One perspective is that holding the rainbow gathering in the Black Hills would be one more dominant culture crash landing on the cultures of the people who were here first and would be disrespectful to the tribes who hold Kȟe Sapa sacred and consider it a place for prayer. I understand that many people believe family should go to the tribal elders and ask for permission to gather and I honor and respect that perspective and it is happening. I also agree that a sensitivity to tribal cultures and the issues faced by the local people are critically important.
This won't be the first time we have gathered on land sacred to first nation tribes. Think about it. Every place we gather has some tribal connection. I live in a neighborhood that was once a Kumeyaay village and many other people probably could say the same thing about one tribe or another. I don't say this because I disregard the genocide of the first nation people, I say this because dealing with what has happened in the United States is not easy to do and we can't do it if we do not talk to one another in a respectful manner.
Telling people not to go to the Black Hills is one very valid opinion. However, the other perspective is that too many of us are ignorant of what is happening to the people who live in South Dakota. Maybe if we gather there, we can become educated on the issues and how we can help: while we are in South Dakota, after we go back to our communities, or even if we are unable to come home this year.
I have been to the Black Hills before (not for a gathering) and learned a bit. When we avoid meeting the people and the land who have been negatively impacted by the practices of the United States and which each and every one of us are implicated in, we can more easily ignore what is going on outside of our neighborhoods and communities. This ignorance is harmful to everyone. I think a better way is to learn deeply about the issues, dialog deeply with the people who live there, and see how we as a family and as individuals can help support the local communities in what ever manner they wish. I do believe it's important that we support the efforts of the local tribes and not try to tell them how to do things. However, one doesn't need to go to the gathering to do this.
As I explore the possibility of gathering in the Black Hills, I do not feel there is a one size fits all answer. Please think about this: when you see someone being beaten on a street corner, you have choices to make. Of course you can walk away and not participate, but is this really the most conscious option? Maybe another option is to get involved if you can do so from the right space. From that perspective, here are links to just some of the issues facing tribal communities in South Dakota.
Living Conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation
Based on the information I have from people who have been gathering for many years, family in the area having been meeting with tribal members on the reservation for a few weeks now. I am confident that more detailed information will be shared with those at spring council on the land. However, there have been meetings and family was invited to a wake for a deceased member of the tribe. Family in the area have been on Kili Radio, which is run by tribal members. According to my friends, 95% of the tribal members they have spoken with are receptive and open to this gathering taking place in the Black Hills (Kȟe Sapa). Many members of the tribe have indicated that they will visit the gathering. Grandmothers have been interacting with our family to learn more about who we are and what we will be doing as well as allowing their children to interact with family in the area. We've even been invited to hold our council on 20 acres of land on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I've spoken with three people today who are in South Dakota and all say that while some tribal people are not 100% clear as to exactly what a gathering is, most of them are very supportive or have no opinion on the matter.
While it's true we have not had a formal invitation, it's also true that many people are welcoming us.
Perhaps what's relevant is not where we gather but how gather. If we gather with respect to the local tribes, work on a deep healing of ourselves, and focus our energy on walking our talk, I believe that this gathering will be a positive experience for those who travel to South Dakota from out of state and those who live there.
Finally, there are less than two handfuls of folks in South Dakota now working with the local communities and others to create a safe and sane gathering. If you are an excellent communicator who has the ability to reach out to people living different lives than you are, help is needed to set up town hall meetings, meet with the local tribes, and share information in a positive and constructive manner. If you feel you are such a person, please email me and I will connect you up. However, if you're just looking to make it home early, that ain't gonna happen.
All this being said, I would love to hear what you think.
PS from Monday morning
Thanks to all the different perspectives on this issue that are being shared. I value all of your perspectives very much. I wrote this as an attempt to lay out complex issues. I hope you take action in the manner that your heart believes is the right path for you, the family, the Sioux Nation, and this beautiful planet we call home.