treaties and Federal Indian Policy, there was a period when only missionaries were attempting to educate Native Americans. “Beginning with the Jesuit mission school for Florida Indians in 1568, formal education of Indians was dominated by the church for almost 300 years” (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 10). The goal of the missionaries was not so much to educate the Indian as to change him. Jesuits and Franciscans were the first missionaries to attempt to mold the Indian into a white man, and when Protestants gained a foothold on the northeast coast, they vigorously attempted to Christianize the Indian. Education was perceived as the best means to accomplish this goal, so in 1617, King James I requested funds to educate “children of these Barbarians in Virginia” (p. 10). King James I’s request eventually resulted in the establishment of the College of William and Mary. Other schools for Indians were started, but none were successful in civilizing the Indian. Although Indians understood the concept of Christianity and learned to read and write, they immediately relapsed into infidelity and barbarism upon returning to their tribe (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969).

Treaties

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, all Native American tribes were autonomous from each other. They conducted their own affairs and depended upon no other source of power to uphold their acts of government (Canby, 1988). The colonies and Native American tribes were often equal in military strength. Therefore, the early colonial governments viewed the tribes as sovereign nations and treated them as such. In order to gain title to Indian land, colonial governments primarily used treaties. The Supreme Court has expressly held that an Indian treaty is “not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them” (Pevar, 2002, p. 48). Following the War of Independence, the young United States made treaties with hundreds of indigenous tribal nations, exchanging lands for payments and access rights (Canby, 1988). “The signing of the treaty between the United States and the Delaware Tribe in 1778 established treaties as the primary legal basis for Federal policies in regard to the American Indian” (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 11).

"Between 1778 and 1871, when the last treaty was signed, Indian tribes ceded almost a billion acres to the United States. In return, Indians generally retained inalienable and tax-exempt lands for themselves, and Government pledges to provide such public services as education, medical care, and technical and agricultural training." (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 11)

What the government pledged in the treaties is still at the heart of much controversy today. Because of an oral culture the Indians believed in, the word was to be inviolable, sacred, meant to last forever. Conversely, most Americans viewed treaties as documents only good until the next one was written.

Reservations

Reservations emerged as a result of the treaties. The first Indian reservation was created in 1651 (Borio, 1995). Once proud self-sufficient independent people, Native Americans became totally dependent on the United States federal government for their very survival. Signing treaties meant giving up huge tracts of land. During this time period, Native Americans found their land base diminished, their hereditary chiefs gone, and their lives controlled by an external governance system (North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, 1977). Because signing treaties meant giving up land, most tribes did not want to sign treaties. Chief Ouray of the Ute tribe put it this way: “Agreements that Indians make with the government are like the agreement a buffalo makes with the hunter after it has been pierced by many arrows. All it can do is lie down and give in” (Hill, 1994, p. 34).

Allotments and Assimilation, 1871-1928

Once tribal nations were defeated and placed on reservations, some people would argue they developed an unhealthy dependence on the federal government for subsistence, housing, and all legal affairs. This dependence, along with the difficulty of assimilating into “the white society” by accepting the white man’s values and culture, soon led to extreme poverty and hopelessness on most Indian reservations. Faced with staggering poverty and the loss of their traditional ways to obtain subsistence, many Native Americans developed a victim mentality. This victim mentality continued with the federal government’s view that given their own piece of land, Native Americans would become farmers and therefore end their dependence on the federal Indian government. However, the government’s intentions of giving individual Indians their own land was not based solely on assisting them to assimilate into mainstream society. It was also motivated by greed for land and guided by the misconception that Native Americans would be better off if they were forced to assimilate into mainstream society.

The Dawes Act

In 1881, Senator Henry M. Teller said, “The real aim of [the Dawes Act] is to get at the Indians land and open it up for resettlement” (Ethnic Cleansing, n.d., para. 1).

The Dawes Act was another attempt to assimilate Native Americans and protect their welfare, but due to past failed relocation efforts, Native Americans were suspicious of its intent. The Act required Native Americans to “anglicize” their names. “Rolling Thunder thus became Ron Thomas and so forth” (Ethnic Cleasing, n.d., para. 4). However, some government agents administering the Act managed “to slip the names of their relatives and friends onto the Dawes Rolls and thus reap millions of acres of land for their friends and cronys [sic]” (para. 4). The Meriam Report of 1928 found in one state alone Indian-held land totaled 138 million acres in 1887, at the time the Dawes Act was signed into law. This had been reduced to 47 million acres of land by 1934 when the Act was repealed. “The abuses of the Dawes Act were revealed and set forth in the Miriam [sic] Report of 1928” (para. 5).

The Boarding School Era

A decade before the passage of the Dawes Act, the U.S. government had enacted a policy where Native American children were taken away from their parents and placed in boarding schools (Adams, 1995).

"Cultural interaction and conflict are always subtle and complex processes but they are not always as devastatingly one-sided as in the case of Indians and whites. As the Iroquois, the Shawnee, and the Arapaho would eventually all discover, the white man’s superior technology, hunger for land, and ethnocentrism seemingly knew no bounds. The white threat to Indians came in many forms: smallpox, missionaries, Conestoga wagons, barbed wire, and smoking locomotives. And in the end, it came in the form of schools." (Adams, 1995, p. 5)

There were two different models of boarding schools, on-the-reservation boarding schools and off-the-reservation boarding schools, often hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from the reservation (Adams, 1995).

In the 1880s, the government agreed that the only way to educate Indian children was to take them away from their homes, forcibly if necessary, for at least four years. Therefore, the purpose of federal government boarding schools was to remove Native Americans from their homes and cultures in order to change their identities and lifestyles, to be like the European-American or the white man (Cherokee Indian Boarding, n.d.).

"Native American children did not receive a warm welcome at boarding school. For the most part, the boarding school experience was a deeply traumatic one. Native languages were forbidden to be spoken. Native clothing was replaced with uniforms. Children's hair was cut short. Indian names were replaced with Christian ones. Harsh punishments were given to those who broke rules- but most devastating, children lost contact with their families and their traditional ways of life, and were taught that their previous lives were inferior." (Cherokee Indian Boarding, n.d., para. 4)

Day Schools

"The reservation day school was the first part of this venture into Indian education. The children lived in the village with their families and attended school nearby during the day" (Keohane, n.d., para. 16). “Attendance at these mission schools was made mandatory by regulation on many reservations for all native children aged six through sixteen” (Jaimes, 1992, p. 380). However, it did not take too long to realize that day schools could not make an Indian child white. “The children were too close to their homes, families and cultures to be fully and successfully indoctrinated with white society’s language and values” (Keohane, n.d., para. 20). Therefore, “the next step was to establish reservation boarding schools that were located near the agency headquarters” (Keohane, n.d., para. 21).

Boarding Schools on Reservations

Although these schools were located on the reservation, the children were only allowed to go home during the summer months and at Christmas. "One of the reasons was . . . that parents often came to visit their children, thus allowing the children the opportunity to speak their language and stay in contact with their tribal ways" (Keohane, n.d., para. 21). Government officials who wanted to suppress Native American culture viewed these visits as counterproductive (Meriam et al., 1928).

Boarding Schools off Reservations

The third and most destructive plan was to send Native American children to off-reservation boarding schools. This final plan did work by preventing Native American children to hold on to their language and culture. Actually, what started as an experiment with Indian prisoners became the model upon which boarding schools were patterned after. In 1875, Lt. Richard Henry Pratt arrived in St. Augustine, Florida, with Indian prisoners to whom he began to teach the white man’s beliefs. Eventually, Pratt was permitted to take his students to an unused military barrack in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Thus began the most significant residential Indian schools (Keohane, n.d.).

"Here a Lieutenant struggles to evolve order out of the chaos of fourteen different languages! Civilization out of savagery! Industry and thrift out of laziness! Education out of ignorance! Cleanliness out of filth! And is forced to educate the courage of his own instructors to the work, and see that all the interests of his Govt. and the Indian as well are properly protected and served." (Adams, 1995, p. 55)

Using Lieutenant Pratt’s experiment as a model, Indian children were sent, in many cases, hundreds of miles away from family, language, and Native American ways. Upon arriving at their school, the students were required to have their hair cut short, an act that produced much resentment among the Indian children. School uniforms replaced tribal dress, and each was given a "white man's" name. No effort was spared when it came to breaking the Native cultural ties (Adams, 1995).

"For tribal elders who had witnessed the catastrophic developments of the nineteenth century – the bloody warfare, the near-extinction of the bison, the scourge of disease and starvation, the shrinking of the tribal land base, the indignities of reservation life, the invasion of missionaries and white settlers – there seemed to be no end to the cruelties perpetrated by whites. And after all this, the schools. After all this, the white man had concluded that the only way to save Indians was to destroy them, that the last great Indian war should be waged against children. They were coming for the children." (Adams, 1995, pp. 336-337)

During the 1920s, investigations of Indian boarding schools found inhumane conditions – poor diets, hard labor for children, military conditions, high mortality rates, overcrowded conditions, and the spreading of numerous diseases. Eventually, changes in Indian education, due to this discovery, included an end to the traditional boarding schools and a reintroduction to Indian history and culture, as slight as it was. However, to this day, the boarding school era has left its scars on Native American people (Trennert, 1998).

References:

Adams, D. W. (1995). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875-1928. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.

Borio, G. (1995). A brief history of Jamestown, Virginia. Retrieved October 20, 2005, from http://www.tobacco.org/History/Jamestown.html

Canby, W. C., Jr. (1988). American Indian law in a nutshell (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Cherokee Indian boarding schools unit plan. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2005, from http://aam.wcu.edu/beck/activities.htm

Ethnic cleansing? We have it here, too! (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2005, from http://www.dickshovel.com/cleansing.html

Hill, N. W. (1994). Words of power – Voices from Indian America. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.

