From the Editor's Desk: Overcoming fatalism and claiming victory


whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgThe greatest enemy we face as Native

people is fatalism. It defines our historic, current and future

struggles. From the moment the earliest European settlers put foot on

our shores, it was because they believed it was their right to

conquer our home. When they found us living here, millions-strong, it

was their belief that we would eventually become extinct.

Throughout five centuries of wars,

battles, plagues, relocations and government treaties, the occupation

of our home and our culture was based on the misguided belief that we

would eventually die out. But throughout all those wars, battles and

broken promises, we continued to survive, thrive and flourish, our

identity slightly altered, but ultimately intact. We hold true to our

faith, our values and our traditions even when the outside world

believes we are irrelevant.

Our current struggles are among

culture, race and politics. Whether it is Dan Snyder’s devious

attempts to buy implied support by tribal nations through misdirected

philanthropy, the government’s glacial pace at addressing land rights

for individual Indian landowners or multinational oil and gas

corporations like Enbridge and TransCanada, attempting to damage our

homelands in the guise of energy independence and monetary wealth, we

face a myriad of troubles.

But over the arc of time, we see how

we overcame our oppression and we keep the faith that we will

continue to overcome this oppression. We do this by being thankful

for everything we have – even if it’s not much to begin with – we

give thanks for every day that we live. We rediscover our family and

tribal language, histories and roots; we nurture them as best we can

by ensuring their survival.

This is evident in the Twin Cities by

the opening of the Bdote Learning Center, a dream that is six years

in the making. Immersion education in Ojibwe and Dakota are the first

steps in the journey toward understanding our historic identity.

While linguists debate the idea of whether language is formed by

culture or culture is formed by language, we know that our language

defines us as a people. Its roots hold the key toward understanding

our world perspective and forming a new path for living in

contemporary society.

In that society, we have suffered.

After seeing the opening performance of Rhiana Yazzie’s “Native Man

The Musical, Phase I,” we understand how identity and experience

form who we are as contemporary Natives in modern America. Whether we

grew up on the reservations or in the urban setting, it has had an

impact on us. The key toward moving forward is to acknowledge our

individual and collective experiences, both good and bad, rather than

being ashamed of them. When we can acknowledge our history and learn

from it, we claim victory over our oppression.

Healing is a paramount chore for our

community. With that in mind, we’ve welcomed Nick Metcalf to The

Circle in his new column “Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised.”

Metcalf was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South

Dakota and came to the Twin Cities 20 years ago to grow personally.

His journey is an admirable one that he has shared over these past

few years as a member of the Minnesota Two Spirit Society, engaging

the community in trainings, workshops and consultations on identity

and healing.

When we can put away the individual

and collective hurt and anger that has been our constant motivation

and replace it with the devotion to the wellbeing for ourselves and

our future generations, we will know true victory over our


On a personal note, I thank the board

of directors of The Circle, my colleague Cat Whipple,

columnists Mordecai Specktor, Ricey Wild and Nick Metcalf for their

patience and understanding this last month. My mother, Lorraine Iron

Shell-Walking Bull passed away on Aug. 24 at the age of 73, after a

three-month battle with various infections. She was the woman who

helped define my worldview, wisdom and passion to do what I do for

the Native community in the Twin Cities. She was always a source of

strength, pride and love for me and my family.

We buried her in our home community of

Upper Cut Meat on the Rosebud reservation on Aug. 30. She was a woman

who valued our tiospaye, Wolakota, faith and traditions. She was of a

generation that is slowly leaving us. My family learned everything we

could from her stories and examples during our comparatively short

lives with her. If there is anything I can impart to our community,

it is to learn our histories and traditions from our elders before

they continue the walk on which, we cannot join them.

We must make them proud.