Poorest Native American Reservation – What It Really Looks Like

Nov 27, 2022 2.6M Views 6.7K Comments

I was warned by many Natives not to go to the Pine Ridge Reservation because of crime and poverty. But what was it like when I got there? Join me and the locals as we tour around the homeland of the Oglala Lakota people to understand their culture better, and to see what it really looks and feels like on the ground.

► Darwin and Angel’s channel: https://www.youtube.com/@NavajoManLakotaBae
► Roger’s wife’s channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/PurpleThunderNight
► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello
► Researched by: Kymberly Redmond

♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
[police siren]
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
MAN: Got his little outfit he’s wearing.
PETER: Okay, so where am I in Scandana…
Is this Norway?
Where are we?
ROGER: You’re out here at
the Thunder Valley housing development.
-You’re the Lakota expert, right Roger?
-Yeah, I’m a historian.
-You’re the OG around here.
-Yeah.
ANGEL: I would say if there’s someone
to represent the Oglala, it would be him.
-Okay.
-I’ve been teaching for 26 years.
-Oh.
-At a local Catholic Jesuit school.
-Oh wow, so you’re Catholic?
-I was a little baby when I was baptized
but I practice the traditional ways.
-Okay.
-You could say, I guess,
I’m Lakota Catholic
but more a recovering Catholic
I guess you could say.
-Gotcha, gotcha.
[all chuckling]
So I just drove in from Crow this morning.
ROGER: Made it out alive, huh?
PETER: Made it out alive.
[all chuckling]
That’s what they said about you guys.
They said I wouldn’t
come out of here alive.
I love the sh*t talking between the tribes.
I’ve noticed that.
-Oh, yeah.
Yeah, there’s a lot of rivalry.
I mean the Crows were the ones
who scouted for the Cavalry against us.
PETER: Wow, nice place.
ROGER: Thank you, thank you.
-This is cool.
Beautiful.
ANGEL: We have a mortgage on a home
and I think a lot of misconception
is that the government gives us houses,
or like, we get money from our tribe.
Which we don’t.
-So you’re paying
for this home full, outright?
-Yeah, we got mortgage
and then the Thunder Valley
community development
really helped us with the process
and purchasing the home
and gave us the education.
-Okay.
ROGER: These houses are set up too
because there’s one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven.
-Yep.
-Seven houses set up
in a semi-circular form.
[dogs barking]
And her entrance faces the East.
Traditionally, that’s how
our teepees would have been set up.
-Okay, okay.
-With the leader in the center
like right here.
So that’s what I call my daughter’s house
is the chief’s house.
‘Cause it’s in the center right here.
The two at the end are the warriors
who guard the entrance.
So everybody that comes in,
they’re supposed to come in
through that entrance way over there.
-So I was told…
The last few days actually in Montana
on the different reservations I’ve been on
they said, “Oh, two things,
Pine Ridge is the most dangerous.”
and “Pine Ridge is the poorest.”
Which first impressions, um…
You know…
Different than what I thought
I’d be getting into.
And it’s not all like this obviously but…
-Well I mean economically per capita
we are one of the poorest
counties in America
-You guys are so far in here.
It took forever to get here
from the last town.
Like an hour and a half.
-Oh yeah, yeah, so if you notice
all the roads lead off the reservation.
That’s also by design.
And that’s the way
of the government keeping us poor.
So all the money goes off the reservation.
PETER: So what I’m realizing
in my journey through native lands
is every reservation has
different jurisdiction to some degree
For example, yesterday on Crow
I learned that, you know,
people could homestead
from outside the reservation.
White people or any people
could come in and homestead.
So some of that land
is not owned by the Crow
even through it’s in their reservation.
-In the boundaries, yeah.
-What about here?
-Um, here it’s the majority is tribal ran.
-On Lakota?
-In modern times I know
because of fractionation
unless you have a title to it,
you can do whatever you want with it.
You own it.
You can sell it.
-So you could sell it to anybody?
-To anybody, yeah.
Now if you have a title,
but if it’s tribal land you cannot sell it.
It belongs to the tribe.
-Okay.
-But in reality, all the land
belongs to the federal government.
-Really?
-Yeah, it all belongs
to the federal government.
-This is all Washington’s land technically?
-Yeah this is all… Yep.
Lakota… This is from
the battle of the big horn, okay?
That happened in 1876.
So the Lakota got the fame.
The Crow got the land over in Montana
and the Cheyenne got the shaft.
And that comes from a Cheyenne friend.
Like I said, I’m part Cheyenne also.
-Oh, okay, okay.
-Yeah.
-And a lot of that is on
a lot of reservations there’s mixes, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re…
-Between the tribes?
-Yeah, especially in modern times.
My daughter’s a Navajo, my daughter,
you know, through…
-Yeah, yeah.
Through of course,
modern technology and the internet.
[all giggling]
-Tinder? You guys use Tinder out here?
[all laughing]
In our traditional way we didn’t marry.
If you married within your (kioshpa),
you couldn’t do that
because you’re all relatives, right?
-Okay.
-And so my grandfather told me,
“You can’t marry nobody from here,
you’re related to everybody.”