Jaimes, M. A. (Ed.). (1992). The state of native America – Genocide, colonization, and resistance. Boston: South End Press.

Keohane, S. (n.d.). The reservation boarding school system in the United States, 1870-1928. Retrieved November 23, 2005, from http://www.twofrog.com/rezsch.html

Meriam, L., Brown, R. A., Cloud, H. R., Dale, E. E., Duke, E., Edwards, H. R., McKenzie, F. A., Mark, M. L., Ryan, W. C., Jr., & Spillman, W. J. (1928). The problem of Indian administration. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. (1977). The history and culture of the Mni Wakan Oyate (Spirit Lake Nation). Bismarck: Author.

Pevar, S. L. (2002). The rights of Indians and tribes: The authoritative ACLU guide to Indian and tribal rights (3rd ed.). Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

Special Subcommittee on Indian Education. (1969). Indian education: A national tragedy – A national challenge (Report No. 91-501). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Trennert, R. A., Jr. (1998). The Phoenix Indian School: Forced assimilation in Arizona, 1891-1935. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.


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Mission Period

Before the treaties and Federal Indian Policy, there was a period when only missionaries were attempting to educate Native Americans. “Beginning with the Jesuit mission school for Florida Indians in 1568, formal education of Indians was dominated by the church for almost 300 years” (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 10). The goal of the missionaries was not so much to educate the Indian as to change him. Jesuits and Franciscans were the first missionaries to attempt to mold the Indian into a white man, and when Protestants gained a foothold on the northeast coast, they vigorously attempted to Christianize the Indian. Education was perceived as the best means to accomplish this goal, so in 1617, King James I requested funds to educate “children of these Barbarians in Virginia” (p. 10). King James I’s request eventually resulted in the establishment of the College of William and Mary. Other schools for Indians were started, but none were successful in civilizing the Indian. Although Indians understood the concept of Christianity and learned to read and write, they immediately relapsed into infidelity and barbarism upon returning to their tribe (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969).

Treaties

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, all Native American tribes were autonomous from each other. They conducted their own affairs and depended upon no other source of power to uphold their acts of government (Canby, 1988). The colonies and Native American tribes were often equal in military strength. Therefore, the early colonial governments viewed the tribes as sovereign nations and treated them as such. In order to gain title to Indian land, colonial governments primarily used treaties. The Supreme Court has expressly held that an Indian treaty is “not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them” (Pevar, 2002, p. 48). Following the War of Independence, the young United States made treaties with hundreds of indigenous tribal nations, exchanging lands for payments and access rights (Canby, 1988). “The signing of the treaty between the United States and the Delaware Tribe in 1778 established treaties as the primary legal basis for Federal policies in regard to the American Indian” (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 11).

"Between 1778 and 1871, when the last treaty was signed, Indian tribes ceded almost a billion acres to the United States. In return, Indians generally retained inalienable and tax-exempt lands for themselves, and Government pledges to provide such public services as education, medical care, and technical and agricultural training." (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969, p. 11)

What the government pledged in the treaties is still at the heart of much controversy today. Because of an oral culture the Indians believed in, the word was to be inviolable, sacred, meant to last forever. Conversely, most Americans viewed treaties as documents only good until the next one was written.

Reservations

Reservations emerged as a result of the treaties. The first Indian reservation was created in 1651 (Borio, 1995). Once proud self-sufficient independent people, Native Americans became totally dependent on the United States federal government for their very survival. Signing treaties meant giving up huge tracts of land. During this time period, Native Americans found their land base diminished, their hereditary chiefs gone, and their lives controlled by an external governance system (North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, 1977). Because signing treaties meant giving up land, most tribes did not want to sign treaties. Chief Ouray of the Ute tribe put it this way: “Agreements that Indians make with the government are like the agreement a buffalo makes with the hunter after it has been pierced by many arrows. All it can do is lie down and give in” (Hill, 1994, p. 34).

Allotments and Assimilation, 1871-1928

Once tribal nations were defeated and placed on reservations, some people would argue they developed an unhealthy dependence on the federal government for subsistence, housing, and all legal affairs. This dependence, along with the difficulty of assimilating into “the white society” by accepting the white man’s values and culture, soon led to extreme poverty and hopelessness on most Indian reservations. Faced with staggering poverty and the loss of their traditional ways to obtain subsistence, many Native Americans developed a victim mentality. This victim mentality continued with the federal government’s view that given their own piece of land, Native Americans would become farmers and therefore end their dependence on the federal Indian government. However, the government’s intentions of giving individual Indians their own land was not based solely on assisting them to assimilate into mainstream society. It was also motivated by greed for land and guided by the misconception that Native Americans would be better off if they were forced to assimilate into mainstream society.

The Dawes Act

In 1881, Senator Henry M. Teller said, “The real aim of [the Dawes Act] is to get at the Indians land and open it up for resettlement” (Ethnic Cleansing, n.d., para. 1).

The Dawes Act was another attempt to assimilate Native Americans and protect their welfare, but due to past failed relocation efforts, Native Americans were suspicious of its intent. The Act required Native Americans to “anglicize” their names. “Rolling Thunder thus became Ron Thomas and so forth” (Ethnic Cleasing, n.d., para. 4). However, some government agents administering the Act managed “to slip the names of their relatives and friends onto the Dawes Rolls and thus reap millions of acres of land for their friends and cronys [sic]” (para. 4). The Meriam Report of 1928 found in one state alone Indian-held land totaled 138 million acres in 1887, at the time the Dawes Act was signed into law. This had been reduced to 47 million acres of land by 1934 when the Act was repealed. “The abuses of the Dawes Act were revealed and set forth in the Miriam [sic] Report of 1928” (para. 5).

The Boarding School Era

A decade before the passage of the Dawes Act, the U.S. government had enacted a policy where Native American children were taken away from their parents and placed in boarding schools (Adams, 1995).

"Cultural interaction and conflict are always subtle and complex processes but they are not always as devastatingly one-sided as in the case of Indians and whites. As the Iroquois, the Shawnee, and the Arapaho would eventually all discover, the white man’s superior technology, hunger for land, and ethnocentrism seemingly knew no bounds. The white threat to Indians came in many forms: smallpox, missionaries, Conestoga wagons, barbed wire, and smoking locomotives. And in the end, it came in the form of schools." (Adams, 1995, p. 5)

There were two different models of boarding schools, on-the-reservation boarding schools and off-the-reservation boarding schools, often hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from the reservation (Adams, 1995).

In the 1880s, the government agreed that the only way to educate Indian children was to take them away from their homes, forcibly if necessary, for at least four years. Therefore, the purpose of federal government boarding schools was to remove Native Americans from their homes and cultures in order to change their identities and lifestyles, to be like the European-American or the white man (Cherokee Indian Boarding, n.d.).

"Native American children did not receive a warm welcome at boarding school. For the most part, the boarding school experience was a deeply traumatic one. Native languages were forbidden to be spoken. Native clothing was replaced with uniforms. Children's hair was cut short. Indian names were replaced with Christian ones. Harsh punishments were given to those who broke rules- but most devastating, children lost contact with their families and their traditional ways of life, and were taught that their previous lives were inferior." (Cherokee Indian Boarding, n.d., para. 4)

Day Schools

"The reservation day school was the first part of this venture into Indian education. The children lived in the village with their families and attended school nearby during the day" (Keohane, n.d., para. 16). “Attendance at these mission schools was made mandatory by regulation on many reservations for all native children aged six through sixteen” (Jaimes, 1992, p. 380). However, it did not take too long to realize that day schools could not make an Indian child white. “The children were too close to their homes, families and cultures to be fully and successfully indoctrinated with white society’s language and values” (Keohane, n.d., para. 20). Therefore, “the next step was to establish reservation boarding schools that were located near the agency headquarters” (Keohane, n.d., para. 21).

Boarding Schools on Reservations

Although these schools were located on the reservation, the children were only allowed to go home during the summer months and at Christmas. "One of the reasons was . . . that parents often came to visit their children, thus allowing the children the opportunity to speak their language and stay in contact with their tribal ways" (Keohane, n.d., para. 21). Government officials who wanted to suppress Native American culture viewed these visits as counterproductive (Meriam et al., 1928).

Boarding Schools off Reservations

The third and most destructive plan was to send Native American children to off-reservation boarding schools. This final plan did work by preventing Native American children to hold on to their language and culture. Actually, what started as an experiment with Indian prisoners became the model upon which boarding schools were patterned after. In 1875, Lt. Richard Henry Pratt arrived in St. Augustine, Florida, with Indian prisoners to whom he began to teach the white man’s beliefs. Eventually, Pratt was permitted to take his students to an unused military barrack in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Thus began the most significant residential Indian schools (Keohane, n.d.).

"Here a Lieutenant struggles to evolve order out of the chaos of fourteen different languages! Civilization out of savagery! Industry and thrift out of laziness! Education out of ignorance! Cleanliness out of filth! And is forced to educate the courage of his own instructors to the work, and see that all the interests of his Govt. and the Indian as well are properly protected and served." (Adams, 1995, p. 55)

Using Lieutenant Pratt’s experiment as a model, Indian children were sent, in many cases, hundreds of miles away from family, language, and Native American ways. Upon arriving at their school, the students were required to have their hair cut short, an act that produced much resentment among the Indian children. School uniforms replaced tribal dress, and each was given a "white man's" name. No effort was spared when it came to breaking the Native cultural ties (Adams, 1995).

