December 2015 Archives

FORT TOTTEN, N.D.--Over the course of 20 years, I received 3 degrees from UND--a bachelors, masters and doctorate. As an alumnus and as a Sioux, I want to thank President Robert Kelley for the honorable and courageous leadership that he showed in carrying out the wishes all the North Dakotans who voted to end the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname at my beloved alma mater.

It was this honorable and courageous leadership that so infuriated the die-hard nickname supporters. They were so used to previous presidents backing down when the issue of retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname was discussed. Not Kelley: Although he was savagely attacked again and again, he went about doing his job, without demeaning, degrading or insulting anyone.

The critics' scorched-earth policy of attacking Kelley only strengthened the resolve of us Indian students who had attended or were attending UND to support him and his decisions regarding the nickname.

Why did the die-hard nickname supporters attack Kelley so viciously that a new term, North Dakota Mean, was coined to describe their behavior? After all, Kelley was hired when the nickname fight basically was over and done with. He really didn't have anything to do with the NCAA's policy.

It was because they can't accept these truths: Two out of three North Dakotans voted against the name, and the name is racist to the majority of Indian students who are connected with UND.

I was puzzled when I read that the incoming interim president said he was going to repair the relationship with the tribes. There is nothing to repair now that the Fighting Sioux nickname has been retired.

The only problem now is that some die-hard nickname supporters will not move on. With the nickname now retired and a new one selected, I sincerely hope the interim president doesn't try to start a dialogue with tribal governments regarding the nickname. The Fighting Sioux Curse is dead and buried; let's leave it that way.

Here are few other misconceptions that should be cleared up:

▇ Statements have been made that us Sioux should have been consulted in picking a new nickname. Nothing could be further from the truth. I live on Spirit Lake 24/7, and not once have I heard any tribal member or elected official express concern that we were not consulted on the new nickname.

Once the majority of North Dakotans voted to let UND change the Fighting Sioux nickname, it became a non-issue on our reservation, and we quickly forgot about it. How many Sioux from the Spirit Lake or Standing Rock nations attended the protests held on campus in support of the name this past year? Zero, zilch, nada.

▇ The Sioux will be relegated to the dustbins of history now that UND no longer is called the Fighting Sioux. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to tribal colleges, we now have doctors, lawyers, state legislators and so on, and these numbers are growing by leaps and bound every year.

We gather by the thousands every year in different formats to discuss issues in Indian Country, and our powwows draw tens of thousand of participants and spectators.

We will not be forgotten, unlike the Fighting Sioux nickname, which eventually will not even be a memory.

▇ People who say they'll be Sioux forever. There are seven bands that make up the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fire) or the Great Sioux Nation; and unless you belong to one of these bands, than you are not a Sioux, you will never be a Sioux, and us actual Sioux want you to stop claiming that you are a Sioux.

There is no need to disgrace the national anthem and us actual Sioux by yelling "Sioux" at the end of the song.

In closing and on behalf of the majority of the thousands of Native American students who have attended UND over the past 50 years and who tirelessly have advocated for the retirement of the nickname, I wish Kelley well in his retirement. He is welcome to visit us at Spirit Lake Nation anytime.

Longie is president of Spirit Lake Consulting.

As Fall Turns to Winter

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This is a love story about two people whose lives were so opposite their paths should have never crossed. It is a story about a young Caucasian girl with an amazing personality and soft heart and a mean, crabby, grey hair, old Dakota Indian.  This unlikely May-December romance was both endearing and sad. (A May-December romance so often ensues because one individual has an ulterior motive, be it money, status or something else self-serving; however, this was not the case in this story, as neither individual was rich, nor famous.) 


The old Dakota lived on a reservation, while the beautiful, young red head lived in a town bordering the reservation.  She was very special young lady and in his eyes, there was no one in the world like her; she was very complicated individual who marched to her own drum. She was in a class all her own.  For a long time after they met the old Dakota had a hard time comprehending why a beautiful young, Caucasian winyan (woman) would show any interested him.  Little did he know they had been destined to meet, as will be revealed later in this story.


