From the Editor's Desk: Sovereignty and responsibility
Friday, August 28 2015
Written by Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle Managing Editor,
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awb-office-web.jpgIn this issue, we've explored the acts of Ojibwe citizens who are exercising their treaty rights by harvesting wild rice in off-reservation territory as well as the impacts of other tribes asserting their authority in economic, land and environmental concerns.

One of the more outstanding speeches on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council floor while I served as the managing editor of The Sicangu Eyapaha, was given by Rep. Russell Eagle Bear (Black Pipe Community). When a tribal citizens spoke on what the council should do to exercise sovereignty in his name, Eagle Bear countered with, “Take out your wallet, look at your ID, is that a South Dakota ID? When you receive a Social Security check, do you cash it? Yes? Then you are not sovereign.”

It was one of the more bold statements made about the state of tribal and individual sovereignty in America. In two questions, Eagle Bear had reminded us all that we are dependent on a foreign government that dictates our own powers to us in our own territory and either we must accept what is given to us or we must make sacrifices and do what's best to ensure our collective future.

In that spirit of sovereignty, we take a moment to consider this newspaper. This newspaper has been the paper of record for the Twin Cities and regional Native communities for over 35 years. It is an independent body, free from tribal government and private influences. In Western parlance, we consider a newspaper and the journalists it employs members of the Fourth Estate.

The Estates of the Realm are a largely Christian European concept that outline the place of authorities in society as the clergy (first estate), nobility (second estate) and commoners (third estate.) The Fourth Estate is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized, generally recognized as the press.

While in America – having no nobility and separation between church and state – we have placed our faith in the third estate. The place of journalists – while controversial and subjective at times – is still considered a responsibility by its more reputable members. In a sense, we are sovereign but in service to the people. That is a reputation I have worked hard to preserve in my time as managing editor, sometimes to the consternation of others.

It's been my pleasure and privilege to serve this community in that capacity. However, when one has a responsibility to such a community, one has to recognize when one's efforts are no longer effective, appreciated nor satisfying the mission of the newspaper. My failure to anticipate a drop in advertising from the community as well as the personal loss of my mother – observing the traditions of my tiospaye associated with mourning – combined to paralyze my effectiveness at growing this institution as I had set out to do in July of 2013.

While I was busy staying away from society to honor the passing of my mother, opportunities to network, raise money and sell advertising slipped through my grasp. In Lakota culture, we take care of the spirit of the recently dead, we put them first in death just as we had while they lived. Even so, the traditional period of mourning should have given way to the economic realities of the world around me, but it did not.

The only real and consistent decision I've made this year was to ensure the traditions I grew up with were observed, if for no other reason than that is what my parents did, as did their parents. So while I honored my family, culture and tradition, I was unable to honor my obligation to this newspaper and organization.

The price of that choice has resulted in the diminishing of revenue and the goodwill of community investment. And so, my mistakes and faults before me, I am stepping down at the end of the year. It is my hope that my successor is equipped to anticipate changes, respond immediately and satisfy the needs of the community and this news organization, however they may express themselves.

On Aug. 24, I marked the one year anniversary of my mother's death. While professional obligations did not allow me to return home for the ceremonies called for during this time, being welcomed back into society, it does mark the formal end of mourning. So in my remaining time at this newspaper, my primary responsibility will be to rebuild trust and goodwill for the next managing editor who will, undoubtedly, grow this organization to serve this community with distinction and honor.

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