History of Standing Rock and Yellow Eyes
DOROTHY EIKEN: I am Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux enrolled at Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Standing Rock is an Indian reservation that was designated about 1874, that's the early beginnings of it, because of a treaty that was -- that was made with the Indians that gave the Hunkpapa, the Black Feet, the Yanktonai and they put these -- they designated this reservation. In the beginning this reservation was designated through treaties about 2.3 million acres. And that right now, we have lost through the Oahe Dam being built, we lost 55,000 acres and through the Dawes Act and after the allotments were given to the Indians and they became destitute, they sold a lot of this land. So the interval of what the Sioux own on Standing Rock in North Dakota and South Dakota is under 900 thousand acres.
Prior to that, let me go back and tell you a little bit about this lady of mine. This is my great-great grandmother, her name is Yellow Eyes. Yellow Eyes was born approximately in 1828, she was not a reservation Indian obviously because they were nomadic Indians on the plains in 1828. She grew up living in a tepee. She never gave up her tepee, even when we found her in the nomadic -- the twelfth census of the United States in 1900 she was still living in a tepee. The information we got off of that census was very interesting. She was approximately 72 years old, she had had nine children; nine of them were living, one of them was my great-grandmother, she was widowed. She was a ration Indian; she was living in a tepee because she had to have a moveable structure. So that indicated that she was in a tepee -- living in a tepee. She was widowed and she hadn't been at Fort Yates very long. She had come from Fort Peck and up near top of the line between Canada north of Montana. And how she got there is probably the most interesting part of the story of her life. She was with Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux. Now for anybody, who knows or doesn't know let me give you just a little bit about, Sioux comes from a French origin word and that word is not what we call ourselves. That is what we were called by the French and the Ojibwa. The Sioux lived in the Minnesota woods and the northern, excuse me, Wisconsin woodlands and they were pushed out onto the plains by the Ojibwa. They were enemies and the Ojibwa had the guns first. So they were pushed out of the woods onto the plains. And at that time they didn't have the horse.
My people got the horse in the mid 1700's. I don't think they know the exact date because I don't know anybody who has been writing anything down.
Let me tell you a little bit about these people. They have an oral history tradition -- so many, many things were passed from generation to generation. And there wasn't -- they didn't have enough of it. They didn't have a written language. So everything was -- was by word of mouth. So we have an oral tradition. So when I say you have to look through the -- what the anthropologists study to find out approximately when they got the horse. But from all that I've read on it, it was the mid 1700's. Before that they came out and they were living on the prairie as nomadic people, but they used dogs and a travois was made and the dogs would pull the -- all their belongings that they had. And at that time they had to live in small bands. And obviously a dog is not going to be able to do what a horse can do. So when they got the horse in the late 1700's that's when these Lakota Sioux, these people became the equestrians of the plains. These people were able to have tepees then. They followed the buffalo.
To be a nomadic tribe you absolutely have to not grow anything. The Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux did not grow anything agriculture, which doesn't mean they ate -- didn't eat anything that grew because they dug for wild turnips and they dug for potatoes, they ate berries and anything that was seasonable. But the buffalo was their main stay. From my research approximately six pounds of buffalo meat was what they would consume -- the adults, every day. So it was -- they lived solely on this one animal, and they followed the herds.
Sitting Bull was born on the Grand River in a place called Many Caches. And the Hunkpapa's were not a real large group of people.
To tell you a little bit about how that goes, when I told you about "Sioux" meaning - the meaning of the word Sioux meaning to the Ojibwa, to the French was Little Snake or Enemy, but we call ourselves, the Lakota. The Lakota are -- plains, nomadic Indians, we are the ones with the feathered headdresses and the buckskin, and everything came from the buffalo, we didn't grow anything, we used travois to travel with. So my great-great grandmother was born and about the time that the treaties were being broken and the Indians were coming to the reservation and finding that it wasn't what they had expected it to be, they were leaving, and Sitting Bull and these Hunkpapa's steered away as much as possible. They stayed away and they followed the herds and they tried to stay away from as many of the cavalry and the white people as that encroachment came westward.
Battle of Little Bighorn
She was at the Battle of Little Bighorn at the time when Custer was - Custer and the Seventh Cavalry met their demise. She was with Sitting Bull in Canada.
Now, Hunkpapa -- in Lakota means, is what we call ourselves "friends or allies". Hunkpapa means "camps at the end of the circle or camps at the entrance to the circle". So when the Sioux were attacked at Little Bighorn, they attacked the Hunkpapa camp. Gall was one of the sub-chiefs under Sitting Bull and his entire family was in a tepee where Major Reno came in from and he lost all of his family. He didn't even know during the ruckus and the battle of that day, he only knew when he went back to his tepee; that his wife and two children - and it may have been two wives, were dead.
Yellow Eyes Genealogy
My great-great grandmother having nine children, we have to follow what we can in all the genealogy in the bloodline that we can. So what we found and what I - and I say we, because I'm talking about my siblings and my cousins, and people who are trying to come back, and get in touch with our culture and our roots. What we find is we find her daughter and her daughter is Obosawin and there is another word for that, another saying - pronunciation Obosawia. We're not exactly sure, but I had the opportunity about a week ago to go to North Dakota and go to Fort Yates, the tribal headquarters, go into the old dilapidated graveyard and find my great grandmother's grave. She died in 1895. She was Obosawin, and that means Woman Standing with Mist Falling Around Her. She had ten kids, she died in childbirth with the last child and she was only 38 years old. So her mother lived a lot longer than she did, because my great-great grandmother here died approximately 1906. The picture that you're looking at and the one down here these pictures are - are real pictures.
