Part Three: RAD
By Levy Eagle Feather Sr.
The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more venues to express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. Times such as these seem to illuminate the classic expressions of eternal truths and great wisdom seems to stand out in the crowd of ordinary maxims... -Vine Deloria Jr. (preface to John Neihardt's book "Black Elk Speaks")
Reality can be such a bastard sometimes! Just when you think you got it nailed, something happens and it all slips away. Good fortune, its second cousin, seems to operate along these same lines! You work hard, you’re ready, waiting, arms wide open and everything, then something happens blowing it all away. Does this sound familiar? Some people would say a person who thinks this way is just, “waiting for the axe to fall”. And if you think this way, too much of the time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In medical terms, they say someone who thinks like this or sees life in this way is showing signs of paranoia. Meaning that someone is showing “a tendency….. toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”1 In some situations, this kind of thinking can develop into a more serious condition known as schizophrenia. Noah Webster says schizophrenia is “a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior —called also dementia praecox — compare paranoid schizophrenia”2
In the two previous installments on RAD. I said my piece about certain spiritually abusive things that have happened to us American Indian people since western society brought its socially dysfunctional ways to our land. All of these happenings have been inducing an isolating oriented trauma on our people for several generations now. These things in particular, were the wars, reservations, boarding schools, relocation programs and adoption. Things which have worked in harmony, one after the other or simultaneously together, pretty much shattering and destroying the ways in which the beauty and magnificence of who we are as human beings can be fully realized, understood and enjoyed. I would say at this point RAD was intentioned and paranoid and schizophrenic type thinking and behavior are to be expected.
The people who started these practices against us, in the past and continue to practice them today, have gotten away with it and continue making money off of doing it. Maybe not directly anymore, but indirectly still and that’s as simple and as good for them, as it can get! It indicates success, at least to them, of their westernized way of doing things.
By agitating and manipulating the destruction of others, confiscation of birthrights and through carefully and systemically applied abuses. These people have been capable, down through history of drastically changing tribal realities. Changing realities from systems which were built on self-reliance and were constructed for self-perpetuation to a single system which is built and designed solely for controlling and perpetuating the continued self-destruction of tribalism for profit. In short using you, your relatives and your friends to educate and labor towards your own self-destruction.
If you think I'm wrong or misguided in my way of thinking. Look and see who has all the land, all the say and continues smiling all the way to the bank. We’ll call this group the top layer of western society. It is a top down system and we’ll call this layer the instigators or the 1% er’s of western society. The shot callers so to speak. There are other layers to this society. Here in America we know them as the middle, the lower, and the indigent classes. But for now I want to draw your attention to something else.
A simple fact! Obscured quite possibly by our own cultural amnesia of our individual ancestral roots is the fact we knew this was coming. A little less than 150 years ago my people, the Lakota, still understood our purpose. We knew and understood what sacrificing of ourselves was about. Of course, we still lived in Tipi’s on the wide open prairie and still hunted buffalo and much more. But we also lived in a civilized manner as civilized human beings then too. We knew and understood how fragile yet necessary keeping good relationships were to our health and wellbeing. We also knew and understood the threat and danger western thought and living posed to our health and well-being. The inevitability of this threat coming to fruition came through in dreams and visions of some of our great leaders of that time. Black Elk, a healer, was one of those leaders.
Black Elk was born in 1863 and lived until 1950. He was born well before the time of either the Sioux or the American Indian. He was born and lived as a Lakota. He thought, reasoned and behaved according to the Lakota way of being. He lived his life, perceiving reality understanding it and speaking of it in the language from within the worldview of his time. The Lakota worldview.
In the summer of 1872 at the age of nine Black Elk experienced a vision. In 1930, through a translator, Black Elk related his experience to John Neihardt, who in turn wrote about it as, “The Great Vision" in his book 'Black Elk Speaks". Whether this vision came to him through intuition, spiritual insight, or from hearing reports of what was befalling our Dakota relatives to the east, Black Elk's vision was spot on. Experienced well before the reservation, boarding school, relocation, and adoption eras of our people it was a foretelling. A vision foretelling the, as yet, unforeseen problems of becoming westernized. Something that we now experience on the regular, day in and day out.
The following is an excerpt from this "The Great Vision:"
And as we went the voice behind me said: "Behold a good nation walking in a sacred manner in a good land!"
