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BRENDA NORRELL PECHANGA NET-September 2002
http://www.pechanga.net

    PINE RIDGE, S.D. - There is only the light of a quarter-moon and a canopy
of shooting stars when Lakota voices in Stronghold camp say, "They are
coming."

    In the distance, fourteen Lakota horseback riders, some riding bareback,
are approaching on the same route that survivors of the massacre of
Wounded
Knee
followed 112 years ago.

    Here on Stronghold Table they Ghost Danced so the people would live and
they were massacred. Now, the remains of men, women and children -- Lakota,
Paiute, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and other tribes -- are apart
of this earth.

    With a drum and Lakota song by elder Archie Little, the horseback riders
circle in the darkness and hear strong advice from Percy White Plume on the
need to respect women and be kind and loving fathers.

    They camp on the Stronghold where the Tokala (Kit Fox) Society, the
traditional Lakota warrior society, has come to defend the sacred. They are
prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent the National Park Service from
excavating in the
Badlands .

    Robert Tall, 20, rode horseback to the Stronghold. "I feel we have been
violated, they took our lands from us. We are trying to keep our place here
as our home. We are free here.

    "I wake up every morning, whether I am here or at home, not knowing whether
there will be a gun in my face or a big smile and plate of breakfast."

    It is morning in Stronghold camp and the voices of the
Lakota Land Alliance
on KILI Radio salutes the horseback riders and Tokala here. The morning
radio news drifts across camp as the scent of potatoes, onions, bacon and
coffee fills the air.

    Tall says to Indian young people, "Be who you are and don't change what you
feel inside. Be strong for your people."

    James "Toby" Big Boy, says Lakota medicine men are clear on what this
struggle is about.

    "It is not about fossils and it is not about money. It is about protecting
the sacred, protecting the remains of our ancestors. They are resting now,
let them rest."

    Looking out across Stronghold Table,
Darwin Apple says, "This was the last
stronghold of Crazy Horse. He came to this place to escape the troops who
were pursuing him."

    Apple points out that the National Park Service intends to excavate and
place the remains in trust for the tribe in museums.

    Apple, however, says, "They are already being kept in trust by a greater
power."

    Lakota elder Archie Little, Tagliskawakan, said the region of the
Badlands
is littered with live bombs and explosive from testing during World War II.
While there are tribal and federal efforts underway to clear the explosives
out of the
Badlands , he said bombing range efforts are being used as a
guise for something else: elicit searches for fossils and Indian remains.

    "There are a lot of live bombs. But their tracks go right by the bombs.
They are looking for bones. They are like dogs. They like to chew on those
things."

     Little said of the haunting trafficking of Indian remains, "If you go to a
fancy office, you will probably find one of these skulls that they are
using for an ashtray."

     The secret, he said, is to be humble, show respect and offer respect. The
white man, however, has violated these spiritual laws.

     "When they die are they going to take this land with them? This earth they
claim will eat them up in the dust."

     Little said there are children's bones here, over the edge of Stronghold
Table, where they were massacred during the Ghost Dance. He hopes other
tribes will come to honor their ancestors who died in the Ghost Dance here
and help carry on the struggle.

    Little also points out that the skulls are absent from the remains in
Indian graves here.

    Then, pointing out that the zeolite mineral is plentiful here, he said,
"That is also what they want."

    Just below Stronghold Table, are the remains of those who died here. Buried
in shallow graves, the bones are now being exposed by drought and erosion.
Lakota say it is no accident. The spirits of those who passed have chosen
this time to reveal themselves.

    On a steep cliff, the remains of a Lakota teenager are present with the
bones of his horse he was buried with. There is a grave, covered with
stones nearby. Teepee rings, now photographed for a pending court case and
testimony before a Senate Select Committee, are also here. The number of
rocks in the teepee circle and the absence of firepits indicates Lakota may
have hidden here during winter months during times of massacres.

    The National Park Service, however, planning to excavate here, states there
are no remains here.

    "The National Park Service has no knowledge of any human remains having
been discovered in the South Unit of
Badlands National Park . No human
remains are at risk . . ." wrote William Supernaugh, superintendent of
Badlands National Park , to Cecelia "Lovey" Two Bulls, among the leaders of
this movement, on Aug. 2.

