Visiting Lakota Medicine Man – A Rare Opportunity

Dec 04, 2022 665.6K Views 4.9K Comments

Far out in the countryside of South Dakota is the Pine Ridge Reservation and home to the Oglala Lakota Tribe. On this adventure, I journey to a Lakota medicine man’s home to hear what he has to say about his people, why I’m a Native American and he’s not, the future of his tribe, control, freedom, what American needs, and many other interesting topics.

►Video edited by: Natalia Santenello
► Researched by: Kymberly Redmond

♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
-Good morning, guys.
Today we’re meeting up
with a Lakota medicine man
and highly respected elder
in the community.
Going right up here
to Pine Ridge Reservation
just a few miles down the road
and he agreed for me to come
to his home with a camera.
So, just so you know,
this is very difficult access to get.
So we’re very fortunate to be getting it.
All right, let’s do this.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪
[dog barking]
[door opens]
Okay, here we are.
Deep in on the reservation of Pine Ridge.
And I think this is his house.
I hope so.
PETER: You’re a great-great grandmother?
-A great-great grandmother
through marriage with David.
-Oh wow, how many grandkids?
-All together we have 57.
-That’s almost unbelievable.
So you’re not just a great-grandmother,
you’re a great-great-grandmother?
-Yep.
-Perhaps the youngest,
in best shape on the planet.
-[laughs] Thank you.
-I think you win that award.
DAVID: That’s my friend, Russel.
Russel Menes.
-This guy is Russel?
-Uh-huh.
And the one you see
with the white church behind…
-Yeah.
-I was probably 17 or 18 years old…
…during the Wounded Knee occupation.
-That was what year, ’73?
-Three.
There’s a very uplifting feel
in your place here, inside.
-You did?
-I feel it, yeah.
-Oh good, good, I’m glad you… [coughs]
You get that.
My name is David Swallow.
That’s my Christian name.
A white man, he calls me
David Swallow Jr.
-Okay.
But my Lakota name is
Wowitan Uha Mani.
-Wowitan Uha Mani?
-Yeah, “Walks With Pride.”
-Ah…
You grew up without English?
-Oh yeah, I grew up without English.
Ain’t hard to learn.
-So at home you speak Lakota?
-Oh yeah, uh-huh.
I speak my original language.
-What percentage of the tribe
is doing that now, speaking Lakota?
-The people…
Very little… very small… Very little.
-How does that make you feel?
-Tsk…
Well sometimes it made me feel worried.
But if I look on the bright side,
we’re following the prophecies.
My grandpa said to me when I was a child…
He said, “One day these hakaora…”
“…these grandchildren
that’s playing right here is gonna…”
“They’re all gonna be turned to wasicus.”
I stood up and I said,
“Grandpa, how can I be a wasicu?”
“My skin is…”
“No, not that, takoja, grandson,
not that one.”
“Up here.”
-You call whites wasicus?
-Oh yeah, uh-huh.
-Bacon getter, wasi. [chuckles]
-What getters?
-Bacon getters, fat getters. [chuckles]
-So the wasicus have gotten into the minds?
-Oh, it started
from the black robe, you know?
The churches.
-Oh, yeah.
-Missionaries.
I don’t know who they are.
I don’t know the white man God.
-What is your spirituality?
Can you explain it a little bit?
-The sun, the earth, the stars,
trees, the rock, the water…
Buffalo, eagle, wolf, bear.
-Spirits in everything?
-Oh, there’s spirits in everything.
Now look at ’em.
Look at ’em.
Who are those black robe people…
…that’s raping childrens?
And they say they represent God?
I don’t think so.
-So would it be fair to say
it’s a big institution,
there are gonna be malevolent people…
[David laughs]
Bad people and people
with good intentions too?
No?
-No institution is good for no human being.
-Okay.
-Institution in the bottom
is controlled by corporations.
And corporations are controlled
by greedy people.
