November 2016 Archives

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 after Hobo Joe became Dr. Longie. Since there was some truth in that post, he'd begin to ask; 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 in his new path all the Whiteman's influence in the world couldn't totally change him, he was too 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 true, she did inadvertently past down some 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 urging him to be proud of who 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 to 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 of time at his aunt Alvina's home. He loved to sit on the stair leading upstairs and listen to Aunt Alvina's stories about the old days. 

His heroes were older male relatives who were also excellent 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 older 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 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 saw 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 who 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 days every year. Once out of HS, he hardly left the Rez except for a stint in the Marine Corps, which didn't change him except to make him more arrogant. 

Eventually, he went to a tribal college, which made him even more proud to be ndn. He reluctantly went on to UND and eventually received a doctorate. After receiving an education, Dr. Longie was able 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 Billings, 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 from all tribes' present, including his own. He left the meeting, proud to be ndn. Since then, 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 a wild, unrepentant ndn. However, the Creator had blessed him with the ability to walk the 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 the right 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 method of thinking. Now through his duties as the THPO's, not only is he relearning what little the cultural knowledge he knew, but he also learned about the Spirituality aspect of his culture and the wisdom that is inherent in it. This learning had 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 forgotten 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 renewal strengthens his pride in being ndn again has finally merged Dr. Longie and Hobo into one contented individual. 

This resurgence of who he is maybe 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 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 the 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 who 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, 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?

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