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 it will be 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: 


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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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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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.



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. 


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.



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.


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. 


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.



Old timers FT days.png

Tribe:  Spirit Lake Tribe

THPO Name: Dr. Erich Longie

Federal Fiscal Year: 2015 - 2016




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.



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.


Who you are, where you come from


 Some time ago, Hobo Joe posted on Facebook how vividly he remembers his childhood and his Hobo Joe days, but he has a hard time remembering from the time Hobo Joe became Dr. Longie.  Since there was some truth in that post, he'd begin to ask myself; why is that? After thinking about it off and on for a few days, here is what he came up with; he grew up with almost no Whiteman influence until he quit his wild ndn ways and went to college and begin walking the Whiteman's road.  Although he was successful on his new path all the Whiteman's influence in the world couldn't totally change him, he was to set in his Hobo Joe/ndn ways.


Hobo Joe's mom was a proud Dakota winyan whose first language was Dakota.  Although his mom and most other adults spoke the Dakota language back then she never passed down her language, or her knowledge of her culture to her children.  Well, that's not really true, she did inadvertently past down knowledge of the Dakota language by speaking it often, and at times she would mention what this and that meant in regards to Dakota culture.  And, she was always exhorting him to be proud of whom he was - a Sioux.  He loved attending the only two powwows held when he was a kid.  Powwows, were a different back then, they represented Dakota culture more accurately.  Therefore, he always learned something about Dakota history and culture from the adults and the announcers.


Furthermore, Hobo Joe's close friend in the 3rd grade came from a family that spoke nothing but Dakota at home.  He admired the way each child was able to understand the adults and respond in Dakota.  The boys were always singing at the drum.  He sat at the drum with them a few times wishing he could learn how to sing, but a hearing disorder prevented him from joining in.  He also spent a lot to time at his aunt Alvina's home.  He loved to sit on the stair leading up stairs and listen to Aunt Alvina's stories about the old days.  


His heroes were older relatives who were also good hunters.  He heard many stories about his uncles on his dad's side who were known far and wide as good hunters.  He had a much older cousin on his mom's side was always bringing them deer. This old cousin once went hunting and came back in a short time.  He had shot a deer and hauled it to an old wagon trail.  They jumped in his mom's old '50 Chevy and went to pick it up.  The older cousin had told mom he had shot it twice, the first time it didn't move so he thought he missed it and shot again.  When his they examined the deer it was determined to have been shot twice in the heart.  Both wounds were about an inch apart.  


Hobo Joe rarely seen any Wisicu until he entered kindergarten and even then, his teacher was a Black lady named Ms. Daggs.  By the time he entered 4th grade he had become a voracious reader, mainly reading books about ndn.  As a result of reading books about ndn, along with his mom reminding him to be proud of whom he was, and his life on the Rez, he became fiercely proud of whom he was at a very early age.  The non-Indian high school he attended failed to assimilate him because he felt so out of place there, which is probably why he was D- student who missed at least 20 day ever year.  Once out of HS he hardly left the Rez except for a stint in the Marine Corps, which didn't change him in anyway except to make him more arrogant. 


Eventually, he went to a tribal college which made him ever more proud to be ndn.  He reluctantly went on to UND and eventually received a doctorate.  After receiving an education, Dr. Longie had the ability to walk the Whiteman's road so he did.  He held many educational jobs over the years, and along with a business partner, eventually started a business they called Spirit Lake Consulting.  You can say he was quite successful from a Whiteman's point of view.  


Eventually, Dr. Longie was hired as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.  At his first meeting as his tribe's THPO, which was held in Billing, Montana a Cheyenne ndn gave a beautiful opening prayer, a prayer that reflected everything that he was as a Cheyenne.  Later another Cheyenne spoke to the people present; he said he was from a small group of Cheyenne's that spoke a slightly different dialect from the rest of the Cheyenne's.  During the course of the two-day meeting he heard many other tidbits of interesting, cultural information about all tribes' present, including his own.  He left the meeting proud to be ndn.  Since than he has attended dozens of similar meetings all of them reinforcing his pride in being ndn.  This immersion in his and other tribes' culture along with his duties as THPO stirred a part of him that he unknowingly tried to suppress - his Hobo Joe/wild ndn ways.


