Pine Ridge Reservation, part 2: One Heart, One Mind, One Prayer
Our collaboration with Arlo Iron Cloud & KILI Radio continues this episode, as we travel through the Pine Ridge Reservation and visit with an Oglala Sioux Tribal Vice President, an historian at Oglala Lakota College, a pair of Pine Ridge Highway Safety Officers, a man who reflects on the trauma of the Wounded Knee Occupation, and an embittered son who returned to the reservation to reconcile with his father. We also get to spend some time hanging out with Arlo’s family: his dad, Richard, his wife, Lisa, and his son, LeRoy.
Multiple Voices: From WYPR and PRX, it’s a special edition of Out of the Blocks. From Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It’s one neighborhood, everybody’s story.
Things are different now than they were back whenever our ancestors were alive. Our enemies back then—we knew how to prepare for them. Nowadays, the enemy is invisible.
The United States said that our children need to be educated and they started what Captain Pratt said in the Carlisle Indian Industrial Schools, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”
Our knowledge of our culture wasn’t priority with us, growing up. It was just all about survival.
Through our culture, through our ceremonies, it’s already been prophesized that there’s a seventh generation that’s coming forward that’s gonna create change and I see it.
We’re all here to survive. One heart, one mind, one prayer.
From producers Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick, in collaboration with Arlo Iron Cloud and KILI Radio, voice of the Lakota Nation, it’s a special edition of Out of the Blocks right after this.
Aaron Henkin: A couple quick words of context as we get ready to jump into part two of our podcast from the Pine Ridge Reservation. You’ll remember, last episode, meeting Arlo Iron Cloud, our co-producer and partner on this collaboration. You’ll remember him telling us
Arlo Iron Cloud: I want you to meet women’s rights activists, American Indian Movement members, students, teachers… I want those people that aren’t always heard to be heard.
AH: Well, among the many people Arlo introduced us to during our time together were some members of his own family and during this episode, you’re going to get the chance to meet Arlo’s wife, Lisa, his son, Leroy, and the remarkable man whose voice you’re going to hear now. This is Arlo’s dad.
Richard Iron Cloud: My name is Richard Iron Cloud. The original Iron Cloud was born in 1856. He married two sisters. One of the significant things that happened in his life was he was part of what they call “Custer’s Last Stand,” or part of the Battle of Little Big Horn. He was there, you know, and my grandmas… they got their names from that battle. One of them was Red Necklace, and then my grandma was Annie Runs For Hill, and the reason why they called her Runs For Hill was whenever the battle was going on, she was helping the elderly and children to get to safety in the hills. My other grandma, her name was Red Necklace, and she was a singer. When the battle was going on, she was on a hill and she was singing what they call brave-heart songs to give the men courage, you know, and she was singing those… And as the battle was going on, these men would kill these cavalry men and take their—they had these red neckerchiefs on—and as she was singing on this hill, they would come by and put these red neckerchiefs on her arms, and they said that at the end of the battle, her arms were all full of those neckerchiefs, and so that’s why they called her Red Necklace. That’s her name. In 1973, I was in high school and I remember there was a man that was killed in Gordon, Nebraska. His name was Raymond Yellow Thunder and he was killed by some three young men and when they went to trial, they let all of them go with a slap on the hand, and here there’s some of his relatives. They went to one of our leaders, named Severt Young Bear, and told him, you know, that they wanted justice and at that time, because they had killed Raymond Yellow Thunder, the whole tribe was unified against his death and those three young white men who killed him, and whenever you come together as groups, you know… People get scared of Indians whenever they come together as a group for a common purpose, you know, and that’s what a caused some of the problems, you know, and it was almost like a civil war on our reservation. The government came in and tried to stop it. I remember coming home in the afternoon on our bus and here they would have these, like, bunkers—you know—on top of these buildings with machine guns on these buildings. There was a group. They decided to take over a community called Wounded Knee and I remember we were driving around that night, my uncle and I. We came by that four-way in Pine Ridge and here, there’s a whole bunch of cars coming from the north. They weren’t stopping at that stop sign. They were just going on. So, there was, like, a caravan and I guess that night they took over that town of Wounded Knee. And that started the 73 days, you know, and then people from different tribes, they all came and they all wanted to be a part of it, so they were all sneaking into Wounded Knee, you know, to help with the protest. There