“So you gotta find yourself
a wife from somewhere else.”
-That’s good advice, huh?
-Yeah.
[all laughing]
Otherwise everybody’s
gonna be inbred, you know?
ROGER: I think it was more in the ’90s.
And it was all over reservations
all over America, you know?
With the movies like
Blood In and Blood Out.
-Okay.
-You know, the kids growing up
listening to rap music
and emulating the Bloods and the Crips,
What’s going on in the cites
and of course we have young Natives
that live in the cities and come back
and bring it back to the reservation.
And so for a while there in the ’90s, man,
we had a huge problem with our youth
calling themselves Bloods and Crips.
The medicine man here had a big following
and I went out to his sun dance
and I felt like I was one of the only ones
out there dancing.
-Uh-huh.
-But I seen them out there together,
sun dancing together, Bloods and Crips.
You know, who claimed to be
Bloods and Crips, praying together.
-But at the sun dance they were cool?
-But at the sun dance it’s all neutral.
You couldn’t bring that gang stuff
into the sun dance so…
-So that’s interesting, inner city America
was influencing these far out reservations?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-Wow.
-All because… I seen it from the media.
Tupac and Biggie.
-Yeah, sure.
-That thing came out
and a lot of them would side with
East Coast versus West Coast
and you had that here.
I’m like, “East side? What part
of the east of the res are rapping?”
[laughing]
-So these other normal homes out here,
this is how it is on the res dispersed?
-Yeah, pretty much.
You’ll see a mix of trailers
with stick-built houses
which are probably built by HUD.
HUD houses.
As a tribal member you’re allowed
a standard assignment of two acres.
I can apply for assignment, and maybe
lease some land, and put my trailer there.
‘Cause I live in a trailer in the village.
This is a dialysis building.
We have so much diabetes
they have to have dialysis centers.
So people come in here for dialysis.
-Just from the diet, the modern diet?
-Yeah, yeah.
Because of the government rations
are high in carbohydrates and sugars.
And I mean it’s like that
all over Native American, man.
-Right.
-Even on the Navajo res, man.
There’s a lot of people with diabetes.
-It’s beautiful countryside though.
-Oh yeah, especially during this time.
They call it the (wakbe castnawy).
“The month when the leaves fall
off the trees.” in our language.
-Do you speak your language
at home with your wife?
-No, she’s Ojibwe.
-Okay.
-So I do, she knows a little bit.
I speak more with
the grandchildren and my daughters.
Our parents were that generation
where the language
was beat out of them in the schools.
It was against the law
for them to speak their language
because, you know,
they wanted everybody assimilated.
-Yeah.
-I was lucky enough,
I grew up around here where
the majority of the people
were Lakota speakers.
Not like it is today.
Now other than the school systems
where it’s coming back really strong.
Especially in the school I work at.
Of course that’s ’cause I teach it now.
-They’re into it though?
-Yeah, yeah, a lot of them are.
A lot of them want
to learn the language now
because that’s part of
who we are as a culture, you know?
And a lot of them are realizing that.
If you want to call yourself a Lakota
then you should speak the language.
Whereas like Navajo, there’s probably
a lot more youth that are…
I don’t know how it is there,
I know Darwin speaks so…
PETER: Darwin, you speak Navajo?
DARWIN: Yes, I do.
-How do they take you in here, Darwin?
-Well…
-Do you have to prove yourself?
-Well I thought at first I did but…
You know, if you’ve seen
Dances With Wolves, the movie…
[Roger chuckling]
Just like that but a Navajo version
of Kevin Costner.
I was headed up to North Dakota
to go fight the pipeline, right?
I don’t know if you heard
about that at the time.
Like a couple years ago.
-Sure.
-So I was headed up there
to fight the black snake, they call it
and I was coming through
Oglala, Lakota country here
and I got captured.
I got captured.
-By your wife?
-By the Lakotas, yeah.
-Oh.
-So I got captured and I never went back.
I speak fluent Navajo.
Still trying to learn English
at the same time but it’s…
Yep.
(Dineh), is how we say it.
Me and Roger here, we’re known as res.
We’re hardcore res.
Earlier when you were on your way in
and you were somewhere right up the road
a couple miles and you text me
and I was trying my best
to not give you the res directions.
Because that’s what
we’re all good at around here.
So I was like, trying to not say,
“If you pass two dead dogs on the road…”
“…and a dead horse, you’ve gone too far.”
[all laughing]
[police siren]
ROGER: Is this… It’s a wake?
DARWIN: Yeah, it’s a wake.
PETER: Can I film that, is it okay?
ROGER: Yeah, you can film it.
I don’t know who it is but…
-So what you were saying,
the cartel what?
The cartel has made its way
out to the reservation.
-Mexican cartel?
-Mexican cartel.
A few years back there was an article
in Indian Country Today newspaper
about some cartel members that
hooked up with some Arapaho women
and that’s how they made their way
into that reservation
and so what they’d do is go to the girls.
The girls would introduce them
to their family members and friends
at the parties and stuff
and give them free drugs.
And then once they got ’em hooked
and then now they start.
They have to buy it from them.
-Okay.
-So that’s how it made its way in.
