Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance, 1983 - 1996

The Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance: A Way Borrowed from the Lakota Nation by the Dineh in Resistance
By Bahe (Naabahii) Y. Katenay (Keediniihii), May 29, 2013
This Plains Indian ritual was brought to Dineh country in August 1983 after four years of negotiation with Lakota Sun Dance Chiefs and Spiritual Leaders from the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This Dance at Big Mountain Survival Camp was banished in 1996 despite the opposition from the original, traditional Dineh Elder resisters to the federal government’s inhumane laws of relocation and land divisions.
Those Dineh who feared the continuous pressures from the federal Indian police decided to “move” the sacred Tree Pole to outside the federally-restricted zone known as the “HPL.” The following year this “new” Big Mountain Sun Dance began with a different unknown purpose, but what became so obvious was that it no longer associated itself with the former traditional resistance movement. That “issue” of relocation and Dineh sovereign radicalism was left to its own demise inside the restricted zone. This “new” voluntarily relocated Big Mountain Sun Dance continues today. 
Original Purposes for the 1983 Dance of Defiance and Rejuvenation:
Prior to 1983, prophecy of two nations was exchanged between th traditional Dineh of Big Mountain and Lakotas, and this particular prophecy became the basis and were only spoken of during the spiritual council times of 1979-82. But the purpose was very clear because only the host, Dineh resisters, were participants in these four year dialogues.
Dineh resister experiences were about facing policies of genocide which were being enforced by the U.S. government. Sun Dance conducted at the Big Mountain Survival Camp was to bring healing and re-strengthen Dineh so that they can eventually revitalize their old ritual traditions. Gradually, the Dineh living under U.S. threat of losing their ancestral lands would gain stronger aboriginal rights to the lands and the country would be restored. Also and besides the Dancers’ personal vow to enter the sacred hoop, they would fulfill that virtue and honor of being a Sun Dancer by offering prayers for those in resistance against force relocation, coal mining expansions and other means of genocide under U.S. colonialism. The Sun Dance Tree and its ceremonial grounds would remain on the lands that are under attack until that certain borrowing period is over.
Federal Agents, Local Dissensions, & the Desecration of the Red Road
The 1983 agreement between Chiefs from the northern nations and Dineh resisters was that the Dance will be conducted for four years and its fourth season would fall on the federal government’s deadline for forced removal of Dineh, July 1986. In 1987, Dineh re-negotiated for another four years and by 1994, four more seasons was approved again by both the Dineh resisters and some Lakota leaders. Then in 1996 and at two more years to ago for that negotiated period, a mysterious event occurred. Some local Dineh youth were turned back at the entrance of the Sun Dance camp area because they were drunk. They were told they will be invited after they sober up. However, the intoxicated individuals began a fight at the security gate but they eventually left only to stop a short distance away and fired shots with an automatic rifle. It was a strange incident because the BIA Hopi Police were monitoring the Sun Dance but they were not presence when the shots were fired. Dineh security for the Sun Dance immediately went into a high level mode by securing the area within which the BIA Police were also patrolling. There was another encounter with the intoxicated youths a few hours after and more shots were fired. A day followed as the Dance commenced and there was a larger police presence in the area. There was only one Dineh arrested because he fought back when he was attack at the Sun Dance security gate the day before. This investigation is still open and federal prosecutions may still be pending even after 17 years.
The U.S. Department of the Justice have always been distrustful and have carried out much surveillance on the Lakota Sun Dances especially during the 1970s’ Oglala Sioux civil rights movement which invited AIM to provide protection. The U.S. Marshals and the FBI also monitored the Survival Camp Sun Dance very closely especially around 1986 when they suspected the Dineh and other Indian security volunteers were potentially accumulating weapons and conducting training for the “final showdown” in the resistance to relocation. The federally backed Navajo Nation and Hopi tribal officials also jumped to those conclusions that the Survival Camp could be a militant training camp, and they also were influenced by the federal agents that the Sun Dance was a means to recruit and was a ritual preparation for arm resistance. In early 1986, one FBI agent in Flagstaff made comments to certain tribal officials that, “if there is a Big Mountain showdown and you compare that to Wounded Knee 1973, Wounded Knee would be nothing but peanuts.
This should be nothing new if you are a conscious person and are aware about policies of limited or unguaranteed rights and freedom. We know about these types of infiltrations and counter intelligence activities of instigating internalized disruptions that affect most movement organizations. But today and if you live that “merry savage life” or choosing to be that satisfied American Indian then, you must truly wake up because this war is still taking place at Big Mountain, the birth place of your ancestors.       
Today and in contrast, the new (Big Mountain) Sun Dance has drastically changed from the original purpose of being a resistance ritual and a nation revitalization ritual to a now, more general and contemporary ceremonial gathering. This new Sun Dance occasionally allows speeches that promote the recognition of American patriotism like military services and other tribal governmental influences of progress. Sometimes there are speeches intended to inform about environmental issues but they fall short of relating that to the local cultural state or to community futures. There are no more mentioning of that Dineh resistance to relocation and coal mining, or to the great elders that once lead a traditional uprising and who were the original host of the first Sun Dance on Dineh lands. 
Could it be just Colonization and the new identity known as, Native American?
There are only a handful of Dineh at Big Mountain in this second decade of the 21st Century who still associates themselves with those old traditions of being in balance and in peace with nature and its eco-systems. But that could also be a Sun Dancer’s role in life among his or her nation, community. Unfortunately, it is not that way. The Indian world has changed and we have embraced almost every aspect of American culture even though we lead our own individual family circles and direct our prayers accordingly. However, it seems like that old teachings of the Sun Dance Way or the Way of being a Barrier of the Sacred Pipe are as forgotten as those Big Mountain elders whose Sun Dance was taken. Many Dancers and Barriers of the Pipe at this new Sun Dance will not have any clue about how such Sun Dance originated in Dineh country, and if they do know about the forgotten elders, they will simply shrug off the relocation resisters and consider them as remaining hostiles.

