I remember how I felt the first time I realized that genocide was part of the American story. It was another windy and searing summer after- noon, and I had just crossed the White River near the town of Interior, South Dakota. I pulled the car over and began walking in circles through the hardened dirt and grass. My shirt was off and my mind was reeling.
Moments earlier I had read the United Nations’ definition of genocide.
“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group:
• Killing members of the group.
• Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
The hardships endured by the reservation tribes of the plains is a chilling story. But out of that collective tragedy some redemptive good for humanity has been preserved. The Lakota are keepers of an indigenous wisdom that society desperately needs to incorporate. It’s the kind of wisdom that comes from living in harmony with Mother Earth. We are of nature, not above it, and we must move, consume, and coexist in a manner that sustains and respects all life.
The plains tribes have endured generations of collective hardship and suffering. That journey had a purpose, and it was to provide an alternative view of our connectivity with Mother Earth, each other, and the Seventh Power, which resides inside us all.