I’m assuming the same way here.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
[door closes]
PETER: This is very important
in your history, yeah?
-Oh yeah, yeah, and it’s also
important American history too.
‘Cause this was the last conflict
if you will, but it was more of a massacre
where they just kind of killed everybody.
And it was from the 7th Cavalry of course.
Who was Custer’s remaining after they
were all wiped out at the Little Big Horn.
-Mm-hmm.
-Well then that was the 7th Cavalry
who massacred these guys.
So for us it was revenge.
The United States
got revenge on our people
’cause they used the 7th Cavalry
against us then.
-So are these battles
and this history still very important
in your everyday life as a Lakota?
-Oh yeah, yeah.
As far as there’s this thing
called historical trauma
that has been documented and researched.
That a lot of our people
are suffering from that historical trauma
because of this event.
They never used to talk about it
because they were afraid
of what might happen, retaliation.
People that were here and witnessed it.
When you see your people just annihilated
just like that, you know, it’s like,
“Wow, how could they
do this to our people?”, you know?
PETER: Navajoes won’t come in here?
It’s okay if I’m in here?
-No, no…
Okay.
ROGER: So this is where
they buried 300 or more bodies
and you can see
the prayer offerings offered.
-Okay.
-That’s what the red flags are.
-So what’s the state of Catholicism
or Christianity in the Lakota society now?
-Well as you know, Christianity
was pretty much forced on our people.
It was the missionaries who came
and tried to civilize us.
-Sure
-Under the direction of…
…the United States government.
A lot of the people are actually returning
to the traditional ways of praying.
Some of ’em, like I said,
I was a recovering Catholic
but I work for the Catholic Church
so I gotta be careful what I say.
[both chuckling]
We just had an issue at our school
because we did a traditional prayer
at the same time they had a mandatory mass.
And so some of us got in a little bit
of trouble from the school for…
From both Catholic and the traditional,
saying we’re making the children decide.
Making them choose between traditional
and Catholicism at a Catholic school.
[lighter flicking]
ROGER: There we go.
Here you go, boy.
Smudge yourself.
DARWIN: Sweet grass, need to smudge.
-Smudge, yeah when you go
in a graveyard and stuff
you want to purify yourself off
so nothing follows us.
PETER: What is that?
DARWIN: Sweet grass,
you know sage, right?
-Yeah.
-It’s just similar to sage.
I personally start my day off with this.
-Every morning?
-With this or sage every morning.
-You just take it in like that?
-I take it in, say a little short prayer
in my language and, you know,
thank the creator above for life.
I’ll give you one before you leave.
I have a whole lot at the house.
-Thank you, thank you.
-You can take it home
with you and your wife.
Where very you guys are off to your next
journey you guys take it along with you.
-We’re coming to your people.
-Yeah, I’ll probably see you
down there again.
-The ambulances?
-Ambulances, police.
-Do you feel it’s every dangerous out here?
-No, I don’t feel it’s dangerous myself
’cause I’m from here.
-Okay, sure.
If I came out alone,
walked the streets with a camera
problems or no?
-Yeah, you’d be harassed by people like,
“What are you doing?”
Like Darwin was flying his drone
and people were going…
Remember that?
-Trying to steal your drone?
-If the cops were chasing us
off of the reser…
Chasing us from Rapid City to the res
they’d have to stop at the res boundary,
call into the tribal police and say,
“Hey, I’m in pursuit of this
white Dodge Ram pickup…”
“…just drove onto the reservation.
Do I have your permission to pursue?”
and they’ll either say yes or no.
-Okay.
-So they gotta ask for permission.
But now there’s a new compact
just signed about a month ago
that kind of got
a lot of treaty people upset
because before, the state troopers
can’t even come on the reservation
unless they’re invited.
PETER: How is your government here,
your tribal government?
Crow, they were telling me
how corrupt it was for them.
-Yeah, pretty much, all resses are.
Basically what happens,
you get the same people in year after year
and all they do
is help their families, you know?
And it’s been that way.
That was the problem in ’73
when they were fighting against
our tribal president back then
is any government funding that comes in
goes directly to our tribal programs.
They’re supposed to be helping the people
but the ones that get help
are the ones related to those
that operate those programs.
-So a lot of nepotism?
-Nepotism, exactly.
Big time, all over reservations in America.
Those are built I think in the ’70s.
Those are community centers,
the round building.
That’s a new one, Pine Ridge (Vision).
There’s our Pizza Hut.
-You have Pizza Hut here?
-Yeah, Pizza Hut, Taco Johns.
This is a coffee shop right here
if you’re here in the morning
get yourself some coffee.
-Oh, wow.
DARWIN: That’s the best coffee.
ROGER: Right there, yeah.
Get yourself some coffee and donuts there.
DARWIN: Cannabis right here.
ROGER: There’s another one right back here.
PETER: Cannabis?
ROGER: Cannabis, yeah.
PETER: So tell me about res dogs.
ROGER: There they are, right there.
-And they sort of have their turf, right?
Is that the story?
-Don’t feed ’em.
-They’ll follow me? My wife will love that.
You have a church here?
-That’s the old Catholic church actually.
That’s the old criminal investigation.