"For tribal elders who had witnessed the catastrophic developments of the nineteenth century – the bloody warfare, the near-extinction of the bison, the scourge of disease and starvation, the shrinking of the tribal land base, the indignities of reservation life, the invasion of missionaries and white settlers – there seemed to be no end to the cruelties perpetrated by whites. And after all this, the schools. After all this, the white man had concluded that the only way to save Indians was to destroy them, that the last great Indian war should be waged against children. They were coming for the children." (Adams, 1995, pp. 336-337)

During the 1920s, investigations of Indian boarding schools found inhumane conditions – poor diets, hard labor for children, military conditions, high mortality rates, overcrowded conditions, and the spreading of numerous diseases. Eventually, changes in Indian education, due to this discovery, included an end to the traditional boarding schools and a reintroduction to Indian history and culture, as slight as it was. However, to this day, the boarding school era has left its scars on Native American people (Trennert, 1998).

References:

Adams, D. W. (1995). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience, 1875-1928. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.

Borio, G. (1995). A brief history of Jamestown, Virginia. Retrieved October 20, 2005, from http://www.tobacco.org/History/Jamestown.html

Canby, W. C., Jr. (1988). American Indian law in a nutshell (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Cherokee Indian boarding schools unit plan. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2005, from http://aam.wcu.edu/beck/activities.htm

Ethnic cleansing? We have it here, too! (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2005, from http://www.dickshovel.com/cleansing.html

Hill, N. W. (1994). Words of power – Voices from Indian America. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.

Jaimes, M. A. (Ed.). (1992). The state of native America – Genocide, colonization, and resistance. Boston: South End Press.

Keohane, S. (n.d.). The reservation boarding school system in the United States, 1870-1928. Retrieved November 23, 2005, from http://www.twofrog.com/rezsch.html

Meriam, L., Brown, R. A., Cloud, H. R., Dale, E. E., Duke, E., Edwards, H. R., McKenzie, F. A., Mark, M. L., Ryan, W. C., Jr., & Spillman, W. J. (1928). The problem of Indian administration. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. (1977). The history and culture of the Mni Wakan Oyate (Spirit Lake Nation). Bismarck: Author.

Pevar, S. L. (2002). The rights of Indians and tribes: The authoritative ACLU guide to Indian and tribal rights (3rd ed.). Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

Special Subcommittee on Indian Education. (1969). Indian education: A national tragedy – A national challenge (Report No. 91-501). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Trennert, R. A., Jr. (1998). The Phoenix Indian School: Forced assimilation in Arizona, 1891-1935. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.


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By Dr. Erich Longie, Spirit Lake Dakota Nation

As was stated in a previous post ... The Dakota cultivated perseverance. Traditionally, rules were rules of survival and if they weren't followed, the whole tribe was at risk.  Those who enforced the rules persevered in their chastisements until individuals conformed to the law.  Without perseverance, the Dakota would not have survived the world they lived in.  Their perseverance is one of the main reasons why their descendants are here today.

Fear is the greatest enemy of perseverance.  There is the physical fear of being killed or injured by an enemy or wild animal. Another type of fear that persists today and relates to education is fear of failure, of not being able to measure up to expectations.

We were born during what many American Indians call the greatest generation, those in the 1940s and early 50s who overcame poverty, racism, alcoholism, lack of transportation to get an education, fight for a job within the system and bring jobs and self-governance to the reservations. This generation because of their perseverance brought much of the development we see on the reservations today - housing, manufacturing, tribal colleges -that overcame many barriers that benefit the reservation today. Prior to this generation, there was nothing on the reservation - no running water, no housing. This generation, in turn, opened the opportunities available to Indians now. We overcame the prejudice of the border towns, even the bad treatment of us when we went into the stores and restaurants in towns adjacent to the reservations. Why was our generation able to do that? Maybe because we were the first generation exposed to technology. We were exposed to television, gas stoves, etc. during our adolescence. As Edmunds (2001) noted, rural reservations were "inundated by a cultural invasion" that began with radio and television and has continued through videogames, the internet and social media.

A lot of us went to non-Indian schools off the reservation. We were put in the "slow" class with the poor white students. They never expected us to join the extra-curricular activities because they didn't think we were worth it. Yet, these same people were the ones who came back and started many of those improvements on the reservation. They didn't let the racism deter them.

Today reservations are a much better place to live than they were 150 years ago, 100 years and even 50 years ago when the author was a boy on the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation. There are better schools, there are jobs, and hardly anyone suffers from malnourishment. Yet, schools have a huge drop out rate. We propose a simple answer to the problem of academic achievement- return to the traditional value of perseverance. When the job becomes difficult some workers simply quit or do not attempt to look for work. The problem has become so severe on reservations that some casinos mandate an employee orientation for tribal members who have been fired or quit jobs at the organizations three or more times.

When adults no longer practice perseverance, we do not pass this virtue down to our children. As a result, when attending school becomes difficult or uninteresting, they simply do not attend. Research on one reservation found that the average student in elementary school missed an entire month of school (Longie,1995). A return to traditional values of perseverance and fortitude was hypothesized as a solution to this problem. Spirit Lake: The Game was developed by Dakota elders and tested with Dakota children in an effort to channel the new technology to benefit the next generation by integrating their traditional values, culture and history. In this manner, we follow in the footsteps of such Native American leaders as Yellowtail (Moxie & Bernardis, 2001) and Deer (Kidwell, 2001) who applied the education they learned in the white man's schools to defend and maintain the culture and sovereignty of their tribes.

REFERENCES

Edmunds, D. (2001). Twentieth-century warriors. In D. Edmunds (ed). The new warriors: Native American leaders since 1900. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp 1-16.

Hoxie, F. E. & Bernardis, T. (2001). Robert Yellowtail. In D. Edmunds (ed). The new warriors: Native American leaders since 1900. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp 55-78.

Kidwell, C. S. (2001). Ada Deer. In D. Edmunds (ed). The new warriors: Native American leaders since 1900. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp 239-262.

Longie, E. S.  (1995).  A Study of Attendance and Achievement Patterns among Eighth Grade American Indian and Non-American Indian Students on the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation (Master's Thesis, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, 1995).

Let The People Decide

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According to a recent article in the Devils Lake Journal, "A vote to allow alcohol to be sold at Spirit Lake Casino has been postponed by the Spirit Lake Tribal Council." The article goes on to say, "The reason given for the vote's postponement was cited as needing "further review.'"  I am of the opinion that this issue does not need further review.  We should hold a vote now and settle the debate.

 

Alcoholism is a terrible affliction.  No one is more aware of this than I.  I grew up in an era when alcohol was the drug of choice on the reservation.  I had the misfortune to fall victim to its devastating effects as young man.  It was only after a dozen years and three stints in two different rehab facilities that I finally overcame my addiction. 

 

Opponents of legalizing the sale of alcohol on our reservation have good reason to fear alcohol and its damaging effects.  Everyone who lives on the reservation is directly, or indirectly, impacted by negative effects of alcoholism: Broken homes, a high rate of alcohol- related illness and deaths, alcohol-related fatal automobile accidents and high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome are among the many dysfunctional consequences of alcohol abuse.

 

My question for opponents of the sale of alcohol on our reservation is; why is our reservation suffering from the devastating effects of alcohol even though the sale of alcohol is prohibited on our reservation?  A follow up question, if the ban is not effective now and never has been, what makes you think keeping it in place will make it effective in the future?  And, how is worrying about the sale of alcohol helping our community's alcoholics?  Right now our services offer very little in alcohol prevention and treatment.  One would think our focus should be offering useful programs for those in need.  

 

In my opinion, prohibition has NEVER worked.  It may work for a few individuals for a few hours, a few days, maybe even years, but in the end if an alcoholic wants to drink nothing in the world is going to stop him or her.  I know; I grew on this reservation and for many years I was a hard-core alcoholic.  The ban never slowed me down even a little.  Not with the reservation being 60 miles long and 40 miles wide with numerous roads and trails connecting it to the outside world.  Prohibition is the least effective way to prevent, stop, or help an alcoholic recover.  Maybe, it is easier to support a ban, than it is to hold the alcoholic responsible for his or her behavior especially if that person is a relative.  And, does supporting a ban help people feel that they are actually doing something to combat alcoholism?  In actuality, it does nothing of the kind.  It's sort of like people who go to church on Sunday but behave in an unchristian like manner all week.

 

If a vote were held today I would vote YES to allow alcohol sales on the Rez.  However, my yes vote would be contingent on a tribal council resolution that 100% of the profits would go towards the building, staffing, and the operation of an addiction treatment facility here on Spirit Lake.  And, the facility would treat people with other addictions as well.  We have tribal members addicted to meth and pills who would also benefit from a treatment facility.


This issue has been debated for years and years.  It is time for all the people to decide, not just the tribal council members, whether the sale of alcohol on the reservation should be approved.

 

I am willing to accept the will of the people.  If the majority votes to continue to ban alcohol sales on our reservation so be it.  But, I do think we need to bring closure to a discussion that has been going on for as long as I can remember by letting the people decide.  Therefore, I urge our Tribal Council to let the people decide by holding a vote on the issue

 

 

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This is a story about hard core bachelor who made a vow after his divorce to never to give his heart to any woman. It was a promise he kept for close to 30 years. He was an intelligent, stubborn, shy, 63 years old ndn man who was a secret romantic at heart. He grew up in extreme poverty on a ndn reservation. Despite his Dakota upbringing by his strong Dakota, mother he fell victim to the pitfalls prevalent on his reservation and lived a drunken life of worthlessness. At the age of 31 his Dakota upbringing resurfaced and rescued him from his sordid life of chronic alcoholism. Once sober he embraced his Dakota values and rapidly made up for lost time. Eventually he obtained a doctorate degree in leadership and made valuable contributions to his community and family. His relatives loved him, his friends admired him, and even some who only heard about him respected him. 

