Women of the White Buffalo (2022) Movie Script

During the winter months,
two warriors were out
east of the Black Hills
looking for buffalo,
when they encountered
a beautiful woman
dressed in white buckskin.
One man had impure thoughts about her.
The other recognized her
as a sacred being.
The one who had impure
thoughts approached her
and thought he could take her
and do what he wanted.
But as he reached out for her,
a cloud enveloped them both.
And when the cloud lifted,
the man was lying upon
the earth as a skeleton.
At the place where
his stomach had been
was a ball of snakes.
She then instructed the other
man to return to his village
and prepare a place,
as she was bringing something
for the people.
When the village had done
what she'd instructed,
it is said that she
approached the encampment
and was singing a song that said,
"With visible breath,
I approached
this buffalo nation."
The Creator had given the gift
of the sacred pipe
to the starving nation
and the White Buffalo
Calf Woman told them
to utilize the sacred pipe in
all seven of their ceremonies,
as now they had the ability
to speak directly with the Creator.
When she completed her
instructions to the people,
it is said that she rolled
to the earth several times,
transforming into a mature
black female buffalo,
then turned into a red female buffalo,
then into an adolescent
yellow female buffalo,
and finally, into a white
female buffalo calf.
And then she disappeared.
The reservation
is like a third-world country.
A lot of people don't even
know we still exist.
So many people have given up,
with the poverty and the depression.
Because of what happened
to us years ago
when they first killed off
millions of our people,
we're still feeling it to this day.
It's in our genes.
Whether people want to admit it
or not, it's there.
I want to say good morning
to the relatives listening,
and thank you for welcoming
my voice into your home.
Join me in the morning
prayer this morning.
Father, Creator, the great spirit...
the four directions
and the Mother Earth,
all our ancestor spirits,
the White Buffalo Calf Woman,
all the spirits
that are at the altars
of all of our medicine people,
I ask you to be with us today,
the White Buffalo Calf Woman
and our...
...our Mother Earth,
our Grandmother Earth.
Thank you for the gift of who we are.
Colonel Pratt coined the term,
"Kill the Indian
and save the man."
Pratt sent his sister here.
They have a hall
still named after her.
She made this school
in the direct image
of that Carlisle Boarding School.
Their whole identity
was stripped away.
If you spoke your language,
you would be beaten.
So the school was really
violent, which is really crazy,
because they're supposed
to be nuns and fathers.
To begin with, okay,
it was a no-choice thing.
You had to send your kids away
or you went to jail.
You're talking about generations too,
'cause, you know, you've got
the first stolen children
put through the boarding school.
Then you get the next generation
who have been separated
from their families.
And this was an orchestrated thing
to destroy the Indian
or the Native culture.
Very much a planned-out,
thought-about thing
on how to disenfranchise the...
...the nuclear families.
In the old days when we
were a strong and happy people,
that sacred hoop was unbroken
and people flourished.
In that, the Carlisle
experience especially,
and I'm sure the other ones
are much the same,
we were being prepared
as the next labor,
like the slaves.
Originally, Carlisle was
a school for the black people
back then to educate them
to be the butlers,
the maids, and whatever else
mainstream culture needed.
But that's where the world
was broken apart.
That's the word for forcefully
teaching things
and that's the boarding school.
A gentle kind way of teaching.
And that way of life was interrupted
by taking their children away.
In our culture,
the hair is the most
important part of who we are.
And so for us, the hair,
the only time we cut our hair
is when somebody dies close to us.
And so when our children
were sent to boarding schools,
they cut their hair,
they took their traditional
clothes away,
and some of them ran away.
And they ran away to come home
to find out who died.
"Who died? Is it Mom?
Is it Dad? Who is it?"
Some of them lost their legs,
froze their legs trying to get home.
And some of them died
trying to go home.
By now, with many
of the non-Indian teachers
that we have in our school systems,
we should have some experts
on how we teach Native children.
We should be the center
of excellence and expertise
when it comes to being
culturally competent,
and even about our own
history and language.
I wanted to come back
to the RES to learn.
And then, in me being
inspired to learn,
everybody else could learn.
Because I have a perception
of what I think a Native person
should know and understand.
And when I came here, I was, like,
really smacked in the face
with reality.
Because growing up in the city,
you automatically become
a representative of your people,
being Native.
And plus, my name, SunRose IronShell,
it's not like Stacey Smith,
or not like I could blend into places.
So of course, everyone would
come up to me all the time.
"Oh, you're Native?
Oh, I didn't know you guys
existed anymore."
And that was in the city.
So right away at a young age,
I understood that, "Okay, I'm Lakota,
"and there's no question about it.
"So I have to be an open
book for people,
"in educating them,
because the whole system
tries to erase us."
The students face this contradiction,
'cause they see us all talk about,
"You need to learn your language,
"you need to know how to be Lakota,
because we're losing it."
We're so caught up in that
money and that funding
that everything has to be
by state regulations.
And I'm over here saying, "No, no.
"Like, this is Lakota regulations.
"This is our values and our virtues.
And you can fit your state into
wherever you need to fit it."
Why do I have to go
by all the state laws
and then try to figure out
where I can pinch little
pieces of Lakota in?
I always refer to this metaphor
of being a unicorn.
And this comes from my experience
of being out in the city
and being that Native individual
that was the first Native
that white people saw.
"We didn't know you existed.
Do you live in a teepee?"
And I'm like, "No, I live in a condo.
