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Research Paper on Lakota Indians (The Sioux)

There are some current events relating to these indigenous people / Lakota woman in sex trafficking

IndiansNative American economic conditions appear to have improved dramatically with the advent of tribal casinos in states where gambling is traditionally illegal. Reservation casinos imply that money is now pouring into tribal infrastructure and contribute to the life of all Native Americans in such a way that no further assistance is needed; this is not true. In reality, casino revenues do not replace the charitable contributions and government assistance of the pre-casino days. An example is the alarmingly low life-expectancy rate of the Oglala Lakota men on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Life expectancy there is 56.5 years (Glover 2003). Casino contributions are minimal, nowhere near replacing the generous charitable contributions of American people and organizations aimed at empowering tribal life, health and education. The Running Strong for American Indian Youth organization that has programs on the Pine Ridge Reservation has seen a free-falling drop in contributions and fundraising support in recent times, as much as 50%.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is the second largest in the U.S., consisting of over a million and a half square miles. Its population estimates vary widely between the U.S. census and FEMA with numbers of 14,295 and 39,734, respectively (Petrillo, Trejo, & Trejo 2007: 3). In ethnographic studies in relation to work and identity, an example of the complicated problem of Lakota people finding work lies in the tribal affiliation and the extensive racial mixing over time; in order to survive as an individual, one often needs to find work either in a tribal casino or other tribal business on the reservation or leave the reservation. The socio-economic ramifications have different outcomes. One’s lineage is also taken into account on the reservation; if a Lakota leaves the reservation to find work, that tribal member can be disaffiliated from the tribe because of his or her living a white lifestyle. Since tribes are sovereign, reassimilating back into reservation life after a career off the reservation can have its troubles because of rejection and/or bias from those who have remained on the reservation.

In addition to casinos, smoke shops and small grocery stores one dark side of Lakota economy is in sex trafficking of its women. This is not exclusive of Lakota women as women of other tribes suffer a similar fate; they are born from a liaison between their mother and a client. They grow up in abusive situations, poverty, lack of education and health care and suffer the same fate as their mothers in a vicious cycle with an over 500 year history (Pember 2012). This activity occurs off of the reservations and on American territory in major cities. While some women are born into the trade, others are drawn into it in their search for work, housing or family. The stories vary widely as to how Native women wind up in prostitution but Pember’s article That Beautiful Oglala Lakota Girl in the LIVE GIRLS! Booth, an Oglala girl named Debra left her abusive father on the reservation and traveled to Duluth, Minnesota to find her mother. Pember concluded that the meeting between mother and daughter did not go well due to the fact that Debra lapsed into alcohol and drug abuse, requiring yet another visit to rehab. Her family thinks she is an antiques dealer but in reality she is a prostitute. She does not expect to return to the reservation and letters written to her father are laced with rage-filled obscenities and accusations while a letter to her uncle asking for a food and tobacco offering under her tree when she is dead.

The Lakota lifestyle varies from group to group. Older Lakota females speak of the hard work just to keep a household together, such as hauling water, quilt making after school where one quilt would take all winter, ramshackle houses with leaking roofs and making their own clothes, having learned sewing in school (Petrillo, Trejo, & Trejo, 2007: 23). Modern Lakota life is not well documented in any detail due to the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations being restricted to outsiders, including anthropologists, ethnologists and other non-Native groups. The earlier customs and language were uprooted when the Natives were forcibly moved onto reservations and indoctrinated by the whites. The early times of this conflict saw Native children completely uninterested in learning English in the non-reservation day schools so boarding schools were built. Lakota custom was maintained only to a point; their meeting places were moved into buildings, agencies were established, grist mills built. The Lakota men were encouraged to work and some worked on the buildings, some hauling freight and some raising cattle (Bettelyoun & Waggoner 1999:115). Traditional gardens of squash, beans and corn are cultivated and the women still make traditional beadwork that generates a small amount of income. The collapse of the buffalo led to the Lakota losing their independence and receiving rations from posts in addition to raising their own food. Lakota men switched from active hunting to European style work, and due to the introduction of liquor by the European settlers and the Natives’ lack of being able to metabolize it, alcoholism and diabetes began go soar (Zielske 2008).

Polygamy amongst the Sioux tribes (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota) is well documented prior to the U.S. government outlawing polygamy amongst Native Americans in 1904. This created a loss of knowledge of Lakota children of their patriarchal family lines, resulting in divorces or denials of marriages due to couples discovering they were related or that a spouse contained European descent (Zielske 2008). The traditional clans were now delineated and with the custom of marrying a relative prohibited amongst the Lakota, families were not only brought together but also torn apart as marital unions were declined. The restriction of Natives to reservations has limited the potential of finding a mate within the tribe; while marrying a person outside of the Lakota tribe is not prohibited, it does restrict access to reservation life for an interracial couple, resulting in more Lakota living off of the reservation and not seeing family members still there.

