Nurturing Oglala Lakota customs, language, and beliefs in South Dakota (USA) – National Geographic Magazine August 2012

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In the Shadow of Wounded Knee

After 150 years of broken promises, the Oglala Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are nurturing their tribal customs, language, and beliefs. A rare, intimate portrait shows their resilience in the face of hardship.

By Alexandra Fuller
Photograph by Aaron Huey

Almost every historical atrocity has a geographically symbolic core, a place whose name conjures up the trauma of a whole people: Auschwitz, Robben Island, Nanjing. For the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that place is a site near Wounded Knee Creek, 16 miles northeast of the town of Pine Ridge. From a distance the hill is unremarkable, another picturesque tree-spotted mound in the creased prairie. But here at the mass grave of all those who were killed on a winter morning more than a century ago, it’s easy to believe that certain energies—acts of tremendous violence and of transcendent love—hang in the air forever and possess a forever half-life. […]

After that we spoke of the treaties made and broken between the U.S. and the Sioux, and that led naturally to a conversation about the Black Hills, which the Oglala consider their axis mundi, the center of their spiritual world. […]

“They tried extermination, they tried assimilation, they broke every single treaty they ever made with us,” White Plume said. “They took away our horses. They outlawed our language. Our ceremonies were forbidden.” […]

“Our holy leaders had to go underground for nearly a century.” It wasn’t until Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, in 1978, that any interference in native spiritual practices was made a crime. “And yet our ceremonies survived, our language survived,” White Plume said.

Buried deep within the pages of the 2010 Defense appropriations bill, signed by President Barack Obama in December 2009, is an official apology “to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” The resolution commends those states “that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes,” but there is no mention of reparations, nor of honoring long-broken treaties. […]

“We’re in dire distress, but we don’t need anyone to come and save the Indian. When we honor our customs, and when we perform ceremonies, and when we listen to our ancestors, then we have everything we need to heal ourselves within ourselves.” Martinez thought for a moment, and then she added, “Write this: When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain.”

Source: In the Shadow of Wounded Knee – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine
Address : http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/08/pine-ridge/fuller-text
Date Visited: Tue Aug 14 2012 18:14:35 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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