     Meanwhile, Lakota gathered beneath a canopy, with sandwiches and stew, at
the Stronghold for a day of sharing and talks on strength and healing.
Michael Standing Soldier, from Wakanyeja Pawicayapi Inc. (Children First)
in Porcupine spoke on ancestral grief.

     Standing Solider said the Oglala have long held their power in the symbol
of the four colors of the four directions and the powers represented. "We
had all these things deep inside of us as a people."

     Historical trauma, however, has been passed from generation to generation.
Healing comes through remembering, understanding and placing blame where it
should be, he said.

    The trauma began when the innocent, children and elderly, were murdered. It
continued through the attack on the minds in boarding schools and on the
spirits by Christians.

    Although the night was a time of spiritual revelation for Lakota,
Christians tried to change this. "They made us fear the night. In the
nighttime, they said there was a devil out there."

     Percy White Plume spoke on fatherhood and respect. "Hold your children," he
urged. Speaking of how men grow up without being hugged, he told men to ask
the women in their lives to hug them and realize how it feels. Then, he
said, think about how good children feel when hugged.

    This story begins here, but it does not end here.

    On night patrol in the
Badlands , following the gathering for strength and
healing, four American Indians and this reporter are staked out on three
mesas, armed only with walkie-talkies and pints of water.

    It is eerie in the darkness, the only sounds are of a bull and the only
movement is of bats. There is this question, "What do we do if a helicopter
lands next to us?"

    The night before, at the Stronghold patrol lookout point on the edge of the
mesa, Lakotas watched with binoculars as three helicopters hovered in the
darkness above the
Badlands . The area is closed by tribal order to the
National Park Service and fossil-hunters. Still, the helicopters come at
night. A cable appeared to be lowered from the helicopters and a large box
lifted from the area below.

    Lakota at the Stronghold fear fossils are being taken in the cover of
darkness. The other possibility is that the large amounts of zeolite, used
in nuclear waste dump lining, baby diapers and cat litter, are being tested
or taken out in the cover of darkness.

    On this night, however, with the team staked out on the mesas, the
helicopters return and hover in circles above, but do not land. The
National Park Service said it has no knowledge of the helicopters at night.

    Earlier in the week, Toby Big Boy, sister Lovey Two Bulls and family
members protested the planned excavation at the
Denver Museum of Nature and
Science.

    Meeting with them was Cahuilla "Kaweah"" M. Red Elk, Lakota, from the
Center on Human Rights and Indian Law in Colorado Springs, Colo. As the
National Park Service, under the Interior Department, pressed for the
location of remains, she said Indian tribes are not required to tell the
location or description of the remains of their ancestors.

    "Tribes do not have to disclose this to anyone."

    Julia Taylor, public relations manager for the
Denver Museum of Nature and
Science told the Two Bulls that the museum became involved because it was
asked to be a contractor to help with the science in the project at the
excavation.

    "But, we have pulled out of the project until your tribe and the National
Park can come to an agreement."

    The National Park Service, which administers the Oglala land in the
Badlands by way of a 1976 memorandum of agreement, told the tribe the
excavation will be a research project and salvage operation of the fossils
which are at risk of vandalism and theft.

     Badlands Supt. William Supernaugh said it would work with the South Dakota
School of Mines and Technology and the Denver Museum of Science and Nature
on the three-year project.

     The National Park Service said the site has always been a "titanothere
graveyard", with animal bones around 40 million years old, but the
excavation would not be in the area of human remains. Titanothere was an
elephant-sized prehistoric animal and an indirect ancestor of the modern-
day horse.

    Halting the Aug. 12 starting date for the excavation, Supt. Supernaugh
tentatively scheduled a meeting with Oglala President John Yellowbird
Steele for August 27 at the
Badlands office. The National Park Service,
however, has said it does not intend to halt the excavation indefinitely.

     Neither do the Lakota at the Stronghold plan to halt their resistance to
the excavation, pledging to take any means necessary to protect it.

     Little said, "I don't care if it takes up 10 years, we will stay here."

     Remembering the Ghost Dancers led by the Paiute Wovoka and massacred here,
Two Bulls said, "They are resting. Just let them rest."

http://www.pechanga.net

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