are some people that died. A man by the name of Clearwater. He was shot, and he was in that church. There was a church there, and I think one of the bullets came through the church and he got hit by it behind the head. And then there was another guy named Lamont that was killed and there was also some of the federal marshals that were wounded there, too, and so they called a…they called a truce, I guess, and then they negotiated, you know…I guess, how they were gonna get people out of there. When I was eighteen years old, I had lost both of my parents. It was kind of a difficult time for us, you know, because we—my brothers and I—just stayed at the house there and I just…I worked there. It seems like most of the people that were around us at that time were drinking, and so that’s what we spent a lot of time doing was drinking. We were able to keep our jobs and stuff like that, but we spent a lot of time drinking and getting into trouble, you know? I’m really glad that I was able to get sober, you know, because that’s really been like a foundation, you know, that I’ve been able to live by. You know, to be sober and to learn how to cope with life without alcohol and drugs, you know, because life is difficult, you know? It’s really hard and it’s easy, I think, to go and you know, to use drugs, you know, and… One time, there was one of our elders in Porcupine. He wanted to revive those old societies, those old warrior societies, and so he called us all over to his house. They had us all sitting in a circle all of us young men… and they brought in some elders. I think one of them…he got up and he said, “Things are different now than they were whenever our ancestors were alive,” and he said, “Our enemies,” he said, “Back then, we knew how to prepare for them, you know? We knew who they were, we knew how to become a warrior, we knew all the weapons, and we knew how to confront our enemy, you know? Nowadays,” he said, “They’re different. The enemy is invisible.” What he was referring to as invisible was things like alcohol and drugs and, you know, like suicide and, you know, all these things that are currently impacting us on the reservation, you know? And he said those are our enemies now. “In order to deal with those situations, we have to become spiritual warriors,” he said, to be able to deal with those things.
AIC: My dad is…in my opinion, the greatest man that I know. My wife is an amazement as well. I cannot fathom how somebody like her can get out of the situation that she’s ever been in. For her to come out alive as well, is something.
Lisa Iron Cloud: We’re making Chokecherry Wasna, which is kind of like a pudding, but instead of using flour, we use timpsula to thicken it up a little bit.
AH: You had grind this timpsila with a mortar and pestle.
LIC: Yep, or stones from the creek. My name is Lisa Iron Cloud and Arlo Iron Cloud is my husband. I think it was his long hair, initially. I thought he was pretty handsome. [laughs] My upbringing is completely different than Arlo’s. We lived up here in Rapid City the majority of my life, but we were always… we were pretty nomadic. We couldn’t stay in one spot for too long. We were homeless. We lived out of a car. There were days that we would go without eating, you know? It was a lot of struggle and our knowledge of our culture wasn’t priority when we were growing up. It was just about survival. My parents were fluent Lakota speakers, but they didn’t introduce us to ceremonies. So, whenever I made my path and met up with this guy—with Arlo—I kept thinking that I didn’t want my children to go through what I went through, and to have a better understanding of where they came from as Lakota people. So, I tried to play catch-up and talking to people who were willing to talk to me, which was a struggle in itself because you have a lot of people who have knowledge, who have a really great idea of where they come from and they know the history, but their willingness to share with other Lakota people, I mean… No offense, but you know, a non-Lakota? They’re so willing to share that information, but when it comes to a Lakota it’s really difficult, and it’s almost, like, territorial. It was hard, but there were people who were willing to sit down with me and work hands-on with me and teach me the stuff I should’ve known at this age. [sound of timpsila being ground] You can grind it and it’s not going to get totally fine, but I run it through the sieve like this, and it catches the bigger pieces, which I still use. I’ll put those in soups. Our circle has really grown a lot by us just asking for help.
AH: I’ve been hearing that Facebook is very popular in the community, which is… It’s kind of an irony that, you know, you’ve got this sort of modern internet social-network keeping people together for traditional purposes.
LIC: Right! Like, my personal Facebook page is just dedicated food. Just showing other people what’s out there, so I can post this and say this is [Lakota phrase], which means “hangs to dry.” That’s why it looks like this. I could easily do a photo or a video or something explaining how we do this, because we get a lot of that response where they’re like, “Thank you for sharing that because I didn’t know. I had an idea but I didn’t know.”
