Ever since white man first stepped ashore on what is now called America, the obsession with material possessions has cost the American Indian. Now, the obsession is endangering the survival of the planet.
Many people feel we are standing on the edge of an environmental collapse caused by the constant obsession with raping the Earth for its resources.
Americans are slowly learning that there is a profound value in an indigenous worldview that sees to live in harmony with nature and all living things.
One story personifies the outcome when people don’t try to live in harmony with living things. It’s the story of Rachel Brugier.
Rachel’s story is inspiring; it is also maddening. And her story typifies what the Lakota are going through every day.
If you’re cold and calloused, stop reading here. But if you have an ounce of human caring in your being, read on. But do more than read, do what you can to meet the request that follows. But first, here is Rachel’s story.
Rachel was born in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, Abandoned by alcoholic parents when she and her four brothers and sisters were very young, the children were taken by the state, separated and scattered into foster homes across South Dakota.
Bounced around over many different homes, the children were physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Allowed limited contact with each other and often in trouble, they turned to alcohol and drugs to escape the immoral prison in which they had been confined.
Turning 18, Rachel was released from state care. Having nowhere to go, she was drawn to what she knew and soon found herself in an abusive relationship with the father of her two small daughters.
It was a cold night in March, 2005, when he stabbed Rachel with a pair of scissors. After he was arrested by the police Rachel’s daughters, Micah and Angelina were taken from the home.
Rachel took steps to turn her life around. Moving onto the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation she found a job and enrolled in school. While making progress towards a degree in Human Services, Rachel also successfully completed treatment for alcoholism and took parenting classes.
She was able to get housing now has an apartment just a short distance from her school, Sinte Gleska University. Rachel has done everything the state asked her to do.
Despite her innocence in the domestic dispute and her superhuman efforts to transform her life, Rachel’s parental rights were ended by the state in January 2006.
Filled with grief, Rachel has fought tirelessly to regain custody of her daughters. Rachel’s story should have had a happy ending.
In South Dakota, the odds of a Lakota family winning custody of a Lakota child are slim. The state routinely turns its back at the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other laws as though they didn’t exist.
Stories like Rachel’s are what is motivating me to do this work.
But in South Dakota, the chances that a Lakota family wins custody of a Lakota child are not very good. The state thumbs its nose at the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and other laws as though they weren’t even there. But stories like Rachel’s are what motivate us to do this work.
The Lakota people are being mistreated by the South Dakota State Department of Social Services. Children placed in foster care are being over-drugged and the continued stealing of the Lakota land is genocide of the Lakota people and their culture.
Six of the 11 poorest counties in the United States are on Indian reservations in South Dakota; unemployment is over 85%; families are torn apart while cancer and diabetes run rampant. The drinking water is contaminated with uranium from government-licensed mines, education is poor to non-existent and hopelessness and despair wait around every corner.
Despite all this, the Lakota people still maintain a caring spirit. For centuries, the Lakota have lived in a spiritual-centric culture and society. They work to live in harmony with nature and embrace a sustainable economy and the children are treated as “sacred”.