I drive a car."
Being a unicorn out there,
then here I am, surrounded by unicorns
who don't even realize
they're unicorns.
They're few and far between,
rare breed.
Helping our people,
learning who they are,
using those things that we
still have before we lose them,
you know, that's our responsibility.
Those of us that have the language,
those ceremonies that are important
to our sense of belonging,
our spirit name.
That strengthens,
because there's four aspects
of who we are:
our mind, our heart,
our body, and our spirit.
We excel so much at being white
that we forget those
teachings from our culture,
who we are.
And then our children go on
without knowing who they are.
And in search for who they are,
they're gonna get
into the wrong spirit.
Alcohol, drugs, relationships.
Here, we're at the source
where we got all the grandmas,
we got the language speakers,
we have ceremonies,
we have all these beautiful things,
but most of the population
and my students
have never been to a ceremony,
have never been to a sweat lodge.
And that was really
heartbreaking to me.
I was like, "What? For real?
"You've never to a sweat before?
You don't have
your Indian name?"
Someone who's adopted out,
who lives in the city,
who has no connections to the land,
but what they know is written,
"Okay, I'm from Rosebud Sioux tribe,
"but I've been adopted out.
But I'm gonna learn and do
my best to learn the language."
And then on the other hand,
the other spectrum,
you have my kids here
who were born on the RES
right in the source who don't care,
who just have, like,
this hopeless feeling
of constant assimilation?
And they don't even want to learn,
have no motivation to learn
what it is to be Lakota.
We said cultural competence
is a set of congruent attitudes,
behaviors and policies that come
together in a system, agency,
or amongst professionals
that enables them to work effectively
in cross-cultural situations.
So we move on a continuum
from the most destructive...
The government wanted
to wipe out our people,
the massacres.
When you take a children
away from the people,
that's genocide.
When you take a language,
a way of life away from a people,
that's genocide.
So we move from being most destructive
to being incapacitated.
"Know your place,"
Rosa Parks, as an example.
And when Aunt Maria
and the grandmas marched,
"Know your place, grandmas.
You're not black people."
That was our government
telling them that.
We're supposed to be
a sovereign nation,
and we are not a sovereign nation.
We don't practice our sovereignty.
Had we practiced our sovereignty,
many of our children
wouldn't be suffering,
or our elderly people
would be taken care of.
Throughout the years, I just feel like
there's no regulation
for this reservation.
A lot of the things,
the teachings have been skipped over,
hopped over by generation
to generation.
And so the mentality that it
created in society is not--
It's not fitting
for many of these children.
They're exposed to many things
that they shouldn't even be seeing,
things that they shouldn't be hearing.
There are many values
that are not passed down,
that are not taught.
There is no compassion.
Our people are homeless.
They're living in tents.
They're suffering day to day.
They're going without lights.
They're going without food.
In 2006, there were 20,000
fluent Lakota speakers.
Ten years later, we're looking
at 2,000 people right now
that are speaking the Lakota language.
I was raised with fluent
Lakota people and speakers.
We all understood it was a language
in which evolved every day.
And I'm dealing
with students that, of course,
are exposed to things
that they shouldn't
be exposed to at home.
They all know what meth is
and they're only in, like,
kindergarten, first grade,
and they shouldn't know what meth is.
There's a lot of gang activity
in Manderson,
and it was also known
as one of the drug capitals
of the reservation.
It used to be called...
...and it was one
of the original places
where the commodities were
issued to Native Americans.
South of that, about almost ten miles
is the Wounded Knee Massacre site.
My grandma raised at least
20 of us in one household,
a five-bedroom house.
And she cooked for us,
cleaned for us, did our clothes.
She did everything.
I believe that alcoholism
throughout the years
took advantage of our people,
and our people have adopted
to this new lifestyle
of "just stay drunk."
So that mentality there
is not bringing our
people out of poverty,
but it's keeping our
people in poverty.
It was not our way of life,
because if we research it
all the way back,
it was brought in from the settlers.
They saw it as a way
of giving it to our people,
and our people would sign away
their rights for the land.
And it became an addiction.
That's what really
damaged our communities.
And it's killing our people
and it's killing our youth.
There's a disconnection,
and you can see that,
where they're hurt, they're fighting,
there's the gang violence,
the domestic calls.
That's where all the sexual
abuse is taking place.
It's really sad,
because I know our ancestors
didn't pray for that for us.
Majority of our calls
are intoxicated person calls.
It's a dry reservation.
We can't have alcohol here.
You know, we have, you know,
a lot of drug problems.
We have a lot of meth
and we have child abuse,
all of this going on,
but we're dealing
with intoxicated people
We have a local jail,
and we pick them up,
we take them to jail.
They detox and then they get out,
just to do it over and over again.
And we feel like we're fighting
an uphill battle.
You know, we got all these
drugs coming in,
and we can't deal with it
because we're busy
dealing with the drunks.
My parents
were eventually bootleggers.
They were one of the biggest
bootleggers here in Kyle.
One night, they were drinking.
All of us kids were in
an additional part of the room,
and all of a sudden,
a fight must've broke out.
And we all went to go see it.
My father had pushed
my mother against the hutch.
He spilled hot coffee on her
from the stove.
And all the friends, they left,
they all scattered and they left,
leaving my mother there
to fend for herself.
My brothers had to go over
there and pull him off of her,
but then my father was so strong
that he hit my brothers
and threw them off of his back.
So my sister,
she ended up running away.