Ted Hamilton: We’re gonna walk out this way, just a little bit. There’s a powwow grounds out here, which is a nice round facility where we have our graduation outside in June. If you come up here in June, there’ll be tepees and people camping and we’ll have forty or fifty people get a degree here. But if we turn around and we look, the building is supposed to be an eagle landing on the prairie and you can see its eye and you can see the front of the eagle and its tail-feathers and its wing-feathers, and it’s landing on the prairie. It’s supposed to be representative of nature. So, yeah, this is cool stuff. My name is Ted Hamilton and we are at Piya Wiconi, which is the administrative building for OLC, Oglala Lakota College, literally in the geographic center of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We have nine districts across the reservation. Each district has a community, and in each community, there is a college center. We have faculty travelling from center to center offering courses—everything from associative arts degrees, to bachelor’s degrees, to master’s programs. Our total enrollment is just right at 1300 students. I think the best thing that I did was know nothing when I came here. I was at the University of Iowa finishing up a degree in archival studies at their library school, so I have a master’s in library science, and they had a job opening for an archivist. The college had never had an archivist before, so I came out here and I said, “I’m going to stay here for three to five years, I’m going to teach people how to do it, and then I’m gonna move on,” and then I fell in love. And so, you know, you fall in love and things occur and that’s how… actually, Arlo over there is my nephew because I married his aunt. So, I have raised a few kids here and we’ve been here ever since. I have some really good friends here. I have been, I think, marginally accepted by most folks. You know, as a non-Indian, you move in and you become part of the community. I have nieces and nephews and grandchildren. You know, all of that kind of happens and I think it’s kind of organic. Mostly, the learning I’ve had is just through conversations with all kinds of folks across the years. One of the things I’ve learned is that every student that comes into my classroom… we have an opportunity to learn from each other. And I think the real trick as an educator is not to come in with a set of blinders on and saying, “I’m an expert at this,” but to really, really open to the fact that there’s just a lot of learning to be had here. This is a memorial to the veterans on the reservation and the native people have played a pretty crucial role in most of the wars. Per capita, we have more people volunteering and being medal-winners than any other ethnic group or any other group, actually, in the country and you can see, going back from World War I. So, World War I, a number of names on World War II, Korean War, Vietnam… What’s interesting to me, as an historian, is all those names on the World War I plaque. None of those were citizens of the United States because they didn’t get citizenship until 1924, and so here you have literally dozens of names of men who went over into Europe to fight and they were fighting for their homeland, but not necessarily the country or for the government, I should say, but really for the country, for our homeland. And that, to me, is an amazing thing and I can see names like John Black Cat—I have a really good friend of mine, Willard Black Cat, that’s a direct descendent of these folks.
Multiple Voices: From the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, it’s one neighborhood, everybody’s story. Out of the Blocks.
Leroy Iron Cloud: I’m Leroy Iron Cloud and we’re looking at a buffalo hide.
AH: We’re in your backyard here and this thing is strung on, like, a wooden frame. What’s the process here?
Leroy IC: Well, a couple days ago it got really hard so I couldn’t work on it, because you can see there’s still fat and meat still left under. So, now that it’s raining, we’re waiting for it to get soft again so I can start working on it again. See these PVC pipe things? See how they have these little grooves on the edge? They’re kind of cut at an angle, and then you kind of hit them off. This is all good right here. You see that? And then this is the meat. This is as far as I got. So, it’s kind of getting frozen too.
AH: So, you use this PVC pipe as a scraper to get the meat off of the buffalo hide.
Leroy IC: Yeah. Okay, so see? That’s the part you want.
Ken Franks: This one is a 2017 all-wheel drive Dodge Charger with a V8 Hemi unit.
AH: Yeah, no one’s going to outrun you in this thing.
KF: They haven’t yet! So, she gets along pretty good. I think the highest I’ve had this one was about 154. My name is Ken Franks. I’m the Captain of Highway Safety here on the reservation.
Kevin Rascher: My name is Kevin Rascher. I’m the Lieutenant of Highway Safety.
