Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From Community Organizer Andrew Ironshell

Please join us for 'Campaign to Unite A Community' #10

In the life that our Lakota ancestors knew, a warrior was viewed much differently than society defines that word today. In mainstream America, just the word warrior stirs thoughts of aggression and testosterone. A warrior in today's time is revered and rewarded with praise for acts of aggression.

Our Lakota Nation, those living within our Tribal Nation homelands and urban treaty lands need to revitalize the concept of our warrior societies on our own terms. A gathering of great minds to produce strategies that guide solutions for the many challenges our tribal peoples face on and off the Reservation.

We should not expect our tribal leaders to be warriors, they are often just politicians. We should not expect Uncle Sam to be our warrior although in today's time they can be our allies. We need all to step up and make the good fight to improve the quality of life of those a warrior defends.

The grandmother who never spoke to a member of Congress made those calls to demand passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. That is not the act of a victim but one of a warrior who understands her voice is one message and added with the hundreds of others who advocated for passage of this treaty right and trust responsibility was very powerful in producing this victory for all.

Communication is the most powerful tool you as a warrior can have. Your voice is more powerful than bullets when directed from the values of your heart. It is that spiritual thought that makes the Lakota warrior more awed than others. As Lakota people our weakness occurs when we forget that our power lies in the way our ancestors told us to take on any battle. Not from a point of anger as most would expect from a warrior mentality but solutions directed from the idea that a warriors way is most effective when we choose mind over emotion.

We are defending our community from the affects of intolerance, misunderstanding and negligence of what is rightfully owed to all human beings in our community – respect and justice. They say war is ugly and the darkness that comes to light in our community are the senseless deaths of our young people at the hands of others. The senseless acts of hate against a people who's core values dictate that we are all interconnected, we are all related. Shared stupidity might make some beget violence with violence, hate promoting hate as that is the ugliest part of all the indifference we face. Both sides of the battle have voices of dysfunction. A good listener can hear past the voice of anger and ugliness and understand the most effective solutions for a warrior is understanding that your voice carries a much stronger punch coming from the heart of your values than it does from your anger.

The grandmother who made those calls to Congress did not cuss them out. No frying pans where thrown. She spoke truth to power as we all should, from the values we want to live. Our ancestors understood that a true warrior's victory is not defined by the enemies they knock to the ground but by the justice served using those values that help us all to stand up together.

In the spirit of that thought, I ask all to join together in shared values as we move forward with a Campaign to Unite a Community.

General Beadle School
North Rapid City
5PM MST Meal

Bring a friend...

-Andrew Iron Shell
Community Organizer & SANI-T Board Member
Western SD Native American Organizing Project

Monday, May 17, 2010

Update on Dreaming Bear case

Judge grants another extension in graduation clothing case

At the request of the parties, the judge had granted a five-hour extension to an original deadline of noon Monday. But by 5 p.m. Monday no agreement had been reached. The judge then granted a second extension, this time until noon Tuesday.

“We’re still trying to work out a resolution,” said Don Porter, attorney for the Oelrichs school district. “We’re trying our best to get that done.”

After a three-hour hearing last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Jeff Viken asked Aloysius Dreaming Bear, 19, and his attorney to sit down and work out an agreement with school board members and the school’s superintendent, all of whom he named in his lawsuit, by Monday at noon.

Viken said he would rule on the case if no agreement could be reached. But Viken said he felt the two parties needed to talk more and might be able to come to an agreement without him having to issue a ruling.

The two parties stayed at the courthouse Thursday night following the hearing, but failed to reach an agreement.

Whatever agreement or ruling is reached comes less than a week away from Dreaming Bear’s graduation. Leach filed the complaint May 3 on behalf of Dreaming Bear, arguing that the school board’s decision to not allow the student to wear his Native American clothing to the May 22 graduation is a violation of his First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit names board members Berline Fleming, Bonnie Anderson, John Cope, Lance Tlustos, Lisa Lockhart and school superintendent Lawrence Jaske.