With they don’t have no intentions of
being a human or respect any human race.
They just want one thing
and that’s all, control.
-So how do you feel about
the state of the world now in 2022?
-I feel sorry for the state of the world
because all these corporations
are running the way things are and they
have trillions and billions of dollars
because they made it
but still they want more and more.
It’s like a big hole…
…in the center of their heart
without no end.
“You cannot pray.”
So says Dr. Fauci,
and his colleagues, and whoever.
Antichrist, they call it. [chuckles]
And that’s what it is.
See?
Churches cannot pray but I think
it did some good
because it gives all these
non-denomination churches
and other denominations…
They gave them the will to stood up
and really pray to their real Gods.
See?
And here in the tribe, this tribal council,
Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.
That’s what they named themselves.
They told us not to have
non of our religion.
Our sun dance, our sweat,
but I didn’t listen to them.
I still went ahead and did it.
DAVID: It’s nice out here.
Now the horses are in here, in my yard.
Sun’ka wakan.
These are sacred dogs, sun’ka wakan.
-Sacred dogs?
-Yeah.
-Are the horses?
-Uh-huh.
-Okay.
-Very gentle horses.
-It’s beautiful country out here.
-It is.
And my sun dance place.
-Over there?
-Yeah.
-So you’re saying the institutions,
which are basically backed
by the corporations
is the poison let’s say?
Controlling society?
-Yep.
What they cannot control, they will try.
But it won’t happen.
Because my orders
are come from the superior powers.
Oceti Shakowi council is not form…
made by man.
It was made by spirit.
That was before
Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.
Bureau of Indian Affairs,
United States of America.
It was before the Britain invasion.
It was way before any foreign government.
And it’s too powerful for anything.
Any of these entities.
That’s why the put us on this reservation.
[scoffs]
And there’s two kind of people
here on this reservation.
There is, uh…
A certain discrimination and racism
here among ourselves.
-How so?
-Some that work for the entity,
the tribal council
and some work for
the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
-They look down on you?
-Yep.
They look down on us.
-Why, because they have the money or what?
-Yes, exactly.
They have the money,
and they have a place to work,
and they become like the wasicu.
[unzips jacket]
-Okay.
-So they forget their relatives.
They forget their people.
They forget their virtues.
And most of all they know how to lie.
[scoffs]
-Is it because they’re comfortable now,
they have material things?
-They are comfortable, they got good cars,
good trucks, good homes,
good life insurance.
Better education for their childrens.
They used us.
Use us Lakota people.
The pure bloods.
We are the pure bloods.
The tribal council, they shouldn’t
use that name tribal council.
Because they are
an unincorporated corporation
of 1934 Act of Senator Howard
and Senator Wheeler.
-Hmm.
[scoffs]
-So that’s not ours.
-What’s going on with the land now
on the reservation?
-This land don’t belong to nobody…
…among our cultural ways
but when the Bureau of Affairs
came to have a trust fund
and they put it here.
That person have 360 acres.
That one have 360 acres.
That one has 360 acres.
And whatever left over,
give it to the settlers.
Now they bring state jurisdiction
here on the reservation.
-South Dakota jurisdiction here?
-Yep, uh-huh.
-How so?
-Well, a few… Couple weeks back
the tribal council went and signed
an agreement with Pennington County
to open, I believe I was told
if I’m misformed or not
but I was told it’s called
the Public Law 280.
Which gives the state jurisdiction
over civil and criminal law on Indian land.
-Okay.
Before it was done by Indian police?
Your own internal police?
-Yep, uh-huh.
But now the state is here
and the state of South Dakota
is really highly racial towards my people.
See?
-At a government level or how?
-Both, everywhere.
-Everywhere?
-Yeah, uh-huh.
You go into the business,
your skin is dark, they watch over you.
Security watch over you.
-Hmm.
-And you know why
the state of South Dakota are prejudice?
Because they got the guilty conscience
and they’re guilty of taking our land
without the proper agreement.
