Nellie Two Elk’s Comment

Hello:

On a previous post entitled, “Native in the 21st Century” Nellie Two Elk commented:

“What does it mean to be Native in 2011?
What does it mean to be Native, period?

What do these questions mean?
Why do we need to ask them?

Every comment has to do with not knowing the language. What if no one knew our language? Would we cease to be Native American? Does the knowledge of our language dictate who we are as a people? We are all Native American, but why and what does it mean? We have always had our own beliefs and traditions, yet we question ourselves because of the lack of language?

Does no one not follow our way of life anymore? Do we still believe in Tunkasila? Do we still pray with a canunpa? Do we still sing songs and dance to our own drum? Do we still consider eagle feathers sacred, and if so why? Do we still pray to our church, our sundance once a year? Do we still consider the walls of our church as the four directions, the sky as our ceiling, the milky way as our way into the happy hunting grounds? Do we still refer to Earth as Unci Maka? Do we still say Mitakuye Oyasin? Do we still know what it means?

Consider every single question and rethink what you just wrote. Our language can be learned. Our way of life is still thriving. Go out and learn! Have the initiative and the perseverance to, at least, try. It makes my heart sad to know our future leaders are giving up on being Native American so easily.”

This comment made me think, and I asked all of my students to respond.  Here are their thoughts:

“I may not as much but, i know enough to understand. I know how to act around the elders and i do know how to pray to tunkasila. I do know what a ceremony and a sweat lodge is i just don’t ever take the time to do these things. I know it’s suppose to be our way to live but, i was raised to believe i just don’t do as much as i used to. I just been opposite you know what I’m saying. I mean drugs, alcohol, gangs i just don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I didn’t really know how to answer questions in a perfect way i just hope you understand but, we do have our own ways and that’s just the way it is.” -EC

“I don’t think that We are giving up on Being native. It’s just that were lazy when it come to thinks that seem hard or time consuming. We are The future leaders But what can we accomplish for Ourselves If we can’t even Learn Our own language and use our time to Practice what we believe in. we see it as why would we waste our time doing all that when we can text our friends and get on Facebook and talk about this one quote from this one show that no one in our society cares about. The “future leaders” would much rather spend there time on things that are so trivial and useless rather that spend that time on ways to figure out who we are. To find out where we come from and who our people were and how there actions Shaped the world we lie in today. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault that we don’t know our own language. if i were to blame someone it would be the US for the ethnic cleansing. But that is saying it’s not our fault it’s because of them I don’t want to go down that road in a sense be weak and lazy.” -TM

“I think the student who wrote this had a lot to say. Also because it seems to me that he/she knows the way of life, and because they believe in the Lakota ways. I think this student is wright about all the thinks he or she said. One thing that caught my mind, was that he or she asked “Do we still believe in Tunkasila?”. Well I think most of our elders think that us teenagers don’t care about our old ways of life. But I’m sure we do, well at least I hope. I think most teenagers don’t even know what Tunkasila even means, and that is something parents need to look into, because we are all Native American and I think we need to bring our traditions back. Now and days all I see is gang fighting, families not getting along. This bothers me alot because, I don’t want to see my people the way they are, we are all related in a way, and everybody says Tunkasila is our father, he is a father to everybody, he’s our creater.” -ELF

“In my opinion what it means to be Native is to live by our way of life. As years and years go by, our culture is starting to disappear. With that being said, we need to start doing the things we used to. Without our way of life I believe our people will be nothing. In addition to this, there are still ceremonies that do remain today. For example, every new moon; out to lala Roy Stone’s they have a ceremony. Also almost every night out to Lala Roy’s they light up for sweat. In other words, there are still things we practice.” -Anon

Thank you for reading; thank you Nellie for the great comment.

