Below is Whisper #5 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains.
One of my dearest friends from Pine Ridge is Catherine Grey Day. She is a Dakota elder and a survivor of the genocidal boarding school era during which Indian children from across the plains were taken from their homes to be “remade” as whites. Native dress, language, and rituals were banned. Catherine, as a result, struggles to this day to fully speak her native tongue. During my early visits Catherine was living in a trailer behind the Singing Horse Trading Post. It was here that two people who could easily have never met became friends, then family. Across numerous conversations Catherine would counsel me on my voice condition and the ways of the Great Spirit . . .
“Misunkala [little brother], it was you who opened your ears and heard Wakan Tanka speaking to you through others’ voices, sending you to a beautiful place and beautiful people. Although we have suffered injustices, we find ways to live and survive. Wakan Tanka sends powerful spirit helpers. Keep listening to positive voices. We also learn from the negative. It is up to us to find balance. Our progress as a people must come from within.”
Catherine’s resilience, wisdom, and grace are inspiring to me. In return, Catherine has a new forum for her own voice to be heard. Despite all the external hardships she has endured, Catherine understands that true strength comes from within. The first rule of change creation, it turns out, is knowing where to look for it.