From our ancestors or from me.
-But what do you say to someone like me?
I was born in 1977.
My family came from Italy.
They never came out here.
I don’t feel connected to any of that
though I’m white.
Right? I’m white.
-Mm-hmm.
-I can look at the atrocities of the past.
I can sympathize.
I can see all the wrong-doings
but right now I don’t feel guilt
because I didn’t take any part in it
and I wouldn’t take any part of it.
-That’s good for you.
We could coexist.
-Right.
-Uh-huh.
But if you start on my own home…
If I got to your home
and start telling you and treating you mean
and disrespectful, how you gonna feel?
-Of course, then it’s a different story.
-Yeah, see?
I think a week ago the tribal council
had signed a resolution and order
and it said they will seize anybody
that’s own under two and half acres
without notifying the people or the owner.
-Okay, explain that again.
They can just seize it?
-They call that…
I call it the eminent domain.
That’s happening here.
-Okay, for what though?
There are no new roads being built.
-No, huh-uh, but there’s going to be.
-So what’s the…
There are going to be new roads here?
-Oh there are going to be new roads.
And look at where
the Wounded Knee massacre is.
See?
They’re gonna build a memorial park
and who’s gonna get the money?
Huh?
-Who?
-Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, IRA.
Indian Reorganization Act.
See, they’re getting the money,
and parts of it
the Bureau of Indian Affairs
gonna get it, see?
-Here’s something I’ve been struggling with
out on different reservations.
Is when people become
dependent on the government, right?
It weakens them to some degree.
Right?
-Exactly.
Like here is a spoon, eat.
-“Eat the applesauce, Johnny.”
-Yeah, and they take the spoon away
and what do you do?
-Right.
So how do you change that?
That seems like the big problem.
-How do we change that?
How do we change that is we want them
to honor the Oceti Shakowi government.
-Yeah, but I’m just saying
a lot of people now, say younger people…
-Look, they bombed the hell
out of Japan, Hiroshima.
Yokohama.
Atomic bomb, what they do?
When they come to this land here
they gave them everything
and they train them
to help restore their government.
They help them do everything.
-Mm-hmm.
-Now on this land
we have a government with America
and he can’t do nothing for us
that he wrote in that treaty.
See?
He could have helped us restore
like how he restored other people
come from other country, you know?
And he could have…
There was some…
My people are educated now
in a white man way.
So he could have bring us
a good clothing store,
a good university, a good hospital,
a good everything.
The top one because we’re from here.
-Mm-hmm.
But he rather see us, people like me die
because I won’t be talking this way
and he’d rather see…
That way they could say,
“There’s no more, you are just an Indian.”
And I’m not an Indian.
I’m not a Native American.
I’m a Lakota.
-Okay, that’s…
-You are a Native American.
-I’m a Native American?
-‘Cause yeah, you were born here, right?
-Yeah.
-Yeah, so that makes you a Native.
-I’m a Native American?
-Yeah, uh-huh.
-Okay, and you’re a Lakota?
-A Lakota.
-You would never call yourself an Indian?
-Nope.
-Native? Native American?
-Nope, nope, nope.
-Nothing?
-Nothing.
-So the key to all of this is
people should know your tribe
and call you accordingly?
-The key to this thing is
people should know the truth.
See, they should know the truth.
Indigenous is probably close
but they should know the truth.
People like you,
record this and show it to everybody.
So they all know the exact truth.
They should have the real truth
(taught) in the universities
and the schools and everything, you know?
-So when they teach in universities
to refer to you as Native American
that’s not the truth usually?
-No, that’s not the truth
-Doesn’t make you happy?
-They themselves are the Native Americans.
[chuckles]
-Okay, it’s getting confusing.
-I am from the Indigenous nation
of the Lakota Nation.
See, see?
-Okay.
Thanks for clearing that up.
‘Cause there’s a lot of
confusion with that.
Exactly, and every university
they have me speak, I speak about this.