She said she was gonna
go call the cops.
About six o'clock in the morning,
somebody knocked at the door
and it was a cop.
He said that, you know,
there was a little girl
who called the cops on her parents
because her father
was beating up her mother.
I heard that, I ran outside fast
and I saw my sister standing up
in the back seat of the cop car.
And she was like,
"I did it, I did it, Naomi.
I did it.
I called the cops."
And then she asked about my mom,
if she was okay.
And I told her,
"Yeah, she's okay."
The cop, she said,
"Your sister can't leave.
She has to go to the hospital."
That's when I looked down
at my sister's feet
and I saw her feet
were all purple and black
towards her toes.
She went in the snow,
through the creeks,
to a white house
where she called the cops.
The next-door neighbor
lives almost a mile away.
My sister was probably
about close to nine years old.
She had to have her feet amputated.
It's a POW camp.
Prisoner of war camp.
That's what it is. So I don't
refer to this as a reservation.
And when you step onto our land,
you're no longer in the United States.
You're in Lakota territory.
We're the poorest county
in the United States.
How can we have so many
people addicted to meth?
Where's this money coming from for it?
What I picture meth is
this little skinny person
with sores all over,
and just freaking out
and can't sit still.
That wasn't my daughter.
She was really good at hiding it.
I went to the tribe and I said,
"My daughter's on meth.
I need to get her help.
I need to get her
into treatment somewhere."
They had no idea meth was even here.
They had nothing set up
for people addicted to meth.
And I have this pamphlet here.
This is what I hand out.
And it says how to identify meth
and its effects,
and it goes through all of it,
what it looks like.
It looks like evil
staring back at you,
and that's that meth spirit.
You know, we're a spiritual people,
and meth is its own spirit.
And it's evil,
and it wants to take
all of our children.
The suicide spirit is its brother.
They work together to take our kids,
so that's why I'm always smudging.
Right now, we have a couple people
working on our drug task force
who are combating that problem.
People are trying anything
just to get this fixed
with alcohol and drugs.
So they're making water bottles,
and putting alcohol in them
and selling those to kids.
These kids don't even know
what's in it.
And they're buying it.
They're combating
the bootlegging issue
and they're trying to deal
with the meth issue as well,
the drug issue.
But you know what I mean? Like I said,
we can't take away from another thing
and, you know, leave that thing going.
They feel hopelessness,
so they turn to the addictions,
whether it be opioids, alcohol, meth.
We only have one
alcoholic and drug center
here on the reservation.
There's too many that have done,
are doing, or have tried meth.
My brother was really special to me.
He had a horse named Cadillac Man.
And I remember being
on my little, itty-bitty pony.
Her name was Queenie.
And I was so scared,
and I was just learning how to ride,
and I remember watching him
fly by bareback.
And I remember looking up to him,
like, man, I wish I could do that.
And I just remember how wild he was,
and wanting to be like that.
Now, I lost that.
You know, that brother to guide me.
He left too soon.
I was at the lowest point in my life,
and meth, it made me
not feel it anymore.
I didn't feel no pain.
I didn't feel hurt no more.
I felt invincible.
I was set.
Nothing was gonna bring me down.
That's the problem.
You have no feeling, no pain.
You have no heart.
You have no passion.
You have no compassion.
You start not caring about yourself,
about others, about anything.
You just don't care about nothing.
That's why, if you notice a lot
of people that are on meth,
they'll do a lot of horrible things
and have no guilty
conscience about it,
because that drug takes away
all your feelings,
all your conscience.
People turn into people
they're not when they're on it.
I recognized that
when I gave up my dancing.
And when I realized
I gave up who I was,
that's when I was like,
"I'm done."
I had all these dreams of going
to college and everything else.
So what, I got my GED?
I could still go to college.
So I took that step.
Nobody thought I was gonna do
anything with my life.
All it took was for me
to believe in me.
The new genocide
is putting each other in jail,
using that white man system,
leaving children behind
to be raised and hurt
by someone else.
I guess that, for myself,
and the work that I do,
it's to strengthen
who we are as Lakota people
with our language, with our worldview,
how we think.
Humbleness is an important part
of who we are.
We never go out there
and brag about ourselves.
The only ones that can
talk about us in a good way
are those that witness
the good things that we've done.
Back in the day before
we were on reservations,
before the colonizer came,
when we were a free people,
that was part of our traditional law.
If you're doing something bad
or bringing harm to the camp,
you know, you're publicly shamed.
They marched them through camp.
And so I started publicly
shaming the meth dealers,
and that's why my house
looks like this.
That's why my car
looks like that back there.
I've had a gun held to my head.
I started doing night patrols.
Majority of the time,
I would pick up little kids
walking in the middle of the night,
three-, four-, five-year-olds.
And I already know
the parents are drunk, high.
Right then, I said, I'm gonna
try to work my hardest
to get a safe house.
If I have to build
a little cabin on my own
to keep these kids safe,
I'm gonna do that.
I had to do a protest
outside the tribal council
to even get them to acknowledge me.
I said, if we don't get
a hold on this right now,
we're gonna have murders,
we're gonna have babies dying,
we're gonna have girls missing,
sex trafficked.
I've had one case where
the mom went to work,
didn't know her boyfriend
had been up for four days.
She left her four-month-old
son with him.
He had raped the baby to the point
where the baby passed away.
The cops kept it hush-hush.
They weren't letting the people
know what was going on.
And so I would do that.
