Reclaim Our Truth: Exploitation of Native Tribes

By Kelly Marie King

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
There are two versions of Native Culture in America today. 
Pan-Indian, which is an Americanized version of Native America, it is also the most popular and widespread. Pow Wows are an excellent example of this. 
Pow wow’s are not sacred. Tribes had their individual ceremonies of dance which expressed different events within each tribe. Todays Pow Wows are just a by-product of everyone who lost their culture. They were thrown into the same mainstream pot and stirred by the hand of stereotype, trying to come up with an answer as to “Who they Are.” But it’s not a sacred thing. 
Traditional is the other, and it is very different from the pan-Indian or pow wow Indian. Traditional(s) don’t believe in the mainstream pow wow, they don’t follow it. There are no traditional ceremonies that can be affixed to one tribal nation at a pow wow. 
Dances weren’t just meant for the tribal ceremony but for celebration, a way in which everyone had an opportunity to meet other people. To socialize.
What we are trying to point out in this community, and Standing Rock is a good example of this, is that people take advantage of others while using events to exploit for their own gain. 
We have witnessed people from Eugene Oregon raising money in North Dakota that weren’t taking into consideration what and how their fundraising and exploitation would affect the tribal members back there on Standing Rock Reservation. 
The reservations exist in extreme poverty. The communities suffer from the symptoms of a ghetto culture. Extremely young (12-year-old) mothers, economic deprivation, domestic violence, molestation, rape, the list goes on and on… Before anyone heard of Standing Rock there was the ghetto of Standing Rock, and within this ghetto, corruption festered.
What happened with the Standing Rock protest has become par for the course. We can all see in its aftermath that a lot of money was raised with no purpose, no accountability, no checks, and balances. It was, to many natives who set up soapboxes and preached, an opportunity to push a hustle. Some made a couple hundred bucks while others hustled millions.
And now, today in the midwest, another disaster has happened. The snow storms hit the Great Plains Tribal communities hard. Flooding and devastation have destroyed homes and livelihoods on and off-reservation. 
What we’re seeing while working with Great Plains Tribes as advisers on issues such as this is the fallout from the exploiters of these disasters. And like the issues that were fabricated at NoDapl such as multiple Gofundme campaigns, PayPal fly by night non-profits, calls to donate… we have found that there is a pattern in the way our tribes are exploited while legitimate organizations are overlooked. 
All of these individuals start off by throwing their hustle on crowdfunding sites exploiting so vigorously that, more than 90% of the time, NONE of the help that good-natured people intend to give to assist these tribes ever gets to the tribe to fund the immediate tribal need.  
Being born and raised on the reservation gives us a good perspective rather than looking at it from a distance. We could see that a lot of the donations were, in the end, going to someone’s drug and or alcohol addiction, gambling habits or meth use. 
The experienced reservation and off-reservation hustlers see an opportunity with technology and the world in which we live in today to perpetuate a scam. They see that good-natured people feel some sort of guilt and pity for the “Plight of the American Indian” which compels these good-natured people to believe any native or “claiming to be Native American” person who is begging on crowdfunding sites for monetary donations.
The internet gave access to GoFundMe, PayPal, and other crowdfunding sites which allowed ANYONE who just looks native, or in reality, somebody who probably prior-to NoDapl, was a child sex offender,  alcoholic, or meth addict to develop a hustle that rivals the Bernie Madoffs of the world.
When we were tasked with giving the Great Plains Tribal Chairmans Association’s Chairman a report on the Standing Rock Protest Camps we witnessed the worst of and some of the best that these camps represented. But it is difficult to embellish the good deeds from the predominate evil that exploited those who attended or donated to the protest. When a registered sex offender is at the camp searching teenage or prepubescent girls onsite for no reason at all then there is something invariably wrong with the gathering. 
We’ve reported on convicted drug dealers who violently bullied their way into the camps and began to sell donated items while acting like leaders, talking for the Native Nations and interviewing on the news. When the protest camps broke up, they loaded up donated items and sold them to the local pawnshops. All while selling meth within the camps.
