(Jacqueline Keeler of TiyospayeNow, member of the Navajo tribe and whose father is Yankton Nakota Sioux, just posted a comment to my thread on the impeachment of Cecilia Fire Thunder linking to an article she has written and posted to her blog entitled Fire Thunder Impeachment and the Rights of Women. I have read the article and it is a stunning piece of work. I urge you to read the entire article; it is well worth your time and is one of the most thoughtful, insightful, and powerfully moving articles I’ve read in some time. Here are a few excerpts of this amazing piece. Thank you so much, Jacqueline for sending this link to me.)
by Jacqueline Keeler
…But, really, it was up on the hill, fasting that I came to understand this way of thinking. Seeking a vision of my own, I came to understand how hard won these insights were and how beloved the society was to those that had lost it. It was, as my great-aunt said, “A way of life that worked.” And I would add, for them. Because each generation must find their own way. Their own traditions that work for them at this time. Our elders wanted us to do it that way. We cannot as modern Lakota/Dakota/Nakota or even Dine or American women be constrained by them. We can be informed by them, even inspired, but we must make decisions for our bodies, our future, our well-being that are sensible and that show that we value ourselves. We, as women, are more than our biology, we are more than just baby machines for a Lakota Nation, a Dakota Nation, or a Nakota Nation. We are productive members of society, we are the ones earning the college degrees, holding the jobs and are the ones by and large, that must raise the children, earn wages to buy them shoes and pay for their futures. We must be the ones to be able to make these choices concerning our bodies.
It may be tradition to do this or that, according to this person or that, but we must look clearly at what future we are dealing our young women when we assign them this lot so early in life. Especially, if that child is from rape or incest. Women are capable of knowing whether they have the resources to give a child a good life. Unless, they are able to make that choice the continued cycle of grinding poverty will continue to spiral out of control. This is not about killing babies, but about growing strong families that have the resources to take care of each other. If we speak of a tradition that values life, we must also speak of a tradition that valued self-control. Lakota/Dakota/Nakota men were taught to control their sexual drive. Traditionally, a man was not a man unless he could control himself. A couple that had children closer than four years apart faced deep shame in the community. It was regarded and called “killing the child”. Children were supposed to be spaced four years apart, any less and you endangered the older child. It was a shame that stayed with the “killed child” for the rest of their lives. People who knew would look upon that child with pity. Even in old age it would be remembered how the parents had disrespected their elder child.
So, when we talk about tradition, we must realize that it cannot work in bits and pieces. And that even if wholly intact, it may not work at all today. If women must not commit abortion, then Lakota men on the reservation must practice this traditional form of manhood and have strict control of their sexual drive. The reason women on the reservation face some of the highest rates of rape and incest in the country is because men, obviously, do not practice this. One gender cannot pay the price for a broken society.