However, even though sobriety radically changed his behavior, a dark side remained. He continued to punish his enemies severely and at times treat people with little, or no respect. These conflicting personalities caused people to either admired him, or to hate him. 

This is also a story about how a woman's nurturing  patience, unwavering love, strong faith in The Creator, and the wisdom to see what no one else could see, and how she was able to lead the stubborn, troubled ndn man from his lifelong path of self-destruction onto a road of loyalty, forgiveness, and emotional well-being. 

 At very young age the ndn man developed a couple of beliefs that would plague him throughout his entire life: 1.) he thought he was smarter than most people and 2.) he was convinced that rules did not apply to him.  As a result, he grew into a reckless and impulsive man who acted without thinking about consequences. People would often say to him, "Why did you do that?" And he would reply, "Idk. I just wanted to see what would happened, I guess?"  He carried this behavior into all aspects of his life until he had refined it into a science. 

For many years this vain, selfish and obstinate man, did not care who he hurt with his careless actions. He was not a mean person, but he didn't hesitate initiating punitive actions against people who he believed had wrong him.  As, a result he soon made many enemies both in his professional and personal lives. 

While some aspects of this behavior were instrumental to his brought gaining recognition and respect in professional, tribal, and social communities especially as he advocated for the causes both off and on the reservation, it caused great injury in with his personal relationships with women.  

He did not care. 

Shortly after his divorce, his boys came to live with him full time. They did not care for any of his girl's friends which caused problems with his relationships since he always put his sons ahead of any woman. By the time his youngest son graduated from high school he had become a full fledged, committed bachelor. He saw no reason to change as there were always plenty of women available.  

 Sure, he recognized that he probably messed up a couple of good opportunities to settle down, but he saw no advantage to pursuing a committed relationship. 

Then, seemingly our of nowhere, he met a woman unlike no other. 

From the moment he first saw her he realized here was a very special woman. Her voice was so soft and sexy, she was strong and independent, her laugh was spontaneous, and she was so beautiful he found it hard to look directly at her. Once he started dating her he effortlessly treated her with more respect than any other woman he had been with. Without realizing it, he began to change his bachelor ways; he cut back on going to lunches with other woman, he turned down requests to meet with other women, and he stopped interacting with female Friends on Facebook. He honored her this way, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.  Seeing her happy quickly became very important to him. 

 While chatting with a friend, who was a psychotherapist, she used the word "impulsivity" when diagnosing his behavior after reading his blog about driving through North Dakota blizzards: 

 http://www.spiritlakeconsulting.com/d/2017/01/surviving-not-one-but-three-no.html

When he asked her what it meant she said, "death wish, comes to mind". He took it as a joke, but he looked up the word as he does with all new words he learns. He posted its definition on his Facebook page as a joke, but at the same time he reluctantly admitted that it described him to a "T". This troubling realization foreshadowed things to come. 

"Impulsivity (or impulsiveness) is a multifactorial construct that involves a tendency to act on a whim, displaying  behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences."

Around the time psychotherapist friend made these troubling observations about him, his relationship with the woman of his dreams began to turn serious.   

Predictably, one day his impulsiveness led to him to say some very mean things to the woman he was beginning to love so deeply.  It was not the first time his impulsiveness caused him to inadvertently hurt her deeply and he asked himself a familiar question, "What the hell is wrong with me?"  It was a question he had occasionally asked himself when a relationship did not work out. 

This time, he associated his behavior with the definition of impulsiveness and a light bulb went off in his head.  He began to realize that just maybe there was something serious wrong with him that contributed to his problems in his relationships with women. 

Later, while driving to see her his thoughts kept returning to his impulsiveness.  He recognized he was in serious trouble, because he realized he could not control it. Up until then he never tried to control what he now realized what was his extreme impulsive behavior.  He also realized he was sort of arrogant of it and this worried him even more. In fact, it scared the hell out of him because he knew it could eventually destroy his relationship with the woman of his dreams, if it had not already.  The longer he thought about it, this realization began to sink in: because of his uncontrollable impulsiveness, he had not only hurt her, he had hurt his past girlfriends as well.  

He desperately wanted to change his destructive behavior so he did what he always did when faced with a difficult decision: he turned to The Creator for help.  He prayed for strength to change his destructive conduct, for he did not want to lose this woman who had captured his heart with her compassion and understanding.  She was much more special than all the others. 


There are times when a person undergoes an incredible (and sometimes frightening) spiritual experiences that move them emotionally, intellectually, and deep in their soul. Indeed, during treatment for alcoholism the ndn man had witnessed an alcoholic young man's transformation from a horrible person to a repentant, sorrowful, individual, literally right before his eyes. It was truly amazing. 

After he prayed, tears started to fall.  The tears he shed were regret for hurting her, for being such a horrible, mean, old man, who sabotaged many relationships by not caring about the women he hurt.  The torrent of tears he shed amazed him.   

After he stopped crying he felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.  Deeply affected by his "breakdown" he started to take a close and honest look at himself and he did not like what he begin to see.  He was stunned when he finally realized just how horrible of a person he had become. 

He realized he could not undo the hurtful behaviors, phobias, and fears of 30 years overnight.  However, once, he identified his problem, he was confident he would be able to overcome his impulsiveness with The Creator's help once he put his mind to it.   He promised to start off by respecting her strengths, being sensitive to her limitations, to love her unconditionally, and to treat her better than he has treated any woman. 

He believes this miracle came about simply by being in her presence. His cowardly, lying, cheating ways withered and retreated when exposed to her honesty, generosity, compassion and love for him. Her virtuousness awoke his inherent decency that he had long suppressed and the fight for his soul begin. 

Should he be able to change for the better he will do his best to keep her happy as long as she wants to keep him around.  Whether their paths remain as one, or diverge in the future the bliss he has experienced with her will always warm his heart until the end of his days.   End of story. 

 

 

 

Bunny and Me

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BACKGROUND:

Hobo Joe's story:

Several months ago, I received a Friend request from a childhood acquaintance.  Well, that is not exactly true.  We never were acquaintances.  We did grow up on the same reservation, we are the same age, we went to the same grade school, but we never spoke to each other.  After graduating from 8th grade we went to different high schools, as there was not a high school on our reservation at that time.  At some point, I heard that she had transferred to Flandreau Indian School in Flandreau, SD and I never saw her after that.  That was 45+ years ago.  Other than hearing that she had married right out of high school and moved away, and a few rare discussions, which prompted memories of her I never once thought about her over the years.  

When she sent a Friend request to my alter ego, Hobo Joe, I not only remembered, but I remembered her as a very pretty girl who was always teasing and giggling.  And, a very vivid memory of her soon popped into my head; a teacher was scolding her so I turned around and looked back at her.  She had the usual mischievous look on her face and was just beginning to sit in her chair.  I recall she was pulling her very short skirt down while she sat down.  At first I had no idea why I remembered that scene, now I do - kind of, but I am getting ahead of myself.  

 

Because she sent my alter ego, Hobo Joe, a Friend request I thought that is the name she remembered me by.  Hobo Joe is the name most people knew me by back then.  I soon learned she did not remember me as Hobo Joe, or as Erich Longie either.  I found hard that hard to believe.  (How could anyone forget Hobojoe lol)?  

When I received her request, I messaged her and asked her why she wanted to be my friend.  It is something I do with most requests I receive.  With her I had another reason to be cautious.  I had several runs in with her family in the past.  In my case I have long let bygones be bygones, but I was not sure about her family.  She comes from a close family, just like mine, so I know when you fight with one you fight with all of them.  Her response to my questions seemed to confirm my suspicions that she was sensitive about the trouble between her family and me for she wrote, "...I'll just block you than!"  I responded by suggesting she settle down, I explained I was simply being careful.  Long story short we became Friends.

Little did I know what fate had in store for me.  What happened next affected my life in way that took this old hard-core bachelor totally by surprise.  

Bunny's story:

Some months ago, while browsing Facebook I stumbled across a name that I did not recognize, but the person was from Spirit Lake, North Dakota, my home reservation.  At the time, I was trying to connect with the community back home.  Most of my relatives lives there, but seldom discuss news outside the family`.  I thought maybe this person would post things about home that I do not hear about.  I sent a friend request to Hobojoe Langer a person I did not know.  I did recognize the last name since my dad said the Langers were our relatives.  I thought I was sending a request to a relative.  Hobojoe first asked why I wanted to be friends with him, which I thought was weird.  Most people either accept or delete your request.  I assumed he was arrogant and fussy about whom he accepts as friends.  Being very quick tempered I put up my defenses I said I would block him.  But, he was quick to tell me to wait.  He told me his real name was Erich Longie.  I still did not know who he was.  I remembered his younger brother but not him.  I remembered the name Erich Longie but I did not remember the person; this is where our friendship began.

FIRST MEETING:

Hobo Joe's story:

We messaged each other off and on and after a couple of weeks, I checked out her Facebook page.  I was surprised to learn she was single for I knew she had married her high school sweetheart and they moved to his home reservation.  I quickly thought... well what most ndn think when a middle age woman becomes single; her husband left her for a younger woman.  It was not any of my business so I never asked about her husband.  Soon after we became FB friends I learned I was going to be traveling to a city in the state where she lived and I asked her if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  She quickly accepted my invitation.  I admit I was interested in meeting her after 45 + years, however, I still considered our dinner date as non-romantic.  As a committed bachelor, I have lunch with women all the time.  I had even invited the consultant I was meeting with the next day to accompany me to the dinner.  While we were waiting in the lobby for her I suddenly changed my mind and told him I wanted to eat with her alone.

