Praise Lakota Leaders’ Fight Against Cultural Genocide

Pine Ridge Reservation by D. Luchsinger

Target: The Horse Spirit Society

Goal: Praise Lakota non-profit for advocating against legalization of alcohol sales on reservation.

At Oglala Lakota tribal headquarters on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the poorest reservations in the nation, a tribal council gathered to vote on a referendum potentially allowing alcohol sales on the reservation. A grassroots group of activists devoted to preserving traditional Lakota ways of being, the Horse Spirit Society, arrived on horseback to address the council members and tribal president and express their opposition to the referendum. Framing the introduction of alcohol to native society as a form of colonial genocide engendered by white people, the Horse Spirit Society made a powerful statement of resistance.

Lakota tribal officials have often stood in opposition to the viewpoints of the Horse Spirit Society and other traditionalists, and these groups typically butt heads on political issues such as these. However, in the instance of the alcohol referendum, the tribal council voted the way the Horse Spirit Society advocated. Whether they were swayed by the group’s impassioned statements is impossible to know, but it seems likely that the Horse Spirit Society’s actions made a positive impact on the proceedings.

Though the Pine Ridge Reservation is deeply impoverished and under-resourced in many ways, a cultural renaissance has been undertaken on the reservation in recent years. Traditionalists like the Horse Spirit Society have engendered a new cultural movement in the reservation; people are giving their babies Lakota names, schools are educating children in Lakota language and history, and traditional spiritual and cultural practices are gaining popularity. Though alcoholism and poverty plague Pine Ridge, the return to traditional Lakota values advocated by the Horse Spirit Society is creating hope for a struggling community. Commend them for taking a brave stand against the encroachment of “liquid genocide.”

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Horse Spirit Society,

We commend you for your bravery and steadfastness in preserving traditional Lakota ways of being, and for standing against the referendum that would allow alcohol to be sold on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Your inspiring speeches potentially turned the tide against this possibly devastating piece of legislation. Thanks in part to your brave stand, alcohol will not be allowed on Pine Ridge.

We hope that the Horse Spirit Society’s powerful statement of resistance to the Tribal Council regarding the “liquid genocide” will have lasting resonance. Lakota traditionalists have already made a lasting impact on Pine Ridge, and this action will be an addition to your legacy. We, the undersigned, thank you for standing in opposition to this potentially devastating referendum.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: D. Luchsinger

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