Two Months to Black Hills

Two Months to Black Hills
by

First nations around the world have lost their lands, languages, and ways of life at the hands of American and European colonialists pursuing an agenda of domination, genocide, theft, and the elimination of indigenous cultures and identities. Entire nations have vanished. This catastrophe is not just theirs; it belongs to all humans, and to the earth itself, for it has been succeeded by the calamitous loss of animals and plants, and the specter of global warming.

What does it say about us and our separation from this earth? What does it say about our relationship not just to biodiversity, but to human diversity? What does it say about our cultural assumptions of superiority and how they continue to underlie our historical narratives? It is time to bear witness to our systems of thought and values, and to their actions and results that persist to this very day.

While hundreds of Native American tribes have been eliminated, drastically reduced in number, exiled, and traumatized, the Lakota/Dakota people of the Western Plains have gained a prominent position in the world psyche as a major archetype of what has befallen America’s native people. The massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, is viewed by many as a defining event in the genocide of the American Indians, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. What we are most blind to is the continuous institutional violence practiced on the Lakota Nation and other tribes, comprising treaty violations, Congressional acts that permit thievery of their land and resources, the building of dams and flooding of burial grounds hundreds of years old, and the constant encroachment of corporate interests looking to “develop” lands commercially and mine sacred sites for various metals, including uranium.

The Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in August 2015 is but the first step in a process of coming together with Native Americans, many of whom continue to distrust the Wasichu, or white man, punning the name with waĹĄin icu, which means he who takes the fat, someone who is greedy and dishonorable. This first step is bearing witness to the trauma, pain, and loss suffered by members of the Lakota Nation at the hands of the American government and corporations, supported by the ignorance and denial of most Americans.

For this reason, the first day of the five-day program will consist of a guided bus trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation (put link for trip), one of the most impoverished areas in this country. During the next four days, the retreat will take place on land belonging to the Flandreau Santee Sioux in the Black Hills, ten miles north of Deadwood, South Dakota. We are deeply grateful for their generosity. This gorgeous site consists of 170 acres of rolling, graceful meadows.

Place has always been critical to bearing witness retreats. The Place in this retreat is the Black Hills, one of the oldest geographic formations of the North American continent, situated close to its mid-point. Their rock layers are ancient, the mountaintops eroded over a few billion years into hills covered by dark evergreens. Native Americans have always been here, they say; the game-rich Hills and trout-filled streams have been their sacred land, home to ceremonies, vision quests, and burial grounds. These same Black Hills have been stolen and exploited by white Americans over the past two centuries for their silver and gold, and other metals. There are estimates of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of open-air uranium pits leeching uranium into water cisterns serving the Pine Ridge Reservation and as far away as the great Missouri River.

In the Black Hills we can bear witness to our separation from this earth. For this reason we urge as many participants as possible to camp on-site for the duration of the retreat.

The violation of the Hills runs alongside the violation of their people. The four days of the retreat will include talks by Native American elders, spiritual leaders, and educators on the history of this colonializing process. Testimony will be given in the Prayer Circle on the present-day lives of American Indians as a result of the ravaging of their culture, land, and language.

Mornings will begin with council circles led by trained facilitators, so that individuals could share their experiences in small groups. AA meetings will take place every day.

This retreat is but the first step in a process that seeks to bridge the divide created by centuries of fear and distrust. Its purpose is to bear witness. In addition, there will be invocations of atonement and for forgiveness, as well as prayers with members of the Lakota Nation for transformation of our social consciousness, respect for their history and the terms of our joint treaties, and for a new relationship among peoples and with the earth.

Register to the Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills here.

 

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Comments

  1. Debra Shiin Coffey : June 10, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I would like to know who are the speakers at your retreat? My husband is Native American and is skeptical. He went to Indian school in Pierre SD and knows most of the people in the area and is courious to find out who is speaking at your retreat.

  2. Unity of love filled hearts and minds transmutes evil into new life.

  3. Gloria Livingstone : June 11, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    please email me information so I can retrieve the information later. I am travelling

  4. We must never forget where we came from . I could only imagine what our people have endured. My heart is sad to know we are Still divided as Native American people.

  5. Have a good worthwile retreat.

  6. Namaste. This is important and honorable.

  7. What are the requirements for attendance? How much does it cost? What type of weather is to be expected in South Dakota in August?

  8. K Tutashlnda : June 14, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Is it open to other races-African American?

