It is delicate to not be Indian and yet write about Indian Country. Only Indians should speak for Indians is a common phrase I have heard at Pine Ridge and try to honor.
But to whom do the challenges at Pine Ridge belong? Is reservation life an Oglala, Lakota, Sioux, Indigenous, North American, or human concern? Who gets to care about and commit to advancing the future of this community?
From the vantage point of the moon, everything on Earth would look like a human problem. So I guess the answer depends on how one chooses to draw their circles. I prefer to see a single human tribe.
In all my years of writing about my experiences there, I have never attempted to speak for anyone but myself. In fact, this book is not about the northern plains but rather about how I have been influenced by the reservation and the surrounding region.
The people of Pine Ridge are important to me and the plains have been transformative for me. There I feel my connectivity to the oneness of the universe and the unifying potential of Mitakuye Oyasin. With each visit I bottle these feelings and bring them back home.
The first time my friend Catherine Grey Day and I met, she said, “When we look at someone, we don’t see the skin color—we see the goodness of the heart. I can see you have a good heart.”
Let’s back our view up and draw bigger circles.