Dr. Longie/Hobo Joe's life has now come full circle.  First he lived his life as Hobo Joe.  However, the Creator had blessed him with the abilities to walk Wisicu's path better than most ndn, therefore, the Creator nudged him onto the Whiteman's road so those abilities would not go to waste.  In many ways, it was a good path and for many years he was satisfied, benefited and enjoyed all the perks that came with being Dr. Longie.  However, he never quite forgot his Hobo Joe/ndn ways, therefore, he never did fully buy into the Wisicu's materialistic world, or way of thinking.  Now through his duties as the THPO h's not only relearning what little the cultural knowledge he knew, but he also learning about the Spirituality aspect of his culture and the wisdom that is inherent in it.  This learning has taken him back to his days when Hobo Joe had no knowledge or desire to learn anything about the Whiteman's world. 


Dr. Longie realized, to some degree, his pride in being ndn was diminished from walking the Whiteman's road for many years.  His job as Tribal Historic Preservation Officer was the catalyst in revealing his true nature, Hobo Joe.  His renewing and strengthening his pride in being ndn again has finally merged Dr. Longie and Hobo into one contented individual.  


This resurgence of who he really is may be the reason he remembers his childhood and his Hobo Joe days very well, as opposed to hardly remembering what he did after he went to UND.  In short, his accomplishments walking the Whiteman's road don't mean nearly as much as my who he is and where he came from.



Hello, I'm here to talk to you about race-based mascots and why many of us ndn view them as very disrespectful.  Although there are many studies that clearly identify the harm to both ndn and non-Indians caused by race-based mascots, I'm not here to talk about them.


Instead, I want to talk to you as if I met you on the street, in a bar, or at some social event.  I want you to hear my personal reasons why I'm against raced-based mascots as I spent many years and a considerable amount of energy protesting against the UND Fighting Sioux nickname.  And, I want to hear from you why you support race-based mascots, if indeed you do.  We can best do that through a question and answer session.


I'm hoping my responses to your questions may answer some of the questions you have regarding ndn people; for example, why after 400 years we still have not totally accepted your culture, your way of thinking, and your way of life. . . .  And, why we are so against raced based logos.


Let be start with who I am:


As you have already heard, my name is Dr. Erich Longie.  I was born and raised on Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.  I have often said I was against the Fighting Sioux nickname before I heard of it.  Why?  I believe it was a result of how my mom raised me, and my older sister reading to us younger ones when I was in the third or fourth grade.


My mom's first language was Dakota; she never learned how to speak English until she was 9 years old.  Mom taught me to be a proud Dakota, to never be ashamed of whom I was.


As a result of my sister reading to me at a very early age, I was soon reading every book I could get my hands on.  We lived in a log cabin with no electricity, so I read by the dim light of a kerosene lamp.  By the time I was in 8th grade, I had ruined my eyes from reading long into the nights.  Most of the books I read were about us Indians.  My heart would fill with pride each time I read about a victory in battle won by my ancestors, conversely I would also become angry when I read about the broken treaties, the deceitfulness, the lies, used against us to steal our land.


What I learned from the books I read and my mom's teaching appears to have influenced me to be against raced-based mascots even before I knew about them.  Of course there were other factors that influenced my reasoning, but mom's teachings and my extensive reading about us ndn people prior to my entering high school appear to be the biggest factors.


Now let me tell you this; everything you learned in school about us ndn is either false, slanted to make us look like savages, or outright lies.


Let me start with Columbus.  Columbus may be a hero to you, but to us ndn, he was a criminal of the worst kind.  To us he was a mass murderer, a rapist, and a sadist . . .  I could go on and on, but you get the picture.


No one really knows what the population was before Columbus came to these shores.  Some scholars have estimated that before Columbus, the indigenous population of the Americas (the continents of North and South American combined) was between 50 million and 100 million.  Of these, some 5 to 15 million lived in the area that would become the United States.  These numbers have been disputed; other scholars and historians believe these numbers are a conservative estimate.


By 1880, that number was reduced to less than 300,000 due to the diseases Europeans brought with them to America for which Native Americans had no immunity.  Wars of extermination waged by the US government, the loss of hunting grounds, and the extermination of the animals Natives depended on for subsistence also contributed to this huge population decrease.


How we view nature is also very different.  The early Europeans viewed the "New World" as a dark, forbidding, mainly empty land filled with wild and terrifying creatures and populated by a race of uncivilized, ignorant savages who were not utilizing the land's rich natural resources.  Conversely, us Native Americans did not see the land as a wilderness that had to be conquered and tamed.  We viewed the land as our "Mother" who nurtured and took care of us and with whom we lived in harmony.  This difference in viewpoints was eloquently expressed by Luther Standing Bear an Oglala Lakota who said, "We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and the winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild.'  Only to the white man was nature a 'wilderness' and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people.  To us it was tame.  Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with blessings of the Great Mystery."