Fleming and high school principal Charles Fredrickson attended the hearing last Thursday and Fredrickson testified. Dreaming Bear and Washington State University Native American studies professor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn testified on behalf of Dreaming Bear.

Cook-Lynn said Thursday that the historic background of forced assimilation of Native Americans shouldn’t be ignored in the case. In her view, the Oelrichs school board is continuing the oppression from the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time when private and government-run boarding schools “tried to stamp out the identity of (Native) children.”

Porter argued Thursday that the two –- cultural identity and a unified class in cap and gown -– don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“Expression occurs throughout the ceremony,” he said.

Dreaming Bear approached the school board members in April, asking to be allowed to wear a beaded ribbon shirt with an eagle fan and medicine bag when he graduated.

Board members said he could wear the clothing under the cap and gown and after receiving the diploma, remove the cap and gown to show the traditional clothing for the remainder of commencement.

Since then, the board has agreed to include a feathering ceremony, which has been done at previous graduations, and allow star quilt presentations immediately after students step off the stage.

During testimony, Dreaming Bear said he didn’t know about the feathering ceremony or the quilting ceremony until after the April 12 board meeting.

Viken said it was those recent developments that made him believe the two sides needed to talk more and might be able sign a “joint declaration of council,” rather than a ruling by him.


This case has gone on too long, it is time that this case is acknowledged for what it is : discrimination & suppression of Native culture and identity, further supporting the status quo of absolute dominance over the Indigenous Peoples.

What do you think about this case? Don't you think Mr. Dreaming Bear should be allowed to wear his traditional Lakota clothing? Do you think its ridiculous that the Federal Judge keeps putting off making a decision??

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lakota Student Files Free Speech Suit Against Oelrichs School Board

Written by Eric Zimmer

A nineteen year old Oelrichs High School student filed a lawsuit against members of the Oelrichs School Board in U.S. District Court, Monday, in Rapid City. The suit cites a violation of the student's First Amendment right to free speech, stemming from a school board-issued decision prohibiting him from wearing traditional tribal dress at the May 22 Oelrichs High School graduation ceremony.

Rapid City attorney Jim Leach filed the suit on behalf of Aloysius Dreaming Bear, 19, of Oglala. Specifically named as defendants in the complaint are: President of the Oelrichs School Board Berline Fleming; board Vice President Bonnie Anderson; board members John Cope, Lance Tlustos, and Lisa Lockhart; and Oelrichs Superintendent Lawrence Jaske.

Dreaming Bear, a graduating senior at Oelrichs High School, wishes to wear traditional Lakota clothing at his graduation, according to an April 12 letter he presented to the Oelrichs School Board. Dreaming Bear stated that he wants to "protect [his] culture's heritage by standing up for what is right," which he believes is represented by wearing his "tribe's traditional clothing with pride on graduation day." Dreaming Bear says he was only allowed to speak for a few minutes before being cut off by board members, who then went into executive session.

According to an April 30 affidavit signed by Dreaming Bear, when the board returned from the session, they "announced that if I or any other senior wanted to receive a diploma in the graduation ceremony, we would have to wear a cap and gown over any other clothing to receive the diploma. The School Board said that only after receiving our diploma could we remove our cap and gown and show our traditional clothing."

The lawsuit claims that, by denying Dreaming Bear the right to wear his tribal clothing in the public ceremony, the Oelrichs School Board violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

Dreaming Bear's attorney, Jim Leach, said that federal district judge Jeffrey Viken has scheduled a hearing for a preliminary and permanent injunction for May 13 in Rapid City. At the hearing, the plaintiff (Dreaming Bear) goes to the judge, and "points out that with graduation set for May 22, we have to do something" quickly, Leach explained. If Viken rules in Dreaming Bear's favor, he will be allowed to wear his tribal dress at the graduation ceremony. Dreaming Bear stated that he pursued legal action so that "other Lakota people who graduate from my high school in the future, and other high schools, have the opportunity to wear traditional clothing at high school graduation if they choose to do so."

