Friday, October 14, 2011

ABC 20-20 "Children of the Plains" examines the Sioux in SD

On Friday night, ABC 20-20 presented, as part of its “Hidden America”, an episode called “Children of the Plains”, about the Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge, SD, near the Badlands, SE of Rapid City and the Black Hills.

Diane Sawyer interviewed many of the kids, whose ambitions ranged from becoming president to becoming grandmothers. Diane was quite homey with the children, rather like an elementary school teacher.

I met Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux, who was born on Pine Ridge, through the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, around 2001. Means is a well  known actor (“The Last of the Mohicans”, based on James Fenimore Cooper’s book, with Daniel Day-Lewis; not my favorite film of his) and author of the controversial (and long) “Where White Men Fear to Tread”, which I bought at an LPMN convention.  In fact, in the late 1990s, the LPMN held its conventions at Mystic Lake Casino SW of Minneapolis, owned by another tribe. (One of the most spectacular tribal casinos in the nation is near Groton, CT.)

In 2007, HBO aired (and I later rented) the lengthy film by Yves Simoneau, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, which was a bit docudrama-like (with Aidan Quinn and Colm Feore).

Extremely successful teen actor Taylor Lautner (possibly the nation’s wealthiest teen), born and raised in Michigan, has some native American ancestry through his mother’s side. So personal success of native people today is often very individualized, as with all minorities – a very libertarian theme (which Herman Cain has recently “exploited”).  Native American communities around casinos (at least near Minneapolis) seemed to do very well financially.

Yet, I have to say that, even when I lived in Minneapolis, I noticed that many native American tribal lands, such as those around Red Lake, seemed poor.  In March 2001, right after a 30-inch snowfall, I visited the Sioux lands between Watertown and Sisselton, in eastern SD, personal picture above (it didn't turn out well).   (I never saw so much snow anywhere as in Watertown that trip.)

Sawyer did discuss the general thrust of Native American history, including mention of a Supreme Court pronouncement that treatment had been shameful.  This seems to refer to Carcieri v. Salazar (2009) regarding the Department of Interior’s  right to take lands into trust, as in this story by Joshua Cronkite in a Bellingham WA paper, here, where a libertarian position says that the native Americans are lured into further dependency.  Here’s the Cornell Law School link for the opinion. 

Sawyer also discussed the problem of obesity and type II diabetes  as a result of the very recent introduction of the peoples to western diet, after millennia of living off the land with the “thrifty genes”.  

Sawyer mentioned a Sioux proverb, “The center of the Universe is everywhere”.

Wikipedia attribution link for Badlands picture on the reservation. I visited the area in April 1974 and again in May 1998. 

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