I think they still might use it,
I don’t know.
I’ll tell you a funny story about that.
So I used to ride motorcycles
with the Banditos, right?
-Oh yeah?
-Yeah.
I had my own club called Ghost Dance
and I was the president of it, right?
I had a couple students
that were police officers here.
I taught them back in the ’90s
and they told me, they said,
“We were at a South Dakota state trooper
training in Pierre, South Dakota…”
…and they asked us, ‘are there
any motorcycle gangs on the reservation?'”.
“And we told them no.”
and they were showing them
a slide show and they go
[pchoo] with the pictures and there’s
a picture of you and your wife
and a bunch of Banditos
smiling at Big Bats right out there.
But anyway they said, “[pchoo] pictures
of you and all your motorcycle club…”
“…with the banditos.”
and I’m like, “What?”
He goes, “Yeah, you’re in the state file,
man, with the motorcycle gangs.”
-So how does…
This is a question I get often, is,
“Do people get free housing?”
Darwin, you’re building, it’s a mortgage.
DARWIN: Mortgage, yeah.
ROGER: So a lot of the houses, like
the stick-builts were built,
some in the late ’70s, early ’80s.
-Okay.
-They’re HUD houses
and a lot of them are tribal employees
who can afford to pay rent on them.
-Okay.
-But part of the treaty
is also to get housing.
So unless you’re working…
If you’re working you have to pay rent
and you’re just paying to the tribe.
Tribal Housing Authority.
-So the Tribal Housing Authority
owns all of the…
-Owns most of the majority of the houses
that are stick built, that are HUD houses
’cause they were HUD program houses.
-Okay, so the individuals
are not owning their homes?
-There’s home ownership houses.
You pay to own them.
-Okay.
-Yeah, like my mother’s house
is a home ownership house.
But unless you buy
your own trailer like these guys
you might not even have a house.
That’s why it could be
three or four families
living in that little trailer down there.
-Okay, something like that?
-Yeah.
-Is there a housing shortage
here right now?
-Oh yeah, definitely in housing.
-Big time?
-Big time housing shortage.
So now we’re in Nebraska now, so…
-This is the Nebraska line.
-This was where they sold
the most beer in America.
This little town right here.
-No way.
-Yeah.
[doors close]
Like these guys were millionaires.
These guys were millionaires?
Owned this, this was a bar,
and it’s just beer.
They quit selling hard liquor
in the ’70s after the wounded knee.
‘Cause they used to have bars
where you could go in and drink
but they had too many fights,
too many shootings, too many killings.
People were dying up here.
One of our Tribal presidents at the time,
Brian Brewer was kind of big on that
and so they would come, and they would
march on this town and say,
“Shut it down ’cause you’re
killing our people with this alcohol.”
-So Pine Ridge is dry right now?
You can’t buy alcohol?
-Yeah, it’s a dry res,
alcohol is against the law.
-How is alcoholism right now?
-It’s still bad ’cause now
they’re selling vodka in these.
DARWIN: Bootleggers.
-Oh, they’re bootlegging in there.
-They’re selling vodka
in bottles like this, they call them skips.
But this place used to be booming, man
People passed out in the streets here.
Like laying right here all the time.
Laying on the side of this building,
drunk Indians, man.
-You used to ride up here
on horse to get liquor?
-On horse, yeah from the res.
I’d just go get alcohol right over there
when I was 14 years old.
I barely was peaking over.
“What do you want?”
“Give me a six pack of Coors.”
[chuckles]
-So people were riding horseback then?
-We were.
-Do you drink anymore?
No, no, I haven’t drank in over…
…38 years now.
-Best thing you ever did or…
-Oh yeah, yeah, I wouldn’t be
where I am today if I didn’t quit.
-That’s the BIA, that building?
-Yeah, called the BIA office, yeah.
And this is the tribal building.
That’s where our main tribal president…
-That’s a cool building.
DARWIN: That’s where we have
the tribal meetings.
-You guys have got
a pretty big skate park over there.
-Actually the base player
for Pearl Jam helped with that.
-No way.
-Yeah, he was here.
Comes down about every summer.
-I just saw Pearl Jam last month.
-Oh, did you?
-Yeah, one of my favorite bands.
So the big bad Pine Ridge isn’t as…
You know, I’m a newbie
and I’m with the nice guys
but doesn’t have the big bad feel
that I thought I was gonna get today
to be honest.
-Yeah.
-Just another place.
Bunch of wild Oglalas though.
-Wild what?
-Wild Oglalas.
That’s what we call ourselves.
I always joke around,
I say since the pandemic though
we became the mild Oglalas.
[all laughing]
-Why, the pandemic
made you soft or what?
-Yeah.
Made our leaders soft.
-How so?
-Made ’em scared.
Yeah, like a lot of my students still
wear masks at school ’cause they’re afraid.
The youth need to find, you know,
motivation.
Find hope in this… something, you know?
For me, going back and learning more
about my Lakota spirituality
and just keeping it simple, you know?
This is the…
kind of the community public school
and we call it the treaty school because
one of the treaty rights is education
and this is the old school.
So this is all federal government property.
That’s why it’s…
They used to have wire over these.