When questioned about Dreaming Bear's request to wear his traditional clothing at graduation, Superintendent Jaske was quoted by the Argus Leader as saying "[Dreaming Bear] should have gone to Pine Ridge or Red Cloud. That is his choice." Jaske went on to state, "No one holds a gun to these kids' heads and says they have to come [to school] at Oelrichs." Jaske also told the Argus Leader that seniors, including Dreaming Bear, signed an agreement stating they will wear caps and gowns while crossing the stage at graduation.

When contacted, Jaske had no comment on the suit, and stated that he and the other defendants were not aware of the filing as of mid-morning Monday. Calls to the other defendants were not returned.

The lawsuit comes just under three months after South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds proclaimed 2010 the "Year of Unity" in South Dakota, a proclamation intended to promote cultural healing between Native and non-Native peoples in South Dakota.

The suppression of Dreaming Bear's right to wear his traditional clothing flies in the face of that proclamation, according to Layli-Sammimi-Moore, a Conflict Transformation Specialist at the Society for the Advancement of Native Issues - Today (SANI-T) in Rapid City, who first handled Dreaming Bear's case. The case "is only solidifying community members' concerns that the Year of Unity proclamation can prove superficial and ineffective. Discrimination is happening every day in South Dakota, and people in power are pretending like they aren't aware of such injustices," she said.

Elizabeth Cook Lynn, Professor of English and Native American Studies at Eastern Washington State University, a decorated Indian Studies scholar who filed an affidavit in the case on Dreaming Bear's behalf, said of the case: "It's an important thing to do, and I congratulate him for doing it." Cook-Lynn went on to relate the issue of Native free speech to other events she's witnessed over the years. "This is nothing new . . . in 1970, my friend Vince Two Eagle was graduating from high school in Yankton, and wanted to wear a medallion his grandmother had made him. But the school board said no. Vince didn't have the money to get any lawyers or anything, so he just didn't go to graduation," she said.

"I'm very supportive of [Dreaming Bear]" Cook-Lynn said, and she is proud that he is willing "to defend himself, his culture, and his people, because that's what this is about.


Monday, March 29, 2010

From a Rapid City community member, John:

I grew up at a boarding school in Oklahoma called Chilocco

Indian School. My parents were employees of the school and we lived right there on campus. For school, all the employees kids attended a public school about 10-12 miles away. A bus from the public school would transport us back and forth each day.

Growing up I don't really ever recall experiencing prejudice or

racism outright, not blatantly directed at me anyway. I recogized it with some of the black kids that attended school there. But as for me not really. If it was subtle I missed that, too.

I think one reason for that was I was always involved with athletics and hung around mostly with other athletes thus creating sort of a buffer or bubble that shielded me somewhat from that ugliness.

Then we moved to Sisseton, SD in 1972 when I was a

sophomore in high school. What a culture shock that was.

Initially in the sense it was backward, backward in the form

of being behind the times. It seems I had stepped back in time. Still, school wise, not that much different from Oklahoma. That was soon about to change.

I got my first direct taste of racism during basketball season

that winter. Though I still participated in athletics, it was less a buffer than it was in Oklahoma. I was dating a girl at

the time and there was a party after one of our games. We

agreed to go and she agreed to let me pick her up at her

house - big mistake. I went to pick her up and her dad

greeted me at the door. I can still remember the conversation verbatim. I asked, "is Julie here? He

answered, "yes". I then asked, "is she ready to go to the

party?". He answered back, "she won't be going to no party", and closed the door. A bit bafflled I went back home. My dad asked why I was back home already and I

explained to him what had happened. He then spent the next 30-45 minutes explaining how things worked in Sisseton, and the rest of South Dakota. I guess he'd hoped

things had changed in the 30 years he had been gone.

Probably the saddest part about the whole thing, though, was that the girl was totally unaware of how her dad felt. Over the years, on occassion, I"ve wondered how she is doing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A community member speaks out! Please read the personal story!

