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From the Editor's Desk: The meaning of Native Pride
Monday, October 07 2013
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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The meaning of Native Pride

By Alfred Walking Bull

With the close of the powwow season, sightings of the embroidered fashion bearing ďNative PrideĒ will be few and far between until next season. It gives one pause to contemplate those two words and delve into their meaning, beyond that of a fairly profitable model for Native clothiers and entrepreneurs around the country.

Growing up and having worked for my home tribe in South Dakota, the concept of Native pride has always been more abstract. For those who wear the gear, itís indicative of a shared culture, history and legacy of our ancestors; whether thatís honoring the battles and wars they fought or the current culture that developed from those roots. However, with poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, health, domestic and sexual violence statistics being what they are, itís difficult to find deep meaning in what it is to be proud of being Native.

Native pride is more than whatís emblazoned on a T-shirt, jacket or baseball cap. It must be an attitude and outlook on oneís individual and tribal life and circumstances that incorporates the truth of our existence as well as the optimism and discipline to make a better future manifest.

As of Oct. 1, the United States federal government is closed for business with all non-essential personnel and services suspended until Republicans and Democrats in Congress can reach a workable agreement on the countryís budget. As Natives, whether one identifies with the presidentís party, the Tea Party or Ė like myself Ė some - where in between, we have known what the rest of the country is waking up to just now: government does not always act in the best interests of the disenfranchised.

As of this printing, federally-funded Head Start programs, Indian Health Services and Bureau of Indian Affairs offices around Indian Country are taking a hit. These agencies, programs and services provide much-needed basic needs for Native communities in rural areas, their children and elders. For those of us who grew up on the reservation, sadly, we know what it is to do without.

But with every generation comes a renewed sense of optimism. Every victory, an opportunity to build upon. During my time in Minnesota, Iíve undergone a culture shock. In South Dakota, we are raised to understand that every level of government must be met with skepticism and outright distrust. We are raised to think that anything new is dangerous and leads to disappointment. But in this state, less than three hours away from South Dakota, an entirely different world exists between tribal nations and the state and federal governments.

Itís a constant source of interest for me personally and professionally. During a recent trip to Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Red Lake and White Earth, the ethic of the Anishinaabe people isn't as fatalistic as my Lakota relatives. There is a sense of accomplishment and prosperity. Whether thereís consistency to that observation, time and interaction with my Anishinaabe relatives will mete out.

On asking why there seemed to be a difference in attitude and sense of purpose, I was told that economic opportunity was paired with good relationships with non-tribal people, organizations, governments and companies. The Anishinaabe understand, reclaim and practice their culture while at the same time, have respect for their non-tribal neighbors enough to meet them halfway on most things.

So here, Native pride is more than a marketing ploy to sell overpriced clothes. Native pride means under - standing and respecting oneís culture demonstrably by sharing it without anger or resentment. It also means supporting and uplifting one another in new endeavors, policies and pro - grams. While Iím sure this took more years than most people in my generation have been alive, itís a fascinating model for my Lakota relatives to explore during this period when our budgets are being slashed, burned and halted.


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