The OLWS panel was Friday, September 21 @ 11:00 to 11:45, “Oak Lake Writer's Society: A 25th Anniversary Conversation.” Elizabeth Cook-Lynn headlined with her latest publication: “In Defense of Loose Translations.” Tasiyagnunpa (Livermont) Barondeau and I as Oak Lake members joined Elizabeth in the conversation.
Elizabeth gave a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Chuck Woodard who has believed in and supported OLW through the years. We as members of OLW concur wholeheartedly.
Chuck moderated our session and gave a brief but thorough review of the 25 year history of OLWS.
We each shared the significance of what Oak Lake Tribal Writer's Society has meant to us personally.
Chuck lead the conversation into how White folks often do not want to own the history of how this Nation came to be. He went onto say that White folks prefer the idea that this was all in the past. White folks do not want to carry the guilt of the past. Chuck went on to say that White folks have a responsibility for current attitudes, rather they choose not to take ownership of the past.
This opened the door for me to share the words of a White friend. This friend had the opportunity to attend several events with Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. She stated that she had always had the attitude that she didn't kill or harm anyone, that was all in the past with her ancestors. Why should she carry the guilt of her ancestors? She went onto say that as she befriended many Native people; began to experience our culture, she realized that she had taken on the attitudes of past generations. She carried the negative stereotypes of her ancestors that influenced the way she thought of Native people. She made a public apology to the Dakota 38 + 2 when they rode through Madison, South Dakota in 2011.
It seemed appropriate to share this story in support of Chuck's statement challenging White folks to evaluate their current attitudes and take responsibility in the now.
Gabrielle Tateyuskankan arose from her chair as I finished; she spoke with authority to the mostly White audience. Gabrielle also is a longtime member of OLWS. I pondered much over her words that were bold and truthful. I admired her ability to speak with candor and without fear of any type of retaliation. I will try to capture what I heard her say. I only hope I can write the message she gave in a manner that honors Gabrielle. The following is my paraphrase as to how I remember and understood her words.
Gabrielle made the point that if White people feel guilt; they should!! The current wealth of this Nation was acquired by the suffering of our ancestors, our grandparents. She had much more to say, however, the reality of her words was that current White wealth is enjoyed due to all that we as Indigenous peoples have suffered, ie. All that was stolen!
Gabrielle had much to say about the current President. She compared him to Andrew Jackson. As one looks back at history, it speaks loudly for itself! What more needs to be said? I was impacted by her powerful statement that confronted many who look the other way as Trump leads this Nation by deception and immorality.
So, ended our session.
As I began writing my thoughts for the OLW Blog; I re-visited the theme for this 2018 conference: WHAT'S TRUE, WHAT'S FALSE & WHAT'S IMPORTANT? I believe Gabrielle summarized for us the theme of this conference. Gabrielle spoke truth, she addressed what is false and what is important to us as the First Peoples of these indigenous lands. And it should be important to all people of this Nation.
The final session I attended was “Screening and Discussion: Return to Rainy Mountain,” with Jill Momaday, regarding her beautiful tribute to her Kiowa people. Deeply moving. It was an honor to meet Jill, a sweet, genuine, kind spirit. As I watched the documentary, so many images of growing up with many grandmothers and grandfathers in my Lakota community (tiospaye) near the Little White River, Mellette County, South Dakota floated across my mind. Deeply grateful, wopila for Jill's work. I came away with a knowing that telling our stories must continue. And Oak Lake Tribal Writer's Society must go on; the work we do is important!
Patty Bordeaux Nelson