The Healing Beyond Hate team received this today and is so excited to be able to post this. We thank the person who took the time to share their story with us! Blessings to all of you! And remember, its never too late to send us your own personal story. Just email us at: and we'd be happy to post your story/personal account, anonymously if that is what you wish! Thanks for stopping by!

Here is the personal account from a community member:

I wanted to add something to this blog site because it seems like a resourceful way to get your story heard. I didn’t know how to start and I hate writing but I thought as long as someone can read it and relate to it that’s all that matters. I am a Native American Women I recently moved to Rapid City South Dakota. I have three children and I was in need of some help to get me on my feet. I was told that the Salvation Army helps with financial needs. I didn’t know much about the program or what process you took to get the help. So, I got a little head start on finding out what I needed before I went to the Salvation Army office. I brought a folder that contained the documents that were needed for the application so when I got there all I needed to do was fill the application out and attach the copies of my documents. I went to their office by K-mart. There was lady in the front office and I assumed she was the secretary. She asked if I needed any help in a rude kind of way. My first thought was that she started off having a bad say at work when I approach her at 8:30 in morning. To myself I thought no matter how you feeling, you should leave your personal problems at home and you should be professional to you clients. I proceeded to be pleasant but her attitude got worse. She started to yell at me like I was a child. I understood every word she said but it seemed that she didn’t comprehend what I was saying. I repeated what I said to her and she just got more mad and starting saying things that were off the subject. I took a step back and told her “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day at work but there is no need to yell at me like that. You’re a very mean person and you’re being rude to me”. She said “No I’m not I’m just trying to explain to you what you have to do”. I told her I have already had all the information that she needed and I just wanted to fill out the application. I felt I got her madder when I came prepared and she couldn’t inform me of information I needed to get. I ended the conversation and said “Thank you for your help but I won’t need your assistance”. After I left the office I thought about other people that go into Salvation Army office and get treated this way and maybe they don’t say anything about the conflict that happened there. They might just go on with their day of being treated badly because they didn’t know what to do or they don’t know about SANI-T and what they could help with. I didn’t want this lady thinking its okay to treat people badly because she is having a bad day. I told SANI-T what happened and two advocacies went with me to Salvation Army and spoke with her supervisor. Her supervisor asked what I thought her consequences should be. I said I just want her to know that this was supposed to be a place that people could reach out for help but with bad attitude you could turn away people that are in need of the program. She should treat people how she wanted to be treated. I hope this helped her see things different and treat people with the proper manners. I felt justice was served when I got help for SANI-T. Thank you all for reading my story and I hope you have one to share.

Friday, September 11, 2009

we would love to post your personal story of injustice on our blog!!!
please email your story to us @:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our first entry from a community member, dated August 28, 2009 - "Native Against Native Racism"

Native Against Native Racism*

"When I first heard the term, "lateral racism" I was astounded that such a condition had a name and, sadly, that it existed long enough to earn that name. It's still a relatively new concept. When I searched for the term, one hit came up for the Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education in an article written by Ron Selden. In the article, Anishinaabe activist and writer, Winona LaDuke said, "We cannot struggle against the oppressor, so we struggle against each other ... "

I heard it in high school, taking a tribal government class from one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Martin. He put it simply, "You see me. I'm brown ... just another 'dirty Indian' to you and you ignore anything I have to say! You look at some of the white teachers around here and you sit up and listen! That, is lateral racism.'"

While I'd always had a degree of respect for the toiling Mr. Martin, just by virtue of his being a teacher, it increased tenfold after that statement. He hit the issue at the time right on the nose. The other students in the class were freshmen and sophomore mostly who took the class because it was, in their words, "an easy class." After all, who knows more about tribal government and, indeed, tribal people than us?

But when that figurative hammer struck my mind, shattering that curiosity of why I didn't respond to Native teachers, I realized that we don't know as much as we think we do. How many of us have looked at someone on our reservation or colony or housing complex and thought ill of them? Admittedly, when the election season rolled around my brother, who is a former police officer from both Pine Ridge and Rosebud, said to me, "Indian's ain't never going to vote for a Black man! They will look at the Clintons or McCain and think they'll protect them because they're white!"

