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Editorials
OPINION: In the Moon of the Falling Leaves
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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I’ve just returned from New York City.

There, I attended the People's Climate March, where 400,000 people walked the streets of the city, demanding that governments take action on the climate. It was the largest such rally in U.S. history. I was joined by my two l4 year-old sons, to witness history in the making.

Since we were in town, we also went to the United Nations to see Indigenous peoples. This is to say, the Tadadaho – the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy – open the General Assembly at the United Nations. (He’s sort of like the Dalai Lama of the Iroquois confederacy in my mind). This was the first time that an Indigenous spiritual leader has spoken his language at the United Nations and opened the General Assembly, representing – in this case – the oldest North American democracy and a people much older than the United Nations.

Let us say that history is often made in some moments, those moments are part of a force which changes the course of history. That we know and what that means now, is what I am pondering.

History, after all, teaches that there is a moment when a paradigm shifts. Those moments are often a result of many actions – whether lawsuits, police and civil society conflict, or demonstrations. One moment was the March on Washington, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, l963. That was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act was passed one year later. That law guaranteed people the right to desegregate the schools and motels, restaurants and almost all public facilities.

 

From the Editor's Desk: Our languages and our worldviews
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpg Those of us who grow up in privilege are required to acknowledge that privilege and do good things with that privilege. In Lakota culture, those of us descended from traditional leadership are reminded and invited to practice that principle every day we draw breath.

It may seem odd for those of us who come from impoverished, tribal communities to think of ourselves as privileged. We have almost no advantage in the world: unemployment, substance and alcohol abuse, educational challenges, the list goes on. However, for those of us who were raised to listen to our elders, our stories and our language, we have an enormous wealth, privilege and responsibility of culture to guide those who did not have our advantages.

Language is both the root and the fruit of our culture, it shapes who we are, our worldview, our values and is shaped by who we are, our worldview and our values. Recently, Duane Hollow Horn Bear, an elder and spiritual leader on my reservation spoke and said, “We have a hard time understanding each other when we use the D-dialect, the N-dialect and L-dialects, so we use the E-dialect when we're all together.” His allusion to English among an almost exclusively Lakota audience notwithstanding, he admitted to an often overlooked subject of how we communicate as indigenous communities in a modern world.

Though we as a tribal people have lived through centuries of oppression and subjugation at the hands of America, the one thing we have taken from the country that grew up around us is our ability to keep our traditions alive and documented. In our cover story, we see how Ojibwe and Dakota linguists are fighting every day to keep our languages vital and a part of our daily lives. They do so because it is imperative to remember our worldviews.

 

From the Editor's Desk: Overcoming fatalism and claiming victory
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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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.


Enbridge not good at math
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Winona LaDuke,
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Lorraine Little of the Enbridge Company keeps telling regulators and the public that 96 percent of the landowners along the proposed route of the Sandpiper Bakken oil pipeline are friendly and supportive. I don’t believe it.

That might be because of comments submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Some 459 opposed the pipeline route, while 37 were proponents of the route. Of those opponents, 387 expressed environmental concerns, 131 expressed concerns about the tribal impact and 347 wanted an alternative route, outside of the lakes. (Remember Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., came out opposing the pipeline a couple of weeks ago and some 20 state representatives expressed deep concerns about the pipeline process at the PUC.)

So, not sure how Enbridge does math, but I learned my math differently. Let’s think about where Enbridge might have gotten its numbers. The support might be somewhat true in North Dakota, or at least almost, because the North Dakota Public Service Commission has approved the route of the pipeline. This is not surprising, for several reasons.


From the Editor's Desk: Why we continue Native journalism
Thursday, August 07 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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whats_new_-_walfred_walking_bull.jpgIn the Lakota culture, there is a position that I've always found fascinating. It's called eyapaha. Traditionally, the eyapaha was effectively the spokesman for every tiospaye (extended family), and encampment in our nation. The eyapaha shared the decisions our councils made and fostered discussion where it was needed with information not everyone may have known. In essence, the eyapaha was analogous to our modern-day journalist.

It's often my wont to tell anyone who asks that I am not an elitist journalist … but I was educated by elitist journalists. When I attended the American Indian Journalism Institute and continued to study journalism at the University of South Dakota, the term “gatekeeper” was still bounced around with pride and zeal. We were being educated on how to find a story, getting others to tell the story and making sure the story was fair to all parties involved. Then came the real world.

Before accepting the responsibility of this position (one I still regard with the highest esteem, mostly because The Circle is older than I am), I was the editor for my tribal newspaper, The Sicangu Eyapaha and began to understand the dynamics of reportage in a tribal setting. Nothing we reported was good enough, fast enough or had enough of what everyone wanted. Cynicism set in as I fell back on my education, wondering if keeping alive a seemingly static journalistic tradition in a changing world while being a Native person on a reservation was too much irony for me.

But was is not.

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