She walked into the hotel lobby like she owned the place, which made a heck of an impression on me.  We went to dinner and had one of the nicest dinner conversations I ever had.  We talked about events from our youth that we both recalled, although we recalled them differently.  It was a very pleasant walk down memory lane, with a woman from another era, the same era I grew up in.  We both grew up in the same harsh reservation environment of the 1950's and 1960's.  She reminded me of my sisters, mom, my aunties, and other women from back then.  She had the same strength, honesty, and no-nonsense approach of women raised in a tough environment.  I had the impression, here was a woman who took all what life threw at her, and it only made her stronger.  I was impressed.  The evening went by all too fast and she had to leave.  She told me she had planned to go to Spirit Lake to visit her brothers and sisters and I immediately asked if I could take her for lunch at The View or the Buffet when she came and she agreed.

Bunny's story:

We messaged off and on.  I tried to remember him but could not.  We said we would visit if I went home for our Indian days, in the end I was unable to go.  I know I had invited him and his granddaughters to come to Crow Fair and offered to let them stay at my house.  But they never came.  We continued to message now and then.  Then to my surprise I get a message from Erich saying he would be in Billings and asked if it was okay to have a late lunch.  This was the time of year for educators' conference and I was scheduled for workshops that Thursday and Friday I knew time was limited during the day...I asked if he was in Billings and he said he would arrive around 6 that Wednesday evening.  We agreed to late dinner.  I was so excited.  (Felt like a teenager) I told my grandkids I was going to dinner with a man from home.  My granddaughter said who is he?  My reply was "I don't know" I met him on Facebook.  I was teased about having a blind date.  Hahaha.  I met him in the lobby where he was staying.  I met the person who he was with first.  I do not even remember him now.  Then Erich stood up.... my heart did a jump....  I was meeting someone from home for the first time.  I felt no shyness no uncomfortableness with him, only a feeling of happiness that I was going to be visiting with a person from home.  Honestly, I do not remember what I ate that evening I was so excited.  We talked and talked for 2 hours.  It was like this person knew me, knew my family, but I could not I remember him.  All the time we talked I kept asking myself why couldn't I remember him?  It was such a good evening.  He was a very polite, shy, gentleman.  Later I commented it was like picking up a conversation that we had started years ago...everything about dinner, the conversation, his presence, seemed so natural.  Before I left he had invited me to lunch or dinner whenever I went back to Spirit Lake

 THE NEXT DAY:

Hobo Joe' Story

As I usually do I posted about our dinner before I went to sleep.  I have dinner with different women all the time, but somehow this one was different.  I kept thinking about the warm feeling I had during our dinner.  The next day when I when I was traveling home, my mind kept returning to the dinner and conversation and how pleasant it was to be in her company.  I very much wanted to see her again.  At some point, I checked my Facebook and saw that she had also posted about our dinner.  She had called me a gentleman (which no ever does) and said our discussion was like we picked up a conversation we started many years before.  I thought that was the perfect description of our exchange.  Her post started a warm glow in the pit of my stomach.  But, I had a pressing issue at home I knew I had to deal with and I quickly pushed the happiness to the back of my mind.

 Bunny's story:

I was on cloud 9 the rest of the week.  I told myself to stop acting like a foolish schoolgirl.  I was 63 years old and a great-grandmother and what I felt toward a stranger was dumb.

 LUNCH AT DAKOTAH BUFFET:

Hobo Joe's Story:

She came home to visit her brothers and sisters and as we agreed, we met at the casino Saturday for lunch.  I arrived at the buffet first and got us a table.  I saw her walk in and I suddenly became nervous and shy.  However, once we were seated I was totally comfortable with her.  During the meal at the Dakotah buffet she hinted that she was aware of the problems that existed between her family and I, but it did not prevent us from totally enjoying each other's company. Sunday morning, she messages me and told me she was leaving in a couple of hours.  My home was on her way so I almost told her to stop by my house to say good bye.  I picked up my phone before I decided not to. I figured I better not push my luck.  Regardless, I wanted to see this lady again, but I had my doubts whether it was even feasible for us to get together again.   

Bunny's story: 

I finally decided to go to Fort Totten to see my family at the end of October. I messaged Erich told him and we made plans to have dinner. When I arrived home Friday, I was so busy with my sisters and visiting that I did not meet Erich for dinner. I messaged Erich the next day and we planned to meet for lunch. Unfortunately, my sisters planned an early sister day the same day.  I did not want to miss my lunch date with Erich so I told them I had a date for lunch. When I told everyone, it was Erich Longie I was meeting for lunch a couple of eyebrows went up although no one said anything.  At the time, I thought it was because they were all thinking about my late husband.  However, when I told an in-law who I was meeting she was shocked beyond belief and I begin to suspect maybe my family did not like Erich.  I met Erich at the casino buffet for lunch anyway. I was not disappointed; we picked up right where we left off in Billings. It was an enjoyable hour. The food was okay, but it was our conversation and his company that I found exciting.  Before I left I told him the next time he is in Billings he could come to my place for a home cooked meal.

 

HOME COOKED MEAL

Hobo Joe's story:

To be honest I did not think there was a snowball's chance in hell that I would every take her up on her invitation for a home cooked meal. As much as I enjoyed her company I could not see how it was feasible for us to get together with 600 miles between. I did make a mental note to contact her the next time I was in her part of the country. When I was invited to a meeting in Rapid City I messaged her to ask if her invitation for a home cooked meal was still open. She said it was.  Fortunately, the agenda changed after the meeting started. I had some free time during the afternoon.  I messaged her and told her I would be there late that evening. She warned me a storm was coming.  (This is the first time I told her weather does not factor in to my decision when I travel.)  I did not hesitate, I gassed up my truck and headed to Lodge Grass.  To be honest it was further than I thought, but the scenery was so beautiful I did not mind. Reservation towns are terrible when you are trying to find someone. I had to call her and she directed me to her home. I was a little apprehensive when I went inside, but she soon made feel at ease. She served me the best home cooked meal I had in a long time. Again, she hinted that she knew that her family did not care for me. This was the third time she mentioned the subject and I begin to wonder when she would stop chatting with me for I knew her bond with her family was strong. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our conversation and her company immensely so I stayed longer than I planned to.   Shortly after I left I ran into a mountain blizzard. The visibility and road conditions deteriorated to the point where I wondered if I would be able to make it back to Rapid City. She was aware of the blizzard and messaged me and told me to let her know when I made it back. I was touched that she cared enough to be worried about me. The next day, after the meeting, on the way home I ran into another storm. Again, she messaged with her concern for my safety. Maybe I am finally making some progress I thought to myself. I think it after this trip that we begin to message each other on a regular basis.     

Bunny's Story:

The first part of November he messaged and wanted to know how far Rapid City was from where I lived. I said about 4 or 5 hours. He said he was going to be in Rapid City for a meeting and asked if my invitation for a home cooked meal was still open?  I said it was, he replied he would drive down from Rapid City the next evening. I was excited to say the least. I asked what he wanted dinner? He said meatloaf, or soup, if it is not too much of a bother. I was thinking a bother? I love cooking and for someone who does not care what I cook... even more so. I told my granddaughter everything about our conversation and what he wanted to eat for supper. She said, "Yuck!  No... it must be a special meal". She planned the meal and the next day we went shopping. I cooked roast with all the veggies, made gullet and strawberry short cake. I believe we enjoyed the meal. But again, the conversation was what was the best part of the evening. After 2 hours of food and conversation he left back to Rapid City in the beginning of a winter blizzard. Later my granddaughter was wondering why a man would come so out of his way just to eat a meal.

THANKSGIVING DINNER IN LODGE GRASS:

Hobo Joe's Story:

During one of our chats she asked me what I was going to do for Thanksgiving.  I replied, "I might go to the buffet at the casino".  She was aghast.  She could not fathom anyone going to a buffet for Thanksgiving dinner.  A few days later, out of the blue she invited me for Thanksgiving and I told her I would think about it.  Truth was I had no intentions of driving 600 miles for a Thanksgiving dinner.  However, I kept thinking about her invitation and a few days before Thanksgiving I decided to take her up on her offer.  I wanted to see if the comfortability I felt in her presence was for real.  At 5:00 am Thanksgiving Day I loaded up granddaughters Anna and Star in my truck and by 1:20 pm I was pulling into Lodge Grass.  It was a great meal. She is a fantastic cook.  She had told me her sons were resistance to her dating so when her oldest son politely asked me several questions I was prepared for them and had no problems answering them for I am proud of my accomplishments.  Later we sat on the couch together but I felt like a schoolboy around her.  I did not even put my arm around her I felt so shy.  We left early Friday morning after she cooked us breakfast.  I was pleasantly surprised when she gave me an affectionate hug as I was going out the door.  While driving down the road I was determined to see her again and the distance between us was not going to matter. 

 

Bunny's story:

We started messaging each more frequently since he came up from Rapid City for supper. It was different to be messaging with a guy, it was exciting and made me feel young again. I was not sure how long our friendship will last but I was hoping it will last for a long time. I did want to get to know him better or at least know more about him.

I asked him what he was going to do for Thanksgiving and he said might go eat at the Casino, or one of his kids would bring him a plate.  I felt bad that he would be alone during Thanksgiving. I invited him to come share Thanksgiving dinner with my family.  He had said he would think about it. We messaged back and forth for a few days and he finally said he would come, but said he would have to bring his 2 granddaughters. I could not believe it! He was going to come to eat dinner at my house. I immediately begin to feel bubbles in the pit of my tummy. I knew I had to make it special for him. I went out and bought my dinner setting for the table, I even bought new center pieces. I became more anxious as Thanksgiving Day came closer, and closer. I wanted everything to be perfect for him. 