What we want to expose, what we want everyone to see, is the truth. This truth is that there are legitimate organizations that do help, like the Boys n Girls Club of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, The Santee Sioux Tribal Chairmans Office, of Nebraska, The Oglala Sioux Tribe Treasurers Office, The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairmans Office just to name a few.
These tribes haven’t just been hit by an environmental disaster, they’ve been inundated with all the fraudulent crowdfunding sites that came out after the flood. Individuals are fundraising from all over the place. Ironically it is the individuals who have had experience at Standing Rock protest who started crowdfunding sites as soon as the storm hit. 
The damages to the reservation communities and their way of life as well as to the farmers and ranchers who lease tribal lands are in the tens of millions. Yet you have people in this community and across the country who can claim lineal-descendancy to some whatever tribe, having never lived on the reservation, suddenly become the experts and spokespersons for an area which they’ve never lived or even know what impoverished reservation life is like. 
These people always have an excuse to use, they usually say “I should be enrolled but I’m not…”  or “I am Cherokee…” to the good-natured people who care and want to help but are clueless about Indian country.
These good-natured people end up giving some of their savings, some of their paychecks, some of their SSI disability monies, or their last dollar to these con men and women, and the people who give willingly to help the tribal people or non-native people have no idea that they are being hustled.
We want to bring to light the fact that this is going on and we call this an Electric Pow Wow because the word Pow Wow is a stereotype of an “Indian” that was created on Hollywood film set. It was created by the movie star’s who said, “HEY!! these Indians are having a Pow Wow!!” you know, you hear it every day even by politicians, “Hey! lets have a pow wow!”,” They’ve wandered off the reservation!”,” They’ve gone native!”, “All this tribalism in politics must end!”, or “They’ve gone savage!!” 
What we want to address is where good people in this great community should be putting their resources at, who are our neighbors and who want to help tribes and tribal people. We want to show them that there are legitimate places where they can put their help. 
We are enrolled tribal members of the Great Plains Tribes. We just happen to have moved here to Eugene Oregon and seen that this community does have a big heart. They give to causes that affect our tribes back home in South Dakota. We are in no position to speak for the tribes here in Oregon, and we haven’t really seen any causes explicitly directed at the tribes of Oregon. What we have seen though are the many campaigns and gatherings for our Lakota tribes back home, and we feel we have the right to expose this truth. 
As in all communities, there are bad people in every community. But if the community is in a perpetual state of extreme poverty and despair everyone is just trying to make to the next day. 
There are no perfect American, white picket fence families on every corner on the reservations. Unfortunately, the classic mom and dad with kids environment doesn’t exist. 
On several reservations back home, there are entire HUD housing complexes condemned due to contamination from meth use. The role of the tribal government is to administer services to improve these circumstances. 
It’s not the monetary value of poverty that’s hurting the people, its the mental issue with being poor. On these reservations, poverty is a mental issue. You can dump millions of dollars into the community, it is not going to help… 
Your best option is to fund the service programs that are mandated and regulated by federal law and are overseen by tribal laws and ordinances. Every tribe in the United States receives financial allocations from the United States Government. 
As elected officials, Tribal Council Representatives are bound by their positions to administer these funds so when somebody donates to the tribe, and these funds are deposited into a tribal account there is a better chance of these funds will be used for their intended purpose. 
It would seem that this would be the best option to help a tribe in need rather than giving your money to a person who spews ANY Indian name combination like star horse or morning wolf with a GoFundMe picture wearing braids and a choker! 
These individuals are not the people who influence how the tribes are brought out of poverty. These people are just the by-product of Poverty just like the hustler on the street who says “HEY! wanna buy a watch?”.  That’s exactly what it is. 
Multiple snake oil salesman are hustling on the reservations, setting up these goFRAUDme accounts and it’s going on right now!! And when you question them about where your donations are going to they’ll say, “Well you’re white…” or “You’re a hater” or “You’re racist” or “You’re against us” or “You’re a FED”, after you’ve given them 4 or 5 thousand dollars over a period of months. These are the red flags that you need to watch out for.