KF: We enforce all the traffic codes like the highway patrol does for the state. We enforce all of those for the reservation. That’s what we do. On the average day, we get out, we run our roads. We have 1800 miles of documented road on our reservation. Our reservation’s about the size of Rhode Island. So, we get out, we run the radar, making sure people are slowing down, making sure the roads are safe if kids are going to school.
AH: DUIs part of the job?
KF: We have a dry reservation, but just like back in the 20s when they had prohibition and stuff… It’s only as dry as you want it to be, I suppose. Just like everywhere else, you still have the same problems. We do have DUIs here, but not any greater than anywhere else. We live in the community… I live in the Pine Ridge Village community. I live there, I’ve lived there since we moved here. Like you said, he lives in the Allen[?] over in the Pass Creek community. So, if you get to know your community, you get to talk with your community… It’s the concept of community policing but I believe it as a human instead of just another law enforcement.
KR: When we train people, or train officers, I always tell people, “Treat them the same way you want to be treated if you were in their shoes and they were the cop coming to your house.”
AH: You guys are such an interesting duo, because you’re two non-Lakota guys who both ended up here because you met Lakota gals and now you live here and this is your home and your world and you police the streets here. I imagine that sort of human community-focused attitude is probably especially important when you think about the kind of larger, political history of where you are.
KF: I’m gonna be honest with you. When I first started here, yeah… It was a real reception for me. Being non-native… Again, I’m follicly-challenged if you can’t notice.
AH: You’re a pale man and a bald man.
KF: I’m a pale, bald man! Yes, I am. So, when I first started it was tough going because we’re back in the 90s, not too far from the 70s with the Wounded Knee occupation and all the stuff. So, you’re still fighting off stereotypes. Like, on the reservation I would get all the jokes, all the name-calling—they’d call me Casper, Custer… all these different things. But through the years, all the people have gotten to know me. A lot of the officers in the bigger cities will live in a different community and come and serve in a different area, so they don’t have any connection with the people that they’re serving. I got interest in this. My kids go to the school here at the Red Cloud School and I have relatives who go to the Pine Ridge School. Like, he’s got children that go to Bennett County.
KR: Anybody can wear a badge and do the job that I do. But it takes somebody to be a human being to treat somebody as a human being.
Charles New Holy: Charles New Holy. I suffer from post-traumatic stress because I grew up around the time there was radical change here. This was a time when Wounded Knee occupation was going on and we had our house shot at several times, and my dad made this crawlspace underneath the floorboards, you know, so when cops came to, you know, raid people’s houses that they believed were helping the Native American—or the whatever you want to call it—American Indian Movement at the time… And our house was one of the houses that was always getting raided or whatever because it was a drop-off point for the supply route that was going to Wounded Knee at the time, and we’d run into these roadblocks where people were getting pulled out of their cars and their cars were getting searched and whatnot. But I remember seeing these guys with guns and all of this…and they weren’t police officers at the time. We’d known them as the Goon Squad. Back in ’73, I was a kid then. I didn’t quite understand what was happening. But here’s where you go through, like, these stresses because you don’t know what’s going to happen to you on a daily basis. You could be playing outside and get shot at or you could just be going to school and get shot at, you know? So, those are those stresses that people here have. It’s that post-traumatic stress that was caused by these effects of the Wounded Knee occupation back in those days. When you keep a people oppressed and depressed, you have complete control over them, and assimilation policies were really being pushed hard on people… But traditional people, back then, still believed in their rights, you know? Like we still do. We still have our treaty rights. The treaty that the United States government had signed with us… They recognized us as a nation. But in 1934, that was changed when Congress came up with the Land Allotment Act and the division of the Great Sioux Nation into tribes. We aren’t tribes. We’re actually one big, giant tribal nation. Right now, we’re looking at our own termination because right now, on this reservation according to the enrollment, there’s only four-hundred full-bloods left. Four-hundred full-blood Lakotas on this reservation. The Blood Quantum Act is something we need to get rid of.
AH: So, Blood Quantum is a European concept of what part this or that you are, in terms of your family tree.
AH: And that concept then got sort of transposed onto the native people here.
