January 24, 2014
Since Martin Luther King Jr. day earlier in the week I've been thinking about his dream and what his dream means for us here in South Dakota.
I think of his niece Dr. Alvida King and how she speaks against black genocide via abortion. She is still fighting for her uncles dream against people who still believe some are more human than others. I think of how Bernice King, the daughter of MLK Jr., says "my father did not take a bullet for same sex marriage."
So what would Martin Luther King Jr say to South Dakota? I think he might shake us awake from a nightmare and that nightmare is that we have third world living conditions a short drive away from all of us who live here. Of course I speak of our Indian reservations.
Sitting through the State of the State address least week I was conflicted. It was a great speech and we have tons of things to celebrate in our state. Yet there wasn't one word spoken that related to a significant sector of our population, our native population. As I said in an earlier post on this topic,
It’s hard to throw a party when some in the room don’t share your excitement, or worse, when they resent the occasion or even your very existence. There is so much to celebrate in South Dakota’s 125 year state history and yet there are painful atrocities in our past and lingering present issues we ought not ignore. Revisiting them can facilitate healing. If not this year, when?
If you follow my twitter feed you saw this from me earlier this week: "SD official unemployment rate is an impressive 3.6%. If unemployed Indians in our state were counted our unemployment rate is 14%." In a tweet the previous week I responded to a challenge to focus on reconcilation with this comment: "Let's do it. One of these years I just may run for governor for this reason alone. It's SD's sore spot."
Is anyone listening? In previous years I've stirred it up with an article on the topic of giving the Black Hills back. Earlier this year I took a beating for tossing out the suggestion that letting Leonard Peltier go might be a meaningful gesture on our part that we want to move out of the past and into a brighter future together.
Last year I was in conversation with the Department of Tourism trying to think through how our reservations can benefit from sharing their rich culture with the world. It's a touchy topic because we certainly don't want to run busses through full of people with cameras taking pictures of "how they live" like they are animals in a zoo. (Side note: did you know historically BIA is under the Dept of Interior which is the branch of government that oversees national parks and wildlife????!!! We need to change that and repent.)
Today I suggest a state-sponsored "Beyond Charity" conference similar to one I did for churches in our state a dozen years ago. I know the native situation has seemingly impossible tribal sovereignty and corruption obstacles and that it's been a black hole for millions of dollars over many years with conditions never improving. I have a dream that good people can navigate all that and change the future. If you care about people it's worth spending your life trying.
Earlier this fall I suggested forming a State Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to the one that helped South Africa heal. Today I suggest we start a sister city program where Sioux Falls links up with Rosebud and Rapid City with Pine Ridge. There are twenty-two communities that make up the Rosebud reservation spread over one hundred some miles. Partnerships can be fostered with every community. Our school kids can get to know their school kids. Our businesses can be a blessing to their businesses. We can get kids to college, improve living conditions, share hope.
It's time to dream about ending the nightmare. Last night I attended the SD Tourism banquet. It was exciting. The theme was "Think BIG, BOLD and BEYOND." That's the dream!