There are seven female officers
on the force right now.
We have officers on leave.
We have officers that are sick,
that are training,
so it fluctuates
in between 36 and 44 officers.
When I first started in 2004,
it felt like I had one child
abuse case here and there.
Now, it's like at least once a week.
What needs to stop
is parents, and stepparents,
and grandparents
abusing their children,
and these children end up dying.
And that's something
that would rip your heart apart
if you ever had to see it.
Children with bruises
all over their bodies, bites.
And that's something some of
the officers see almost weekly.
Well, when I was a little girl,
my nephew, three years older than me,
he'd play these games,
he would call it.
Stick things in my butt
hole and stuff,
perverted things like that.
Well, he actually was getting
molested by older people,
so he would do it to us,
thinking it's okay.
So as we got older,
all of a sudden we're like,
"Whoa, that was not okay."
Like, I think he realized, like,
"Whoa, what they were doing
to me is not okay."
And how many kids are going
through that right now
where people are doing
sick things to them,
and they're thinking that it's okay
because they're in
an environment where it is?
Most people, they don't speak of it,
because it's happened to this person
or it's happened to that person.
They're like, "Oh, well,
it's happened to all of us,
so, you know, it's normal."
It shouldn't be normal,
but it's normal around here.
We deal with 86% unemployment
here on the reservation.
And most of our women,
they go and they marry somewhere else,
and, you know, they have children,
and then our blood is mixed.
And I think a lot of times, our women,
they had no choice
but to join the services
or, you know, to move away.
In the home,
the oldest lady would tell--
Even the mother, she would tell
her daughters how to be,
how to conduct themselves.
The father would...
...everybody to preach
the do's, the don't,
the pros, the cons,
and give you a moral in the story.
So a lot of girls or women,
they tend to be gullible...
and they're young, and naive,
and we get taken advantage of.
You know, oftentimes,
in trafficking situations,
it's a family member
or friend of the family.
My mom spent a lot of time
behind locked doors,
getting high with her friends.
And her friends started
reaching out to me.
You know, "Let me take you out
to go get something to eat."
"Oh, this is your
favorite song."
"Oh, let me put some
lipstick on you."
Like, I know now that that's
called the grooming process,
you know, finding somebody
that's vulnerable.
A child that's hungry,
that's deprived of love,
that's deprived of attention
is the perfect target for a sick adult
that's looking to exploit
that child or woman,
or even young male.
His name was John Howlett.
He was my uncle's best friend.
One day, you know,
he just told me to pack a bag.
I was coming with him.
I thought, "Great, you know,
this person cares about me,
you know, makes sure I have
something to eat."
He took me away with him,
and before I knew it,
I was being taken to hotels
and different crack houses,
and different drug dealers' houses,
and being sold as another party favor.
He knew that Indigenous women
were invisible.
At that point, I didn't know
what my mother's
level of knowledge was
until she started to show up
at his house
and began banging on his door
and screaming,
"John, I know what you're doing
with my daughter.
I'm gonna call the police."
And John would say,
"You know, your mother
doesn't give a fuck about you.
Watch this."
And he'd grab a handful of rock
and go to the door and send her
off each and every time.
And every time, there'd be
this little hope inside of me
that my mother
would just push past him
and rescue me from there,
and, you know, take me away.
And each time that I heard
the car engine start up,
and the door close,
and her drive away,
that hope in me died
a little bit more every time.
At first, I used to fight.
And after a few times
of being violently beaten,
I stopped fighting and I'd just freeze
and go somewhere else.
Having had been a victim
of these circumstances
and coming through to where
I feel that I'm a survivor
and a victor over the circumstances
that I can look at these statistics
that, you know, are oftentimes
criticized as being inflated.
I guess is a better word.
Sensationalized for hype.
You know, they say that
there's 300,000 children a year
in the United States at risk
and vulnerable to being trafficked.
The 100,000 a year
that are being trafficked
and it is getting worse.
In December, a girl went missing.
Now, okay, we're gonna
follow this case as a class
and we're going to do some artwork
that'll help bring more awareness
to all these missing
and murdered Indigenous women.
The hashtag MMIW,
also #RedDressProject
that started in Canada.
So in Canada, they believe that
the color of the red
calls back the spirit.
So sometimes, if something
really tragic happens,
that spirit doesn't really
necessarily know it's dead
or know that it's moved on.
Talking about with my students,
they started to realize
different situations
that were scary.
So just talking about one girl's story
of how she went missing,
it seems like all these other stories
just all of a sudden popped up.
With that pipeline
comes the man camps.
When the pipeline comes,
they need men
to build those pipelines.
So they employ these men,
and then they'll come
and they'll prey
on all these young women.
Maybe there's a family
who lives in Eagleville
and then a family who lives
in Pine Ridge,
and she needs to get to Pine Ridge.
So they'll come halfways
and they'll drop her off
at the gas station.
And then the other family will
come halfways and pick her up.
So maybe she's there
at that gas station
for, like, 20 minutes
or something, waiting.
But in that little span of time,
there's all these people
that are really
into human trafficking.
And she could be taken and put
in the back of a trailer,
and then within an hour,
be 100 miles away.
There was just recently a story
where there were 15 Indigenous women
who they found in a storage container.
Like, in Chicago.
And they were all from North Dakota.
Some Indian men
have gone and worked there,
and then they've been
the whistleblowers.
They go, "Look at what
they're doing to our women."