CN: I’ll give you an example. Like, if you take a full-blood Lakota from Oglala Sioux tribe and then you take a full-blood Lakota from Rosebud Sioux, they marry, and they have kids. By that Blood Quantum Act, that child becomes a half-breed of either/or tribe. But in reality, that kid is still a full-blood because of these two full-blood Lakotas. So, you get rid of that law, you have a lot more full-bloods than what they call the Great Sioux Nation. We have, like, some younger people here that are full-blood but they’re labeled half or less than half.
AH: And those labels then determine, in the eyes of the federal government, what they’re eligible for or not eligible for?
CN: Yep. Treaty obligation says that if you’re half or less, you don’t get the full treaty obligation rights that the full-bloods get. Eventually, Congress is going to say, “Hey, where’s the full-bloods? Where are the people that we made these treaties with?” We’re all here to survive. We’re one nation. One heart, one mind, one prayer.
Bruce Waylen: My name is Bruce Waylen and I was born here, 56 years ago, on the Pine Ridge Agency and the stories around here are typical for my age group and they’re typical now. My dad was an alcoholic. He had a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was able to go out and get stinking drunk the night before and somehow he had managed to get up at 5:00 in the morning, smoke a cigarette and read his book and he’d make us oatmeal and… He was able to be a functioning drunk and most of his friends were the same way. Any time I ever saw family or friends, we’d watch them get drunk. I used to volunteer myself as a five-year-old and run back and forth to the refrigerator to get them beers because if I got to open it, the suds that came off means I got to sip it off. So, here, after running back and forth as a five-year-old back and forth to the refrigerator, I remember that when I was older, some of the people at the parties that were had, they would say, “Brucey was such a good boy. He was so quiet.” And I thought back on it and I said, “You know what? I was probably drunk.” As I was growing up, I wasn’t protected by my dad. There’s things that happened to me that’s typical that’s happened to a lot of the kids on the reservation, you know? You feel kind of malignant because you were used by other people and pretty soon you have the attitude that that’s how my life is. I’m kind of useless other than for other people’s pleasures. One day, my dad was laying on the couch in his stocking feet that he always does when he gets off from work and rests for a little while and the police knocked at the door and I opened the door and they just walked right in, walked right past me, picked him up, put him in handcuffs and hauled him out in his stocking feet. And then I found out that my mom and dad were divorced at that point. I had no idea what was going on.
AH: What happened? What did the police pick him up for?
BW: I don’t know. “Irreconcilable differences” is what the divorce decree said. My mom says, “We’re gonna go down and spend the night at your aunt’s house and then we’re going to go for a drive tomorrow.” Next thing you know, we’re driving through the mountain ranges and we pulled into Salt Lake City and when we saw the hotel that my mother was looking for, she pulled into it and says, “This is where we live now.” I was working in Provo, Utah and I got transferred up to Oregon. I was printing. I was a lithographer, making very good money—25 bucks an hour—and benefits and convenience of Portland. My sister called me and says, “You know, Dad had a heart attack,” and I said, “I heard.” I didn’t get along with him. I really had no compassion whether he had a heart attack or not. She says, “You know, he might not be around, and wouldn’t you like to come home?” and I said, “No, not really. I’m making a life out here now.” And it took a little bit of etching on her part to say, “You know, maybe you need to change your mind,” and I did. I moved home, and probably the best eleven months I’ve had in my entire life with him was moving back in with this man that I learned to hate over the prior 37 years of my life. He wasn’t a man of a lot of words. What I noticed when I was going through the community was he used to trail me. If I stopped in a building, I’d notice, “Why is my dad parked there across the street for?” and we got home and I said, “Why are you trailing me?” “I want to see who you are as a man.” I thought, “Wow, I wish you would’ve done that when I was a boy,” kind of getting hostile feelings. So, then we started talking a little bit and I says, “You know what? If you’re gonna see what kind of man I am, then maybe you should tell me what kind of man you were because you weren’t there for me.” He says, “Well, I went to boarding school. I didn’t know how to be a parent.”
AH: Let me just have you say a few words of context about what “boarding school” means. People may be listening to this on the east coast and have a very different idea of what boarding school means.
