Sunday, January 23, 2022

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GUEST COLUMN: Part II of Brad Upton’s visit: Rescind the medals

First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your community’s enormous heart, kindness, and welcoming of my visit. My spiritual journey to Cheyenne River Reservation began in 1968 when I was sent pictures of the Wounded Knee Massacre. My physical journey there from November 7-8 was hauntingly beautiful to drive up through the Sand Hills and then into the high plains coming into Eagle Butte. It felt as though the earth, rivers, and sky were calling me there, and the many eagles and hawks that flew around us seemed to confirm this.

Immediately, upon arriving at the Veterans Center, I felt welcomed and as the evening progressed, the appreciation of the elders and community members glowed brighter and brighter; I especially appreciated the ceremony and its effect of welcoming us. The next day’s meeting at Bridger was very powerful for similar reasons. The vast open plains and sky, and then river valley where Spotted Elk camped took hold of my heart as we drove down the hill.

Meeting the elders there and feeling their welcome and kindness was very poignant and wonderful. Since it was a smaller meeting, the opportunity to hear directly from each person not only helped me understand their story but also helped me understand how important it is for me to meet like that at Cheyenne River from now on as much as I can, in order to use their wisdom to support their needs, as best as I can.

My feelings and expectations going into the visit were truly supported by my brother Paul Soderman, Basil Braveheart, Phil Little Thunder, Manny and Rene Iron Hawk, and Marlis Afraid Of Hawk. Their wisdom came initially last year, when Basil had a yuwipi ceremony for me, and the following inipis and sun dances cradled my heart for this long process. I understand much better after ceremonies how intergenerational trauma makes our bones solid and ceremony helps us realize that they are hollow.

So I have felt blessed by Tunkasila with the wisdom and efforts of the ancestral healing that the Little Thunder family did with Harney’s descendant, Paul, and my personal understanding of how long and ongoing that process was and still is. There are many times that I find myself dissolving into tears as they seem to come up out of the earth and through my bones.

The Tibetan Buddhist practices that my teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, taught us were based upon enlightened feminine wisdom. Basil Brave Heart’s grandmother’s teaching to him on forgiveness, that he gave to me and others is based upon divine feminine wisdom. I experienced this feminine wisdom principle quite vividly during my visit to Eagle Butte and Bridger, not only from women of all ages in your community, but also in the humility, strength, and confidence in the men. I want you to know how unique and deeply moving this was for me. It gives me inspiration beyond words.

I plan to return to Cheyenne River often to continue what has just begun. Roderick Dupris has invited me to ride and Debbie Day invited me to the June 29 powwow, but I want to return much sooner. I want to meet with more elders and hear their stories and wisdom. Plus, I want to have other relatives of my own to meet your community and support this critical work.

What I would like the world to know is how deeply connected all of us are. Meeting your community truly felt like returning to the home that I have dreamt of. What is next is more ceremony and prayer/meditation. I want to follow Tunkasila and the wisdom of the elders, both living and of the spirit world.

My wish, that was truly fulfilled, was to begin this process with the Spotted Elk descendants and be available to them to begin to know me and my wishes to support the wisdom of their elders, community, and themselves.

I am committed to supporting the Remove the Stain Act and rescinding the Medals of Honor that were scandalously awarded to sanitize the massacre. I understand how important it is to rescind the medals in order for healing to begin. We have gathered close to 400 signatures on one petition. Mr. Jeffrey Hotchkiss, descendant of the inventor of the Hotchkiss Mountain Gun, has apologized for his ancestor’s destruction through his invention. I also support reparations from the U.S. Government for the Wounded Knee Massacre, for the multiple treaty violations against the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota people, and for 130 years of intergenerational trauma that continues its toxic effects.

Wopila Tonka.

EAGLE PHOTO BY ALAINA BEAUTIFUL BALD EAGLE Roderick Dupris, Heaven Dupris, Moreno Waloke, and other riders make their way to Eagle Butte on November 7 to meet with Brad Upton. The riders began their trek in Bridger the day before.

EAGLE PHOTO BY ALAINA BEAUTIFUL BALD EAGLE Brad Upton speaks during his first day at the Veterans Center in Eagle Butte. He and Paul Soderman toured Cherry Creek and met with community members in Bridger the next day.

EAGLE PHOTO BY ALAINA BEAUTIFUL BALD EAGLE Paul Soderman, Harry Little Thunder, Brad Upton, and Manny Iron Hawk take a moment for the cameras. Soderman is a descendant of Brigadier General William S. Harney who commanded troops during the Blue Water Massacre in 1855. Soderman and Upton are not only friends, he was instrumental in connecting Upton with the Lakota people.

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