So if the cops wanted to come in,
our tribal cops wanted to come in
and clear a whole man camp,
they literally could not do it,
because then the pipeline
and those CEOs
could turn around and sue us.
And then all of a sudden,
we'd be in millions of dollars in debt.
So here's the problem.
Tribes who are quote, unquote,
cannot press charges on people
who are non-Native.
We can have it on film.
You could murder me right now
and you could walk away scot-free,
because the law says that we
have no jurisdiction over you.
So we have no laws that protect us.
And when I was in Standing Rock,
I was the first Native woman
to lock down to a bulldozer
to stop construction.
And my stand on that was
to bring that awareness,
how the oil industry, the pipelines,
the drugs, the sex trafficking,
it all leads to missing
and murdered Indigenous women.
It's all connected.
And they have that guy
bringing in the girls.
You know, they bring them in.
Girls, guys, kids, whatever.
In the Bakken,
they found a two-year-old
walking from that man camp,
beat up, sexually abused.
The teacher from New Town,
they passed her around that man camp,
and then killed her
and threw her body out.
There's better coverage on it now,
but missing and murdered
Indigenous women
have been on the back burner
for centuries.
We're the most hunted
and the least seen
when it comes to violent crimes
and law enforcement.
We're the only nationality of people
that aren't counted
in the United States
when it comes to numbers
of missing women and children.
Canada, in the last couple of years,
has started a nationwide inquiry.
You know, Martina and I
have been talking
about putting together
an inquiry here ourselves,
you know, following their model.
And it just seems so
overwhelming, so insurmountable.
The oppressor is never going
to free the victim.
It's always the victims
that have to overcome,
and own their strength,
and take back the respect,
and take back their power.
Creating more opportunities for women
to come together
for ceremony in this way
and talk about what can be done.
We heal through conversation.
We heal through connection.
We heal through our culture.
The solution's not gonna come
from the government.
The solution's not
gonna come from the men.
The solution's not gonna come
from the predators.
The solution is gonna come
from hearts of the women
coming together to heal.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman legend
speaks to the choices
that men face in life
to either take the black road
of arrogance and entitlement
by dishonoring sacred
life-bearers and Mother Earth,
resulting in self-
and environmental destruction,
or take the red road of honor,
and in practicing sacred
ceremonies and prayer,
will influence boys
to become responsible men
who act as defenders and protectors,
creating healthy and holistic
family structures
bound by dignity and respect for all.
We're a matrilineal society.
Our grandmothers had the power
to take away a man from leadership
if he did something to violate
the laws of our people.
They had the right to put
a man back into leadership.
And so I really believe
that we need to go back
to our society ways.
We need a legal society.
We need a health society.
We need an educational society
alongside the men
and women's societies
to instill who we are still
throughout the generations.
For people to say that,
"Oh, we're old-fashioned,
we're way back there," no.
We've forgotten who we are,
because of mainstream's
expectations of being like them.
So the educational system is geared
to assimilate our people
into their thinking patterns,
and even our government.
Our tribal government
is based on that.
Even some people saying,
"Well, we don't want
traditional government."
And yet, if we veer away from that,
we lose ourselves as a tribal nation,
and we lose who we are,
because we're not connected
to our spirit.
Our treaties were created in 1851.
It was the first Lakota Treaty.
Second one was 1868.
And we defeated the U.S. Army
at war.
And at the time,
the Civil War was going on
on the East Coast.
The gold fields in California
were happening on the West Coast.
What the Lakota nation was able to do
is they severed the wagon route,
so they couldn't deliver gold
from California
to the East Coast to pay their troops.
So if they didn't settle
with the Lakota
and sue for peace,
they would lose the war.
So they sued for peace.
And the chiefs were smart.
They understood that we couldn't fight
all these Euro-Americans coming in.
So we signed a treaty.
When the Civil War got over
and Euro-American incursion
begin to happen to the West,
all bets were off.
So we started fighting back.
And we were defeating
the U.S. Army again,
because we were
the greatest lay cavalry
the world had ever seen.
We could get in, strike fast.
Of course, the Euro-American
military decides,
"We can't catch the Indians
"and we can't win a decisive battle.
Let's attack his supply chain."
His supply chain, of course,
is the billions of buffalo
out on the plains.
So then that was their plan of war,
was to kill the buffalo.
That's where the
"Kill a buffalo,
kill an Indian" came from.
Without that great supply chain,
we were susceptible.
The genocide on the Tatanka Oyate.
So with that happening,
they were able
to actually round us up,
and managed to get us
into the reservations
where annuities were supposed
to come in to feed the peoples.
There was a lot of goods
moving across the plains,
government paying for them.
And then the corruption
came in with the traders
and things like that.
And they peeled off lots of things.
And there was still the thing,
kill the Indian, save the man.
And the churches
had a great deal to do
with this whole scenario.
The growing season
is about six months,
so not very many things grow here.
And with our horses,
we were able to run down
the buffalo in quantities,
so we thrived.
The Euro-Americans,
they a lot of times
would go out to the Great Plains
and they would suffer from scurvy
because they didn't eat
the internal organ meats.
Like with us, we used, like,
every part and piece of the buffalo,
and the organ meats
were essential to our diets.
Coming into the agreements
the chiefs made
with the Euro-Americans.
You know, that was
a seven-generational agreement
that they would take care
of our people
as they took care of their own.
The peoples that could,
they had the equipment
and the ability
to supply those annuities
to the tribes
was the federal government.