With that limited background of who I am, let me give you one reason why I think race-based mascots are dehumanizing; and then, I will entertain questions:


Race-based mascots not only steal our humanity from us, but they also steal your humanity from you.  Race-based mascots distort who we really are, instead of human beings we are looked at as caricatures of who we really are.  We are not just war whooping, tomahawk waving, face painted ndn; we are much more than that. We are someone's relatives.  For us Dakota, being a good relative is the most important aspect of our lives.  Ella Deloria, a Dakota who has studied our ancestors in the 1930s and 1940s once said: "The ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple: One must obey kinship rules; one must be a good relative.  No Dakota who has participated in that life will dispute that . . . without that aim and the constant struggle to attain it, the people would no longer be Dakotas in truth.  They would no longer even be human. 


To be a good Dakota, then, was to be humanized, civilized.  And to be civilized was to keep the rules imposed by kinship for achieving civility, good manners, and a sense of responsibility toward every individual dealt with."  This is who we are, not some painted, bloodthirsty, savage as portrayed at sports events.


When we rebel against your dehumanization efforts by using us as mascots and nicknames, you retaliate with other forms of racism.  If we change a name, than you say, "We are not going to your casino, or we are going to take away our funding from you," or you call us drunks and lazy. . .  This dehumanizing behavior also dehumanizes you.


I can go on and on, but we only have an hour, and I want to hear your questions.  And, I suspect my reasons for being against race-based mascots will be part of my responses to your questions.  Who's first?

The Indian Wars

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Time and time again, Native American tribes chose to go to war rather than give up their land and way of life.  In 1642, Miantunnomoh, a Narragansett Indian, sought out an old enemy, Waindance, to ask for his help in fighting the colonists:

Brothers, we must be one as the English are, or we shall all be destroyed.  You know our fathers had plenty of deer and skins and our plains were full of game and turkeys, and our coves and rivers were full of fish.

            But, brothers, since these Englishmen have seized our country, they have cut down the grass with scythes, and the trees with axes.  Their cows and horses eat up the grass, and their hogs spoil our bed of clams; and finally we shall starve to death; therefore, stand not in your own light, I ask you, but resolve to act like men.  All the sachems both to the east and the west have joined with us, and we are resolved to fall upon them, at a day appointed, and therefore I come secretly to you, because you can persuade your Indians to do what you will.  (Armstrong, 1971, p. 3)


Unfortunately for them, defeat was inevitable from the very first moment that settlers landed on their shores.  At first, Native Americans were unaware of the danger the settlers posed, so they welcomed and assisted the first settlers.  It did not take long for Native Americans to realize the danger the colonists posed to their way of life, indeed, to their very existence.  Once Native Americans realized the danger the settlers posed, their attitudes toward the settlers changed from friendly to antagonistic.  Native Americans were unable to comprehend the concept of individuals owning land and as a result Native American leaders constantly underestimated colonists in all their interactions with them.  Conversely, the first colonists saw a land of enormous riches inhabited by a race of people, who needed to be conquered, civilized, Christianized, and placed on small tracts of land where they could become farmers.  Inevitably, this led to armed conflicts between the two races that would span four centuries (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1969).

One of the very first conflicts was between Colonial Virginia and the Powhatan Confederacy.  The colonists believed that the Indians would welcome them and willingly supply them with food.  From the colonists' perspective, it seemed that exchanging European tools and Christianity for sustenance would make a mutually beneficial arrangement.  That bargain made little sense to the Natives, however.  Most tribes hunted and gathered little more than their immediate needs required and to trade food in exchange for sermons did not make sense.  The Powhatan Confederacy was a loose confederation of about 30 Algonquian tribes led by Wahunsonacook, known to the settlers as Powhatan.  Powhatan's Algonquian Confederacy covered tidewater Virginia from the Potomac south to Albemarle Sound (The Powhatan Confederacy, n.d.).  Powhatan preferred peace with the settlers rather than war.  John Smith, an early explorer, documented a speech given in 1609 at Werowocomico (Gloucester County) by Powhatan:

Why will you take by force what you may obtain by love?  Why will you destroy us who supply you with food?  What can you get by war? . . . We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner. . . .

I am not so simple as not to know it is better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my women and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and being their friend, trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them. . . . 

Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may die in the same manner.  (Armstrong, 1971, p. 1)


Relations between the settlers and Native Americans improved when John Rolfe married Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas.  The two sides coexisted peacefully until her death in 1617.  When Powhatan died a year later, a new chief, Opechancanough, pretended to become Christianized and allowed more colonists to settle on Native lands.  He lulled them into thinking they were safe; then in March 1622, he launched a surprise attack on the settlers, killing 350 colonists - nearly one third of the population.  Warfare between the races continued for another decade, with the settlers giving up any pretense of coexisting with the Indians and embarking upon a policy of extermination.  The tribes revolted again in 1644; however, by then the colony had grown too large for them to be a threat to its existence (The Powhatan Confederacy, n.d.).