We are NATIONS Media/ NATIONS Newsmagazine, and we help a lot of these tribes get past these issues so that they can adequately empower their supporters in assisting their members who are genuinely in need.
We help Tribal Nations redirect their media and their agendas so that assistance, political or financial,  is applied where it does the most good. 
We are not here to cause a Racial Issue we are here to bring out a Racial Issue. To confront it and address it. Most of these political, environmental, and impactful issues that we see being addressed and advocated for here in Eugene are basically for our tribes back home in South Dakota. As enrolled tribal members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe who have relatives living on all the reservations in South Dakota we feel we have the right to say “Enough is enough…” 
Yeah, we aren’t from here, and we don’t claim to be the experts in this States Native Tribes. But we are experts in our own people back home. We see Native and Non-Native people here in Eugene raising money for our tribes back home who aren’t from South Dakota and aren’t enrolled in any of our South Dakota tribes. We have stood by and watched this little clique of Indians here in Eugene become experts in our Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Tribes and yet have no relationship with the elected tribal leadership of the Great Plains.
Some of the most judgemental people are our own people because they live in this pot of Pan Indian-ism called historical trauma…. you have Navajos dressing like Plains Indians, you have people out here wearing bustles that belong to Plain’s Indians, the old identities of these tribes have been lost and so they adopt our great Lakota Nations look, a look born in movies.
The Pan Indian embraces the stereotypes of mainstream America who compete for money, who compete for recognition, who compete for princesses, all of these European traditions.
What we are addressing is the fact that none of this is traditional. A Pow wow, what we call a WACIPI is a celebration of a victory over killing the enemy, victory over the cold winter, changing of seasons, or celebration of summer, a celebration of falling in love, that’s it.
Pow wows exist today to anoint a monarchy, to give a $10,000.00 reward, or honoring people for doing nothing more than showing up, that’s as American as a treaty. 
It is a byproduct of made in America culture which causes indian people to be so blinded by what a pow wow represents to them that they associate mediocrity with sacredness. It appeals to their ego rather than their humility.
The feathers are sacred, the rattle’s, the drum’s,  the medicine roots are sacred, the plants are sacred. THOSE things have value, NOT a princess crown or whether or not you win $5000.00 at pow wow. 
We as native people are a by-product of our history. We were assimilated, stripped of our culture, our language,  our understanding, our gods, our religions we were stripped of all that makes us human beings of this world. Our tribes were rounded up, most of us were taken to Oklahoma and they said, “Well you guys can dance as long as you don’t act up!”  and that’s where pow wow comes from. 
In the bible belt where all these religious fanatics exist the Indian people started mimicking their oppressors and started anointing a queen. And that’s where the beauty contest came from. You see it in the south, all in the movies, little girls participating in these pageants about being a princess. 
Our Native people don’t have a Monarchy, we had a Meritocracy. We don’t pass on the headdress or the leadership to our sons because under our traditional customs everyone had to earn their own way, everyone has to be responsible for their own actions and everyone has to earn their place. If the father is a great man and warrior and he’s not a coward and he’s fearless and he has the scars and the wounds and the scalps to prove it, he is recognized as a leader but if his son is a coward, why would you make his son a Chief? Our people didn’t recognize leaders through royalty, we did so through bravery.
So you see our people understood generations ago that even though you’re a son of a leader you’re not allowed to be a leader, you have to earn that for yourself. You have to find your steps in life and figure out your own path, win your own battles, get your own scalps, kill your own enemies and earn your own place both Man and Woman because if you didn’t you’re not worthy of anything and that’s our custom.
And these powwows offset the truth and reality of exactly what our customs are by whitewashing them in the bleach of American society. The name powwow itself is just the Branding for the Bleach which strips the color out of the fabric of our people, and that’s what we are here to talk about.

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