These are young adults and they should
learn and carry it on.
DAVID: Among the problems of COVID
and before that it was tuberculosis
and before that it was
blanket-infested smallpox
and now we have
another disease called alcohol.
It’s illegal for a Lakota
to be drinking alcohol
and the government knows
that that’s part of the treaty agreement.
But during the World War I,
and World War II, and Korea,
and all the way to Vietnam, up til today
‘lot of the Native boys and women
join the military.
When they said,
“I’m a serviceman and I drink beer.”
They go to the bar and,
“Why can’t you serve me here?”.
So the congress said,
“They’re Native Americans.”
Serve ’em.
-Hmm.
-So that’s where that came from.
And now it got out of control.
The tribal council or the BIA
just sitting there and let it happen.
If we are…
Could control my own people
with my own followers here
then we could control
this alcohol situation.
Because it’s a disease
and they don’t belong in the jail.
Give them some money,
give them some chance, give me here.
So I could try to help my people
from recover alcohol
and liquor, and drugs,
and sexual abuse, and everything.
-How do you get…
My father was an alcoholic.
He quit alcohol only when
he decided to do it.
-Oh yeah, you Italians,
you know how to control that.
The Lakotas don’t know how to control that.
-No, but he only quit when he wanted.
Nothing, no one saying anything’s
gonna do anything.
But Lakota’s different?
-Not these people… are ain’t like that.
Some could have a table wine
and that’s it, they go home.
And some could…
But not any…
Let me speak for all Indigenous people.
Even the Crow people.
All Indigenous people,
they don’t know how to use
the white man beverages of alcohol.
They gonna kill themselves,
or kill someone, or get in trouble.
They gonna ruin their families.
We never ever throughout
the histories of a thousand years,
we don’t never taste no alcohol.
-So you just have to
take it out of their hands?
-You have to take it out of their hands
and you have to remind them
what root they come from.
PETER: Why is the flag upside down?
-Distress.
-Distress?
-Yeah, this is distress.
-What’s it say on it?
-American Indian Movement.
-All Lakota, we’re on distress
because the government don’t wanna listen.
In wars when enemy overruns it,
it’s distress and they
hang the flag upside down.
So it’s not an Indian thing.
It’s an American telling the Americas
that we are in distress.
-Hmm.
-Of poverty, drugs, alcohol, abuse,
everything that is right here.
That’s running the problem
especially right here.
All these drugs are happening while
we’re worrying about immigrations
and while we worry
about these things, you know?
They brought, what do you call it?
Methamphetamine now.
When people get that methamphetamine,
they lose their teeth and skin, everything
and they look like a zombie.
-There’s a lot right now?
-Lot of it.
-Fentanyl too?
-Mm-hmm, Fentanyl.
Anybody gets it, paralyze or die.
See?
-Hmm.
-Not only this reservation
but all other reservations and…
-All over the US?
-All over, yeah.
It’s happening. You know, it’s happening.
If America is so powerful
and so right
and so rich
it could handle these problems here
with the billions of dollars
where you send it to…
I’m sorry Ukraine has a war.
I’m sorry.
But America should
take care of its own people here
before he could take care of
any other one over there.
We need healing here.
-Yeah.
-We need healing here
on this United States of America.
The Turtle Island, we need healing here.
-And you think…
-If we’re gonna live together here
we have to have a better communication
and better coexistent,
and put the racial things aside.
Put it away and we could all begin to heal.
Because we’re all suffering
the same thing here.
Like that, see?
-Mm-hmm.
Yeah, and you’d think
after these last few years
if we were in a system
that really cared about the population
we’d be working on health
psychological health,
physical health, right?
We’d be better off as a people.
-Yes, we’d be better off that way.
Uh-huh, we’d be better off.
We got a lot of smart people,
even Indian people.
We have a lot of them that graduated.
