Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Voice in the Native American "Wilderness"

Monogamy and Lakota society today By Ivan F. Star Comes Out

I went to the Oglala Post Office the other day and found it unusually crowded. There were small groups gathered outside the building happily talking and shaking hands while some kept to themselves and still others scurried in and out as if they were extremely busy. I decided to wait for the crowd to clear out a bit and listened to KILI and watched people come and go.

Anyway, I noticed that most were young like in their 20s, 30s and 40s. I assumed that most have little ones to take care of. Then I thought about how many of these people are actually in a union where both the mother and father provide nurturing guidance and emotional stability for their children.

Based on what I have seen in my lifetime, I could almost guarantee that most were single parents and that this phenomenon is reservation-wide. In other words, most of today’s children are growing up without the benefits of a father and a mother within the context of a self-sufficient family.

From the teachings, stories, and songs I’ve heard in my 60-plus years on the homeland, I understand that such a union was not allowed until both man and woman were capable of self-sufficiency. I am referring to their ability to provide the necessary cultural teachings to their children as well as their ability to provide the necessities for them to grow up physically and emotionally healthy and stable.

Instead, I see young people “shack-up,” have children, and live off of and with their parents. This is bad enough but when one of the two decides to move on to another relationship because they did not like the one they are in, it is a devastating emotional blow to their children. The little ones have no choice but to survive in a less than healthy setting. The multi-family homes don’t help matters either.

I see that self-contained families are steadily becoming extinct. Such families were part of the structure of a tiospaye which comprised the nation. A child received the necessary nurturing within this unit. The strength and morality of a nation, or in this case, the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) was founded on the nuclear family unit.

Today, we are scrambling to “get a handle on” an alarming situation by identifying the cause (s) in order to arrest it. This is good and I apologize for not being able to participate. Standing to be corrected, we that finger of blame pointed at everything from alcohol/drugs to racism to bullying, but I contend that the absence of the nuclear family unit has played a major role in our overall situation.

Granted, there are single-parent families that came into existence through no fault of their own. We have no control over many things in this life. I applaud those single-parents and the few two-parent families who strove to raise their children in a good way. However, being few in numbers, these parents and their children are quickly overcome by the crushing distresses of our current morose society.

The nuclear family is not strictly a traditional contrivance as Christianity has its views on it too. Most Christian authorities and entities view marriage (also called holy matrimony) as a state instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife. They consider it the most intimate of human relationships, a gift from God, and a sacred institution.

Christ emphasized the importance and sacredness of lifelong marriage in his own teachings. He said that God had created mankind as man and female and that in marriage, “…the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Christian theology also affirms the secular status of marriage, but moreover views it from a moral and religious perspective that is above all social interests. In other words, even man-made civil laws recognize marriage as having social and political statuses.

Yet, I see that even mature and staunch traditionalists and Christians often don’t have a clear basis for their beliefs and/or principles. A sound perspective on the nuclear family unit or marriage is vitally important today as each new generation has been redefining the family unit to fit their particular social need or personal agenda.

I have to ask who is bearing the brunt of this societal shortcoming. Yes, our children are the only ones to suffer. I see that any original cultural teachings have steadily diminished with each generation. For one, my late father said that once a man and woman have a child, that child becomes a priority and their personal goals and desires are secondary. Only one of our children is following this protocol.

One debilitating but popular concept among Lakota people is polygyny. Primarily, polygyny is a Christian view of a man married to more than one wife at a time. I find this idea in government documents and American history in relation to the “Indian.” As a Lakota person, this concept always rubbed me the wrong way and caused me to search for answers. I share my findings.

First, tiospaye life was such that orphans, single parenthood, and homelessness did not exist, among other modern social troubles. So, very basically, if the male died during a hunt or a fight, his oldest brother’s or cousin’s obligation was to take in his surviving children and widow and would actually live in his home until the mother was able to enter another relationship/nuclear family for the children.

I can only imagine early European “explorers” seeing this, and being of sound Christian influence, saw polygyny. Today, polygyny is legal only in most nations on the African continent, in the Middle East, and for Muslims only on the island nations of Malaysia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Sadly, Lakota men seem to have been influenced by this model, even today. Thus, single parenthood.

Second, we must realize that when one nation overpowers another, widespread genocide takes place to ensure the smaller group does not regain stability and power. Thusly, the enervating idea of the Lakota practicing polygyny was implanted in our written history. It is not discussed openly. Instead I am continually hearing men joke and talk about their ancestor who had more than one wife.

Yes, we may be a broken group of people but that does not mean we have to accept it. As a group of mature adults, I have confidence in our ability to look past our petty biases and agendas and see our predicament for what it is. Perhaps, we need to look at Planned Parenthood guidelines for starters. Our ancestors used it within the nuclear family unit and were better for it.

(Ivan Star Comes Out, POB 147, Oglala, SD 57764; (605) 867-2448; mato_nasula2@outlook.com)

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