My name is Joseph Brings Plenty, I want to enlighten you on the existing child issues here on the reservation and a way to assist with a new movement in strengthening our youths environment. In the past I’ve served in different capacities within child and human services on reservations in the state of South Dakota, specifically on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe. I have worked as a police officer for near a decade, a social worker investigating abuse and neglect cases for 4 1/2 yrs, a tribal chairman for 4 years and a counselor within the school systems of Wounded Knee District School and Takini School for the past two years. I find it hard to speak about myself, I’m humble and believe this is a part of our Lakota values but with this issue at hand, I will speak a little of myself in order to help you understand what social ills have stricken our people.
Through these different levels of service I’ve encountered what I’ve come to regard as “the usual issue” which is simple care of our Lakota Children, what we Lakota call “Wakanyeja” in Lakota the meaning is Sacred Beings. The simple portion is from a traditional perspective, for example a way of life with in the Lakota people was and always will be a close net family unit. a story was shared with me when I was younger, a story of a child being born into the Oyate. When a woman gave birth, all the women in the village would gather at the lodge of the birth and when the child came into the light, you would think the child was given to the mother, but this didn’t take place, the child was handed to a woman standing outside of the lodge and that woman handed the wakanyeja to the next woman and so on, until the child has made a connection with each of these women and finally the child was given back to the mother who gave birth. The reason for this was that if something was to happen to that mother, the child would always be taken care of. In our communities, the knowledge and ability is slowly slipping away, we have the resources to be able to empower our youth and redirect our nation into taking steps of becoming a strong nation, again.
The years I have served with each of the positions I have mentioned above, have given me clearer insight of understanding the process utilized by each system that are currently being used now. The programs are in a sense taking newborn children and throwing them into white water rapids, with an idea that has been formulated about the youth who are consumed by the drugs/alcohol and violence with in Indian lands “we did what we could”. I’ve found this isn’t true, an individual effort based upon my own accomplishments between work and volunteer efforts, shows an understanding from within our reservation lands, has shown a way to enable our youth with understanding, in turn, to help guide them from the darkness and into the light.
This ability is based on what I view as a gift or burden depends on how a person views it, the ability of compassion and understanding. The teachings have come from our Lakota guardians of the East, Hehaka Oyate, Elk Nation. Understanding is only one component of the process, the real ingredient is our very own cultural practices. We have successfully used the Inikaga (sweatlodge), Buffalo Ceremony (becoming a woman ceremony), Sundance, Hanbleca (Vision Quest), Yuwipi (house ceremony), Hunka (relative) and Naming ceremonies, the hoop and stick games played. These are the 7 sacred ceremonies that originated from our nations long ago and were used to become a strong nation and stay a strong nation. This is what has been used to save lives within our reservation lands, no psychologists, no licensed counselor, no admittance into a chemical dependency institute, no amount of a prison time. We have accomplished all of this, without any of the state and federal regulations that have been placed on current state facilities. We of course understand rules have to be applied; our nations thrived on the old laws that were given to us from the Sacred Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman. I have 6 children of my own and as a concerned parent I would want to understand an environment is safe for my children, with any organization laws within a society will grow and strengthen our environment.
Teachings and practices of the culture and language would be used to help heal and guide the children we are privileged in working alongside. Also the horse therapy, our people were once known as the horse nation, our relatives will help our youth remember who we are in nature and spirit. In time, I hope this just doesn’t serve American Indian Youth but also the nationalities of our relatives whom form the rest of the sacred hoop, the Red, Yellow, White and Black nations of Unci Maka. The reason for this is, if a gift is given, it truly isn’t a gift until it’s shared, with this I give to all our relatives with a good heart. The boundaries are limitless, we can do much to help heal and rebuild our nation, preparing our youth from grade school to high school and ultimately onto college, the youth will be prepared in knowledge and standards, to become a good Lakota, whether it will be a father, a life giver, a helper, a warrior, a leader. For years I tried to help others in performing this, but in the past recent years I finally realized that I am a part of this movement, not to watch but to provide and help guide with this effort. I accept my role within life, I want to do as much as I can, I once was shown this path a long time ago by a child it was up to me to listen, the hardships that were felt and witnessed have helped provide movements from a grassroots perspective, no political ties, no huge financial benefits we are guided by the natural laws under the creator and a dream that will help save a nation and culture that is rapidly disappearing. We are starting a Facebook page, in order to help people understand more of the issues and the direction we are moving in, the name of our organization is called Lakota O’zan zan (Lakota, brings the light).
Naca Ota Au,
Chief Brings Plenty