Even though Natives had opportunities for off-reservation housing, many had no education and could not partake of the material rewards offered by the government programs. Through the splits of families allocated to reservations thousands of miles away, many natives could not afford family reunions due to the lack of transportation (Zielske, 2008). This also relates to the religious practices of the Lakota including powwows, the Sun Dance and other seasonal or annual celebrations. The incidents at Wounded Knee in both 1890 and 1973 were pivotal in changing how the Lakota practice their religion today. Where Wounded Knee was a primary venue for the practice of some Lakota ceremonies, the Lakota now travel widely throughout the United States and Canada for religious ceremonies rather than rely on one designated venue.

The 1973 Wounded Knee event involved the FBI, state and local law enforcement stormed Lakota territory after some Lakota had been murdered by gangs. Seeing the need to protect themselves during their ceremony, the Lakota began to form such a plan but ran into trouble with the FBI lying to the public and press regarding why they were arresting Indians. Gunfire began being exchanged, with each side accusing the other of firing the first shot (Zielske, 2008). The government officials maintained their stance of keeping the peace but in fact were upholding the ban on Native Americans being able to openly practice their own religious ceremonies. The second battle at Wounded Knee spurred open outcries of injustice against Native Americans and accusations of the government being too oppressive denying Native Americans access to their previous ceremonial sites because it conflicted with Federal regulations. The American Indian Movement began to gain recognition and support from the American public; the Lakota and Dakota were emboldened by changes in the U.S. government’s stance and openly practiced their ceremonies for the first time since having been sequestered to reservation life. This move drew the general public into wanting to know more about Native American religion and spirituality, spawning books and lectures, invitations from Natives to observe and/or participate and culminating with the popular Kevin Costner film Dances With Wolves which portrayed the wanton overrun of the Lakota in a graphic manner that riveted its viewers and attracted even more support for Native Americans.

In spite of the continuing efforts by tribes to better their lot and overcome the oppression imposed on them by European settlers as well as the United States government as well as the extensive anthropological research conducted on tribal customs and religions, the amount of knowledge gained by non-Natives is skewed and in some cases inaccurate altogether either by the Natives fooling the researchers in order to protect what little of their culture they have or the loss of the culture altogether through the splitting of clans and boarding school education of Native children, severing their ties with their heritage in very few generations.

While the casinos have enabled some tribes to improve their infrastructure, other tribes enjoy little to no benefit and very little is known of tribal casino financial distribution. It is noted, however, that reservation roads are being paved, buildings being improved, houses have running water and heat unlike even twenty years ago. Still, while casino revenue contributes some of the necessary revenue to improve living conditions for a given reservation, they do not come close to the monies from programs devoted to education, medical care and the restoration of culture. In addition, the casinos enable the purchase of new land that was once Lakota territory in order to overcome the barren wasteland of the reservations that prohibit agriculture and self-sufficiency (Zielske, 2008).

In the case of the Lakota, despite being the most famous group of Native Americans on the planet their customs and tradition have been largely lost except for a very few ceremonies such as the Sun Dance, Ghost Dance and powwows. What has been made famous or promoted by modern “medicine men” has inconclusive basis in reality. The Lakota Sioux have been the most vocal group and are heralded as having been the fiercest warriors in battle but the only knowledge of their lives are left in the personal diaries or documentations of U.S. soldiers and missionaries. Due to the fact that very few whites learned the Lakota language except for war strategy or trade, it can’t be said for certain what religious practices we see today are authentic from pre-colonial times or not.

Since 9/11 and the border restrictions that were imposed, Lakota/Dakota movement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico as well as air travel has restricted Natives from traveling with their ceremonial items such as knives, spears, eagle feathers and hallucinogenic substances (Zielske, 2008). The use of sage, sweetgrass and smudge sticks is widespread in both Native and non-Native people due to the popularization of Lakota culture but with every step forward there seems to be a step backward in the Lakota’s success in retaining a culture so fractured and oppressed; in the current casino and post-9/11 era, even while tribal members return to reservations to work the children are not interested in the traditional ways. Elders are dying off, and medicine people are moving to non-casino reservations.

As Federal rules keep squeezing the Lakota with rules and restrictions, some aspects of life have vastly improved, but at the cost of the rich culture that is their heritage. It is not known how the current conditions will affect the Lakota Sioux, but it can be said that more losses will likely occur as they are forced to choose between a better life and a cultural identity. The plight of the Lakota Sioux continues, but in a less violent way than before.

References Cited

Bettelyoun, S. B., & Waggoner, J. 1999 With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her People's History (E. Levine, Ed.). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Glover, V.

2003 Casinos Don't Help Most Indians. Social Education, 67(5), M14. Pember, M. A.

2012 Native Girls Are Being Exploited and Destroyed at an Alarming Rate. Electronic Document.

Pember, M.A. 2012 That Beautiful Oglala Lakota Girl in the LIVE GIRLS! Booth. Electronic Document.

Petrillo, L., Trejo, M., & Trejo, L. 2007 Being Lakota: Identity and Tradition on Pine Ridge Reservation. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Zielske, D. P.

2008 September 11th Aftermath Changes Traditional Sioux Movement Patterns. Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table.

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