Saturday, March 23, 2019

Eagle Butte
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

Op/Ed: Legends, legacy and heroes

Lakota society and societies in general quite often idolize and emulate iconic individuals and accomplishments of past and present generations of their time.

It is a widely accepted practice as it is a sliding rule of inspiration and a measure of excelling beyond what has or is established in a given activity or act of accomplishment of superior performance or achievement.

Legends, legacy and heroes are abundant amongst the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) and are a testament of our people as achievers and accomplished people as Lakota.

There are historical legends, legacy and heroes of our people from many backgrounds, at many levels and in many dreams, goals and aspirations.

Legendary accomplishment knows no boundaries to the ability of an individual whether it be CRST blood quantum, gender, economic status, taught or natural talent, physical challenges or choice of a life style.

An example of historic Lakota legend are our people (men and women) who are infamously known as past generations of leadership, warriors, spiritual leaders and preservationists of our culture who are part of our oral and written history.

Our elderly are legends in their own right as examples and mentors of next generations. Countless names and individuals can be quickly named of exemplary credibility and pedestals of high adulation.

Modern day legacy examples would be the 1959 Cheyenne Agency Class A Championship basketball team to present day world class and national champions or title holders in many varieties of activities such as a wide range of competition sports, royalty, art, entertainment, music, education, specialized careers and much more.

Legacies are those hundreds of our children, adolescents, women and men of all ages, who excelled in an individual or team setting in extra curriculum, interscholastic or intramural sports at the high school, college, amateur, independent, regional, state or national level.

They are too voluminous to name individually, but I am confident that there is someone in your family or you know someone that you can relate to that fits legacy, legend or a hero status in your own mind throughout this entire reservation.

Or you might be a present generation of Lakota infamy as a pow wow circuit dancer or a drum group/hand drum singer, rodeo contestant, announcer, pageant contestant, race horse owner, competition motorcyclist, horse shoe enthusiast, fishing competitor or excelling as a musician, artist, poet, higher education achiever, intellectual contributor or user of technology, and many other competitive and achievement activities.

From week end warrior to a once a year participant in a local celebration or event to a dedicated full blown seasonal competitor who is chasing a dream or goal, constitutes achieving legacy amongst our people.

Then there are those who excel in leaving legacies such as Peter Iron Lightning, a blind and first Lakota businessman in Eagle Butte who owned and managed an egg farm. Who in the business community knew that?

Since that time there have been many of our people who enjoyed success at business ownership such as ranchers, niche markets, specialty shops, restaurant owners, etc., and have contributed significantly to maintaining an economic base on our reservation.

There are those who gained national notoriety as iconic tribal spokespersons and tribal leadership in tribal politics, unparalleled service and recognition in federal agencies, national tribal organizations and professional careers. 

Of course nothing equates to the heroism by those who gave their life serving our country and our people. Those gold star families are heroes also because a part of them died with their loved ones and they continue to carry a lifelong suffering of loss.   

Those are the heroes of our people. And there are many more enrolled tribal members and descendants throughout the CRST reservation and the United States who are or have career military personal serving to protect our country and are/were willing to give their life unconditionally if necessary.

With this abundance of legacy, legend and heroism amongst our people why isn’t time, effort and energy expended towards instilling mentorship and knowledge towards building self esteem, pride and viability to achieve dreams and goals with our young people?

As Lakota people (full and mixed blood) we must walk the talk and refrain from proclaiming that our younger generations are a valuable human resource when they are expressly not and we must recognize the need to ensure that a future is provided for them that provides opportunity to fulfill their dreams and inspirations.

For the most part, it is organizations like The Main, Sioux YMCA, education entities and youth oriented organizations that are the focus of youth advocacy for the future of our younger generations. Too often those entities are hampered by the ignoring and neglect of tribal government investment as an obligation and responsibility, economically overlooked and insignificant as to the future of our people.

Food for thought; if all the stars were aligned and we had all that would be required to establish a “hall of fame” concept, with a historical format in the forms of oral, written, audio and video incorporated in the frame work for mentoring our youth would be historical and rewarding. The benefit for CRST would be preservation of our people by name and infamy that would serve as legacy, legend and heroism building that has greater significance to us as a Lakota society than outside influence.

Full acknowledgement is given that there is historical county society literature that does cover all aspects of family and demographics of local history. There is also a family/generation ancestry service provided by Bureau of IndianAffairs. That in itself is valuable and serves as generation family history purpose.

However, main stream iconic idolization often seeps into and diminishes our Lakota society dynamics of a deep, rich history and examples that are far more conducive to self esteem, pride and self worth building for our younger generations.

Don’t get me wrong, you can achieve your dream regardless, but to know someone from your own people is apt to be more awe inspiring and challenging enough for our young people to say “I can do that; and even better”!

Dreams and an opportunity are all that our younger generations are asking for in order to be successful and self inspiring in their own right at whatever they aspire to do and to be.

This could be a major educational project or focus by our younger generation in a collaborative effort with others towards present and future generations building of self esteem, pride and self worth in achieving dreams and setting goals.