Barbed wire over the fence.
-Oh, wow.
-It looked more like a prison.
So I think they got sh*t for that.
So they had to take the barbed wire off.
Are we trying to keep kids in
or keep ’em out?
[both chuckling]
-Where are these people working here?
-All the houses here,
they’re either police officers,
teachers, or office workers.
When I look in the paper,
there’s a lot of tribal positions open.
A lot of jobs but I think now
it’s just like everywhere else.
Nobody wants to work ’cause they’re
getting that free money from COVID.
And that’s about ready to run out.
-Still?
-I don’t know.
-So it might be a silly question
but what’s the love for collecting cars?
I notice a lot of places
have a ton of cars.
-Some people get big lease checks.
They get lease money
or probably COVID money, whatever.
When they get a big check
they’ll buy a car.
If it breaks down, well they’ll just
leave it sitting outside their house
and wait for the next check
to buy another car.
[door closes]
[door closes]
PETER: “We’re not Indians
and we’re not Native Americans.”
“We’re older than both concepts.”
“We’re the people, we’re the human beings.”
Okay, I got a question for you
because it’s hard for non-Indigenous
or Native to understand.
‘Cause we’re told a million things.
It sort of goes against this,
so correct me if I’m wrong.
If we’re to, like, refer to the overall…
Like, not a specific tribe.
Not like Lakota or Crow.
What’s the best way to say it?
What do you guys like to be…
-I mean… and it depends on the tribe.
-Okay.
-Depends on the tribe
and who you’re talking to.
I think Indigenous is kind of
a newer tag that they, well, you know…
When you start looking at the definition
of the words, Indigenous, yeah.
You know, indigenous of that land.
You can say that about the Maori people
and their island.
-What about Indian?
-Um…
Now Indian, the older people are
so used to Indian, that’s what they prefer.
The reason also is
because when you look at the treaties,
especially treaty people,
they call us Indians in that treaty
but each tribe prefers
their own name, you know?
Like for us it’s Oglala, I’m Oglala.
-Oglala?
-Oglala, yeah.
But you wouldn’t know that because
you don’t know anything about Oglalas.
Sioux, some people like,
“I’m Oglala Sioux.”
because they don’t know
where the word Sioux comes from.
Even our own tribe,
we’re called the Oglala Sioux tribe.
They haven’t changed our…
You know, on the tribal buildings
they still call themselves Oglala Sioux
even though they now it’s a derogatory name
given to us by the French and Ojibwe.
But we still, as a nation,
call ourselves that.
-Okay.
-Whereas the traditional people say,
“I’m not a Sioux, I’m a Lakota.”
I mean to me it’s no big deal,
you call me whatever you want.
[laughs]
-No, it’s just interesting
because older people say one thing,
younger people say another.
-Young people, yeah.
-And then a lot of, let’s say
college educated white people
will say how you have to say it.
-Yeah, yeah.
-And they have no experience here.
-They look it up in
the frickin’ encyclopedia.
“Oh, I can be Native American,
I was born in America.”
“I can be Native American.”, you know?
-Right, right.
I know they’re really…
-Like in India, they called me Tribal.
“Oh, you…” they thought I was from India.
-How’d you like India?
-I loved it, man.
It’s, “Oh, you’re a red Indian,
red Indian.”
[laughs]
You talk about poverty here.
I mean not comparing it but I try to tell
my students that grew up here,
I say, “You guys ain’t’ seen poverty.”
You wanna see poverty, go to India.
Man, I was sitting there
outside this building and this guy gets up.
It’s 4:00 in the morning
’cause I can’t sleep.
I watched him get up,
take a leak alongside the building like,
“What’s he doing?”
and then he starts digging through trash.
He grabs some papers, and he takes it down,
and he has these little two bricks
sitting there, puts all the trash in there.
He lights it up, goes to the other place,
pours some water in a pan,
and he’s cooking up, he’s heating
his water for his morning rice.
I’m like, “Damn.”
And then all of a sudden
it’s like in a tarp.
There’s a tarp.
I finally saw it,
he came out of this tarp shelter
about six little kids
come out of there, man.
And then his wife comes out.
And I’m like, “Whoa, there’s
a whole family living in that tarp.”
-Yeah.
I think everyone needs to, uh…
Well, people that complain a lot
need to go to India boot camp.
One month there,
not much money, limited funds.
-They don’t have the state helping them.
Like here, at least we get help from the…
Some of our people get welfare, you know?
They get food stamps.
We have our commodity program
where you’re not starving.
(Bisonwi), that’s the white buffalo.
-What does that word mean?
-(Bisonwi).
Bin is a buffalo, saw is white,
and wi is woman.
In our spirituality,
you heard of what they call a peace pipe?
-Yeah.
-That’s kind of misnomer for that.
We call it our sacred chalupa.
Which is the pipe and it’s
the whole foundation of our spirituality.
We use it to pray.
It was brought to us by a woman,
the white buffalo calf woman.
It’s a long story but just to
make it short, she turns into a…
She comes and then when she leaves
she turns into a buffalo.
So her name was
the white buffalo calf woman.
So that was like if you wanna say,
like to compare it with Jesus
that would be like our savior.