Indian Photographer Frank Fisk
There was a photographer on - at Fort Yates named Frank Bennett Fisk and if anybody knows about Indian photographers like Edward Curtis and D.F. Berry, Frank Bennett Fisk ranks right up there with these guys. He lived on the reservation and he took over 8,000 pictures of not only just the portrait faces, but he took them of Sioux life. When Sitting Bull was killed, Frank's parents - Frank Fisk's parents were on the reservation and when they brought in the body of Sitting Bull and the Indian police that killed him, they let the children out of school. And Frank Bennett Fisk was one of the children that was let out of school and watched them bring the wagon carrying the bodies of the Indian police that were killed and of Sitting Bull.
Sitting Bull after Custer
I have to back up a little bit now, because my great-great grandmother was with Sitting Bull after the Custer battle. And what happened was that this band of Hunkpapa's were chased around - the cavalry wasn't going to give up and so they chased these Indians. They split up this huge encampment that was approximately from all that I can tell and I like the part where there's guesses of it was six miles wide and three miles long and probably at about 20,000 or 30,000 Indians to about a mile wide and half mile long and maybe you were lucky if you had probably 20 to 100 warriors out of that.
There were the Hunkpapa, the Miniconjou, and then some Arapahos and Cheyenne that were all camped together. And they had just done a Sun Dance prior to running into General Armstrong Custer, actually Lieutenant Colonel, by that time. They had done a Sun Dance just south of where they camped just a few days before where Sitting Bull had a vision and he had a vision after doing his ceremonies of soldiers falling into camp and soldiers falling into camp. Well, shortly after that (sundance) they -- they kind of ran into a skirmish with General Crook and they beat him, not really beat him, but they fought with him. Crazy Horse was one of the - he was one of the Oglala's that headed up that. But they fought with Crook and they sent Crook packing he really went back - he was part of this three-prong approach into -- into really corralling these Indians. And at the time you have to remember, that this government was working on the process of needing Indian land and they had to get them anywhere they could. So if it was a process of having to eliminate the Indians through battling with them or if they had to get them on reservations and somehow contain them. That was really their mission.
So when the soldiers followed these people and they just came on to a skirmish, as I know, Slim Buttes was one and I believe that, chief - well a sub-chief again Red Horse was killed at Slim Buttes. They went - Sitting Bull took his people and he went into exile into Canada in 1877 and they were in the northern - north of Montana territory up in, I forget the province, I'm sorry, but they stayed there until, they called it Grandmother's Country, and they said that Sitting Bull had many many meetings with an Indian Agent by the name of Walsh who tried very hard to work with this tribe, work with these people, and some of these Indians kept coming and going. They did often hunt back into the United States, and come down along the Milk River up in Montana to do their buffalo hunting and then they would run back up into Canada so they would be safe. Sitting Bull said that he was - that the Creator had meant for him to be on the prairie following the buffalo. That He never meant for an Indian to dig in the dirt as the white men do. And he is referring to raising crops. He believed that it was their culture - that their - that the Creator had put them there for the sole purpose of being nomadic and -- and following these buffalo herds.
Yellow Eyes and Sitting Bull in Canada
So that's where she (Yellow Eyes) ended up in Canada and we're -- we're trying to find something to prove that either her husband or some of her sons were part of the warriors of that small Hunkpapa group. And we're on - really looking very hard to see if we can find that. She stayed there until Sitting Bull finally had to surrender in 1881.
And the reason he had to surrender was that the Canadian government had their own Indians and they couldn't feed these Indians anymore. And they were starting to get hungry - there was some infighting, you know, disgruntled people, there's not enough food, and so Sitting Bull finally realizes that, you know, the only way to save these people is to bring them back. So he surrendered at Fort Buford in 1881. He actually gave his young son Crow Foot his rifle to give to the commanding officer at Fort Buford, because he wasn't going to give it to him himself and he be a surrendered Indian. So he surrendered - well the reason we're trying to find - track grandma down here is that she didn't come in on the role (census) to Fort Yates or to Fort Randall. Sitting Bull and a small group of people were sent to - were in prison and held as prisoners of war at Fort Randall, Nebraska. And he was held there from 1881 until 1883 when he was allowed to come back to Standing Rock and to be with his people.
My great-great grandmother Yellow Eyes or Istashi, she was left at Fort Peck, and we have - we've found the documents where she is asking the Indian Agent at Fort Peck in December of 1886, she's saying that she would like to go to Fort Yates to be with her relatives. We're thinking that's when her husband probably passed away; she was a widow, she may have had sons. And she's asking permission from Indian Agent in Montana territory to the Indian Agent at Standing Rock to be able to come and be with her people. So she did get to go to Standing Rock in 1886. What we found is sketchy.
Lakota Language and Oral Tradition
Let me tell you there are a lot of words in the Lakota language that are not translated - or not - there is not a word for them in English. And let me tell you just briefly a couple of them. There is a lake in North Dakota called Devil's Lake. The Indians called it Spirit Lake, but there is no Lakota word for devil. So spirit translated into devil - so you have Devil's Lake, North Dakota when it was actually what the Indian's meant was that it was Spirit Lake, okay. Another word that has no translation was spy. And that's where we come to my great-great grandmother on the reservation. There was no word for spy. The Indians called them wolves or scouts. They called them wolves or scouts. So if you - so that's why or, you know, part of what we say is that she was an informant. Why? Because she was a little old lady and she was able to get around to hear gossip. And really that's all that there was. And she was a staunch follower of Sitting Bull, so the gossip was just what she heard in her passing through her daily life, coming back and being with the Hunkpapa's and being able to tell them that. That this is what I heard, this is what I heard going on, this is what I heard is going to happen. And you've got to remember now that this is oral tradition, so this gets passed down from my great grandmother, now her daughter died, but she - my grandfather was a young boy on the reservation with his ten brothers and sisters. And so the family stories kept going from my grandfather to my mother to us. And so that's how with traditional oral tradition this comes about.
