Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
A submission from correspondent Mike Kohr. I've edited it slightly for clarity:
Subject: Letter to the editor submission
I first visited Porcupine, SD, in 1993 at International Brotherhood Days (http://www.theramp.net/kohr4), a cross-cultural, educational, forum that was founded on the vision of the late Severt Young Bear Sr.. Severt and Calvin Jumping Bull had asked those of us in attendance to take what we had learned back to our home communities to share with others. We were also asked to act as eyes and ears for the Lakota of Porcupine, to correct falsehoods and misconceptions about the Lakota People that are all too frequently put before the American public.
As an amateur historian I am not shocked when I read the racist screeds of 50 to 100 years ago, whose intent was to debase, demean, and denigrate Native belief and culture. I was however, taken aback when I read an article that was published in our local newspaper, "The News Tribune," of LaSalle, Illinois. The article, "From the Ashes," described the rebuilding of a small church in Porcupine, SD, and began, "Their children are committing suicide daily. Sexual abuse, rape incest, murder and alcoholism have invaded their community."
Starting down the road of sensationalism, the article quickly turned onto the narrow minded path of ignorance. Pastor Lisa Nelson, of the Eagle Rock Christian Center, of Peru, Illinois, was quoted as saying, "Cult gang members that have reverted back to traditional witchcraft might have caused the fire that devastated their church....The young gangs think that is the way to God. Three churches have burned down in the same neighborhood in less than one year."
I have been unable to find a single individual, organization, or Tribal official that can confirm the figure or timeline of church burnings claimed by Pastor Nelson. Nor have I found a single individual that remarked on the depiction of traditional beliefs with anything other than condemnation, or sad resignation.
Jesuit Priest Raymond A. Bucko remarked, "…what trash." Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo), Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies of The University of Illinois, wrote that the depiction of Traditional beliefs was, "uninformed." Native author, and editor, Marijo Moore called the depiction as, "Pure ignorance and poor taste." Native scholar, Vine Deloria called the depiction "completely weird," a description shared by curator and anthropologist Diane Tells his Name. Tim Giago had no knowledge of the claim of church burnings and wrote, "I know of no cults that practice witchcraft out here."
When I contacted Pastor Nelson with my findings she informed me that she was referring to Sundancers and that some of the practices of the Sundance violate "scripture." Nelson said while she had never attended a Sundance she had talked with several Sundancers and although all had told her they embraced both Sundancing and Christianity, in her view, those that embrace both the Sundance and Christianity, "…are very wrong," and that if I disapproved of her characterization of Traditional Beliefs as witchcraft then I, "…must disagree with the Bible."
In the article, Pastor Nelson's husband, Pastor Randy Nelson noted that "We simply want to go in and offer an unconditional gift back… so that they can know …that there are people of our ethnicity who really care about them." Nelson's church has taken up a collection of building supplies and clothing that is scheduled to be delivered to Porcupine over the Labor Day weekend as part of this "unconditional gift." It is regrettable that their charity will not be matched by an acceptance and respect for Traditional Beliefs.
Perhaps the words of Shawnee leader Tecumseh say it best: "Trouble no one about their religion, respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours."
"The News Tribune," has refused to print a retraction of the depiction of Traditional Beliefs. They may be reached at 815-223-3200 or e-mail at: email@example.com.
Pastor Nelson of the Eagle Rock Christian Center of Peru, Illinois, can be reached at 815-663-1478, or at e-mail: WECANFLY2@aol.com.
In the Spirit of Brotherhood,
14078 2385 East Street
Princeton, IL 61356
Phone interviews with:
1)Carolyn Tail of Porcupine, SD.
2)Tom Casey general manager of KILI Radio Porcupine, SD.
3)Editor of "The Lakota Journal"
4)The Office of Public Safety of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge, SD.
5)Lamoyne Pulliman, Executive Director of the "Oglala Sioux Tribe," and former resident of Porcupine, SD.
E-Mail transcripts commenting on depiction of Traditional Beliefs:
I appreciate your interest and effort at making the media be more responsible in the way they report news about Native Americans. Even when reporters seek us out for comment, our remarks are generally edited in ways that, in the end, do us more harm than good. You could ask the reporter how Lisa Nelson got her information, noting that your information, based on first-hand experience and conversation with people at Pine Ridge, indicate that Lisa Nelson is wrong about the church burnings and gang activity. I agree, her remarks about traditional Native religion are uninformed. She used a common biased phrase "witchcraft" to describe it. Use of such words diminishes a carefully thought out cosmology, while simultaneously elevating Christianity. Critically speaking, the charge of witchcraft can be leveled equally at the Christian belief and cosmology. Good luck with your pursuit of fairness and truth with regard to news media on Native people. It is a major struggle we take on daily.
Debbie A. Reese, (Nambé Pueblo)
Assistant Professor, American Indian Studies
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Native American House
Room 200, MC-139
1206 W. Nevada Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
I have not heard anything about this or what the author is talking about.
Weird. I will ask my mom this week when I chat with her. I think it might be spiritual ignorance, and total misinformation.
Thanks for asking and for informing me!
Diane Tells His Name
(Curator and Anthropologist originally from Pine Ridge)
To the best of my knowledge only two churches have burned down in the past 5 years. One was the Holy Rosary Mission church at Pine Ridge, a very old structure and the cause was bad electrical wiring. The other was at Porcupine and it is in the process of being rebuilt. Vandals may have caused the fire at Porcupine, but this would have been young people drinking and raising cane. I know of no cults that practice witchcraft out here.
Tim Giago, founder of "Indian Country Today," "The Lakota Times," "The Lakota Journal"
And an example of non Indians making statements that will come back to haunt them sooner or later.
Contact Tiokasin Ghosthorse at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him I referred you.
He is Lakota and has a wonderful radio talk program on Indigenous issues at WBAI in NYC.
He might be interested in doing a program on this.
Best to you and yours,
rENEGADE pLANETS pUBLISHING
books by Indigenous authors
Vine Deloria, author and one of America's most noted Native American scholars
As for that article, what trash! I have never head of anyone on Pine Ridge equating traditional religion with satanism — either Lakota or Christians -- perhaps this group is less discerning I never heard this about Porcupine.
I have not heard of any Churches burning in Porcupine — I do know a parish hall burned accidentally but I live in Omaha now. I was on Pine Ridge this weekend and I did not hear anything about this kind of stuff..... If 3 Churches had burned I'm sure I would have heard from family or friends — but it's quiet out there...
Also they are not clear on what Church — or the circumstances..... Very odd indeed....
I hope this is helpful. I'll send this to my brother Jesuits and see if they know anything. If I find out more I'll contact you.
Raymond A. Bucko
All copies of e-mail between Pastor Lisa Nelson, the author of the article, Shelby Sebens, and myself are saved and hardcopied. If you would like copies of this documentation please contact me so that I may forward them to you.
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