I haven’t had much time for myself during the last couple of weeks because we have a Japanese student staying with us. She is delightful, curious and intelligent. It has made me stop and question and explain many of the routine things that I do and say each day. I am really enjoying the chance to see my world through fresh eyes, encouraging me to interpret American customs and actions.
My daughter has been studying the present plight of Native Americans, especially the Lakota tribe that lives at Pine Ridge. It is a complicated, tragic situation and explaining it to our friend from Japan has caused me to really be ashamed of how disrespectfully and cruelly we are still treating these original keepers of this land we live on. There is a very powerful talk that was given by Aaron Huey, a photographer who has taken some amazing pictures at Pine Ridge.Here is a link to Huey’s presentation that I hope you will watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/aaron_huey
There are some shocking statistics, like the average life span of men on the reservation is 47 and women is 52. In many of the photos, there are horses, some with young men riding them without saddles or bridles. I was really drawn to the closeness and the understanding that clearly exists between them. The horses appear to me to know so much about the suffering and seem to be there in some way to protect them.
I spent some time alone with Silk last night before dinner, just standing with her and rubbing her neck, leaning on her back. I thought about Huey’s photos and what he said: “The suffering of indigenous peoples is not a simple issue to fix. It's not something everyone can get behind the way they get behind helping Haiti, or ending AIDS, or fighting a famine. The "fix," as it's called, may be much more difficult for the dominant society than, say, a $50 check or a church trip to paint some graffiti-covered houses, or a suburban family donating a box of clothes they don't even want anymore. So where does that leave us? Shrugging our shoulders in the dark? The United States continues on a daily basis to violate the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties with the Lakota… Honor the treaties. Give back the Black Hills. It's not your business what they do with them.” Huey has started a non-profit called Honor the Treaties (http://www.honorthetreaties.org).
I live every day with my horses reminding me what is important about not losing the rituals of our ancestors, protecting the water and land where we live and leaving our children a world that can sustain them and offer them some hope for their children’s future. So, I believe it is also time for us to honor the Sunka Wakan Oyate (Horse) Nation and pay attention to them.