I was going to tell you that one of the things that's really difficult is people come up to me all the time and say "I think I'm so much Indian blood, I think my great-great grandmother or my grandmother was related was, you know, but we can't track the genealogy. We can't find it." Well one of the reasons is that they didn't start writing this stuff down. The first real census that the government took was in 1880. And so if you have relatives, and which I did on Standing Rock in 1880, you know, you're going to start finding names, but then you're also going to find them in Lakota, in Sioux and the translations were very bad. So there's - there's - there's a real hard, difficult time - we can't find the names of her children other than one daughter out of the nine. We can't find the names of her husband, aunts, uncles, you know, anyone like that. So this is my - this is my lineage on my mother's side.
Grandparents on the Reservation
Now my grandma and grandpa they lived on the reservation. My grandpa was born on the reservation approximately 1883-- because here again we don't have records. He never knew his actual birth date. He was one of these ten kids, and so he went to the elders and told them about the time that he thought he was born. And they gave him a birth date; they gave him July 15th, 1883. Now grandpa, he just took that and said okay, that's what it will be then, so that was his birth date. He lived on the reservation; he never left the reservation, my grandfather. He -- I take that back. He went off the reservation to go to Hampton Indian School. But after his Indian training he never left the reservation. And I have a couple photos over here. One of these is my grandfather at Hampton and the other is my grandmother, she's a full blood at Hampton.
They met at Hampton University. He went from 1901 to 1907. And she went from 1900 to 1907. They ended up getting married in 1908 and then they had, of course, their children, which of one of them is my mother. Also which is really neat is I have my cousin, my first cousin over here, but I have my mother's sister, she turned 90 on September 6th, of this year. And so that is my Aunt Marie, my mom's sister. She is right on the end next to my cousin Caroline -- Caroline with the camera. And so, I've had her with me because we went up
to powwow. Everybody knows what a powwow is, right? Social gatherings for Indians. We've been doing it for hundred of years maybe even thousands of years. And the reason that they did it was that when the grasses were lush and they could get all the people together, the buffalo herds were immense, they could graze these large pony herds, because when you put all the relatives together, you had - everybody had horses - so you had all these tepees and they would dance. This was a celebration of coming together to see your aunts, uncles, and your - your families. So that's what a powwow is. And they still have them, and one of the best ones - one of the ones I love, and this is actually a picture - a little picture of it, is the United Tribes Technical Training College hosts the annual powwow.
So we went to the 36th annual powwow. And this is the powwow dress that I wore. This is not how an Indian woman in the 1800's -- would be wearing with all of the paraphernalia that I have, this is a powwow dress. Now the dress is a dress that I made and it's patterned after the 1800's standard dress. This is one deer hide for the bodice, one for the front, and one for the back. So I had the pleasure of taking my mother who's 87 and my aunt who just turned 90 to the powwow in North Dakota and we had a wonderful time. Had met and greeted all the relatives.
Lakota Traditions and Culture
Let me talk a little about the Lakota traditions, and cultural things. One of the things that you'll find is that if you're following the true Lakota traditions, they have these very simple rules and they are there for a reason. A young man who is married to a young woman is not allowed ever to speak directly to that - to his wife's mother. He has to have his questions go through the wife to his mother-in-law and come back again. And that's so that they didn't have any conflict. And I thought, you know, a lot of people thought that was a pretty good idea when they heard that.
That the young man could never speak directly to his mother-in-law. So that kept some peace in the family. Also these bands that I'm talking to you about, these small bands were anywhere traveling - following buffalo they were anywhere from a 150 people to 400 people and you couldn't inter-marry within that band. So one of the things that happened at the powwow this was when everybody got together, they were all from different bands. So you had an opportunity to -- to find a mate, because you were not allowed to marry anyone with whom you could identify the same grand or great grandparent. So that was forbidden.
They had a lot of rules, a lot of things that were forbidden, and a lot of things that were ritual. They had a lot of ceremonies.
One of the things that we're very proud of in our traditions is that White Buffalo Calf Woman brought to the Lakota Sioux the sacred pipe. And I don't talk much about the sacred pipe because its - it is sacred and it is used at all of our ceremonies. We have a pipe keeper, but yet on the other hand everybody has their own pipes, and everybody had their own pipe bags, and everybody could smoke including the women could have their pipe bag and smoke outside their tepees. And also use it within their prayer ceremony. But the pipe for the tribe was kept with the pipe keeper and White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the sacred pipe to the Lakota Sioux and she also brought Seven Sacred Rites, and I'm sure you've heard of a Sun Dance, a Vision Quest, a Puberty Ceremony, Spirit Keeping - that's a real interesting one.
You don't want to cut the hair if you're Lakota, you don't want to cut the hair of a relative that has passed away and keep it. If you keep that hair that you clipped from that deceased relative, you have to do a Spirit Keeping Ceremony because we believe in Lakota that you keep that soul earthbound. And until you do the Spirit Keeping Ceremony that person is not able to go on to the - to the hereafter.
Which brings up another subject. One of the reasons that they disfigured their enemies after killing them was to make them so they would not be whole when they went to the afterlife. So they would not be in one complete person. The part of not cutting your hair, men and women, come from that, we believe that this - that our hair is the closest thing to Grandfather, closest thing to the Creator. And so we don't cut our hair because it's holy. Well what are you going to do to your enemy? The first thing you're going to do is you're going to lift his hair. Actually, this stuff, you know, they say the Indians didn't do scalping, you know, you can look in the book and read all kinds of literature and they say, well, they were taught by the French, they were taught by the first mountain men that came in, you know, I'm not so sure when you read Lakota beliefs that, you know, that wasn't part of it.