So they placed the BIA,
Bureau of Indian Affairs,
under the department of the army,
and it's still that way.
Though we won our war with
the United States of America,
we lost the peace,
because we could no longer
sustain ourselves.
You know, they could put us
under their thumb
by how they feed us.
Then they can pretty much
do whatever they want.
In Pine Ridge,
you go into Sioux Nation
grocery store,
and a bell pepper costs you,
like, four dollars.
A candy bar costs you a dollar.
You're gonna get the most
calories from four candy bars
versus one bell pepper.
With limited resources,
you have to go that route.
When the government came
and they gave us the rations,
everything was canned and packaged.
Our bodies weren't used
to all the sugars,
that high fructose
that gets put into everything.
So over the years,
and now over the centuries,
we end up having health issues.
You know, I know the commodities
started getting fresh produce
and everything, too.
We know that they are sprayed
with waxes and chemicals.
You know, it is better
that we do grow our own foods
and every family have
a garden or a community garden.
Food sovereignty is
probably the tip of the arrow,
the tip of the spear to sovereignty.
So the people,
how large your people are, the land.
So Rosebud Sioux Tribe
has the largest amount of land
next to the Navajos.
And then your language.
'Cause if we could feed ourselves,
we wouldn't have to rely
on these grocery stores
that only give us really
unhealthy options.
I'm a really big advocate
on eating buffalo meat,
going back to what our DNA
has been using for these
thousands of years.
So if we just go back to that,
maybe a lot of our health
problems would stop,
because our meat would be
a lot healthier.
We had a pig farm that was here,
which has shut down,
which is a big victory for us.
But the pigs plus the beef,
which is in Willett County,
which is north of us,
totally toxified our rivers.
And our kids started to get
little sores and boils on them,
so nobody can go swimming.
And it's actually illegal
to have your own well,
even though we're right on top
of the Ogallala Aquifer
that has the freshest water
in the world.
Our water actually comes from
the Mineshoshe,
the Missouri River,
and it was pumped in.
And that actually happened
about ten years ago.
And the United States
government put in money,
about a couple million dollars,
to pump in this water pipeline.
And it was called
the Mni Wiconi Project.
Flash back to DAPL,
now they're like giving them
permits to pollute our water
when they know they spent
these millions of dollars
to put those water systems in.
So a lot of things
just don't make sense.
We are number one in the nation
that has the highest electricity bill.
And so you would think that the tribe
would try to help us
to lower our electricity bills,
but that doesn't happen.
My bill is about $300 a month.
Now, moving from Denver,
and I had a two-bedroom apartment,
my bill was, like, only 90 bucks.
So now it's tripled.
Who's in power making these decisions
that's keeping our people in poverty?
Everyone's just so used
to being on their knees
and gotten comfortable
being on their knees,
they forgot what it felt
like to stand up.
On paper, it says there's
so many Indian people
because of blood quantum.
So after 1/4,
if you're no longer 1/4 Native,
then you won't be on this list.
Soon enough, there'll be
no names on this list.
And then they'll be like,
"Oh, we don't have
to give money to them anymore,
they don't exist."
Even though the people
will all still be here.
Maybe we still know our language.
Maybe we still do our cultural things.
On paper, we don't exist.
So yeah, America definitely
did a really good job
on our genocide, on our holocaust,
on trying to totally
wipe us out and erase us,
but they didn't finish the job.
With each succeeding generation,
we lose our population base
and our spirit as once proud peoples.
The American Indian
statistics of deprivation
have remained constant
since the end of World War II.
All other groups of citizens,
fortunes rise and fall
with the gross national product.
The American Indian statistical
line of deprivation
remains constant,
a straight line.
With the blatant genocide
of our traditional people,
we have less than 50,000
in America today.
We are averaging a loss
of 1,000 a year since 1900.
We are losing a value system
as distinct people
that sets us apart
from the industrialized world.
These facts surface
in our tribal statistics.
And no one attempts
to do anything about it
except for a few social
workers and reservation police.
One of the things that I've noticed
since I was a young girl,
I went to my first
tribal council meeting.
As I sat in that room,
I could see straight through
the bullshit,
but everyone else in the room
was falling for it.
I realized that day
that our system is messed up.
Just gotta know how to talk.
Get yourself anywhere.
It's all about who you know,
not what you know.
And I was like, man, wow.
Look at these grown people
bickering like little kids.
And they're supposed to be
our leaders?
And I'm 13 years old recognizing that.
What kind of example is that setting
for all the children
on our reservation?
And it's still happening to this day.
There's no change
on our tribal council.
It's the same with our court systems.
There's maybe, what, three
people on our tribal council
that are educated right now,
that have a degree?
And I am so glad I got my GED
and I didn't get valedictorian
of my high school,
because I would have been at
some big college somewhere else
in the United States of America
on a full ride scholarship
doing really good out there
in the world,
and I wouldn't have even seen
the problems here.
Here I am,
going to Oglala Lakota College,
going to classes with my own people,
who are going there for
the same exact reasons I am,
who are going to make a change.
That's why I won't leave.
Here for the people,
staying for the people,
live for the people.
I learn more from my people
than I do in the books.
That's where the real wisdom
comes from.
There was this experiment with rats.
And they isolated them
and saw those rats,
rather than being there
in isolation and stuff,
they'd go get high every day
until they basically
killed themselves.
Now, the same guy comes back
some years later and he says,
"I screwed up.
I should have done it this way."
