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  • I live about 15 miles away from where I go participate in ceremonies. The road is mostly just a cow trail in some places and you have to drive through the White River to get to the other side. It's an ancient crossing and I was even told that this is the place Chief Big Foot crossed on his way to Wounded Knee. It's also the local "party" place for people living around Kyle and other places nearby. On the south side of the river is this Cottonwood tree. It makes me really sad to see this tree (our sacred Tree of Life) being treated like this. The tree has been caught on fire, has axe marks on it, chain saws have hacked away on it, bullet holes, gang signs and spray paint all over it. The day I took this photo there were dozens of beer cans, whiskey bottles, dirty baby diapers, there was even a bottles stuck in the holes of the tree. About 10 to 20 miles away there were probably 3 Sundances going on at the same time. In that ceremony the Cottonwood tree is treated as a relative. We pray with it, sacrifice for our relatives, give offerings to it. I get mad at first. I use to be a party guy too. I remember not having any respect for anything. Those were hard times but, finally had enough and began my journey of becoming a relative and walking the Red Road.
    I see my relatives taking small steps to overcome the oppression that has been put on us. The return of our ceremonies and language and Native pride is good! But, there is also those that are still struggling. I had an old friend say once that " It took us 500 yrs. to get this fucked up.... and it might take 500 yrs. for us to heal".
    Maybe this tree is there to remind me of how far we still have to go. We have to begin to change sometime. I always ask myself "WHEN".
    Right now, as I write this, it's 90 degrees outside and I know this tree is probably still getting disrespected while still providing shade, and a place to sit for the People. I believe that this tree must still have hope too like so many of us who are trying to recover from the effects of our oppressors.
    I heard once...."It's easy to be Indian but, hard to be Lakota", guess that has all kinds of meanings.
    I just hope the tree survives.
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