So the history behind this is that you know, when, like I said, when we were truly free, you know, we were free to live as the creator helped us to live. We have land, you know, all the land to sustain ourselves with, with our food that was naturally grown, you know, that was truly organic, as they say. And then we had our bison, you know, the animals that that provided, you know, their life for us, so that we could live. And when this was all, you know, in place for us, then we were living as we always think, like, we were truly living in a way that was ecologically sound, scientifically sound, spiritually sound. And that was disrupted. So our life ways were disrupted after first contact, after colonization, you know, after all of these federal Indian policies that came into place, when we, you know, when we were forcibly removed from our lands, you know, we were disconnected from the land that sustained us. And then we were, you know, all herded onto reservations, which, you know, were just a fraction of the area that we lived on before. So now that that happened, no longer were we able to sustain ourselves in a healthy manner that we had before. So all these things, the federal Indian policies that impacted us, you know, had to do with restriction all the time, and containment, political containment. So when we were contained on these reservations, which were concentration camps, then we were cut off from everything our sources, you know, and left us with very little, you know, to help us to survive.
And one of the things that happened was our ceremonial life way was also disrupted, you know, because the United States government saw fit to outlaw our spiritual practices, our spiritual way of life, the one main way that sustained us, you know, throughout eternity, put it that way, you know, time immemorial.
And so for, I would say, nearly 100 years, you know, that our, to be able to go to sweat lodge was illegal, to be able to practice our ceremonies was illegal, to be able to sing our songs, and to dance as we had done before, you know, was also outlawed. And we had to figure out how to be able to sustain ourselves, but the government and you know, all the people that came here, you know, were forcing us all the time to assimilate, and to become Christianized, you know, so that, then we would become good American citizens. But that didn’t even happen until the 30s, 1930s, 1934. So in all of this, you know, what’s beneath, you know, what, what looks like, now looks like the simple story like, “Oh, those Indians are mad,” you know, it’s always like, “Those Indians are mad again. Jeez, they should get over it,” you know, and we always hear that over and over. And it’s like, really. That’s all you can say, get over it? Do we tell you to just get over 9/11? Do you hear us say that to you? No, we have compassion for you. So, you know, it makes me mad when people don’t understand the impacts of why, you know why this is so traumatizing, so upsetting for us. And it’s because, again, you know, here we are, you know, trying our best to survive here in the urban areas. You know, we do everything, like what everybody else is doing here. You know, we’re working, we’re going to school, we’re becoming educated, you know, we’re taking care of our families, we’re healing. You know, we don’t drink. You know, we don’t smoke. We don’t, you know, on and on all of these things that we no longer do, because those things that were inflicted upon us, you know, that created the kinds of addictions that our people have died from. That’s what we’re healing from. And it wasn’t until 1978 that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed through Congress. And what that meant was now we could practice our native spiritual ceremonies without fear of going to prison. So in a country that was created, and based on, freedom of religion, as they say, the only people that were denied that freedom were Native people, the first peoples of this continent. So yes, we are, you know, this was traumatizing for us to hear that you know, one of our sweat lodges here in town, you know, in Lincoln, of two of them that we have, one is endangered now, and will be impacted by what’s going to take place. So here we are, you know, struggling, and it’s not like any of us are rich, because, you know, we have been systematically impoverished again, you know, because of loss of land, you know, loss of our, our way of life. And here, we are still struggling to be alive. And we’re here, you know, that’s what our statement was about. We are here we are strong. And here we shall remain, meaning that we, as Native people are here on this land still, to this day. We were not killed off, like a lot of people think, you know, “They’re no longer here, they’re dead.” You know, that’s not the case. We’re very much alive. We’re here. And that’s our statement that we made, was all about, you know, who we are; who we are as Native people, why we still believe the way we do, why we resist, because we have a way of life. We know who we are. And we want to continue to practice our ways.