By : Wiyaka Chasing Hawk
Greetings my relatives.
My name is Wiyaka Chasing Hawk; I am a proud father of a 7 year old daughter named Cokabunwin which means “Center of the People” in Lakota, and a member of the Itazipcola (No Bows) band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in north central South Dakota. I am also a full-time student majoring in Tribal Management at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D. I would like to begin with a narrative of my childhood living in the countryside of the small community of Red Scaffold nestled in Ziebach County and more widely known as the “West End”.
Growing up as a young boy living with my father Eagle Hunter in the country, our close relatives Cecil and Lois Chasing Hawk and their six boys lived one mile north of us. The youngest of the boys, Wade and I, were inseparable. During the summer months we were awestruck with this vast land that was around us and took every opportunity to explore and hunt, fish, pick chokecherries, plums, buffalo berries and dig turnips. We would make bows and arrows and hunt frogs and use them for bait to fish at any part of the creek we chose and would place some set lines in the creek overnight. In the morning we would wake up early before our parents and check them and there was always a catfish on the end of one. One particular day, I checked the set line and pulled in an enormous catfish that must have weighed 20 pounds and carried it to my Uncle Cecil’s house and my Aunt Lois prepared & cooked it. That one catfish fed twelve people and there were still some left. In our daily lives, I recall times of my father and uncle visiting, laughing and speaking all in Lakota and then Wade and I would go riding horses, make war paint from the stones by the creek so we could re-enact the Battle of Little Big Horn, hunt small game and offering our kill to the elderly in the surrounding houses along with the berries we had picked. I remember the powerful stories told to us. Here are some examples: the story of the three warriors that are buried in a hill close to our home because they were the first to be infected with the smallpox disease, or the story of a warrior named Eagle Staff that earned so many feathers for his warlike deeds he attached them onto a “wapaha” or staff, or the undocumented story long ago of the pioneers traveling in their wagons that trespassed into our territory and were killed for doing so.
During my years growing up there and like many that lived in the country, we had no running water, furnace or electricity. I had to do my homework under a kerosene lamp at night and in the morning haul a 5 gallon water bucket into the house, chop wood and stacked it before the bus came to transport us to the Red Scaffold Day School. I absolutely LOVE that everyday life. At this point you’re probably wondering, where is he going with this?
Recently I read some news articles regarding Ziebach County being the “poorest in America” and I am genuinely uneasy and upset by the information circulated by a person that doesn’t live in the country of Red Scaffold. We are a humble people. We survive on what is necessary so that we continue our Lakota way of life. We may not have large amounts of capital or drive new cars, wear expensive clothes or live in $250,000 houses but what matters most to us is that we are rich in history, rich in the Lakota language, rich in our culture, rich in the ability to survive, rich in perseverance and resiliency. We do not warrant to be exploited and be used as a catalyst for the reporter’s unscrupulous yellow journalism. If you truly want to help us, provide us with buffalo and butcher it with us. Come with us and harvest the healthy fruits within our lands and offer it to the old ones and the weak. Hunt the deer with us and make “bapa” (dried meat). Dig the “tinspsila” (turnips) and braid them.
In my lastrealindian Lakota opinion, Mollie Orshansky and her development of the poverty threshold in the early 1960’s for the United States Government is harmful to our youth that are labeled as such and is a deliberate use of the propaganda model & systemic bias for the end result of the minority Lakota to abandoning our lands and be overrun with white cattle ranchers.
Our land and where we grow up plays a large role in our identity. If the United States Government intends to force us off our land, I will dig up the maza wakan I have hidden, and you can replace that soil over my body after we fight. Hecetuwelo.
Wiyaka has roots on the Cheyenne River (West End) and Standing Rock Nations. He is currently enrolled in the Tribal Management Program at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D. and is expected to graduate in December of 2013. He is a student, employee and the lead coordinator of the Waunsila Student Volunteer Group the first-of-its-kind. Wiyaka is creating a path for his family and his daughter Cokabunwin (Center of the People)”