This year as we set out to choose our NHD topic, based upon the 2018 theme, Conflict and Compromise, we thought back to our summer adventures on the Lakota Indian reservations, and we knew we had an historical story that needed to be explored.
As we traveled throughout South Dakota, and witnessed first hand the difficulties encountered by present day Lakota’s, we asked ourselves, Why? and How did this happen?
Location: Battle of Little Big Horn (Custard’s last Stand)
Extensive research, that took us from South Dakota to Washington DC, NYC and back to CT, provided us with the information we needed to create our Nationally competitive theater performance, “From Sea to Shining Sea: The Conflict Over the Fort Laramie Treaties that Compromised American Values.”
We opened with a reminder of our founders’ original pledge to all Americans, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal…”
We described battles won and lost between settlers and Indians, underscoring their differing perspectives.
Sadly, as we quoted Rev. Burrell from the 1800’s, we found his words as applicable today as they were over 150 years ago,
“Who shall be responsible for this event so dark and sorrowful? The history of our dealings with these Indian tribes from the very beginning is a record of fraud, and perjury, and uninterrupted injustice. We have made treaties, binding ourselves to the most solemn promises in the name of God, intending at that very time to hold these treaties light as air whenever our convenience should require them to be broken…. We have driven them each year further from their original homes and hunting- grounds…. We have treated them as having no rights at all…. We have made beggars of them.”
We did not fail to mention that the Keystone XL pipeline of 2016 continues to impinge upon Indian land and neglected agreements stemming from the original 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. Notwithstanding assurances that, “These new pipelines are among the most technologically advanced ever constructed and exceed many state and federal guidelines.” (Craig Stevens, 2016), on November 18, 2017 South Dakota’s Keystone Pipeline spilled approximately 210 thousand gallons of oil into Amherst South Dakota.
Liv sang “America the Beautiful,” reminding us that we are all Americans, striving for equality and a worthy life.
We closed with Red Clouds famous words, “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”
After 6 months of research, discussions and multiple performances, we finally had the answer to our question.
Current conditions on the Pine Ridge reservation are a direct result of the failure of the US government to live up to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
Our team was honored to receive the Native American Award at the NHD National Contest in Washington DC.
We received $1,000 in prize money, and we knew immediately that we had one more place to go before our 2018 NHD project was complete.
Back to Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge Reservation.
We met with Tamatane l’atala and discussed the most pressing needs of students at the Red Cloud School.
Tamatane l’atala told us that Red Cloud Indian School is committed to teaching Lakota, both as a primary and as a secondary language to elementary and middle school students.
By learning the Lakota language, Lakota children gain a tremendous sense of pride. We know that feeling good about oneself is the first building block needed for success. We happily donated our NHD funds to the Lakota language program of Red Cloud Indian School.
Now we can study Lakota on their website Lakota Language Project as we prepare for our next visit to Pine Ridge!