Tatank Luta was formed to fulfill the vision of the Brings Plenty Brothers and our Sister Joyce Wheeler. A vision to see their Lakhól Wičoh’an (way of life of Lakota people) preserved and embraced by their people in order to save them from their present circumstances. These individuals were fortunate enough to grow up on the Reservation in Traditional Lakota Families who spoke their own language, practiced their sacred ceremonies & kept true to their cultural values and practices.
However; not every Indian Child has been as fortunate as they have been. Since the times when the first settlers arrived from Europe there has been a war waged upon this sacred way of life & the original inhabitants of this land we call Turtle Island.
Manifest Destiny was their reasoning. Kill the Indian & Save the Man was their mantra. The invaders killed most people then systematically stripped the survivors of their Land, their Language, and their Ceremonies by making it illegal for them to practice traditional ceremonies until as late as the 19070s.
As we all know, this war has been extremely successful & it has left many of the survivors in a terrible state of existence. The majority of people have lost their spiritual connection to life, they have lost the ability to speak their original language & in fact they have lost their very sense of identity as Indian People. Furthering these identity issues, many have turned to religious practices that are not native to their land or their people.
Without a sense of identity & purpose in life, many people have turned to alcohol and drug abuse in order to fill the void. Children are committing suicide at alarming rates that are double the national average. Life expectancies on Lakota Indian Reservations today are at levels from the early 1900s before the invention of Penicillin, 46 years for males 47 for females. Unemployment on these reservations hovers around 75-85%. In addition, the change in their diet over the years is causing many health problems. American Indian people today have the highest incidence of diabetes of all ethnic groups.
What most people don’t realize is, this war is still being waged on Indian people to this very day. All Indian Reservations in the United States are technically Prisoner of War Camps. Every tribally enrolled member today has a POW Number in addition to their Bureau of Indian Affairs ( BIA ) Number .
One of the main strategies of Kill the Indian and Save the Man was to remove Indian Children from their families and send them to boarding schools where they were forced to cut their hair (which represents their spiritual connection) and give up their traditional ceremonies & practices. The children were forbidden to speak their language & pray in their traditional ways. As late as the 1970s, there are documented cases in the United States and Canada of the government kidnapping children off their reservations and placing them to live with white families.
Tragically this strategy is still in use today by the Government of South Dakota & the department of Social Services who utilize the Foster Care System to remove the children from Indian Families. The children are placed in Foster Care Facilities run by the State of South Dakota. The state automatically classifies every Indian Child as a “Special Needs” child. This allows them to collect up to 3 times the amount money they can collect for any other child. Although American Indian children comprise only 14% of the children in South Dakota American Indian children accounted for 60% of children in foster care in South Dakota in 2012. As you can see, the state has effectively commoditized the American Indian Children of today. See Aljazeera article» Keeping with their original strategy, American Indian children were reunified with their families only 47.8 percent of the time in 2012. A full 90% of the American Indian children who were kept in foster care were placed with non-Native families insuring the further destruction of their Lakhól Wičoh’an.
All of this has occurred in spite of the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). The purpose of the ICWA is “…to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture… “(25 U.S. C. 1902).
Amazingly despite all that has occurred over the last 500 years, the Indian People are still here! Their spiritual connection is still strong, they speak their original language & practice their traditional ceremonies so their Lakhól Wičoh’an still exists.
The founders of Tatanka Luta have an understanding that was passed to them by their ancestors. The solution to the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual ills in our communities can be found in Lakhól Wičoh’an (way of life of Lakota people). So they formed Tatanka Luta, Inc., to utilize Lakhól Wičoh’an to address the dire conditions that exist on our Reservations today and restore our peoples’ sense of identity and purpose in this life.