Disfiguring the body was also a way of marking a body. If you came and were on the plains and you came upon some people that were killed, if you looked at the markings on that body, you were able to tell who killed them. Because the markings were an indication of who they (killers) were. They wanted you to know that this particular tribe - this particular band killed these people. It's obviously their enemies, and that's why they killed them. There was a lot of warring on the plains prior to the white men, you know, encroaching on their environment. This was territorial - this was about food, this was about - this is my buffalo range and area and you stay off it.
If you're the Crow or the Pawnee who are mortal enemies of the Sioux you absolutely were protecting your territories. And so, the other thing is - is that in these war games they didn't do an awful lot of killing of each other. One of the reasons was is they wouldn't want to wipe everybody out, because they wouldn't have - warriors - this is a warrior society - this is a society built on -- on men becoming warriors and earning honors. When you look at the headdresses, you look at Sitting Bull's headdress with 82 eagle feathers in it. Every eagle feather was an act of bravery, an act of honor, an act - something that he did that he was honored - he became honored by. And that's what the whole warring about between the tribes was about. So why would you actually go in there as an enemy and totally annihilate those people when you're a warrior society. No, you'd go in there and you might kill a couple of the guys and you may steal half the ponies but you would always leave them with the rest. Because you are coming back to get more ponies, so you're not going to take them all, besides that they're going to jump on their ponies and they are going to follow you to your camp.
So this is constantly -- these war games were going on, not until the government wanted to and needed the land for the westward expansion and Euro-Americans to move the Indians to Indian country. Not until then were there really the killings that were done. Particularly when they opened up the Bozeman Trail they started to build forts up along - the travelers - the white people that were trying to get to Oregon were constantly harassed and the soldiers of these forts, like Fort Phil Kearney that was along that trail. They (Indians) were trying to get them out of there. The trails were disrupting the buffalo herds.
Importance of the Buffalo
Now here's a people who live strictly on one animal. We believe that the buffalo is sacred. I have a buffalo skull over here. That buffalo skull is - has sage on it, under it because we believe that the buffalo is sacred. And sacred to the Lakota is -- it cannot be bought or sold, it's something that you cannot own, it's not a commodity.
When you look at the treaties and you think about the belief system of these Indians. They couldn't hardly believe that they could sell their land, because they didn't believe they owned it.
And the buffalo, from this creature came everything, and like I said, these people didn't grow. There was no agriculture, so the buffalo robes were what they wrapped themselves up in wintertime with. The buffalo hides were what they made tepees out of with the lodge poles. They used every piece of this animal and none of it ever went to waste.
I got so many questions when I was over at the Homeward Bound O' the Joy (in Jefferson City) this past weekend from children. And they were just intent upon "what did they use this, oh, what did they use the tongue for?" I said that's a delicacy. Do you know what a delicacy is? "No." I said, well that's a really good part of the buffalo to eat. And everybody went, "ooh." The buffalo stomach was rinsed out and cleaned and used to hang over a cooking pot - a cooking fire and actually they would put rocks - hot rocks inside it to cook their stew. The bladders were used to carry water from the creek. They actually did cook down the hooves for a form of glue. The buffalo horns - the horns were made into tools, cups, spoons, and utensils. The kids got to be drug on the ribs behind their ponies, and they were like sleds. The first, you know, grab a rib cage tie a rope to it and throw it around that pony and put your little kids up there and away you go in the snow. Everything, okay,(buffalo) so this is everything. This is the grocery store, this is the hardware store, this is the - everything you can possibly imagine store for these Indians. They lived off of this creature.
Well one of the ways that the government decided that they could find out - or they found out is because when the westward expansion came and the trails - not only just the Bozeman but the Santa Fe and - and all the other trails that went westward split the buffalo herds up. And the buffalo had natural grazing patterns. I heard in one of the literature -- pieces of literature that I read that there was probably about seven hundred million buffalo on the plains prior to the 1800's. Seven hundred million, and yet we cleaned this - we I say as white people of the government cleaned this down to almost extinction. I think at one point, I read there was 39 buffalo left on the plains after they sent everybody out to - to kill these herds.
Now this is really the way to break the back of an Indian because these nomadic Indians lived strictly on that animal. If that food source was gone, what are they going to do? They're going to surrender and they're gonna go to the reservation, which is what happened.
My great-great grandmother here was so anti-white, they gave them rations on the reservation. You got a token - a brass token to get your hunk of beef and actually they drove the cattle in and they were scrawny and they weren't well fed, and they let the Indians kill them and butcher them so it was like - like sort of doing a buffalo hunt, okay. They also gave them cards - ration cards for flour, coffee, sugar, and things like that.
Origins of Fried Bread
And I was just reading in one of my books and has everyone heard of fried bread? Okay, everybody's heard of fried bread. Well, this is a really interesting story that I heard. They - they had these Indians on the reservations, so they are giving them commodities. So they give them flour, do you think any of these guys knew what to do with flour? So when they found out that they were giving them flour and they didn't know what to do with it. They sent out government workers, they sent out white women onto the reservations to teach them how to bake bread. All right. When they got there they found that they had no ovens and no bread pans, what are you going to do? What are you going to do with the flour? How are you going to make bread, if you have no ovens and no bread pans? And why would you? You just came off of the prairie and you don't live like that. So hence, the white government women found the Indians with these pots boiling with - with the lard boiling down to oil; so they took the flour they mixed it with soda and they put it in the pot and hence we have fried bread. All because nobody had an oven or a baking pan, which I find kind of funny, when I read that. So I didn't even know where, you know, where the first stories of fried bread came from. I grew up on fried bread, you know, my mother made this fried bread like it was just it or nothing.
