Opinion: Naysayers invited to join in promoting unityWhen the Unity Committee I formed this year approached Gov. Mike Rounds and requested that he proclaim 2010 as a Year of Unity, we did so knowing full well that there would be dissenters who find it preferable to whine and sneer rather than join our efforts to promote racial harmony in a state that really needs it.
By: Tim Giago, Syndicated columnist
When the Unity Committee I formed this year approached Gov. Mike Rounds and requested that he proclaim 2010 as a Year of Unity, we did so knowing full well that there would be dissenters who find it preferable to whine and sneer rather than join our efforts to promote racial harmony in a state that really needs it.
It is so easy to sling mud and then sit back and say that it will never work. Well, maybe it won’t, but at least there are many Lakota, Dakota, Nakota and non-Indians that are making the effort.
And then there are those who oppose us by bringing up the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the Black Hills settlement, and other legal and historical issues that the white people of today had nothing to do with and are in no position to make amends or reparations for. If you oppose the Year of Unity because of these issues, you are barking up the wrong tree, because the only folks that have the power and the responsibility to change anything are sitting in the nation’s capitol.
If treaties are to be honored, and they should, the people who can best initiate those changes are at the top of the heap and not the bottom. In other words, the common white citizen living, working and thriving in South Dakota cannot be judged, sentenced and executed for something they did not do and something over which they had no control.
To argue against our efforts to bring some form of unity between the races in South Dakota by expecting that the white citizens of this state step forward to change or apologize for the historical wrongs committed against the Indian people is not realistic.
A white person doesn’t have to be a bleeding heart liberal to believe that the racial disharmony that has existed and still exists between Indian and whites in South Dakota is wrong. I knew from day one that there would be those who would condemn us for attempting to end racial injustice in this state, but when so many native and white citizens of this state decided that it was time, we extended out hands to each other in friendship.
For those who believe that nothing has changed in the past 20 years, they have been walking around wearing blinders. So many young Native Americans are working in white-owned businesses in and around the major communities in South Dakota. If you open your eyes you will see folks like Ira Taken Alive, Dixie Holy Eagle, Stephan Yellow Hawk and Laurette Pourier, Lakota all, who have taken the bull by the horns and are initiating change to bring racial unity to this state.
Led by Linda Rabe and Michelle Lintz, we have two ladies from the Chamber of Commerce and the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau who realize the economic contributions Native Americans make to that city and are actively fighting for and promoting Indian businesses and events. There is no better example than that of Dan Tribby, of the Prairie Edge Trading Company, who is dedicating his time and resources to bring about racial harmony. And from the City Council in Rapid City, Deb Hadcock opened the doors for us to City Hall.
Who would have thought even five years ago that a highly successful businessman like Jim Scull would begin to donate his time and connections to promote racial unity? And we cannot discount folks like African American veteran Dennis Edwards, and former journalists like Dave Melmer, magazine publishers like Lila Mehlhaff and native leaders in the field of education like Bryan Brewer, for standing up for unity. Native Americans like Randy Ross and Daphne Richards-Cook have been at the forefront of this battle for many years and now feel that they have the support that has been lacking for so many years. The outgoing coordinator of Indian Affairs in Pierre, Roger Campbell, and the former superintendent of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, Gerard Baker, have both opened doors that allowed unity to walk through.
For Indians to have any hope of getting land returned, we must have the friendship and cooperation of the non-Indians of South Dakota. With their voices joining ours in Washington, miracles can happen. The Year of Unity will not end in 2010, but will go far beyond that.