Where they have
master’s degrees and whatever,
PhD’s, and they have all that,
and I’m pretty sure we could combine
with nature medicine
and Western medicine together
and we could cure
a lot of these things here.
See?
-Yeah.
Instead it’s this corporation says…
That all the insurance corporation,
and all the corporation here,
they want to make money off of us
and they make it so…
So hard for us to do anything, see?
And we’re letting it happen
because we just kept quiet.
And follow instructions.
-Well you’re not, I got a video of you.
-I know, but that’s only me, see?
How about the others, huh?
People is the power,
the real power is the people.
-Yeah.
-And the people has to stand up.
You know?
And if we have all the people here,
if we stand up for one way and one thing
then we will all receive good life
and we will all survive.
-So we need leadership?
-Yeah.
We need leaders, good leaders.
-Are you a leader here, David?
-I’m not a leader.
-You’re not?
-I’m a spokesperson.
-Could be considered a leader.
-It could be considered if they want to.
-If they wanna listen.
-If they wanna listen, yes, uh-huh.
But if they don’t wanna listen, no.
I’m only speaking for
the Lakota and the Dakota Nations
and as well as other Indigenous people
and other people that wants to live right
and, you know, not to be treated wrong.
-Mm-hmm.
PETER: What can we learn from you,
from your people?
-First of all,
start reconnecting back to the earth.
-Mmkay.
-Uh-huh.
We all need our mother, see?
Without the mother there is no life.
-Yeah.
-And that’s it, we need to do that.
We need to stop the drilling of the oil.
Drilling and however
it’s extracted her from.
If we make her sick
all mankind are in trouble.
Not only mankind but everything
that walks on this earth here.
-Yeah.
-Uh-huh.
All four-legged, all the winged, anything.
All the crawlies,
and the smallest of the small,
everything is gonna be in trouble.
So we need to learn to protect her.
You cannot learn
all the things I’m telling you
in just a few minutes, you can’t.
-Of course.
-It’s gonna take you…
-Months of stories, years.
-Now I said this much here today.
-Okay.
-And I hope this message get across.
I hope these things that will affect
whoever’s watching this here.
-Mm-hmm.
-My name is Wowitan Uha Mani.
I’m a Lakota.
Aho.
Very interesting conversation
with David Sallow Jr.
And I just want to mention
getting this content
is extremely difficult behind the scenes.
I want to put a big shout out there to
my assistant, Kymberly, my wife, Natalia.
These two really help
to make these things happen.
And also David Swallow Jr.
Thank you for going on camera with me
and giving me your trust.
I understand the historical context
and most white people
coming into reservations…
There’s been a lot of issues in the past
and a lot of mistrust
formed over the years.
And you gave me your trust
for me to come in with my camera.
Not an easy thing to do, I get it.
And because things
could be edited any way, guys.
I mean I could make the best story,
I could make the worst story.
I can…
Really, the power of the creator
is unbelievable.
So always keep a close eye on that.
How a story is presented and how it’s cut
because really, you can make things look,
sort of how you want them to look.
Hopefully that was insightful.
I never know,
especially with this Native series
what I’m getting into
or how it’s gonna work to be honest.
David had a short window of time
and it was interesting, he’s like,
“Go to the town and ask around,
they know where I live.”
And so…
I was told yesterday also
those are Native directions.
You know, “Go past the two dead animals…”
“…take a left,
and you’ll get there.” type thing.
So it’s really interesting out here,
and it’s like a whole different country
and what I’ve realized also
from the Flathead to the Crow
to now Lakota…
They really do look at themselves
as different nations.
And that’s one of the big points
that’s gonna come through in this series.
Is how different all the tribes really are.
All right, guys, got a lot more coming.
Going all the way down
to Arizona in the next few days.
Hopi and Dine.
Which Navajo, Dine, I’m not even sure what
they like to be called but we’ll learn.
Most people know Navajo Nation.
All right, thanks for coming along.
Until the next one.
♪ melodic acoustic guitar ♪

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