The chance of them not only meeting, but establishing an emotional connection so quickly, was highly improbable at best.  Further - and, seemingly against all odds their emotional connection thrived. It was especially nurtured by the discovery that they shared many similarities.  They even began to call themselves Twin Spirits, which refer to an ancient Dakota belief that some individuals are fortunate to have someone who is exactly like them, but more than likely that person is from another tribe.


For one, they were both excessively compassionate and often suffered the consequences. They both cared too much for their families, for their Tiospaye (extended family) and for all other human beings.  Because of this, their hearts were easily hurt when people disappointed them. Sadly, they felt this pain quite frequently as they were often helping troubled people.  They were also both driven by their belief that they were different from everyone else. Both of them believed they were special, that they could accomplish what other people thought was impossible. Most importantly, they were willing to walk their own paths, even if it conflicted with what their family, friends and neighbors' beliefs as to which path they should follow.  All these powerful similarities drew them together so quickly and so profoundly.


The young winyan poured her heart and soul into keeping the small town in which she lived from dying out, like so many other small towns in North Dakota.  After working several jobs during the week, she cared for her entire extended family on weekends.  Her kindness and generous spirit nourished many a poor soul who came to her for comfort.  Alas, more often than not, the town she was trying to help maligned her efforts, she often put people ahead of profit and worked long hours responding to clients' request and her extended family did not fully appreciate all she housekeeping and cooking she did to keep everyone fed and happy.


The old Dakota tried to turn back the clock and live by the kinship rules he grew up with. These rules required the Dakota to always take care of family and less fortunate relatives. He had hoped other tribal members would follow the Dakota values of honesty and integrity when interacting with each other.  However, he sadly found most of his family and tribal members could give a shit about kinship rules or following Dakota tribal values.


The old Dakota's journey that led him to the young Caucasian winyan started the morning his beautiful 17-year-old son was killed in a car accident.  The death of his beloved son started him on a lifelong path of grieving. A person really never gets over grieving for their loved ones, they just move from one level to the another.  As he moved through the levels of grief, after his son's funeral, there were times when he would get stuck in a level. When that happened, Wakan Tanka would send a special person into his life to help him move to the next level.  Two years after his son died, Wakan Tanka sent him a beautiful granddaughter.  The birth of his granddaughter brought him out of the worse despair he had ever experienced. 


Seven years after his son's death, cancer entered his life and stripped him of his male hood.  The loss of his male hood compounded the depression he suffered from the loss of his son, and ended -- for all practical purposes -- his life as he knew it. Or at least, he believed it did. He had enjoyed his bachelorhood immensely and missed his son terribly. The loss of his manhood added to the death of his son was almost too much for him to endure.  Once again, Wakan Tanka took pity on the old Dakota again and sent him another granddaughter.  This granddaughter was the love of his life. He not only raised her but also was granted custody of her.  Her presence in his life was the main reason he continued to function after being diagnosed with cancer.


The old Dakota was also a stubborn old fighter. It wasn't in his nature to quit, or give in to any disease, even cancer.  As result, he not only continued to function enough to get by, but he impressed most people he met. He helped design and test a computer math game for Native Americans students, he was a substitute teacher at the local school, many tribal members came to him for advice, he help lead the fight against a raced based logo, and his family, relatives and friends never heard him complained once about his cancer. And his natural, cheerful personality was strong, many times it pushed the sadness away for long periods and he enjoyed life during those times. But there were times when he could not keep his depression at bay; however, even in those instances, he managed to keep up the façade of contented old Indian man. But, no one knew how hard it was for him to get out of bed every morning.  Many days, he was simply going through the motions.


However, once the second granddaughter turned 5 years of age she outgrew him -- when she became more independent and he could no longer distract himself in helping care for her -- he started to slip back into the despair he had managed to keep at bay most of the time.  Ake!  (Again), Wakan Tanka took pity on him and out of the blue sent help in the form of a Friend Request from a drop dead gorgeous redhead. 


At first he ignored her request, he wasn't in the habit of accepting Friend Requests from young, Caucasian winyans.  However, her medicine was too strong. Plus, destiny -- and a mutual friend -- was on her side. He eventually accepted her request.  Curious why she sent him a friend request out of the blue he arranged to buy some duck eggs from her as an excuse to meet her at the gym where she worked.  She rocked his world the moment he laid eye on her in her workout outfit.