Lakota Sacred Rites and Beliefs
When -- and to go back to the spiritual part of this, which is really my favorite part, when White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the sacred pipe and the Seven Sacred Rites and I started to tell you the Sun Dance, the Vision Quest, the Sweat Lodge, the Making of Relatives, the Spirit Keeping, Throwing the Ball, these are the - the rites that we used to this day.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to go to Colorado and to participate in a Sun Dance, and it was done, I don't know if anybody's read books about Indians. One of the good ones, of course, I have pros and cons with this on people on the reservation but I would recommend "Black Elk Speaks", just so you can get some - some good sound information that, you know, kind of gives you an outline of how these people's religious beliefs were. Also the - he (Black Elk) also wrote through one of the white interpreters; The Sacred Pipe. But these ceremonies are really based on their beliefs that we are related to everything.
"All My Relations - All My Relations" is the - is the Lakota word (phrase) that we use for the ending of all of our ceremonies, all our prayers; you'll hear it wherever you find Indians praying. When you pray as a Lakota you need to purify yourself and you do that by burning sage, and also by taking an eagle's feather. The buffalo (skull) happens to be resting on my prayer blanket. It doesn't matter which direction you face, often we're told to face a different direction all the time. But before you pray to Grandfather, you have to purify yourself with some sage, and an eagle feather. And, you also use a little braid of sweet grass. The reason we use sweet grass is because we believe that Grandfather loves the smell of sweet grass. And of course I love the smell of sweet grass. But we believe that He believes that we are pleasing Him, so that's part of the - part of this. So this would be mixed with a little sweet grass, it would smoke and I would just - I would purify myself. And then I would say my prayers. And this is where "All My Relations" comes in, because when you pray as a Lakota you're giving thanks. You're thanking the Creator, you're thanking Him for giving you this day, just giving you this day that you're here, because this is all you have that's here and now. Indians live in today, we live in the now. So you thank Grandfather for giving you this day. And then you thank Him, and it goes down the line. You thank Him for the two-legged, which are all of you, you thank Him for the four-legged, which are the horse, the dog, the cat, the bears, anything that walks on four legs, you thank Him for the winged, and that's anything that flies, you thank Him for the sky people, which are the stars, you thank Him for the rock people, which are - are all the rocks, you thank Him for the green, which is everything that grows, you thank Him. You don't ask for things. You come humbly to Grandfather and you thank Him for all he has given you.
One of the hallmarks of Sioux Indians is their humility and another is their generosity. And there's a story where these young - young people were put on the reservation, they did a lot of visiting. So they visited back and forth between Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River, Sioux Agency, Fort Totten, Fort Berthold, these are reservations that I am talking about. And when people came you fed them - you fed them, you gave them whatever you had. If someone admired something of yours that was your most prize possession the belief was, that you gave it to them. The generosity and the humility. The humility comes in where we do not believe that Lakota people that we are any different than any other spiritual thing that the Creator made and we believe that everything has spirit. So therefore there's nothing that's above me and nothing below me, on this earth, everything that the Creator made, every rock, every blade of grass, every insect, every animal is related to me. They are my brothers, they are related to me. And in that we believe that that's why you would feed them. So in the early reservation periods when families would come, young people would feed them and feed them, and finally they would have to go to the elders and say they're not leaving and I'm running out of food, what do I do? So some white - some of the white culture had to come in and say "listen, you got to take your family first, okay. You're gonna have to just tell them you don't have anymore." Well, that's not the Lakota way. You give until you haven't anything. One of the things that was so remarkable about -- about Crazy Horse -- that he was admired -- he was a great warrior, but he had very little possessions because he took care of the other people. Because everything he got he gave away. And we would always often say that the person who had the least material things was the richest person in the tribe because the more that you had, the more you had to give to other people. We still - when we do ceremonies have giveaways. And if you are going to honor someone by honoring them for whatever reason, you also have a giveaway. So you might spend a couple of years collecting blankets and - and all sorts of things so that once you have this giveaway, and a lot of them are done at powwow time, you have these to pass out. You - you call out the people that you want to honor and give them and then at the end you give them to people you don't even know. Just people who came, because they came, but we honor our people.
In that - that, oh, "we are all related", that part of the Indian spirituality is so profound because it's hard to say to someone when you look at that tree that God or the Creator or Grandfather or the Great and Sacred or the Great Mystery made that, therefore, that has a spirit, and that tree is no different than me. Or that animal is no different than me, because Grandfather made it. We are all related. One of the reasons that I do these presentations is because from what Hollywood and the media did with - with the Sioux with - whatever came from the John Wayne movies and all of the things where they pictured these people as godless, as savages, as stupid, inferior human beings, and when you go and you listen and you read and you learn you find out that they were none of those things. We were not savages. We had a different way of coming to the Great Spirit to Grandfather. We didn't - we still don't, we don't have churches, we don't have holidays, we don't have any religious days, but we pray, we pray every day, we pray all the time thanking Grandfather for all that He's given. And if you do need to ask Him for something you ask Him in a humble way, to give you strength, to give you wisdom.
And speaking of wisdom, that's one of the things that's really great about the Lakotas and that is that we don't believe in warehousing our elders and we never have. We believe in keeping the elders close by. One of the reasons is because the elders are our wisdom and knowledge, and they know the ways. They've been there before. And so in keeping them close we get to get in touch with that wisdom and that knowledge. Because we don't know the way to go, but they've been around so long and they've been through so many things they're invaluable. On the plains, in a tepee, you often had a wife, a husband, and a couple of kids, but also an elder. You always either had her mother, or his mother, or his father, and you - you traveled. And when they did the buffalo hunts if there were widows or orphans and old ones they took the meat to them first. So this is not the media depicted Indians that you see, when you really get to looking at what these people are. And how their belief was. It was just different - it was different. They - they said we worshiped deities. Well one of the things that - that correlates to everything I've learned is that there's a number of different ways to go to Grandfather or God. White people go to church, okay, as an Indian we didn't have to go to church. You could pray to Grandfather through anything, the tree that He created, the creek that you're living by, the -- through anything. Because all of - everything that was created is spiritual and all of everything has a spirit. And we fit into this grand scheme of things as being just part of one of the things that He created. So that's pretty much the belief system.