Starting with this 12-year conflict (1622-34) between the Powhatan Confederacy and the Virginia colonists, to the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, literally thousands of armed conflicts, skirmishes, battles, and wars would be fought between the United States and Indian tribes across the continent (Adams, 1995).  The following is a representative sample of conflicts in chronological order between Native Americans and Europeans, Native Americans and colonists, and Native Americans and early U.S. citizens over a span of three centuries (Indian Wars, n.d.).

17th Century

1.   1622-44 - The War between the Powhatan Confederacy and the English Colonists of Virginia took place.

2.   1637 - The Pequot War took place in present day Connecticut and Rhode Island.

3.   1675-78 - King Philip's War took place in present day Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

4.   1680-92 - The Pueblo Revolt took place in present day Arizona and New Mexico.

5.   1689-1763 - The French and Indian War where most Algonquian tribes allied with the French; the Iroquois, with the British.

18th Century

1.   1711 - The Tuscarora War took place in present-day North Carolina.

2.   1715-18 - The Yamasee War took place in present-day South Carolina.

3.   1763 - Pontiac's Conspiracy took place in the present-day Ohio River Valley.

4.   1774 - Lord Dunmore's War took place in the present-day Southern Ohio River Valley.

5.   1790-94 - Old Northwest Warfare took place in present-day Ohio and Indiana.

19th Century

1.   1811 - The Battle of Tippecanoe took place on the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers in Indiana.

2.   1814 - The Creek War took place in present-day Georgia and Alabama.

3.   1816-18 - The First Seminole War took place in present-day Florida.

4.   1832 - The Black Hawk War took place in present-day northern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin.

5.   1835-42 - The Second Seminole War took place in present-day Florida Everglades.

6.   1849-63 - The Navajo Conflicts took place in present-day Arizona and New Mexico.

7.   1854-90 - The Sioux Wars took place in present-day Wyoming, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

8.   1855-58 - The Third Seminole War took place in present-day Florida Everglades.

9.   1861-1900 - The Apache Attacks took place in present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.

10.  1865-68 and 1879 - The Ute Wars took place in present-day Utah.

11.  1872-73 - The Modoc War took place in present-day northern California and southern Oregon.

12.  1874-75 - The Red River War took place in present-day northwestern Texas.

13.  1876 - The Battle of the Rosebud took place on the Rosebud Creek in present‑day southern Montana.

14.  1876 - The Battle of the Little Bighorn took place in present-day southern Montana.

15.  1877 - The Nez Percé War took place in present-day Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

16.  1890 - The Wounded Knee Massacre took place in present-day South Dakota.

All the conflicts, skirmishes, raids, uprisings, battles, and wars were fought for one reason only: Indians possess the land, and the whites wanted the land (Adams, 1995).

Church the Spirit Cat

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When my boys were small I developed the habit of coming home, slinging the door open, and as I slammed it shut I would yell, "Who's home!"  Joel started copying me, he too would come home, slam the door and yell "Who's home"!


 A couple of weeks after Joel journeyed to the Spirit World (July, 1st, 2001) I was lying on the couch thinking about him when I heard the door slam shut.  The day was warm so out of a habit I had since childhood growing up in a log cabin, I had left the door open.  When I heard the door slam shut, I immediately hoped it was Joel so I quickly looked up and there was this, huge, huge, black cat standing on my screen door, peeking his head in where the screen was torn.  As I watched him, he squeezed through the tear in the screen, jumped down, came right over to me and started purring and rubbing himself against me.  I knew immediately that Joel sent him. 


He stayed with us from that day on.  Because he was so big, black, and scary, and I was convinced Joel sent him to keep me company, I called him my Spirit Cat.  My sons named him Church, after the cat in Pet Sematary. He would take turns sleeping with the boys and me. 


Marshall and his girls lived in my basement at the time.  Marshall's girls were small and Church so big that they would be able lie on him, like lying on a blanket.  They would tug on his ears and roughhouse him and he would just lie there.  When he wanted to leave, he would walk over to the basement window, sit under it, gauge its height for a second, and jump.  Amazingly, he would land on the window ledge and very quickly he would be gone.


When he first came he would calmly sit in the front yard while two or three neighborhood dogs barked and growled at him.  He ignored them.  He could whip any dog, actually he could whip two or three dogs at once and they knew it, so they made sure to keep their distance.  Just like a dog, he would go on walks with my sons and granddaughters all the time, keeping the dogs at bay.