So he puts two watering stations up.
First, they addicted the rats
to the drug-laced water.
And then the other one's pure water.
But then he drops rats
into this Eden for rats,
the perfect rat playground.
So when these rats go out
and they start functioning,
they chose to water off
of the regular water
and to taper off
of the drug-induced water.
And they would intentionally
go through withdrawals
so that they could go
and exist with their community.
You know, today,
I think there's a lot
of that isolation goes on,
and a lot of it is self-induced.
I mean, stick your face in the phone.
There's a lot of escapism out there.
But if we create
the perfect community,
the interaction with the
community and things like that,
you don't have to be
in that whole rat race anymore.
I mean, people will do
things for people
because they want to,
they feel needed,
they feel like they're fulfilled.
You know, ideally, what I would
like to see out of this
is we start building
these 10,000 homes that we need,
and people are just stepping in
and doing what they need to do
to get these homes out there.
So we create that perfect playground.
The value is no longer
in that soul-collecting dollar,
but in our ability
to produce and help people.
Compared to now and 50 years ago,
we got a better sense of who we are.
And we realize
and know that we got rights,
thanks to the American
Indian Movement.
The way they ended up in Wounded Knee,
they was on their way back from
Washington, D.C. at the time
from the longest walk.
And there's a little town
outside of town
from Pine Ridge about five
miles and known as Oglala.
You had a community building there.
They was having a meeting.
In the meantime,
on the BIA building down here,
they had machine guns
on top with sandbags
and manned by U.S. Marshals.
The reason for that was
they didn't want AIM coming
to take over that building next.
So while they was having
these meetings,
our women got up and asked AIM
what they're gonna do.
They said if AIM didn't take the helm
that they'll do it on their own.
So then that's where the idea
of occupied Wounded Knee started from.
They rode through town,
and come to the intersection
where the stoplights are,
and they just went east
and they converged on Wounded Knee.
Then and there, they declared
war on the United States.
She was down
in Wounded Knee in the '70s.
She was in and out of Wounded Knee,
bringing supplies in.
- You know, she was part of that.
- A messenger.
That 71-day takeover, yeah.
They says I should never
talk about it.
I made a vow to keep my mouth shut.
Don't talk about it then.
Don't talk about it.
We don't want to know. No.
I was a community health aid.
And we make supplies,
you know, aspirin.
Some were on medicine,
Lakotas in that Wounded Knee,
so we'd make a little package,
cigarette or whatever.
We had little radios in our cars.
My name was Band-Aid Mama.
But we pack it,
and then we threw it in.
And it goes into the kit,
and somebody's watching.
They pick it up and they take it.
Now, this is what I learned from...
...my grandma, who I am.
And I'm going to live
through life with it.
We're all created equal.
The person next to you
is gonna have to walk with you,
work with you, think with you.
So that's the life I'll have
in my way of life as Lakota...
I'm not ashamed,
I'm not afraid to carry this
color through my life.
I'm proud of it.
We all had same vision.
We all had same understanding.
We all had same speech voice
to give out our sacred
rights of opinions,
whatever we need,
to practice,
to walk together, work together,
make a better place for the generation
we're bringing in to live that life.
When I was in high school,
we had one suicide.
Only one.
Now, we have kids trying
to kill themselves every day.
To me, these kids around
here these days
are more in tuned to social media,
more in tuned with cell phones.
I was adopted by my grandparents.
They were the ones that raised me.
They taught me if you want some,
you gotta work hard for it.
Right now, these kids,
somebody could say something
to them on a text message
and you know,
say you're ugly or whatever,
and then they'll try
to kill themselves.
They need to get in touch
with their spirituality.
They need to find that light
that's inside of them
and be stronger,
and not let anybody else get to them.
But they're not doing it.
They're more in tuned
with Facebook, Snapchat,
Instagram, Twitter, you know?
If we didn't have that,
I don't think none of this
would be going on right now.
2014, I lost both of my parents.
My mother died.
She drank herself to death.
I think I lost at least
seven people that I know,
ranging from 18 to 26.
And they were my son's friends.
They all chose to commit suicide.
And then in the past year,
I lost a friend,
a real close friend to suicide.
And he didn't have anybody either.
I never thought that
was gonna ever happen to me.
You know, never lost any
of my kids, you know?
That day was a busy day,
and we were gonna go to a ceremony.
My daughter, Chunshi,
she was gonna help me.
She was gonna make bread.
She was gonna help me cook
and like that.
The last time that I see her
was at the basketball court.
She told me,
"I'm gonna go take a walk, Mom."
My sons are the ones
that took her down.
I know they were in shock.
They didn't want to see her
hanging up there.
When they cut her down, she went...
She went like that, so...
And then later on, you know,
words were going around
saying that they heard her
screaming down there.
Through all that time
all my relatives came,
but I didn't even know.
Like, when I opened my eyes,
they were all sitting around.
And I hung on to her
until they told me that
"Whenever you're ready,"
you know, "we'll take her."
I didn't want them to take her.
Those four medicines
that we walk with.
First is that prayer.
And you used that
through all this time.
Second is that water.
You know, as a water woman,
you pray with that water
to give good health to everybody.
And as a water woman,
the sacred food that you bring,
that you make and bring
from here in your heart,
it transfers that love to the people.
And so you take care of that part,
the prayer, the water,
and then you just shed your tears.
You cried and you've been doing that,
but that's a part of your healing.
And then the laughter.