I do want to touch on something that -- that I feel is important and I think it's important for you. I will always be a Standing Rock Sioux from North Dakota person. That's where I was born. I think Indians get imprinted on where they were born, the land that they were born in, and - and it stays in our heart. That's home for me. For a lot of you, Missouri is your home. And because there are no reservations here, because out of - there's only 25 states in the lower 48 that have
reservations, designated Indian land. [There's a little book that you can get and probably won't be able to get much longer. But you can get it through the Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission, and this little American Indian Resource Handbook talks about the Indians that were in Missouri. These are the flags of the Missouri tribes, the Absentee Shawnee, the Delaware, the Iowa, the Kaw, the Kickapoo, the Osage, the Otoe Missouri, the Peoria, the Quapaw, and the Shawnee. And it also has some etiquette in here. It will give you a few guidelines, about a powwow, it'll tell you some of the cultural things that I've - that people don't understand is to be Indian and to speak to someone, I'm breaking all the cultural mores that we have. A; women didn't do it, I would no more presume to do this in the 1800's and B; -- and I just lost my train of thought, (laughter). Okay, I'm human it happens occasionally. But I wouldn't be doing this -- but my point is I wouldn't be making eye contact with all of you, that is not acceptable. That is a sign of disrespecting you in -- in Lakota. I would be talking to you with my eyes dropped; I would meet you and greet you with my eyes dropped. That is a cultural trait, okay, so how as a white person do you perceive someone who you are being introduced to who doesn't look at you? Oh, now we've got some cross cultures going here. So you think well, they don't like me. Well that's not it at all, that's in respect, that is - that's part of our culture. That's part of mores, it's of - of what - being Indian really means, or being part Sioux. Is that we have these things, like not talking - not being able to talk to your mother-in-law if you are a son-in-law. These things are still going on. These traditional aspects - these ceremonies are all happening still now, not only as urban Indians living off the reservation.
Leaving the Reservation
And that was another idea that the government got. Well why don't we try, since it's failing - the reservation system is failing in itself, why don't we try moving everybody off and see how they do? Well they didn't do very well. As matter of fact, a lot of young people who moved off the reservations died, they weren't prepared to live in the big city. Some of them made it. My mother left the reservation to go to Haskell Indian school when she was seventeen, came back and she never went back to the reservation other than to live - or to live - other than to see my grandma and grandpa, which we did on a regular basis. You know, I slept in the back seat of a Ford Station Wagon with, you know, yellow with the wood on the sides with my brothers and sisters while my mom would dance at a powwow down at Fort Yates. You know, things like that -- I just, you know, those are a part of me.
So what my purpose in doing this, in talking to you is to try to -- to open up some of this a little bit and let you see Indians not only as they were, as my great-great grandmother was in -- in the 1800's, but as they are now.
I am, according to the Indians that are on the reservation, not a traditional Indian, and I'm called a breed because I'm not a full blood, but guess what, we do not - we don't have many full bloods, and we are also losing our language. My grandfather spoke and also translated on the reservation. My grandmother spoke - they both spoke fluent Indian, but two different dialects. So the seven kids of my mother - of my mother's brothers and sisters - because my grandfather said the only way you're going to be able to survive in this world, is you're going to have to learn the white culture, forbid any speaking of Indian (dialects) to those children. And when they (my grandparents) went to Hampton University or Institute they were forbidden to speak any of their own language. As matter of fact, they were punished for speaking Lakota or Dakota or any dialect - any of their dialects. And so they were de-culturized in these - in these schools. And then they came back home, they had their families and they continued to pass it along. One of the things - which is why I can't speak Lakota. One of the things that I also know is that a part of me was never "me" until I got back to my Indian. I have a white Irish father and an Indian mother. I always felt like there was a hole there, somewhere, until I was forty some years old, I was always trying to fill up an empty space that I carried around until a Lakota spiritual advisor I met -- he stayed with my family for awhile and I talked to him. He said "you know what, you need to embrace that part of you, because until you accept all of who you are, you'll never be a whole person. You feel Indian", yeah, I do, I've sketched Indians, I've painted Indians, I love the sound of powwows, I went as far as to make the dress, I was - but I wasn't practicing and I didn't feel I could do that, because there was the shame thing involved.
Discrimination Against Indians
My mother was discriminated in Bismarck, North Dakota. My father was called Squaw man, which is a derogatory term. He was black balled from all of the Moose, Elks, Eagles, you know, whatever clubs. He couldn't enter them because he was married to an Indian. We grew up in Bismarck being the discriminated minority. My brothers were beat up in the front yard, my sister in high school had her car soaped with obscene languages. I don't know how many times I heard "the only good Indian is a dead Indian".
And, you know, how I found out that I was Indian? My mother had such a difficult time raising or growing up or working in Bismarck and starting to raise a family that she decided not to tell us. I just thought that everybody went to the reservation to visit their grandparents. I didn't know I was just, you know, one of the only people there that was going to the reservation to see these Indians. So these Indians came to my house as a little girl. But in the first grade when I was six years old, I was cutting out pilgrims and cutting out Indians to put on our big window in the first grade classroom, and my teacher Ms. Register said, "Oh, by the way boys and girls we have a little Indian girl in our class, Dorothy Carman, would you stand up?" And I just went into shock. I was like, I'm not Indian. What's she saying? Well my mother had decided not to tell us. But you can't keep something like that hidden in a small town where everybody including the neighbors, and that particular first grade teacher lived up a block from me - us. So I ran crying from the first grade, you know, half a block home. My mother came from her job went over to the school and said, "If I want to tell my children that they're Indian it's my right to tell them; it is not your right to tell them". Well, the cat was out of the bag, so we were all Indian after that.