I was also scared he would back out at the last minute. I worried every time he sent message wondering if it would say he was not coming.  When he got here I tried so hard to be calm an act normal. I heard my son asking him several questions and I felt like a school girl whose father was questioning her boyfriend.  After dinner, I really wanted was to be alone with him so we could talk again. There was something about this guy. As the evening came everyone left and it was just his granddaughters, him and I. He got quiet and we just sat not saying much. Him on the love seat and me on the couch.  I fixed a room for them to sleep in and we all went to bed.  I lay in my room alone thinking; "What in the world am I doing... there is man in my house, a stranger, and I'm here alone".  But I also had a good feeling having him here.

 

NEW YEAR'S WEEKEND

Hobo Joe's story:

We made plans for New Year's weekend, but the weather would not cooperate, at least from her viewpoint.  For the second time, I told her weather does not interfere with my travel plans and I would be there storm, or no storm.  The storm was vicious, but I was not worried, I had driven through plenty of worse storms and road conditions dozens of times for less important reasons. For, her I would have driven through a much, much worse storm.  

We did not go anyplace to celebrate the New Years.  We just sat on her couch and talked until five in the morning.  When I left, in a blizzard, I wondered, what the hell was wrong with me?  This old bachelor was not used to putting forth any effort into seeing a woman.  I did not care.  I knew I would go back. 

Later she told me family and friends were asking her, "Why did he drive 600 miles in a blizzard to visit you?"  I told her, "The next time they ask that question you should answer with this question, 'Why wouldn't he drive 600 miles in a blizzard to come see me?'"  People who know me know I have never let anything stand in my way when I wanted something bad enough.  If I did, I would probably be dead from alcoholism long ago, or I would still be in a wheelchair, or, I would not have received my doctorate, and I probably would be dead from cancer.  Driving 600 miles through blizzards and bad roads to see a winyan I care for is nothing to this old renegade when I compared it to the happiness, peace, and contentment, I experience simply by spending time with her.

 Bunny's Story:

He drove 600 miles through a blizzard to be with me. And, he left in a blizzard. I did not understand why he would drive through a bad winter storm, down here and back, just to be with me. 

MORE WEEKENDS IN MONTANA

Hobo Joe's story:

I have since been to her home several more weekends.  We do not do anything exciting; mainly we just stay at her home and visit.  Her home has become a safe-haven for me; all my worries, my stress, my problems seem to disappear when I am there with her.  I do not get bored.  In fact, watching her do her chores brings me a contented, peaceful, feeling.  We usually take a drive to Sheridan, or Billings.  It is a beautiful country and she points out the landmarks and interesting features along the way.  A couple of times we ate lunch at some restaurant, or she would ask me what I want for supper and we would stop and pick up the ingredients.  These drives are the closest this old Dakota will ever get to paradise. 

We manage to discuss even the most delicate subjects with respect and consideration.  On one of those drives I asked what had happened to her husband.  She told me he died in a car accident three years earlier.  I sincerely expressed my belated condolences and said this; "You have suffered enough hardships in your life...it may sound strange, but I mean it when I say I wish your husband hadn't passed away.  Even if it meant we wouldn't have met."  Another time she spoke of how hard it was to move on from the loss of her husband.  I took that to mean we never could be close so I told her.  "Some women never remarry after losing their husband.  If you want to keep his memory close to your heart till you meet him again in the next world, I will respect that.  Should that change, I will still be here."  Apparently, I misinterpreted her for she did not mean that at all.  I assured her I would continue to treat her special.  I have taken woman for granted much too long.  I am becoming aware of how destructive my cavalier attitude can be when it comes treating women; heck, there is always another one down the road if something go wrong.  I think it is time I grew up and I am determined to treat her the like a queen.  However, it will take considerable effort for this old bachelor to change his attitude.  I'd better if I want to keep this relationship going.

With each visit, I become more impressed with her character.  Here was a winyan (woman) who came from humble beginnings, left home at a very early age, assimilated so well into her husband's tribe that its hard tell she is not from his reservation, raised a family, endured tragedy and hardship, but never lost her sense of humor, or became bitter and angry.  Quite the opposite, she is one of kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met.  Her pride in who she is and her self-confidence is amazing.  I could not help but be attracted to this amazing lady and vowed to treat her in a manner that would make up for all the hardships she experienced in life.

 

WHAT DOES OUR FUTURE HOLD? 

Hobo Joe and Bunny:

You would think that at 63 years of life we would be free to do what we want. While, we both realize we are extremely lucky to have met each other late in my life we understand our lives are not our own. Our grown children still need us in some form or fashion, we are each raising two our grandchildren, and our siblings and relatives often demand our time and attention. In addition to our obligations to our extended family the distance between us is daunting.  Therefore, are just enjoying the time we spend together without worrying about what tomorrow will bring. We have adopted a live in the moment mentality best described by the last verse of Rawbecca Ann Lotus Gienowin's poem; We have The Moment We Live In Is Now:

 But all that takes place

Is here in The Now

There is only one heaven

And it lives in This Now

Not regretting the past

And not worrying the future

It is in this Power of Now

where all life begins

The only place we can change

the state we are in

Whether it be mind, or it matter

It starts from within

By living This moment

Where life always begins

However, if there is one thing we have learned during our 63 summers on this earth is to, never say never.  We are keeping our options open.

IS THERE A GREATER FORCE AT WORK HERE?

Were we fated to meet?  We are beginning to think so.  We talked about it several times and there are just too many coincidences for our meeting to be accidental after 45+ plus years. While we do have one mutual Friend she cannot remember exactly how she came across my name.  And, once she sent me a Friend request the memory of the teacher scolding her and her sitting down while pulling down her skirt came back clear as a bell. Was it a coincidence that I change my mine at the last minute and told the consultant I wanted to have dinner with her by myself?  And, to repeat what she said, everything seemed so natural between us.  I think she said it best, "The Creator picked this time in our life for us to be together".  I am beginning to believe her. 

CONCLUSION:

Hobo Joe Story:

After my youngest son graduated from high school I did not have the freedom I envisioned I would have.  First, Anna banana was born and I was soon raising her, then I was awarded custody of Sunny and Star.  Finally, I tried to save my son and his girlfriend from meth.  Before I knew it, I was on the wrong side of 60, but it did not bother me too much.  Eight years ago, when I was told I had cancer and had five years to live I had made up my mind I was going to go to the Spirit World as a single man.  While I enjoyed the company of women I had no plans to become romantically involved with any of them.  

I am fortunate to have met a beautiful woman who is the same age as I am who.  Who grew up on the same reservation, faced the same challenges, and who shares similar values.  We also have mutual admiration for each other, she takes care of two grandchildren as I do, she had cancer, and I still do.  I do not feel any pressure or jealousy when I am with her because I highly respect her integrity and honesty.  I can say with certainty I treat her better than other women I have been with. This new-found maturity makes me open to whatever the future may hold for us.

I will end my story with this verse from John Prine's song, In Spite of Ourselves:

"She's my baby, 

I'm her honey, 

I'm never going to let her go."


North Dakota (ND) blizzards are to be feared. Those of us who have lived in ND all our lives have a healthy respect for our winter blizzards. North Dakota blizzards usually have winds over 50 mph with near zero visibility, temperatures below zero, and whiteout conditions, and can paralyze the state for days at a times. The cold temperatures and strong winds can cause wind chill temperatures as cold as -70 below. Death from hypothermia and frostbite are a real danger to anyone caught in a ND blizzard.

 

As foolish as it may seem, winter storms never factored into my decisions when I needed to drive someplace during the winter. A storm had to be raging particularly fierce before I would even consider not driving anyplace. Most of the time, I simply got in my car and went regardless of the weather. Well, that's not completely true. Most of the time I stayed indoors like everyone else during a blizzard. However, if there was someplace truly important that I had to be at, it didn't matter what kind of weather was raging outside. I would jump in my car and go.

 

Why would I attempt to travel when everyone else knew better and stayed indoors? I truly don't know the answer to that question. I do know, when I was younger, during my Hobo Joe years, I had a terrible reputation as a reckless and dangerous driver.

 

Very few people would ride in a car that I was the driver of. If I was drinking, than no one would ride with me. Although other people considered me a very reckless dangerous driver, I, on the other hand, honestly couldn't understand the reasons why people feared my driving back then. Sure, I rolled over four cars and was the passenger in another car that rolled over, but I figured I was just as good a driver as anyone. In fact, I considered myself a better driver than most.

 

I appeared to carry my "recklessness" over into my professional life after I settled down and became a contributor to society. I recall my friend, and mentor, Dr. Berg calling me into the college president's office one time and questioning me about why I appeared to always go looking for controversy. He said I reminded him of a fighter pilot he had talked to who and when asked by Dr. Berg why he was a fighter pilot said something to the effect, "For the excitement. First, I get excited, then I get scared, once I get scared I can't back out of what I want to do no matter how dangerous."

 

Well, I wasn't like that pilot. When I became scared, I usually quit doing, or got away from, whatever was scaring me. As for me looking for controversy, it was because I couldn't keep my mouth shut when someone said or did something that I thought was outright stupid or wrong. I was somewhat intelligent. I knew right from wrong; and I could recognize a con when I saw one, or a lie when I heard one. Tribal politics being what they were back then, lots of people either thought you were too dumb or scared to say anything. Not me. I spoke up when I would encounter this type of behavior, which led to a lot of heated discussions. This was the beginning of why I became a loner.

 

Anyway, back to my story. What I did know was that I had supreme confidence in my ability to drive through any storm no matter how severe. And, if I did get into trouble, I was confident that I would be able to survive any situation I got myself into. This confidence came from my childhood and young adulthood experiences growing up on the Rez; by the time I was 21 years old I had walked miles through many storms, I had chopped and hauled wood in very severe winter conditions, I had ridden in cars during the dead of winter that no one would trust in the summer time, much less a winter blizzard.... heck every winter was a fight for survival in our one-room log cabin. Therefore, winter storms did not scare me very much.