That simple statement illustrated two main points of lateral racism to me. The first being that my brother, who saw a lot of the bad things both reservations can yield, be it domestic violence, drug abuse or murder, had developed his own prejudice against our people. The second point being that even though the source of that statement is suspect, it holds some water. We've been programmed from the beginnings of our relations with the United States to respond to the authority (backed up with the gun, no doubt) of its white leaders.

On my own reservation, there is an historic case of lateral racism.
In 1881, Chief Spotted Tail was killed by Chief Crow Crow Dog in a dispute that's still debated by historians today. Whether it was about a wife or over power, the effects of this action gave birth to many rifts and had consequences that resulted in the passing of the Major Crimes Act of 1885. To this day, there are Sicangu who still respect Crow Dog and others who believe otherwise. On the other side are those who believe that Spotted Tail, pejoratively known as a "Paper Chief," appointed by the federal government, had no right to claim the title in the first place.

Over the generations, incidents like these escalate into family grudges and when blood quantum is involved and which family is, "more Indian" or "less Indian," it gets downright cruel. It's gotten to the point that even when I think of any children I might raise in the future, I worry about their blood quantum first and whether they'll have ten fingers and ten toes next. But over my short time in the world, I've realized one thing: the more we fight amongst ourselves, the less hope all our children have for seeing their respective nations continuing to exist.

These days, it's easier for Native youth to hate on each other.
We've been given a popular culture archetype thanks to MTV and MySpace: the hater and the hated. We allow ourselves to mimick big-time male rappers legendary grudges or the catfights between women on reality television. While most tribes enjoy a cordial relationship with the federal government these day, its predecessors in the Congress of the 19th century almost certainly developed the, "divide and conquer" strategy toward our collective people. What's worse is that it continues to work, even after those members of Congress and senators were dead and buried.

This past summer, I addressed a group of Native youth at a Unity conference here in Reno, on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama. In that room, I was able to expound upon the virtues of the candidate as he related to Native people. But the one thing that sticks with me was not the trills, cheers or applause, but it was two words: "Psssh, whatever." I introduced myself in the traditional Lakota greeting, "Cante waste nape ciyuzapi," translated as, "I shake your hand with an open heart." A student sitting up front uttered those two words that brought me back to that classroom at Todd County High School all those years ago.

It proved to me that lateral racism exists in Indian Country and that, more than anything, needs to be seriously addressed. The life of a Native, whether on the reservation or off, is a hard one. We not only carry our own hardships, but because of our tribal culture, we bear the transgressions of past generations, of our parents and grandparents against each other. We are programmed to think it's stoic not to forgive each other and unite to preserve our people. All the while, our elders die around us at an alarming rate, heart-broken that they haven't seen the seventh generation reach its full potential in uniting our people, putting all ill will aside and accepting ourselves and fighting for our rights and our heritage. Native life and Rez life are hard enough; there are those of us who have the lowest life expectantcy in the Western Hemisphere, behind only Haiti.

Whether it's today, tomorrow or next year, we owe it to our ancestors to stop this foolishness of fighting amongst ourselves. We need to stop teaching our children and grandchildren that one family is worse than another; or that respect should not be given to a certain person because of a second-hand story. Respect is an integral virtue built into our people; we have endured long winters and hot summers, the rage of animals three times our size and disease; we have learned that respect for every living being and person is not earned, it is given. We cannot afford, with such little time left, to hate on each other. If we're going to get anywhere in this world, if we're going to start making good on our promise to improve our lives, it must begin here and now; we move together, or not at all.

At the time, I don't think I had the courage to thank Mr. Martin for his clarity and true education, but I'd like to think that so long as another Native student reads this in his senior, junior, sophomore or -- hopefully -- freshman year, his mission at educating us is not in vain."

* Author to remain anonymous

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