-Okay.
-That’s the old jail.
I was in there, that’s the new…
Well, that’s not the new jail but…
-You were in the old jail?
-Oh yeah, I got thrown in
the old jail as a kid.
Curfew violation,
they used to have a 10:00 curfew.
-Oh yeah?
-Yeah.
-Back in the day you couldn’t be
out in the streets past 10:00?
-Not after 10:00, no.
Especially during the ’70s
when we were under martial law.
You couldn’t even be out after dark.
-Okay, so under martial law here?
-Yeah.
-In the whole reservation?
-Yeah, in the 1970s, an American Indian
movement occupied Wounded Knee.
The little hamlet of Wounded Knee.
And that brought in
the United States Marshals,
the FBI, and the local goon squad,
they called them
and it was basically a military action.
First, they were unhappy
with the tribal government at that time.
The other reason was because of the racism
and the killing of
two Native Americans in border towns.
So they were basically here
to kind of help out.
Um…
We were asked to come.
And so the American Indian movement
was back then,
a militant Native organization.
They did sit-ins.
They occupied, like an abbey in Wisconsin.
It was an armed occupation basically.
They took up arms against the tribe
and the federal government.
And so at that time
when they called in the US Marshals
there were armored personnel carriers.
Actually on one of the buildings
I was telling you, Billy Mills Hall
and the BIA building I showed you,
There was a guy sitting up there
with a machine gun with sand bags.
I remember that, yeah.
-Wow.
-Yeah, it was a war zone, man.
-For how many years?
-It was 71 days but it lasted
for two years I would say after that.
‘Cause then it was
this local in-fighting against…
Lakotas fighting Lakotas.
-Okay.
-You were either pro-AIM or anti-AIM.
This is, uh…
I’m trying to see
if we can get a shot of buffalo for you.
This is one of my friends
who he owns a tire shop down here
but he also has
a buffalo herd that he takes care of.
-So you’ve never lived anywhere else?
You’ve always lived
two valleys over in here?
-No, um, my dad…
My dad went out on that relocation program
and I was born in Oakland.
-Really? Okay, so what was
the relocation program exactly?
-We called it the dislocation program.
-Okay.
-The government was trying to… [chuckles]
…train everybody on the reservation
and then move them to cities.
-Okay.
-And then their thinking was after they got
everybody off the reservation
then they could take that land too.
[laughs]
In the ’50s and ’60s.
-This is a new world for me so I’m…
rookie questions.
But I was under the impression
just up until a couple days ago that
all these lands were now pretty much
sealed, and locked down, and good to go
but I’m learning
that’s not the case, right?
There’s a constant battle?
-Yep.
Now they have the Indian Buyback Program.
-Okay.
-So a bunch of landowners
sold their land back to the…
Well to the… supposedly to the tribe,
but basically back to the government.
-And they leave the reservation?
-No, huh-uh.
They’re still here.
They just get the money
and then they lose their title to the land.
A lot of the landowners
never lived on their land.
Just kind of leased it out
-So how does that make you guys feel?
-[chuckling] I think it’s atrocious.
PETER: This is where you work?
ROGER: Yeah, that’s the church.
PETER: That was
an Indian boarding school back in the day?
ROGER: Yeah this is where… yeah.
PETER: It’s haunted? It looks haunted.
ROGER: Yeah, it is.
This is where
all the Jesuits live, up here.
Who’s this? Who’s this?
Father Klink, hold on.
-How you doing, Father Klink?
-How you doing?
-Hi, I’m doing fine.
I just came back
from visiting Lynn Crossdog.
-Oh, how’s Lynn doing?
-You know, he’s doing pretty good.
They amputated down to
the first joint on his right big toe.
-Oh, I didn’t know that.
-But it’s healing very well.
And so they’re feeling very good about it.
He says he feels much better.
-Okay.
-So he looked great.
-Peter Klink.
-Oh, Peter Santenello.
-Very nice to meet you.
-Yeah, you too, Peter.
ROGER: So we’re just
grabbing a little bit of footage and…
PETER: I do different communities
all over the world and the country
and I’m doing a series
on Natives right now.
Starting at Black…
KLINK: What a great thing.
In the sense if we can begin to realize
that our differences enrich us.
If we can learn
to humbly respect those differences.
You know?
Then diversity is something good.
Otherwise diversity is
just the walls that separate us.
So that building of an understanding
of how we can bless each other
is very important.
-Sure.
-I think, so I’m glad you’re doing
what you’re doing with culture.
-Thank you.
I think it’s just mutual respect, right?
-Yep.
-With everyone.
-Yeah, and humble.
-Humble, yeah.
-Humble mutual respect.
-Yeah.
-Listen, I’ll let you guys get…
-Good to see you, father.
PETER: Okay, father.
KLINK: It’s a beautiful time of day.
-Yeah, take care father.
-Take care, (nuksha).
-(Nuksha).
He’s been here… He was a young scholastic
when I was a student here.
Everybody knows him.
Everybody loves him.
Like he does…
-Well respected?
-Well respected father, been here for…
PETER: So he doesn’t deal with any issues
for being white and a father out here?
No?
-I mean the Catholics respect him.