You laughed today.
That's good.
So you're walking
the four medicines every day,
and that's what keeps us in balance.
For me, you know,
the calling of the spirit...
...is really important.
We need to call the spirit
of our children back,
because many of them
are loosely connected.
And the spirit that they're
seeking is a negative spirit,
whether it's physical,
sexual or emotional.
And from that hurt and shame,
they're taking their lives.
A lot of the young girls
that complete,
nobody's investigating to say,
"Well, what happened?
How did they die?"
And a lot of them, it could be
that they felt so much shame
and pain and hurt
that they wanted to die.
Nobody's taken that into account.
We're just saying,
"Okay, they killed themselves,"
and that's it.
When I found out I was carrying
all that trauma
from the Wounded Knee Massacre
and from my great-grandmothers,
I had to come to terms with it.
It's time to use who we are
as Lakota people,
because nobody can save us
but ourselves.
No missionary, no government,
nobody but you.
And that's what my parents taught me,
my father and my mother.
You know, it's up to you.
You are gonna take
your generation forward.
It's up to you to be able
to take that forward.
Where my real mom lives,
it's in Porcupine.
And I would call any other woman "mom"
when I was just a baby
except for my real mom,
because when I was still
in my mom's stomach,
she was doing drugs,
and that would make
my brain not right.
And it would make my brain sick.
And I feel good.
I'm healing from that sickness.
I've never gotten
to meet her biological mother,
but my understanding
is her biological mother
endured very similar trauma
that I lived through.
And unfortunately,
she's still in the cycle
of being a victim, you know,
and victimizing herself
without even realizing it.
And, you know, I won't go into detail
because that's her path,
that's her journey.
But I've been gifted
this incredible experience
of being this guardian
of this beautiful, sacred child,
Tatanka SkaWin Swiftbird.
It's a lineage
that has nearly been lost,
but there's so much richness
to the culture.
And it's such an honor
to walk with this little child,
this beautiful child,
and remind her who she is,
and the strength
that she carries with her,
and that she has generations
and generations
of ancestors behind her
that are just so happy,
and dancing, and giving...
...and she's remembering
who she is
in such a sacred way.
And that I get to play
some part in that...
in that remembering.
Not just for her, but for all women
that, you know, we remember who we are
and where our strength really lies.
The hoop dance, to me,
is a healing dance,
but also a form of storytelling.
It's meant to bring balance
and harmony back to the world
and within ourselves.
When I dance, I dance with prayer.
I was taught to dance
with a clear mind,
a clear body and a clear heart
so that my spirit
can guide me through it.
My father taught me that first
hoop represents ourself.
And we have to learn how
to dance with that first hoop
and make sure our hoop isn't broken
before we try to add on others,
or else everything
will all fall apart.
Always take care of myself so
that I can take care of others.
Sometimes, you have to be selfish
in order to be selfless.
And then I start creating
a story of birds,
of flowers,
of all these different animals.
And then, in the end,
I come together using all of my hoops.
And in my story, at the end,
I'm a flower in a ball, and I bloom.
It's been so many modalities
to find the healing
that I've been able to experience.
It started with
my grandmother's prayers,
and her hopes for me,
and the promise that she had me
make as a child,
you know, if you ever get
to learn our traditional ways,
learn them, learn them for you,
learn them for me,
learn them for my mother,
learn them for our ancestors
who were denied
the beauty of our culture.
You can pray,
you can go to ceremony,
but you haven't learned
all of our cultural ways
until you've learned
and understanding our values,
our true spiritual ways.
No matter what, you accept
everyone flaws and all.
And that's our culture.
That's being spiritual.
That's what we need to do as
a people among the reservation
is see the good in people.
But the poverty and the depression,
everyone has given up on themselves.
We're still here,
but that doesn't mean
that there's all these
different things
that we have to go through to change.
And it all starts with ourselves,
our families and our homes.
It all goes back to that core.
They make you face the truth.
That's the real healing power
of a horse.
You can never lie to them.
They'll see straight through it.
So you're mad on a horse?
Horse gonna be mad
and gonna act crabby with you.
Might drop you to humble you.
When I'm on a horse's back,
I feel free,
because we're still emotionally
connected to this world.
To materialistic things,
to experiences,
to situations that happen.
And when I'm on a horse's back
I break all those chains,
because that horse knows the truth.
The real me, reminds me of who I am
and that I wasn't always
that person who's broken.
I reconnected with my spirit.
I'm a Native American Lakota woman.
I am a strong woman.
I am Delacina Chief Eagle.
I am Gray Wolf Woman,
and I found myself through
my culture, through my family,
through the children.
We have a choice.
It's up to you.
All my relations...
130 years ago,
Crazy Horse sat smoking
the sacred pipe
with Chief Sitting Bull
four days before he was assassinated.
And he said,
"Upon suffering beyond suffering,
"the Red Nation shall rise again,
"and it shall be a blessing
for a sick world.
"A world filled with broken promises,
"selfishness and separations.
"A world longing for light again.
"I see a time of seven generations
"when all the colors of mankind
"will gather under the sacred
tree of life
"and the whole earth will
become one circle again.
"And that day,
"there will be those among the Lakota
"who will carry knowledge
and understanding of unity
"among all living things.
"And the young white ones
will come to those of my people
"and ask for this wisdom.
"I salute the light within your eyes
"where the whole universe dwells,
"for when you are
at that center within you,
"and I am in that place within me,
we shall be as one."