Lakota - Comment on Cultural Theft
By Dawson Her Many Horses, Oglala Sioux. 21 February, 1995
Hello. My name is Dawson Her Many Horses. I am a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of south central South Dakota. I am a student at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. New surroundings always take some time to get used to, and Amherst was no exception. South Dakota, except for the Black Hills, is, for all purposes, flat. Western Mass., on the other hand, is not. At times, I find myslef missing the flat horizons and open sky of South Dakota (when I first moved here, I had no sense of direction because of the trees). When it rains, I wish that I could have seen the oncoming storm. Passing cars replace the silence outside my room. There was a time when I thought that these places where two different worlds. Then I read NatChat.
Every summer hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tourists come to the reservation in hopes of attaining some part of our culture, i.e. they purchase the jewlery, blankets, and the food. Some go to powwows and dance during the intertribals, while others walk around the arena and take pictures of the hand made dancing outfits.
Unfortunately, not everbody is satisfied with these small tokens of Lakota culture. Some people come to our reservations, not to buy a pair of earrings, but to appropriate our sacred ceremonies. If you come to the reservation with these hopes, please consider what I am about to tell you.
What you hope to participate in has withstood the tests of the U.S. government and various Christian organizations. The days of the 7th Cavalry may be over, but with the onslaught of these summer people, our culture is again under attack.
As I read NatChat, I am reminded on the people who come to Pine Ridge during the summer. Our ceremonies are not to be taken lightly, or without much consideration. When you want to partake in our Sundance, or if you want to seek a vision, please think of the Lakota people who died while practicing and preserving these traditions. Our lifestye is not a hobby, and it is not something that you do in your spare time.
Moreover, as I read NatChat, I am filled with feelings of insult and anger. I have read the letters describing the terrible conditions of reservation life. With all the alcoholism, racism, and unemployment that so many people write about, it is a wonder, dare I say, a miracle, that we, the Lakota people, are alive today.
There is a reason why we live, and it can not be quantified in your census reports, your morality reports, or your crime reports. Please do not patronize us with your sentiments of noblisse oblige. We are not dead, spiritually or culturally.
And to that end, I end this letter.
Wishing the best, I remain.
Dawson Her Many Horses