Letter to Tasunka Witko (Crazy Horse) by: Matt Remle
I would like to extend a wopila tanka (many thanks) to you, as well as, to all our ancestors who lived, fought and died so that we may be here today. There are no words that can express the deep appreciation and gratitude that my tiospaye and Oyate feels towards what you all have done for us. I send these words to you from the beautiful lands of the Coast Salish peoples with the upmost humility on this day September 5th, 2013, 136 years after your life was taken.
Often, I reflect upon the current state of our Oyate, of Native and Indigenous peoples in general, and the state of our mother Maka Ina and wonder how you and others of your era like Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull) would think, or feel, and how you would respond. Sometimes, I feel embarrassed about our current generation’s response, or lack thereof, to these issues especially given the grave levity and the depth and seriousness to which the current state of affairs has reached, especially the plight of our sacred first mother, Maka Ina.
Since your journey the wasicu, or western society, has done everything in its power to pick apart and destroy our Oyate, our identities, our tiospaye’s, and the makoche (land) and not just to us Lakota, but to nearly all peoples and lands around Maka Ina.
For nearly 100 years, the colonizer criminalized our traditional ways, our spirituality, and our languages. We are blessed though that we had strong wicasa (men) and winyan (women) who, like you, risked their lives and went underground with the language and ceremonies so that we may still have our ways today. We endured through the lost generations, wakanyeja (children), who were stolen from their homes and placed in remote boarding, or residential schools, where the colonizer sought to “kill the Indian, to save the man.”
Iktomi (the trickster) has come to the people in perhaps his most deadly and destructive form yet disguised as alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs have and continue to destroy our communities and Oyate. More recently, Iktomi has come in yet another dangerous form in that of greed. Many of us have forgotten your words “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk” and now are only too happy to “sell” away the makoche to mining, oil, or other corporate interest despite knowing the devastating impacts on Maka Ina, our other relatives, and even to our own communities that they have.
This spiritual war against drugs and alcohol, for the re-strengthening of our tiospaye, and against the desecration of Maka Ina and all her wakanyeja, is perhaps our current greatest struggle. This is where I wonder how you would respond. Are we today living up to the example of what you and others have shown us, in how to stand up and fight for the people, land and next generations?
Maybe this is an unfair question, since each person, each spirit, is sent to the time and place that they were meant to be sent to. You, and I am honored to say many of my own relatives who fought alongside of you, were sent to the people at a time and place when most needed, maybe we need to understand that we have been sent to this time for a reason.
The wasicu, or western society, likes to claim that the spirit of the people has been broken that there is nothing left except to assimilate into their society. Maybe it is this lie that is the responsibility of our generation to expose. Maybe it is our responsibility to fight this spiritual war and remind the people exactly who and what we are as children of earth.
We know that the children of profit will not cease their assault against Maka Ina and if we are truly going to make a stand against this onslaught, then we must do so with the clarity of identity and understanding of our relationship to Maka Ina, all her wakanyeja and to the greater cosmos.
Knowing who and what we are as relatives to all relations strengths our spirit and connection to all that is around us both the seen and unseen. This strength and clarity of self will carry us forward in the spiritual war against our shared mother.
Let our generation stand strong and fulfill the responsibilities bestowed upon us just as Tasunka Witko, Tatanka Iyotake and so many others stood up and fulfilled their responsibilities. Let us live so that the next generations will look back and give wopila to their ancestors who took a stand for them.
Tasunka Witko, we shall do this in your spirit, in the spirit of Crazy Horse.
Wakinyan Wa’anatan (Matt Remle)