The Lakota Catholics love him.
Like when their family members die
he’s the one they want to do the services.
[door opens]
-Oh, look at that light
coming right through.
Such a beautiful time of year.
[doors close]
ROGER: This is a sweat lodge.
PETER: Oh, it’s a sweat lodge?
-So this is where
we heat up the rocks right here.
-Okay.
Can I show inside?
-Yeah, you can show inside.
After the rocks are heated up and they’re
brought inside with pitchforks…
-Okay.
-And people sit inside here and pray.
Traditionally, they use
the buffalo hide to cover these with
but nowadays you can see
we’re using canvas and modern materials.
But the wood frame is still made from
either ash saplings or willow.
-Okay.
-Ash if you want it to last a long time.
And they have four doors they’re called.
So they open the first door,
they close the door
and the person running the sweat lodge
leads the prayers.
They sing the songs,
certain songs go along with it.
Which are important.
-What are the prayers like?
-It’s just… I mean…
They’re from your heart.
-But you’re not doing Christian prayers?
You’re doing more…
-No, no… Well, you can.
So we pray with the priests and stuff
and they may pray Christian.
We’re all praying the same thing, yeah.
-Okay, the priest might go in here?
-Oh yeah.
Yeah, the priest
will come in and pray with us.
We have nuns that are from India here.
-Nuns from India coming here?
-Yeah, oh yeah.
-Okay.
-Some places are really strict.
They won’t allow any non-Lakotas in there.
They won’t allow any non, you know?
Some will just have men only sweats too.
It just depends on who’s pouring the water.
These rocks are
considered our grandfathers.
Okay, ’cause they’re
oldest living thing on this earth.
You know, to someone
who doesn’t understand that these are…
And it comes from
our creation story of Inyan.
The first entity that came about.
Gave up itself
so that it could create the world
and it made himself real hard,
and brittle, and broke into rocks.
So what we’re doing
is when we’re heating up these…
We call them grandfathers, these rocks.
We’re bringing them back to life.
And so when we take them
into the sweat lodge then…
And we pour that sacred water on them
then it creates a steam
which is the breath of the creator.
And so what we’re doing
is we’re breathing in that breath of life.
A lot of people that have
never been in a sweat lodge
and the first time they’ve
been in a sweat lodge are like,
“Wow, that was amazing.” you know?
and “I feel regenerated,
reborn again almost.” you know?
And what… We close it off
and it’s all dark in there.
Grandfathers come in
and it’s a whole different world in there.
It’s like…
It’s one of the oldest ceremonies
that you’ll ever participate in in America.
-How often do you do this?
-We used to go almost every weekend
for a while there.
Lately, because of COVID we haven’t been.
Like I haven’t been
in a sweat lodge for a while.
I need one actually.
-How long to do you last in there?
-It just depends on the people’s prayers.
Sometimes it gets too hot
so you want to keep your prayer short.
[chuckles]
PETER: Is it safe to say
things have come a long way?
Because you have the father up there
and you have language immersion
schools down here,
and you can practice your ceremonies.
-Yep.
-And there’s some acceptance.
-It wasn’t that way
when I went to school here.
Like, a lot of the Natives
were pretty much…
I mean not a lot of them,
we stall have a lot of traditional people
who live in the outskirts
but you want to say
a lot of the people are more progressive.
“I’m American now.”
“I don’t need to know my traditional ways.”
“I gotta fit in with society.”
And then when they get out there
and try to fit into society…
American society.
They don’t want them out there, like,
“Oh, you’re just another drunken Indian.”
“You’re a brown skinned person,
you don’t belong here.”
“This is our city.”
“This is our country.”
“Go back to your reservation.”
A lot of our grandmas and grandpas
were just disillusioned
by what was happening in the cities.
And all you’re doing is get up every day,
go to work, and paying bills and rent.
Not really living.
Chasing that dollar.
I mean you still gotta do it today
but at least now we’re on our own terms.
We can still grow our hair long
and practice our traditional ways.
The church, actually
because of the bodies in Canada,
they’re kind of under scrutiny right now.
See this fill here? They did a
ground penetrating the earth right here
looking for bodies
but they didn’t find nothing.
But it’s all up in the news and stuff about
what the Catholic church did
to the Native people.
-In Canada recently, right?
-Yeah, Canada and all America too.
-Yeah, all America.
-Wherever they boarded Native kids, man.
A lot of them never made it home.
I mean one of them was
Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
They have a whole slew of graves there.
There comes a point when you say,
“Well, how can you rise above that?”
And to prove to them
you’re not just another dirty Indian.
You’re not that drunken Indian that
everybody sees out there on the street.
You know?
You’re educated and there’s hope.
They see hope in you and they…
-So you were saying
when I had the camera off that
the younger kids are having
more of an issue with the past.
-Because of what they see on social media.
Even though they haven’t lived it, yeah.
When you should be more angry
’cause you dealt with it.
-Oh yeah, yeah.
-Than a lot of the youth today.
-Oh, yeah.
I mean some do to the point.
Where they just… they know.
The kids today will go off the reservation
and they’ll be discriminated against
in the border town.
So a lot of them know that.
-The border towns are pretty hardcore, huh?