-Baldwin

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3 Responses to Nellie Two Elk’s Comment

  1. Lakota Mowrer says:

    These are all very insightful responses sparked by Ms. Nellie Two Elk’s passion! Great work everyone! The responses that you have provided are ultimately the answers to helping the Lakota people thrive. Just as all of you wrote, the answer is not a one-size fits all solution. It requires changing the mindsets of the future leaders as EC, ELF, TM, and Anon all mentioned. We need to re-center our spirits through revitalizing traditional values at Anon’s “Lala Ray’s sweats.” We need to honor our family and ancestors by spending time with our elders and learning from them. As ELF mentioned, we can then show our elders that as youth, we are trying to learn and become strong Lakota individuals. We also need to constantly strive to use the gifts the Creator gave us to help ourselves and others to “shape the world we live in today” (TM). Also, Lakota people have strength in experiences like those of EC. The alcohol, gangs, and violence do exist in our communities. And it is with the leadership and experiences of students like EC who can help heal others, because you have been through it and you know how to overcome it.
    Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on these very important issues. I am Minneconju Lakota and working to receive my Masters in Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. I find your writings to be very refreshing and REAL compared to all of the literature out there on Native American social issues and the many proposed solutions. I have read many of your quotes out loud to my classes here in St. Louis and my classmates are inspired by your developing theories. I do believe you all have such important experiences to share with the world and I look forward to your future posts.

  2. Nellie Two Elk says:

    Let me tell you a short story.

    A couple weeks ago, I attended a parent meeting at Marty Indian School. I was surrounded by Native American people. This particular meeting had the biggest parent turn out the school has ever seen! The issue discussed? Administration of Marty Indian School wanted to shorten the minutes used on Native American studies (ex. beading, language, quilting, and so on) from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. To take away 60 minutes of culture was seen as a slap in the face to the community. I witnessed scores of people give speeches and tell stories of their past for hours! No one wanted the change. A community came together as a unit and spoke against change because they wanted their children to learn what they did not know. Majority of the parents were not fluent and did not have someone who was fluent within their home, but they wanted our way of life and our language to continue on.

    If parents cannot teach the language to their children, then the school provides a teacher for you. Take advantage of that privilege!

    I should have reflected on my own background before I wrote what I did. I was fortunate to grow up having a fluent speaker in my home, as well as a spiritual leader and teacher. Every other day, my father would sit me and my little brother down for a talk or for a prayer with his pipe. My father spoke of our people’s past, our language, our beliefs, our songs and their meanings, and our traditions. But, I am not fluent. He always says that his biggest regret was not teaching us the language. Even if I have a fluent speaker in my home, I don’t know the language but I still try! I took language classes there at Todd County. At LNI, I was a part of the language bowl team during TC’s four year winning streak. Though, I am far from taking all the credit. Most of the time I was the alternate and my teammates knew a heck of a lot more than I did. My junior and senior year, I had a dual enrollment set up with Sinte Gleska so I can take language courses there too. There are teachers and elders around that WILL help you, if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to learning. It is a long and hard process but I know you can do it. I’m sorry, I was ignorant in thinking everyone else had the same experience I did.

    As for your responses:

    EC – You were raised to believe but why not take the time to learn more? Why don’t you do more? Ask questions and find the answers. The journey to finding what you seek is a lot more rewarding than the answer itself. I know I may sound like a fortune cookie but it’s true! What is holding you back?

    TM – The fault of not knowing our own language does not fall on any one person, but if we give up on trying to learn it, then who is going to teach your kids and your grandkids and so forth. The language is going to be lost in no time if giving up is the only option you see. Everyone can text and facebook and socialize all they want! All I’m saying is our culture is slowly being lost with every generation, yet I have hope because you care. Even if you disagree with every word I type, it shows that you care. I only hope you care enough to try.

    ELF – Someday, you’re going to be a parent. Someday, all the elders and teachers we have now won’t be here. Who will you put the responsibility on then? I am glad you’ve witnessed the negativity in our community. It should feel like home and a place we want to be, not a place we want to escape. Now take the time to ask yourself how you can change it. Be the change you want to see.

    Anon – Do you practice these things you see and these things you believe in? If you do go, do you encourage others to go with you to these ceremonies? What are you doing that is helpful to Roy Stone and his family? If you attend his ceremonies, do you go to learn?

    Luke Baldwin:

    Random fact! I posted your site to SDSU’s Native American Club site and also the sub-club within NAC called Nations. My fellow jackrabbits are excited to read your posts! I’m glad to be of help. I hope this site goes very far in the future!

    Keep it up guys!

  3. Ms Yoder says:

    I just want to say how proud I am of all of my former students. I have read every post on this site and they are thoughtful, well written, and well thought out. I am so glad that Mr. Baldwin has taken the time to involve you all in an online place where you can express yourselves and think about who you are, what you see around you, and think about who you wish to become in the future. Take the time to experience who you are; learn the language, read the literature, because your culture is beautiful.

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