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Dakota Kinship & Trump's America of "Carnage"


Ihanktonwan (Yankton) Family 
My 16-year old daughter was pretty unhappy today about Trump's inauguration. She was supposed to go to a rally with her friends but became overwhelmed and despondant. I realized I couldn't make her happy by simply a heart-to-heart about what Trump's election means to our Native American family. In fact, to anyone American who is not white. So, instead I decided to read her a chapter from my great-great Aunt Ella Deloria's book "Speaking of Indians." The title of the chapter is "A Scheme of Life that Worked: Kinship's Role in Dakota Life." The book was published in 1944 but I feel it still held truths that would be relevant today in 2017.

My great-great Aunt Ella Deloria
My aunt opens the chapter saying, "All peoples who live communally must first find some way to get along harmoniously and with a measure of decency and order. This is a universal problem...The Dakota people found a way: it was through kinship."

The beauty of this way of life she recounts, this vision of how humans can—and did—live together had a healing effect on my daughter. She was laughing and smiling by the end of the chapter. (My aunt ends the chapter with a funny joke.) And I was thankful to my aunt once again. Her words remembering what we once were, 'Odakota' as she calls it, drove away the despair this society had filled my daughter with, driven as it is by division and polarizing self-interest.

Ihanktonwan Camp in 1882
I remember asking my Uncle Vine Deloria if Aunt Ella told him everything she knew (I had heard there were things she did not share with the younger generations) and he told me that she had not. He said some of these things were just too precious to be passed on in some malformed way and losing our way of life, which our elders loved so much, was so painful that passing it on in some twisted form, well, they could not bear that. I thought about this for a long time and several years later, I came to the conclusion that our ancestors had confidence we could find our way back again. That we could rediscover this "way of life that works" for us today. Coming together, as we have at Standing Rock, bringing the bits together each of our families still have of the previous society that once filled our ancestors with such joy, is the start. And it will grow. Even under Trump. It will not be denied.
Jacqueline Keeler
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