Sunday, January 23, 2022

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From the Editorial Board

The Nations Underground

The feeling of gratitude from Thanksgiving lingers into the first week of December. In Christian traditions, the first week of December usually includes the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation before Christmas.

Advent stands in contrast to the joy of Christmas. It’s a time of reflection and looking inward.

As our interim editor says in her editorial this week, “Gratitude is the most central spiritual discipline,” so it makes sense to blend the threads of Thanksgiving gratitude into the beginning of Advent, which also presages the coming of winter.

The traditional African-American hymn “My Lord, What a Morning” sings of “the trumpet sound to wake the nations underground.” This phrase, the nations underground, speaks to events on Cheyenne River this last week. 

On Saturday we buried matriarch Marcella LeBeau. Marcella was a fixture of the Lakota oyate, the veteran community, and in her family. She led, loved, and taught us for 102 years as a nurse, Tribal Council member, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was an advocate for spiritual and physical healing through her work on the Remove the Stain Act and as a boarding school survivor.

It’s impossibly rare that a local newspaper gets to carry a direct message from an elder to her entire community in the same issue as the news of her death, but last week the West River Eagle did just that.

Marcella was recently celebrated on her 102nd birthday with a card shower. In gratitude she placed this ad in last week’s paper:

Wopila Tanka to my friends and relatives who have sent me birthday cards to celebrate my 102nd birthday this year. Again, my cup runneth over.

My relatives and friends sent me over 100 cards. I received a special call from 100 students from Oregon who sang me Happy Birthday. My takojas/grandchildren Jacella, Jairon and Amiya Nephew’s classmates from New York sent me beautifully handwritten birthday cards and I also received a monetary gift of 102 dollars.

I appreciate you all and am grateful to each of you for celebrating my special day. I feel honored and will always remember.

I love you all, Marcella LeBeau (Wígmuŋke Wašté Wíŋ)

The nations underground also applies to the children lost and the spirits broken over the years in Indigenous boarding schools. Our writer Grace Terry continues her reporting on the NABS Healing Summit this week.

The overlap of these two stories with the celebration of Thanksgiving and its undertow of historical violence against Native peoples brings new meaning to the nations underground.

May you and your family celebrate love and life this coming week. As Marcella would tell us, the healing we do in the here and now also heals the past and the future. 

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