Third day in Pine Ridge. We are stuck in the snowstorm and so far our only experience with native issues is what Peter and Mandy tell us. We are white people staying with white people talking about Lakota people. It's a weird sensation. I hope we can meet more Lakota people tomorrow if the snow finally stops.
My understanding of the issues on the rez grows slowly. Today we met Leon Matthews, who works at the coffee shop in downtown Pine Ridge. He is extremely Christian. (He started to argue fiercely with Jose--the Catholic of our group--about the Pope and the Bible.) This made me realize how the Whites have Christianized the Natives. Apparently, a lot of Lakotas follow the Christian/Catholic tradition as well their traditional beliefs.
In Basil Brave Heart's house, there was among the numerous posters of Indians a cross with an Indian Jesus on it. Another example of this mix is that some people choose to see a Western doctor for some problems but trust Lakota medicine more for others.
At Basil's, photos hanging on the walls showed his ancestors dressed in Western jackets and dresses. I asked Mandy about that later, and she said it was a terrible thing to be forced to get rid of your traditions, such as clothing and habitat (living in a house felt to many Indians like being imprisoned within the four walls). She also told me that in the 1930s to 1950s the Lakota kids had to attend boarding schools, forced to live away from their family, punished if they spoke their mother tongue. Sacred dances and rituals were illegal.
Now, the situation on the rez is variable. Some families live well, some barely survive. Some give great importance to Lakota traditions and some don't. It's difficult to find one's roots when the ancestral ways have been lost over the generations. There seem to be many attempts, though. I noticed the recurrent appearance of Indian apparel such as the Lakota emblem, feathers, and figurines in leather clothes applied tomodern life.
Later we took a long walk in Basil's buffalo pastures and met, just a mile from Peter's house, the buffalo that we hadn't found the previous day. It was an exhilirating experience being just several hundred yards away from those large and powerful creatures. Peter told us that once they had come running at him, probably expecting food, forcing him to scramble up a tree to avoid being trampled.