 

However, there eventually came a time when I had to use a cane to help me walk. It was then I realized there was a good chance I would not survive a winter blizzard if I became stuck and had to walk somewhere. I had broken my back 20+ years earlier and was partially paralyzed on my left side. Walking with a cane in the wind and snow was extremely hard. It was then I begin to think about driving a 4-wheel drive truck.

 

Several years ago when a friend was selling her truck, I bought it. With a 4-wheel drive truck, my confidence to travel in any kind of blizzard soon returned. I also realize had I purchased a 4-wheel drive truck years earlier, I would not have been in many of the life-threatening situations I had gotten myself into in the past. Of the dozens of blizzards I had driven through, many of them could have been fatal. Below are stories of three storms I drove through when I came the closest to freezing to death. The first incident was before I broke my back, the second and third incidents occurred after I broke my back and became partially paralyzed on my left side. However, that disability didn't slow me down. I still drove in all kinds of winter weather:

 

I.          When I was in my mid-twenties, my two brothers, Besh (nickname) and Jerome, and my younger sister April, her friend Lisa, and I were out driving around on a Sunday drinking bootleg beer. The temp was several degrees below zero. Besh and I were in the front seat; Jerome, April, and Lisa were in the back seat. It was in the middle of January and cold out. It was around ten o'clock in the evening, I was driving on the back roads north of the Sheyenne River when we hit a snow bank in the middle of road. Try as we might, we could not push the car out of the snowbank. Due to being inebriated, none of us were worried, although it was dark, and we were miles from help. That attitude changed as the evening wore on, and we began running out of beer and gas, and the temperature began falling. Around three or four in the morning, we ran out of gas, and it quickly became extremely cold in the car. In desperation, we started burning everything that was flammable, the cardboard containers that held our beer were the first to be burned. This was followed by every scrap of paper we could find. If my memory serves me correctly, we even torn apart parts of the car's interior that could burn. We were so cold, we huddled together for warmth. Somehow, we survived the night without freezing to death. As soon as it became light enough to see, we decided to walk to the nearest farmhouse, which was several miles up the road. Although the wind had died down, it was still strong enough to make walking a struggle at times. April, Lisa, Jerome, and I soon outdistanced Besh who was several years older than us and was overweight. I turned around to wait for Besh, but when he caught up with me he told me not to wait for him. "I can make it," he said waving for me to go on ahead. By the time I had caught back up with April, Lisa, and Jerome, they had turned into an approach leading to a farm house. I quickly followed them in. Warm air had never felt so good!! I soon noticed the farmer and his wife looking at me strangely, so was April and Lisa, but they kind of had a smile on their face. When I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, I was shocked at what I saw; my entire nose was covered with frost, where my arms of my glasses ran along my face was all frosted over also, and there were huge patches or my face that were covered with frost also. After we warmed up the farmer drove us to my car and pull me out.

Footnote: About a week later, my face had healed except for the skin on my nose, which had turned black. Two of my friends, Jane and Sandra, came to see me. They were going to drink beer in Devils Lake and wanted me to go with them. I put a strip of white gauze over my nose to hide the black skin and held it in place with some bandage tape. Once in Devils Lake, we went into a liquor establishment, walked up to the bar, and ordered a beer. The bartender was acting extremely nervous. "What the hell is the matter with him," I remember thinking. As he was getting our beer, I went to the bathroom. When I came out, Jane and Sandra were laughing so hard I had to asked what was going on. Apparently, when the bartender saw the gauze taped over my nose when I came in, he thought I was an armed robber coming to rob the place. Back then, in cops and robber shows, robbers would simply put a strip of white tape over their nose before they went in to rob a place. The bartender must have watched too many of those shows. LOL

 

II.        The second blizzard I will tell you about was probably the worst blizzard I have ever driven through. However, it was the one that concerned me the least as far as my personal safety was concerned: My sons had gone to spend Christmas vacation with their mother in Dunseith, ND. I had promised I would be go up and spend Christmas Eve with them. The day before Christmas dawned bright and clear; but by afternoon, the weather had deteriorated into a mild winter storm. Around three in the afternoon, my sister and brother-in-law went to Sheyenne, ND. When they came back, they talked about how bad it was outside, and maybe I should reconsider going to Dunseith. They had just moved to the Rez from New Mexico, so I figured they, upon seeing a little storm had become unduly excited. However, as I was going out the door, my tanhan (brother in law) came up to me and with a look of grave concern on his face said, "You shouldn't go Joe, it's really bad out there, stay here." This kind of gave me pause, but I already had my coat on so I told him, "Naw, I'll be alright," and left. As soon as I went outside, my experienced eye told me it was indeed a blizzard of some magnitude. But, having driven through many snowstorms, I quickly walked to my car and jumped in. By the time I reached Devils Lake, the storm had impressed me enough that I figured I had better top of my gas tank, pick up a gallon of water, and some candy bars. Once out of town, on Highway 2  heading west, I entered into the full magnitude of the storm, and it was ferocious! I had never driven in such storm before! The wind was howling, and blowing the snow side ways so hard that I could barely make out the road. I crept along at 5 - 10 mph, until I needed to go to the bathroom. Once out the car, the back of my head instantly became packed with blowing snow. While standing there, I noticed a shadow cross my headlights, but before I could react, a face materialized right in front of me. "Man, I'm glad you stopped," a young white man told me. He had driven into the ditch, and I had come along and stopped at the exact place to go to the bathroom. What a coincidence, if you want to call it that. I think his Christian God was surely watching over him that night. With an extra set of eyes, the going was a little faster. I pulled in the truck stop just on the other side of Churches Ferry and let him off. At that time, there was a gas station and a small café. The café was lit up and was filled with a dozen stranded travelers. My passenger exited the car and indicated he was going to stay there. When, I informed him I was going to continue on he pleaded with me to stay, but to no avail. I had promised my sons I would spend Christmas Eve with them, and I was damned if I was going to let a ND blizzard stop me. I continued toward Rugby, one tedious mile after another. When I arrived in Rugby, I stopped at a café and used the pay phone to call my brother Mark. He had made me promise to call him when I reached Rugby. With only 30 miles to Dunseith, I confidently turned north. It didn't take long for the storm to destroy my confidence. The conditions were worse than I had ever experienced. I eventually came to a stretch of road where a huge snowdrift stretched beyond my headlights. I said a quick prayer, put the pedal to the metal, and aimed my car at what I hoped was the middle of the road. There were a few touchy moments when my heart almost stopped from fear that I wasn't going to make it; but once again, The Great Mystery came to my aid. After about 100 yard I the snowdrift ended, and I continued on my way.  I managed to make it to Dunseith and to the house where my sons' mother lived. When I walked in, I was surprised to find several people there visiting. One of them was my ex's mother who was quite fond of me. Apparently she told the other that we wasn't worried about me making it through the storm. "Erich is a good driver, he will make it", she stated confidently. Later it dawned on me later that they were sitting there in vigil waiting to see if I would make it.  

 

III.       The third blizzard I will write about was the time I came closest to actually freezing to death. It truly was my most frightening experience. I sincerely thought I wasn't going to survive, but Wakan Tanka was watching over me that night and saved a foolish young ndn boy from certain death by hypothermia on that freezing cold, January night. The day started in Billings, Montana. I had attended a meeting. When reports of a storm coming met my attention, I decided to leave early. I left Billings at around ten o'clock that morning. I was driving an old Rez beater, a 1987 Chevy Celebrity, with front wheel drive. I made good time, but the weather became progressively worse the closer I came to ND. When I arrived in Dickinson, ND, the highway patrol shut down the interstate. With three boys waiting for me at home, I couldn't spend the night waiting out the storm. I turned north, and when I came to Highway 200, I turned east. I knew Highway 200 ran all the way to Carrington, ND. I figured once I reached Carrington the final 40 miles would not be to hard to drive. As long as it was light out, it wasn't too hard to see the road, and I was able to travel around 40 mph. After I crossed Highway 83, between Bismarck and Minot, it rapidly became dark and that's where the nightmare began. There were places where I stopped for several minutes because I could not see anything. A few times, I actually got out of the car and checked to see where the road ended and the ditch began. It took several agonizing hours to reach Hurdsville, ND, a distance of around 40 miles. Once in Hurdsville I knocked on a door and asked to use the phone. I called home and told Marshall I would be home in a couple of hours. When I got to the edge of town, I could see there was no way I would be able to make it through the snowdrifts on the road leading out of town. I turned north, and the street that ran north through town was also heavily snowed in. I had no choice; I had to try to get through it. I gunned my little car, and it went bucking through the drifts. I held my breath until surprisingly, the car made it through the drifts. Once on highway, I started north toward Harvey, ND. A few miles south of Harvey, there is a cut-a-cross road that ends up in Fessingdon, ND. Like a fool, I turned onto that road. I quickly came across a snowdrift which I made it through. The second snowdrift I tried to go through, I wasn't so lucky. I got stuck. After trying to rock the car back and forth a few times without any luck, I got out to see just how bad I was stuck. It was bad. And, the wind was blowing hard, the blowing snow stung my face, and it was COLD. I quickly jumped back into the car. I knew I was in serious trouble. If I didn't get out of this snowdrift, I would surely freeze to death, I thought. With nothing to lose, I tried to rock the car out of the drift. I quickly noticed that when I backed up, the car was going further than before. I floored the accelerator, and lo and behold, the car went spinning out of the drift. I carefully turned around, took a run at the next drift, and broke free! I was back on the highway! Once I reached Harvey, I turned southeast toward Fessenden. When I arrived at Fessenden, I turned east on the highway to New Rockford, ND. The storm seemed to pick up fury as I traveled east. I came to a huge snowdrift, so I stopped and got out to look. It appeared if I went on the north side of the road, I would be okay. But, it wasn't okay. I got stuck. Fortunately, I was close to a farmhouse. The people inside had seen my headlights, and came and pushed me out. The farmer implored me to stay at his home. Again, I said I had three boys waiting for me at home, and I kept going. I knew there would be a snow bank where the railroad track ran across the road, when I got close to Highway 281.  Sure enough, there was a huge snowdrift, but I had come too far and was too close to home to stop now. I simply stepped on the accelerator and smashed through the drift. Fortunately, I stayed on the road until I came out the other side. Once I turned north on Highway 281, the weather cleared, and I was able to make it the rest of the way home without too much trouble. My boys were happy to see me; they had no idea how glad I was to see them. I hugged each of them in turn and thanked The Creator for watching over me - again!