  9. John Freeman Darby : June 14, 2015 at 1:15 am

    The British colonisers unlike the Americans and Spanish did not kill off the bands of peoples of the first nations. However once Canada became a nation the colonisers used the CHURCHES to ghettoized these free peoples,grab their lands, moving them in bands onto worthless réservations without hope nor rights to ownership of property,to live in poor quality shacks without minimum standards of access to basic services such as water and sewage treatment,they stole their children, sodomised,beat them eliminated their language rights and damned their spirits. DAMNED BE THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AS OF THE YEAR 2015 IF MEASURES ARE NOT TAKEN TO CORRECT THESE ERRORS AND IMPROVE THE FIRST NATIONS PEOPLES FUTURES. Canada is a wealthy nation and must act soon to improve its treatment of First Nations peoples.

  10. Teton Saltes : June 14, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Hello, my name is Teton Saltes. I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I certainly do commend your efforts to bridge the gap that has long divided my people from your people. However, our land and our way of life is not a tourist attraction. Despite our current economic and cultural struggles, we keep our traditional customs alive and we prefer to keep them to ourselves. We have let white people into our circle many times and every single time they have lied and betrayed my people. Please forgive us, but we do not want you on our lands. When white people come to our lands, they find ways to exploit us for their own benefit. ello, my name is Teton Saltes. I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I certainly do commend your efforts to bridge the gap that has long divided my people from your people. However, our land and our way of life is not a tourist attraction. Despite our current economic and cultural struggles, we keep our traditional customs alive and we prefer to keep them to ourselves. We have let white people into our circle many times and every single time they have lied and betrayed my people. Please forgive us, but we do not want you on our lands. When white people come to our lands, they find ways to exploit us for their own benefit.

    • peg fitzgerald : June 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      I believe it will take all of us white black yellow brown to defeat the polluting selfish dishonest greedy corrupt blue man. Unhealthy exploitation of mother earth has caused earth and animals to suffer.mitakuye oyasin we are all related. We have the same mother,mother earth. Red Cloud and Black Elk are of the same opinion.It is not just the black hills that are in jeopardy but all of turtle island our sacred mother earth and all of the creatures and the trees the waters the air. I think we need to be taught by the native americans your way of thinking your way of respecting great spirit, peace knowledge wisdom, healing mother earth, fellow man, and freedom. Powerful spirit forces have not forgotten the natural way and will be there to help us if called upon. We are the true protectors of earth. We are earth guardians and mystic warriors. We have the willpower to save the voiceless ones, the plants, the animals. We love the earth and have the courage to try and save it. Link up with all who have like minds. To the four quarters we shall run for help and nothing shall be strong before us. This exploitation of nature also removes us from spiritual enlightenment as well as a feeling of oneness. For the good of all humanity, for the preservation of the ancient forest and the old ways, for the preservation of our creature and tree relatives we must become like the owl and hunt and track down these offenders of the environment and take away their power.owl teaches us to be like north wind face the elements and learn endurance from endurance gain courage. North wind is harsh but leads us to truth. those who become close to nature and respect her discover powerful truths. Powerful knowledge and serenity flow from being taught and applying the values that only a nature based value system can provide and embrace return of good red road. I beseech the mystical powers for the life of this planet (turtle island) mother earth . i pray for spiritual help and insight to help save the ancient forest i call upon the power of the goddess light below power of the dead shamans and great spirit light above and his messenger the eagle i call upon the four buffalo i call upon the four horses our grandfathers i call upon the four directions i call upon the four elements i call upon the thunder being, i call wolf,raven, bear, hawk, i call the trees the mountains, the creatures of the sea that have called to me help us save the ancient forest. Three feathers

    • It is so sad that your experiences have been so brutal. Neither I nor any member of my family would ever betray your trust….ever. Don’t, please, assume that “we” are all such jerks. God bless your retreat.

  11. Mary Morningstar : June 16, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Dear Teton, I know a lot of white people are dishonest about their intent, but they are also dishonest in their intent to other white people. Please do not group me in with those people, I too have been their victim. I have lived on the fringes of this society all my life because I have choose to. When I was young I saw the lie very clearly and could not sell out my soul, for I know what is the most important thing in life. There are many good White people, and it has always been so, but their voices have been drowned out by the same people who have drowned out your voice. When you educate people it calms their fears and help them to understand your way of life and what you go through, It does help. Just as it does help the Wolf when you educate people about them and let them see them first hand. It raises awareness. WE are in a evolution, an evolution of consciousness. I have lived on a reservation in Canada and have seen what goes on first hand and my heart still hurts for the pain I have seen, especially for the children. We are all one people, just people of different colors. All learning, and no one having all the answers. I cannot, nor can you undo the Past, but we can both forge a new present and a new future. But only if you forgive the past and unchain yourself from the pain so you are able to live and create a new future for yourself and your children.

  12. Teton Saltes, I truly understand and respect what you are saying. I don’t fully understand this gathering, but it appears to me that the Lakota/ Dakota Nation is agreeing to participate in this retreat. Is this group actually coming to the Black Hills as a joint endeavor and upon invitation with your Nation?

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