Dear Relatives (mitakuye pi):
I am a White man — born and raised in America. With ancestors from Italy and Germany. I grew up within a half a day’s drive of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and was drawn to their warriors, traditions and culture from my earliest memories, though I didn’t understand why and didn’t come to visit until I was a young adult.
And then I came to see for myself. On my first drive through, I remember feeling what I still feel today: Profound respect for the traditions and wisdom that are carried by the Elders. Seemingly infinite interest in the history of the two races that met, fought and failed to understand each other. And a deep sadness for the lies, betrayal and violence that continue to haunt the land and People today. Wounded Knee. White Clay. The Stronghold.
It’s a land that has given birth, nurtured and seen the rise of great heroes also: Crazy Horse. Sitting Bull. Red Cloud. All of whom were in turn nurtured and strengthened by their matriarchal communities. It is — to this day — a land and People that is deeply proud, powerful and resilient. The lies, betrayal and violence have had devastating effects but have left untouched what was born and nurtured for thousands of years.
When I was young, I was fortunate that only six hours from my middle class home was a land and a People that still remembered how to live with Mother Earth in a respectful and sustainable way; where wealth and Spirit had nothing to do with money and religion; and whose families (tiospayes) bound the larger society together through the deepest of struggles.
I am honored and grateful to continue to learn from — and walk with — my Lakota friends and family 40 years after my earliest curiosities of our Nation’s original inhabitants.
Executive Director – Tatanka Hoksila