Then I looked up and saw that there were four ascents ahead, and these were generations I should know. Now we were on the first ascent and all the land was green. And as the long line climbed, all the old men and women raised their hands, palms forward, to the far sky yonder and began to croon a song together, and the sky ahead was filled with clouds of baby faces.
When we came to the end of the first ascent we camped in the sacred circle as before, and in the center stood the holy tree, and still about us was all green.
Then we started on the second ascent, marching as before, and still the land was green, but it was getting steeper. And as I looked ahead, the people changed into elks and bison and all four footed beings and even into fowls, all walking in a sacred manner on the good red road together. And I myself was a spotted eagle soaring over them. But just before we stopped to camp at the end of that ascent, all the marching animals grew restless and afraid that they were not what they had been, and began sending forth voices of trouble, calling to their chiefs. And when they camped at the end of that ascent, I looked down and saw that leaves were falling from the holy tree.
And the Voice said: "Behold your nation, and remember what your Six Grandfathers gave you, for thenceforth your people walk in difficulties."
Then the people broke camp again, and saw the black road before them towards where the sun goes down, and black clouds coming yonder; and they did not want to go but could not stay. And as they walked the third ascent, all the animals and fowls that were the people ran here and there, for each one seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting.6
And when we reached the summit of the third ascent and camped, the nation's hoop was broken like a ring of smoke that spreads and scatters and the holy tree seemed dying and all its birds were gone. And when I looked ahead I saw that the fourth ascent would be terrible.
Then when the people were getting ready to begin the fourth ascent, the Voice spoke like someone weeping, and it said: "Look there upon your nation." And when I looked down, the people were all changed back to human, and they were thin, their faces sharp, for they were starving. Their ponies were only hide and bones and the holy tree was gone.
6 At this point Black Elk remarked: "I think we are near that place now, and I am afraid something very bad is going to happen all over the world." He cannot read and knows nothing of world affairs.
Adoption causes RAD and RAD is a more normal reaction to adoption than not. Adoption in western society, especially the transracial adoption of American Indian children was and is an unnecessary and unnatural situation. Historically, the process of taking American Indian children away from families who birth them, love them, view them and understood them as their future causes immense suffering and loss that reverberates and is felt throughout each one of our nations. It broke our sacred hoop keeping the beauty of life just out of arms reach or so it seems.
The destruction didn’t happen overnight of course. Each and every one of these abuses aimed at destroying us was applied incrementally, generation after generation. Each and every one of them has done a pretty good job at what it was intended, and it isn’t over yet. It happened, some of it is still happening, and there isn't a whole lot we can do to stop it at this point. At least, I don't know of anything I can do that will.
This is not the reason I started writing this article, however. To talk endlessly about the things I cannot do or cannot change. The past is the past and there isn’t much we can do about that. Blaming won’t help, blaming ourselves and each other definitely won’t, but by being responsible and holding ourselves and each other accountable for recourse and recovery can.
As depressing as these three articles have all sounded, it was! I now prefer to spend the majority of my time working against the effects it has had on the hearts and minds of our people. So this will be the last I will have to say about all of that.
I’ve been working against the negative effects our past has had on us for the past 35 years or so. Both personally in my own life and the lives of my family members. As well as, professionally and as a volunteer within the American Indian community. Whenever the opportunity arose wherever it was I might have happened to be living at the time. Most recently I was able to offer my programming abroad, as a side job, amongst the folk in Germany, whenever the opportunity would arise.
I started out slowly of course way back then with baby steps. Thirty-five years have gone by and I seem to be walking much better now. On good days I think I might even be able to walk and chew gum. We shall see.
In the next series of blog articles I will be breaking away from the past.
This series I’ll call Recourse and Repatriation, I will touch a little more on Black Elk’s vision and segue into a more personal accounting of my own experience of recourse and recovery from RAD. As well as offer my personal understanding of cultural repatriation and spiritual re-acculturation Lakota style.
I am an American Indian, rightly enough. A card carrying one for all it might mean and for whatever purposes to which it matters. And I was adopted at one time. So be it. None of this has ever changed the facts of what really matters. I am a human being and I belong and so do my people. We belong to Mother Earth right here on this the North American continent. Until next time I wish you all enough. Hau Mitakuye Oyasin!