May 1, 2015 - Reclaiming Responsibilities for Our Next Generations by Matt Remle
Some of our earliest teachings came to our ancestors through intense observation of the natural world around them. Our relatives from the winged, four legged and other nations taught us much from how to organize our nations, to how to hunt, to which medicines to use. In the Northern Plains, one of our greatest teachers, and providers, was the Pte Oyate (buffalo nation).
When the Pte Oyate senses danger they move into a protective formation to protect their young. The Tatanka, buffalo bulls, will encircle the herd taking their instruction for the eldest bull who stands in the middle. The buffalo cows will form a secondary inner protective circle inside the circle of bulls. In the very center are the calves. The herd functions to protect the calves since they are both the most vulnerable and represent the future survival of the herd.
As the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires Lakota, Dakota & Nakota), one of the lessons we learned from observing this protective formation is that one of our responsibilities as adults is to protect our young. Our young are vulnerable to outside attacks and the survival of our nations rests with the survival of our young.
Over the course of the past several hundred years, U.S. colonialism, and its campaigns of genocide, have worked feverishly to not only displace Indigenous populations from their homelands, but to also destroy our traditions, spiritualities, languages, and traditional ways of being.
The introduction of the government sponsored, church run, boarding schools was perhaps the government’s most effective tool in bringing about the near decimation of our traditional ways. The wide spread theft and forced assimilation of our children over the course of generations worked effectively to eliminate languages, customs, spiritualities and traditional roles and responsibilities, including that as protectors and providers for our young.
Today, it would be no stretch of the truth to state that our young are living in a near constant state of emergency. Conditions impacting our youth range from high suicide rates, malnourishment, abandonment, substance abuse, bullying, and harassment to physical and sexual abuse. While these conditions don’t impact all our youth, or all our Nations, to say they don’t exist is simple denial. Having worked for over a decade in a border town high school serving our Native youth, I’ve worked with many of our young ones who face a number of these issues and more.
Too often, the issues impacting our young are met with a blind eye, or condemnation in blaming them for their problems. This must end. Protecting, supporting, and uplifting our young ones will not come from any government, school or even tribal programs, but rather from us reclaiming our traditional roles and responsibilities as protectors and providers for not just our own children, but all children.
Providing our young ones with our time, love and energy will do far more for their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual being than any program could ever provide. It is also upon us to stand up, encircle them, and protect them from the constant dangers they face. From protecting traditional lands, medicines, songs, languages, and ceremonies to stopping sexual exploitation, depression and substance abuse we have much to fight for and against. Our young are precious and they are our future. Their survival, and the survival of our Nations, is dependent on us fulfilling our responsibilities.
Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle @wakiyan7 )