 

As with my previous writings, these blogs about my personal experiences are meant more for my children's eyes than anyone else. If you read this far, thank you for your interest. As a private individual, I realize just how little my children know about my life outside my home. I am hopeful they will take some time to read these blogs at some point in the future.

 

THE END - FOR NOW

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Tribe:  Spirit Lake Tribe

THPO Name: Dr. Erich Longie

Federal Fiscal Year: 2015 - 2016

 

 

BACKGROUND

Spirit Lake Tribe (SLT) is proud to be a member of the National Park Service Tribal Historic Preservation program. We are entering into our fourth year of operation.

 

 


Annual Accomplishments Narrative:




The Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office (SL THPO) staff experience in preservation issues, and their knowledge of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, has been steadily increasing. Over time, we are having an increasing impact on all levels of government: local, state, and federal. Tribal members are now approaching us with a variety of requests from surveying land for home sites to establishing a family cemetery.  On our reservation, federal agencies consult with us on everything from water lines to the planting of trees. The Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office is proud of our working relationship and our reputation with tribal, state, and federal partners.

 

An additional project we are proud of this year was joining in on the effort to change the name of Sully's Hill National Game Preserve, which is located within the borders Spirit Lake Nation, to White Horse Hill, which was the traditional name for the hill. There is a local legend about a white horse coming down from the hill to mingle with the people. We met with Senator Hoeven's office, and they are assisting with getting congressional approval.

 

We have also activated a committee of three elders who are fluent in the Dakota language and have vast knowledge of Dakota customs, culture, and history. We have been meeting the first Friday of the month. The purpose of these meetings is to guide our preservation program and ensure that we are upholding our department vision: "To enrich the Spirit Lake Oyate culture through defending and preserving our heritage and passing on the Dakota way of life."

 

Anticipated Activities List (to be submitted at the start of the fiscal year):

The following narrative, addresses the Anticipated Activities List submitted at the start of the Fiscal Year and explains how each reported project or activity in this report is linked to identifying, evaluating, documenting, designating, preserving, or protecting significant historic and archeological properties as spelled out in our work plan.

 

Administration:

Dr. Erich Longie, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, prepares the annual work plan, prepares the accomplishments report, and grants a product summary report as required in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Tribe and the National Park Service (NPS).  Lori Brown, Spirit Lake Tribe's CFO, utilizes the NPS Financial Management System to draw down funds and submit financial reports to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as required. This management team has enabled the SL THPO to operate and participate meaningfully in the National Historic Preservation Program and protect cultural resources from adverse impacts.

 

Numbers 2, and 3 on SL THPO's Anticipated Activities List

Numbers one and two were addressed through a joint effort between the Spirit Lake Oyate and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate to develop a cultural resource database, a Tribal Register of Historic Places, unique to our people. We are sister tribes - separated only by processes of the reservation era. The Tribal Register will be a step in bringing our people back together as we work on places that matter most to us. This will be a database of sites significant to our people, recorded by our people, and vetted through our process. We currently have cultural monitors and technicians who survey and document sites as part of the Section 106 process. We feel a need to create a place where we house these data reports and gather together the collective wisdom and knowledge of our people. This will be the foundation of our growing cultural resource management program.

 

For the initial stage of the project, we have been building a roadmap of the processes and protocols that need to be in place in order for the project to move forward. We conducted two meetings in August of 2016, one at Spirit Lake, and one at Sisseton Wahpeton. An MICA Group Phase 2 grant (MICA Grant) funded these meetings. At these meetings, we attempted to identify the needs of each individual tribe - particularly relating to the security of sacred information, the process in which sites will be nominated and placed on the tribal register, and the individual infrastructure needs of each tribe. These meetings included tribal elders, council members, and THPO staff that will be working with different aspects of the Tribal Register database.

 

The second part of the project has been the initial development stage. Policy and procedures are being developed for administration of the tribal register based on results of the initial meetings and follow up meetings. Drafts of these documents on policy and procedure are being prepared for the tribes to review to ensure they meet the tribes' needs both culturally and legally. In addition, we are developing Memorandum of Agreements to formalize partnerships between the tribes, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and other state and federal agencies, which may be included. We are also creating template forms for the tribal register to be used as standard forms to nominate and list sites on the tribal register. We are developing software reflective of each tribe's needs. The software will be integrated into the tribal systems for site management. The Tribal Register is being developed with the Dakota language in mind as the Dakota language has special characters that will need to be integrated into the system. We have been continually working to ensure all security concerns protecting this most sensitive data are met using the highest standards and protocols.

 

In the first part of 2017, we will have a beta version of the Tribal Register that we will be able to fully implement, though the development team is expected to continue to meet for up to six months following beta implementation to ensure all aspects of the Tribal Register database will be working properly. If there are additional needs, they can be addressed during the third and final phase. The full system should be implemented by the summer or fall of 2017.

 

Once established, we see truly limitless potential for our Tribal Register. This will be the cornerstone not only of our cultural resource program, but it will also be a central database of our heritage, of values and traditions of the Dakota people. By engaging knowledgeable members of the community in the creation of the Tribal Register, we will ensure for generations to come the places and ideas of our people will be known. We will have the opportunity to disseminate oral histories, create films, do mapping, teach language, and use all sorts of new and exciting forms of media in the process. We know what an influential role social media has on our youth. We hope to engage them in the development of new and exciting ways to promote the culture of the Dakota people. The places we look to record in our Tribal Register are not only reflections of our past, they are pictures and narratives of our people today, now - how we arrived where we are and where we are going. Keeping records of these places are the insurance that this robust culture that was passed to us can be handed down to our next generation. By protecting these places, we are protecting ourselves.  Our language, our culture, and our very identity are tied to the places we hold sacred. The Tribal Register will be our generation's greatest contribution to enriching the lives of our people and ensuring the Dakota way of life is passed on for many generations to come.

 

National Register:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.

 

Development, Acquisition, and Covenants:

No major activities anticipated.

 

Preservation Tax Incentives:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.

 

 

Review and Compliance:

We actively work with a number of state and federal agencies on Section 106 reviews including tribal, state, and local reviews. We consult on federal undertakings with potential to affect historic properties significant to our people, properties with the potential for eligibility  for listing on the National and/or Tribal Register. We work with those agencies to address potential impacts to such properties in accordance with cultural resource regulations (i.e. actively participate in Tribal, state, and local regulatory processes). The Spirit Lake THPO also actively monitors and participates in discussions on regulatory changes, both proposed and actual, in order to understand, consult, and advise on cultural laws and changes to them. We do a significant number of reviews with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). This year alone we did over 1600 reviews through the FCC. We anticipate this number to be roughly the same over the next year. There are additional federal, state, and tribal agencies we work with each year. We anticipate an additional 80+ consultations with these other agencies.

 

Training Program - Design an Agency Training Program for Explaining the Tribe's Preservation Program:

The THPO has created a presentation, which explains in detail Section 106 and how the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office carries out responsibilities entrusted to us under the National Historic Preservation Act. The Tribal Council has agreed to attend a meeting showing this presentation sometime in the future at a date yet to be scheduled. This presentation is complete and ready to be shown to the tribal council and other members of the tribe at any time.

 

Local Government Certification:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.

 

Other Program Activities (provide public information, education and training, and technical assistance in historic preservation):

The THPO did present three times at the Tribal Directors' monthly meeting. One presentation was on the battle of Whitestone Hill Battle Field and how the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office is working with the State of North Dakota to enhance the Dakota presence at the battlefield. We also presented an overview of five workshops the THPO authored, which are based in traditional Dakota values of honesty, courage, perseverance, and generosity. The THPO traveled to Minot, North Dakota, at the request of the Director of Native American Affairs and presented to students, faculty, and administration about race based logos. I mention presentations, ones seemingly having nothing to do with preservation, because all presentations begin with this statement, "Now let me tell you this; everything you learned in school about us North Dakota Natives is either false, slanted to make us look like savages, or outright lies." In addition, all the presentations contain information about Dakota culture, spirituality,

 

and history. Individuals who attend the presentations go away with a new look, and hopefully attitude, towards Native Americans.

 

I also attended a training held by Andrew J. Richard, MA, RPA, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Archaeologist, from Lame Deer, Montana. Andy's training covered Archaeological Survey and Site Management, which included survey cost, field equipment needed, and training on how to write policy and procedures.

 

We also have an Arch Tech Training at Spirit Lake Casino and Resort conducted by Dr. Sebastian LeBeau. Participants will be awarded a certificate, which will make them eligible to go on surveys with archeologists.

 

In continuing outreach to the community, the THPO has created a Facebook page. On the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office page, we share information about meetings we have attended, Dakota language preservation initiatives, excerpts of Section 106 and other similar laws, and every other subject having to do with Native American language and culture, both past and present. We feel, as protectors of the culture, we are obligated to continue to pass on information about our people, our heritage, and our language.