-Yeah, yeah.
-I was in one yesterday.
This is the hood I grew up in right here.
-This is the hood?
-Yeah, this is the hood.
-So lots of crime these days or…
-Yeah, this is where you hear
the gunshots going off nowadays.
It wasn’t like that
when I grew up here in the ’60s.
-So gunshots, how often?
-Every night almost. Every night.
That’s actually the house
I used to live in right there.
-That one?
-That yellow house, yeah.
-What about a house like this with the…
-That’s a meth house.
If they’re boarded up
they found meth in there.
-They found meth?
-They found traces of meth.
-And then they just…
The police get ’em out?
-Yeah, they gotta get ’em out.
-Like that was a meth house?
-Coulda been, yeah.
That’s what I’m thinking.
That’s what they’re saying now.
They gotta close down all the meth houses.
Look at the res dogs there.
[chuckles]
-The res dogs, they’ll come at you, huh?
-This house right here, or this empty spot.
-Yeah.
-The propane tank blew up
and it killed an elderly couple
and yeah, it’s not there no more.
There was a duplex like that.
There you go,
there’s a res car for you right there.
That’s a res car?
[all giggling]
-Here you go, here you go, get this one.
That’s a res trailer right there
being renovated, HUD house though.
-Okay, okay,
this balances it out a little bit.
[all chuckling]
But many good people living here.
Just… Right? I mean…
-Oh yeah.
-Not everyone’s making meth.
-Yeah, not everybody.
What’s that say on there?
-“Trick or treat. Keep out.”
[Roger chuckling]
These houses over here, the basements,
when they would flood out
they would make swimming pools for us.
When I was a kid we used to go swimming
over here in the basements of the houses.
After a big rain storm.
-Okay.
The structure looks fine
but plywood because of meth?
-Yeah, probably ’cause of meth.
And there’s… That one burnt down.
DARWIN: Oh, was it really?
-Yeah, the one that was
there before burnt down.
PETER: Yeah, a lot of plywood.
So there’s a housing crisis but a lot of
houses that are just boarded up?
-Boarded up ’cause of meth.
Deep into the ridge now.
This is called Crazy Horse housing unit.
We’ll zip around there real quick.
-Yeah, it’s a little nicer over here.
-Little bit nicer.
-Stop the violence campaign, what’s that?
-You see those signs?
-A lot of violence that’s been going on.
-Oh sh*t, we didn’t take you
by that one place
where some little kid was killed.
What was he, three, four years old?
Darwin, you remember?
Some little bitty guy.
These houses are even newer back here.
I remember when we used to play
in the basements of these houses too.
Because I stayed at my grandmas
where I showed you.
But there was quite a few drug dealers
in this area back in the day.
I don’t know about now.
Used to be a bootlegger
right down here though.
-Bootlegging vodka or what?
-Whatever, beer, whiskey, we used to get
half pints of Calvert Canadian.
Calvert Canadian? I forget how to say it.
-So Darwin,
totally different than where you live.
Night and day.
That one has lights on inside.
ROGER: Oh sh*t, that’s right, I gotta go
do that ghost bust tonight at that house.
I forgot about her.
PETER: Yeah?
[all chuckling]
You go tame the spirits or?
-Yeah, gotta go
chase ’em out of her house I guess.
I’m an avid Harley rider.
That’s what grandpa’s known for too.
[shed door opens]
-Oh, there we go.
That’s almost like a car.
Thing’s massive.
[electric click and hum]
[bike fails to start]
-Uh-oh, battery’s dead.
I haven’t ridden it in so long
since I got sick.
[bike fails to start]
-Ugh.
[starter continues]
No.
You guys hungry?
Come in.
[door opens]
-Thanks.
ROGER: Enter the dragon.
PETER: Hello.
ROGER: This is Peter… My wife, Vita.
AKA Thunder Night, Purple Thunder Night.
PETER: Guys, thank you so much.
Dar…
-Glad to have you, Peter.
-Good to meet you, Peter.
-Roger, appreciate it.
-You bet.
-Guys, I’m gonna end the video in a bit
but before I do
I want to mention
these guys have channels also.
Your wife has a channel?
-Yeah, Purple Thunder Night.
Navajo Man and Lakota Bae.
Yeah, I’m gonna put those
at the end of the video.
Got a few final thoughts
I want to close on.
Guys, I’m gonna meet you
back there in two minute.
-Okay.
-All right, thanks
for coming along on that journey.
Very interesting look into a culture
most of us have zero clue about.
At least I did until about
six hours ago, seven hours ago.
And I want to say with all of these videos.
The people that bring me in,
that have the wisdom and the knowledge.
The local knowledge and the understanding.
It’s through their perspective
just like all these videos
are through my perspective.
So I try to show you the good, the bad,
not sugar coat, but leave you
with a positive message at the end.
So I just want to say I admire and respect
the culture they’re preserving.
It’s humbling
and the spirituality component
is very attractive these days I gotta say.
So with that, this is part of
a much greater Native series.
Watch the other videos too and also
watch other creators and what they make.
Watch these guy’s channels.
They’re on the ground.
They know it better than anyone.
So until the next one, take care.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪

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