But growing up in Bismarck was difficult because of the discrimination. And being a minority of any sort is difficult, but you can get through it and there is - there is that peace that I stress, and that is, not denying any part of who you are because by denying any part of yourself you're creating a hole in yourself like I did. And I am filling up that hole. Why do I do these things? Why do I give these presentations? Why do I want to come out and talk to people about Native Americans and about their -- their, you know, religious beliefs? Because of a phrase out of a white man's book. And the guy who wrote Jonathan - Jonathan Livingston Seagull said "You teach what you need to learn most". On the road back to the red road for me, I need to do this for you. I need to tell you of my story; I need to tell you of her (Yellow Eyes) story. My son is not enough Indian to be enrolled at Standing Rock like my sisters and I are. We all have cards, we all have enrollment numbers, and we're all accounted for by the government. So the last of her (Yellow Eyes) line - anyone who can speak about this is me and my cousins. And so somehow it fell to me. But that's filling up that hole. So I teach what I need to learn most, and that is the things that I'm kind of telling you.
Questions and Answers
It's running five minutes over and if anybody has questions I can take a few, very quickly. Yes.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Yeah, I have a multi-part question about the reservation.
DOROTHY EIKEN: Good.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Are you citizens in the United States or pay taxes or - and also are you free to kind of go through the reservation and outside the exclusive reservation? Tell us about the reservation.
DOROTHY EIKEN: Okay. He asked about the reservation and what the limits are. Who could go there? Well, anyone can go there. The reservation is Indian owned land that the Indians were granted through the treaties. Right now, the reservations, I can only speak of Standing Rock, because that's the reservation that I come from, to be an enrolled member I have to prove a blood quantum of more than a fourth, and I'm almost half. Anybody can come (visit) and (Indians) vote at the reservation. Anybody can visit the reservation. Are we U.S. citizens? Absolutely, we were granted citizenship in 1924 by the Dawes Act. Now that by the way is after World War I and a lot of very patriotic Indians - men, left the reservations to fight in World War I. They could not even vote in this country. So the Dawes Act made us citizens of the United States. The one thing that the reservations have is that we are a sovereign state. We have sovereignty. We deal with the federal government as a sovereign entity, directly with the federal government. That's where the BIA comes in. That's where the Department of Interior comes in. We not only have to deal with the states that our reservations are in, and the state laws. We have to deal with the federal laws, and the county laws, and -- and things like that. But our reservation is - that tribe has sovereignty. We are - I'm an urban Indian. There are a little over 10,000 Indians in the world of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of different - of the Sioux, the Hunkpapa's, there are some Oglala's, some Miniconjou's. But that - those people living on that reservation don't have to pay taxes. As soon as you get off that reservation you're paying taxes.
The average median income for Standing Rock is $3,000.00 annually per person. The, and it's been like this for years. The unemployment rate is in the 80's the mid 80's. Alcoholism and drug abuse is in the 80 percentile. We have the highest suicide rate of any culture or race in our young people, because we are in a hopeless condition on the reservation. There's HUD housing, there's antiquated sewage, there's no jobs. Yeah, you can leave the reservation you are not bound to stay there. And the best thing that most Indians do - young Indians, like my mother or my aunt or my cousins, they get educated and they leave the reservation. There's nothing there. We do have a casino there. So we are taking in a little money. But so far we are not getting any of it. If you live on the reservation - if you're living in a HUD house let's say Fort Yates, Cannonball, you are probably getting from Prairie Nights Casino maybe, per family, a $5,000.00, an award from that casino. But okay, so now we're up to $8,000.00 annual income. I don't know anybody who lives on that.
Why you can live on that on the reservation? Because you don't pay - there's an Indian Hospital there, there are doctors there, there's an Indian college there, there's an Indian grade school, there's an Indian elementary school and preschool. So the reservation is a very depressed place. It's a third world country sitting in this country.
I often look at the television set and watch what - how the people in Iraq and Afghanistan live. We have that in our own country, under our own noses in these reservations, but who's gonna go there. And the government has had an Indian problem since day one, since - from the beginning of the early settlements along the eastern seaboard. The government has had a problem with the Indian. We'll always have an Indian problem until somebody figures out that these people who once had the freedom to hunt this land, where there were no fences, where the buffalo roamed, where the grass grew, to raise their children, until we figure out how we can somehow compensate them. And I'm not talking about money, because you won't find money being very important to many Indians.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I got a question. And I know you said you'll have an oral history but is there any book that's been written about the creation, because I read a lot of westerns and, you know, and I've read some that have talked about the creation, you know, about coyote and all that. Is there any book that you can suggest that I can get to read about that?
DOROTHY EIKEN: You know I've got stacks and stacks of books at home because I'm such an avid reader, you know there's "Lakota Rites and Beliefs". There's, like I said, "Black Elk Speaks", and "The Sacred Pipe". We are not - our - "We Are Not Our Brothers Keeper". "These were the Sioux" - there's a lot of books out there. I really couldn't point to one and - and just say, you know, this is going to give you the creation. I have one that is "Tribal Myths and Legends", and in there are creation myths. And I'm glad you mentioned the coyote because I was on my way to do this and I -- and I asked Grandfather if He would send that coyote because I really needed him tonight. Does anybody have any - yeah.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I was just wanting to know if there's any special role schools had in the Indian Culture?