BW: Sure. Here, what was set up over a century ago is that the United States said that our children need to be educated. So, they set up schools and the thing is the schools, they might have taught you ABCs, but they didn’t teach you anything about parenting. What they taught you was stand up straight. They cut their hair off, so they couldn’t identify themselves as a tribal person, because our hair is really important to our culture. And they started what Captain Pratt said in the Carlisle Indian Industrial Schools, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” And my dad, he went to boarding school. He said his mom and dad were convinced that it was the right thing because that’s what everybody did and that’s what the government told them to do. So, they drove him over to boarding school and they stopped in front of the sidewalk leading to the doorway, they told him to get out. “This is where you go to school.” Then, he walked up that door and his life changed. When I started understanding my anger about him, and he started sharing some of the things that I needed to hear that I didn’t hear prior, it helped us to stay in the same room together and make comments toward each other. We did two things. We watched Star Trek—we loved it—and we watched Friends. Our ritual was we’d get ready, turn on the TV, he’d make the announcement, and then he’d make popcorn, pour some milk, and we’d sit down and watch. When he was dying, I communicated with him and we figured out a code. I put my finger in his closed fist and I’d ask him questions. One for “no,” two for “yes.” That’s how we communicated when he was in the hospital, and it was a very, very short period of time that I was able to do that with him.
AH: You felt like you got to say to him the things you needed to say and to hear from him the things you needed to hear before he passed away?
BW: No. No, I never feel like I’ve had that conversation with him.
AH: If you could speak your mind to your dad, if you still were able to have a chance to do so, what would you say at this point?
BW: Well, I would say, truth be told, "I’ll see you soon."
My name is Darla Black. I’m the Oglala Sioux Vice President. What I do is I help the people when the people come into the office and there’s various needs. Sometimes it has to do with housing, childcare… Just a variety of things that the people might need, or they need assistance…financial assistance with getting to Rapid City for a medical appointment. But at the same time, we also provide a sack lunch for the homeless people, so my office is a continuum of movement. I really focused on the elders and children when I ran for office. When I walked around through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and talked to people rurally, a lot of people that lived like I did when I was young. You know, I was indigent, you know? I didn’t have clothing, adequate clothing. But I shouldn’t say we were indigent because we were rich. Sometimes we only had flour and water and my grandma made wonder bread and gravy. But the teachings, the spirituality, everything was there. My roots here is I’m from here. I am from a community called Manderson but when I went to college, I went away, I moved to Nebraska, and then I… Midway through my career as a law enforcement officer, I went to Reno, Nevada, Lovelock, Nevada, and Schurz, Nevada and I worked as a law enforcement officer down there. Upon the death of my grandmother, I came home, you know, because my mother started having heart attacks and health problems. So, I stayed here with her and then I went to back to school, and then the same thing, I came back because my mother developed cancer and watching her clear up until she took her last breath made me appreciate life. It made me live life like today is my last day on this earth, so how do you do that? You enjoy life. You respect one another, you love one another. Being an elected official like this, it is them who we want to work for. These children. We want to work for a better future for them and through our culture, through our ceremonies, it’s already been prophesized that there’s a seventh generation that’s coming forward that’s going to create change, and I see it. And you know what? They’re growing their hair. You see his hair? They’re growing their hair because our hair is a part of who we are. I had long hair but I cut it upon the death of my mother. My hair was down to here. And the beauty of that is that they’re turning back to the ceremonies, they’re turning away from alcohol, they’re turning away from drugs because they see it all around them. They don’t want it anymore, and they realize through our teachings, through our spirituality, that don’t belong to us. It’s not who we are.
Multiple Voices: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Out of the Blocks, produced by Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick in collaboration with KILI Radio, voice of the Lakota Nation. Special thanks to Arlo Iron Cloud of KILI Radio and WYPR’s Katie Marquette. Aaron and Wendel want to thank all of us who took a deep leap of faith and shared our stories and our lives. From WYPR and PRX, this is the Pine Ridge Reservation signing off.
This episode was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Out of the Blocks is also supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Cohen Opportunity Fund, The Hoffberger Foundation, Patricia and Mark Joseph, Shelter Foundation, Inc, The Kenneth S Battye Charitable Trust, The Sana and Andy Brooks Family Fund, The Muse Web Foundation, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Portfolios.