One fall day he left and never came back.  We had heard that he was dead in the ditch alongside HW 57.  The following winter went by without him returning.  The next summer, on the anniversary of Joel's death, we had a memorial dinner for Joel.  Friends and relatives came over to eat with us.  As we were eating this really scraggly looking cat appeared, walked right by us, and went into to the house.  I was sure it was my Spirit cat, but it had been almost a year since he'd left so I wasn't sure.  I walked in after the cat, took a close look at him and it WAS HIM!  He made himself right at home - again - picking up right where he left off when he disappeared several months earlier.  


Church stayed with us well into old age until he finally lost a fight to some dogs.  He made it home, but he died in the front yard, right where he ruled over the neighborhood for so many years.  I was heartbroken, my sons were heartbroken, and we viewed him as the last link to Joel.  I directed my sons to bury Church along the shelterbelt behind the house and to offer tobacco to help send his spirit on its journey.  My sons cried all the while when digging his grave and burying him, he truly was part of our family.  Shortly after my Spirit Cat left us, while lying in bed, I felt Church jump on the bed with me, but when I looked, he wasn't there.  After it happened several times I finally stopped looking.  I knew his Spirit was visiting me when I felt him jump on my bed.

Get over it

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I love the UND's new logo. As soon as tee shirts with the new logo are available I will go and buy several, for myself and for my grandchildren.  They will be perfect to wear should I attend an athletic event at UND, something I never contemplated doing as long as it used the old nickname. 


Five years ago I wrote an op-ed titled, "Is the Fighting Sioux moniker cursed?"  I actually received hate email because of it. That moniker is gone; the curse is gone also.  At least here on the reservation it is. We no longer have competing petitions, no one is running to the tribal council to drum up support for one side or the other, our youth are no longer pressured to state their position, and the free Fighting Sioux apparel that was passed out prior to vote that was held here on the nickname has all but disappeared. The curse...err...controversy is no longer mentioned and we are all better off for of it.


Unfortunately, the curse appears to be still widespread off the reservations. Every time progress is made on the selection of a new logo a small group of whiny, self-righteous, privileged, probably racist supporters of the now discredited nickname conjure up a slew of letters and send them to the Herald. And, they comment, along with posting what is now just a generic picture of a good looking Indian man, since it no longer represents UND, or any tribe for that matter, on the Herald's Facebook page. It's one of thousands on the internet. Like zombies, they all repeat predictable childish phrases like, "Sioux forever, or no more donations," or outlandish phrases like, "We are fighting for our survival." Really?  And, could the curse be partly responsible for the spanking gubernatorial candidate Wayne Stenehjem received in the primary election after a picture of him wearing a Fighting Sioux jersey was circulated on Facebook?


Many of those hard-core FS supporters feel they can speak for us Dakota (that's Sioux to Caucasians). They claim how hurt we Dakota are to see the logo gone. This is blatantly false, we Dakota are rejoicing at its demise. We even went as far as holding a celebration at which we invited and honored former UND President Keely for his role is ushering in the new nickname. And, they have this sick, twisted, logic that taking away the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo is somehow an act of oppression against us, when it's the exact opposite. It feels liberating to travel around ND now that that nickname is gone. Finally, they refer to a ceremony held in 1969 that supposedly gave UND the rights to use the nickname. Again, they are speaking from ignorance. If they were familiar with Dakota culture and/or ever attended an actual pipe ceremony they would know that did not happen in 1969.


I am also amused by all the spin off merchandise that is appearing under the guise of supporting the old nickname. In my opinion, those people selling that merchandise are simply taking advantage of the emotions of those few hard core fans by selling them merchandise closely related to the old, discredited nickname. Reminds me of the argument of how the NRA takes advantage of tragedies to sell more guns.

Some people are becoming irate by the Herald's constants coverage of the on-going non-controversy. Not me. Each story is a reminder of a hard fought victory over a deeply embedded racist tradition. I will never get tired of hearing or reading about it. Sort of like my Lakota relatives who every year celebrate their victory over Custer at Greasy Grass 150 years ago.


In closing, what this really comes down to is this; a few hard core, racist, FS nickname fans just can't stand to let the ndn "win one". In their views we committed an unspeakable sin by not only standing up to their racism, but we did the unthinkable; we won, and they can't let that go, any more then can they let their racism go. I make this observation from my 63 years of experiencing racism across the state of ND. It has become my belief that there is no cure for racism, a racist person will more than likely die a racist. Hence, the hardcore nickname supporters', lifelong, ungodly obsession with the nickname.