What happened next can only be described as astounding.  Her vibrant personality, her incredible intelligence, and her natural beauty awakened feelings and emotions in him that he never thought he would feel again. They had so many things in common that they spent hours messaging each other.  Their online conversations brought joy and happiness to two weary souls.  During the few times they met for tea, excitement radiated between them, and the air seemed to crackled and spark. Their attraction was electrifying.   


Alas, their happiness was to be short-lived.  The old Dakota had lived a life in which no quarter was given nor expected.  He responded to any confrontation the only way he knew how, with a determination to win at all cost.  In his arrogance, he had neither the insight, nor the inclination to question whether his actions were wrong.  As a result, over a misunderstanding on his part he overreacted and pushed the young redhead out his life.  He quickly realized his mistake but it was too late, the damage was already done.  He tried to make amends and he apologized profusely to her, but the beautiful, redheaded winyan could not fathom what drove him to such extreme behavior and she decided she couldn't fully trust him again.  


In addition, the redhead was still suffering from a grievous loss prior to meeting the old Dakota. In her vulnerable state, she came to the conclusion she would no longer be able to open up and talk to the old Dakota as she was able to before. And, she felt she could no longer open herself up emotionally to him and risk being hurt deeply again.  To allow someone in her circle, she had to have absolutely, unconditionally trust in them.  After trying to make amends, the old Dakota was wise enough to also realize their relationship was never going to be the same.  Dejectedly, he accepted her rejection, and, he accepted total responsibility for what had gone wrong.


For a guy who always thought he smarter than most people, he failed to recognize that his arrogant, take-no-prisoners way of handling his disputes was completely inappropriate in their situation.  Instead, he let his insecurities, fears and jealousy ruin a beautiful relationship.  Just as quickly as it began, the romance was over. He had hurt her deeply and she was unable and/or unwilling to trust him again. 


However, as Wakan Tanka had intended the redhead gave him a gift before they went their separate ways.  Her beautiful soul reinvigorated his zest for living, and although still a loner, he came out of his self-imposed exile and rejoined the life of the living.  With his new outlook on life, he made several adjustments to his lifestyle. He stopped wasting time and energy on his family members who were dysfunctional. He also followed her insightful advice and maintained his exercise regimen, eventually losing 30 pounds.  The weight loss took pressure off his bad knee, and he became much more mobile.  With his increased mobility, he was able to more fully enjoy life. He improved his pool game and successfully completed in dozens of pool tournaments. He also managed to attend several major powwows had never attended before and cross them off his bucket list. He ordered a Marine Corps uniform and a Marine Corps flag, and once again carried the Marine Corps flag in the Grand Entry at his reservation's annual Powwows. 


On reflection, he realized that she had profoundly influenced his new, more compassionate pattern of behavior. He was instinctively honoring their time together by attempting to emulate her love of life, her kindness and her desire to not hurt another living creature. He arose every morning and gave thanks using phrases he learned from her. He began to avoided confrontation, unless absolutely pushed. He diligently tried to follow societal rules, something he had avoid his entire life. And he raised two beautiful granddaughters until they married and started a life of their own.  Although he continued to enjoy the company of beautiful woman, he made no attempt to get emotionally close to any of them.  For down deep inside, he knew no one else would be able make him feel the way she had.


In spite of her disappointment in him -- and her anger towards him -- he still admired her, as she had a mind like no one he had ever met.  Although, the closeness they shared was gone forever, he prayed that she would find some peace with the loss of a loved one, and he found some measure of comfort with the knowledge that she was young, beautiful, talented, smart, and that she had a life ahead of her that would be filled with accomplishments, happiness and a sense of fulfillment. He was confident her future was bright.


As a small token of his love for her, he bequeathed her with a star quilt. He wrapped it around her shoulders as a way to honor and protect her as she journeyed through life. He hoped the quilt would show his appreciation for all the joy and happiness she brought into his life during their short May-December romance.  And, from that moment forward, until his moccasins traveled south, over the star road, to the Spirit World, every time he was present when a star quilt was given, whether he was the giver or recipient or just an observer, he would always remember a beautiful red head that captured his heart in a blink of an eye. 


End of Story

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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