DOROTHY EIKEN: Haskell Indian school played a major - major role. Particularly my mother would not have been a stenographer and would not have been able to work for state government in North Dakota for 23 years, if she hadn't gone to Haskell Institute. She learned shorthand. It was an Indian School and she, you know, she had graduated from high school, as did my aunt. But she needed to have other skills, shorthand, this is before the computers obviously, you know, roll out the old typewriters with the black ribbon who had you all, you know, goofed up. So she became a - in those days --she's an administrative assistant is what you'd call it now. But that's what she was to - to the - to her boss at Job Service for many, many years. Haskell Institute played a big part in it. A lot of the Indian schools did. The old Indians, the old ones knew that these kids had to get out there. Sitting Bull lobbied and lobbied the government for schools and as soon as he got a school up he would send his kids. They needed to know what was in those treaties, because when they signed those treaties way back in the 1860's and earlier; they didn't know what they were signing. And I'm referring to plains Indians. They didn't have a clue. Some of the treaties - they actually got some commodities, they got some cattle and the chiefs got a $100.00 a year for their life, you know, I mean, they didn't know what - so they wanted their children to do this - to go and get educated. But if you go and get educated and you get back to the reservation there's no place for you.
There is no place on the reservation for an educated Indian because he's living - he's walking in two worlds and he's - there are no jobs there. So you can come with your PhD to Fort Yates, but what are you going to do? Until we find out, these were nomadic people, the men had the warrior society; the women had the traditional women's role. The men hunted, protected, did all of the ceremonies and policed the camps, brought in all the food. The women did all of the work, like we do now. All the housework, the laundry, the dishes, raising kids, the cooking of the food, thank God you're not sewing buffalo robes together to make your house.
But, you know, so the women's role on getting onto the reservation didn't change, but the men's role ceased to exist.
In 1883 the government banned the Indians from being able to practice any of their ceremonial rights. That all went underground. That all went underground with the old ones. And there is a resurgence of it, because these kids were taught, you know, when they weren't supposed to be. The kids that I'm talking that were taught are now the 80 year olds and the 90 year olds. They got the tradition. They got the - the stories and the ceremonies and how to, you know, how to make medicine. But that wasn't everybody because it was forbidden.
You - they had a law. You could not practice your spiritual religious ceremonies after 1883. And of course you have to remember too that the government was wise enough to send in missionaries to all these reservations to teach these kids - people about Christianity. And there's a book called "Savagism Versus (And) Civilization" and it - it's a very difficult book to get through, but it talks about the early Euro-Americans, seeing the Indians and saying "Oh my God we've got to Christianize these people. We got to teach them how to live, we've got to teach them how to write, we got to teach them how to wear white man's clothes, we got to get them out of these buckskins, we got to do this stuff, because they were savages." And in part it's because the Euro-Americans that got to America - they got to the United States, they weren't so far removed from the days when they were like that. And so they had this - it was like this, I don't know, mission. And so the reservations, the government broke up when they had all the reservations they gave them to the denominations. My mother and my grandparents were staunch Catholics because the Catholics got Standing Rock. Anybody else got a question? Yes.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: How much influence in the 21st century has blacked out people like Franklin (unintelligible) and their spirituality affected Indian spirituality today?
DOROTHY EIKEN: Well that's where the controversy comes in. For Indian people or are you talking for everybody?
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: For Indians.
DOROTHY EIKEN: For Indian people. On - for traditional Indian people I have had Indians tell me that "Black Elk" and "Fools Crow" and all those books were bunk. I've also had Indians tell me "Listen this is as close as we're going to get to try to educate or teach or let people know, so go for it". So you've got the real traditionalists who say, nah, because did anybody consult any Indians when they wrote these books? We have anthropologists studying us like we don't exist. We exist, our ceremonies exist, our lifestyle has changed, but it had to because of the reservation system. And that's why I say we have an Indian problem; we're always going to have an Indian problem until something's done about it. And somebody figures out a way.
But Indian people living on a reservation you must understand that - that, you know, (Yellow Eyes) she hated the white people. She hated them for her having to live on the reservation, for not being able to follow the buffalo herds and live the way she only knew how to live. Hated them so much that when she got her side of beef with her tokens, she drug it over a hill and buried it. She wanted no part of the white man. Nothing. And that's my great-great grandmother.
I can't tell you what my great grandmother thought, but I can tell you what my grandfather thought. And my grandfather said to all his kids, "Get out and get an education. Get in the white man's world if you want to survive and get off the reservation."
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Saturday they will have this big thing in St. Louis where the - where the (unintelligible) comes together and many Indian nations will be there.
DOROTHY EIKEN: Yes.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Will your nation be there represented by you?
DOROTHY EIKEN: No. As a matter of fact I was at a signature event of one of the Lewis & Clark going up the river - going up the river I was present at a protest rally against the Corps of Discovery and the Recreation of the Lewis & Clark trip.
We had people with bullhorns that stood outside the signature event that said "Go Home, We Don't Want You Here. We didn't want you in the first place. You've destroyed our land, you've destroyed our way of life, and you put us on the reservation. Turn the boats around and go home."
Yeah, I was at a protest rally. The Sioux are not involved in the - in the reenactments and the commemoration of the Lewis & Clark. They're anti.
Well I thank you all for coming.
DOROTHY EIKEN: If you do have any questions, I'll be here for a few minutes afterwards, please come up and also come up and take a look at my art if you haven't had a chance to.
Most of the beading is done by me, and the drawings. Not the quilts, though. The quilts replaced the buffalo robe after they killed off the buffalo and so it's an honor to receive star quilts and these are my husbands, because he was recognized by the Indian tribes.
Okay, thank you again.