The original nations of the Sun Dance taught the seriousness of that way of carrying the sacred pipe and to practice that discipline in wearing the marks of your vow to offer your flesh to the Great Spirit. You were also the brave one who shall protect the old, the small children and your homelands. The pipe will always be carried on behalf of your family and secondly, your community or band group. One would live that Sun Dancer life because you would not shy away from aggression that may invade your lands or that exist within your village. Instead, you would take your Canupa (sacred pipe) and make prayers for those that pose ill feelings and attempt to commit harm to others or to you. There were many orders of virtues and morality that a so-called Sun Dancer must have. None of what use to be ingrained in Dancers’ mind in the past, as it was done in South Dakota when I first entered the Sun Dance circle, is taught in these new Dineh forms of worship.

What today’s Dineh Sun Dance families and participants do in terms of claiming for themselves as caring and considerate are merely acted out behaviors. Today’s ritual theme, “Walk in Beauty,” is only an expression just like pierced eye brows and lips. Elders are made to stand for an hour or more under the hot sun while waiting in the circle. At feast time, elders and children are ignored instead of being next in line after the Dancers. A few or a couple of natives might dress up traditional for the occasion of partaking of the Dance or that was just normal for being an Indian, but they would obviously be looked-down upon. Hip and gangsta clothing are the proper dress code. Dineh Sun Dance community does not care about trying to live in balance and in peace with their environment, and instead they ram their automobiles through vegetation, ant hills and destroy open undisturbed soils. They bring with them large amounts of American trash like Styro-foam and endless amounts of plastics. To most, recycling is not a means of respecting mother earth. There are no efforts in promoting healthy lifestyles but rather, there is a tremendous proportion of Americanization. Certain modern day ritual figure, the Sun Dancer or Dineh ritual practitioner, is much like his or her own community: Christian holidays are honored, federal colonial celebrations are never missed, giant corporations are worshipped like Walmart or Starbucks, and culture is that grand way of life, militarism.
It is definitely the macrocosm of the rest of the world, the causes of industrialization and the run away greed and global warming. And there are the wars and global poisoning of this mother planet to top it off. Who cares? A few of us do it seems. Ancient ritual ways, who cares about that? We know nothing about the ancient except something called dinosaurs or the ice age creatures. We are today but why should we care that we have endangered ourselves? All we need is now that which is a temporary satisfaction of false tastes of indulging, and we are blessed! “Healed!”
End Note:
The Big Mountain Survival Camp Sun Dance is no longer in existence. As one Sun Dancer of today asked, “The dust has finally settled, right, with the Elders who were trying to resist relocation?” I wondered who taught him that?! The traditional Dineh struggle to maintain that life of harmony and live in accordance to Great Spirits’ kingdom and that, which inspired them to resist colonization and genocide, are all but reduced and silenced. Standing with these Elders in resistance, since I was about 14, gives me some hope. I hope that in some hidden, ignored and lone corner of the Big Mountain lands, perhaps, there will be a continuation of the original chants of Earth and Universe.
© SheepDogMedia 2013, NBK   

1 comment:

Lynnette Adams said...

My uncle danced at this Sun was my first account when we went to support him at the time U was 12. You're right the ceremonies are not the same...the leaders are different too. Comprimised.