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For the children in exile


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DLN Issues : The Selling of Indian Culture

Wambli Ho News: Special Report: Interview with Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse Following the Bear Butte Protection of Ceremonies Meeting on May 10, 2003

The below interview is from the WAMBL IHO website at

by Stephanie M. Schwartz, Volunteer Editor and Correspondent, Assisted by Gary Christensen, Jim Beard, and Paula Gruentzel, Volunteer Media/Audio Specialists

May 10, 2003,

Wambli Ho, Voice of the Eagles

Editor's Note: This interview was held Immediately following the Protection of Ceremony Meeting at Bear Butte, South Dakota on May 10, 2003. Wambli Ho News questions are indicated by WHN. Some questions and statements in this interview were interjected by a Lakota Tokala who had attended the Meeting. As such, they are labeled, Tokala.

WHN: Arvol, I'm with Wambli Ho, Voice of the Eagles and we would just like to make sure that we have all of the information correct so we don't misquote you.

WHN: On the decisions that were come to today, do I understand that the Lakota will not be signing the Declaration to amend the 1978 [American Indian] Freedom of Religion Act?

ALH: Yeah, most of the people didn't want to go that route and that's the way, what you heard. I can't say anymore. But me, I just have to stay with the people's decision too. So, I don't know, I can't speak for, I can say that's the way it is. But I know that what you heard is what it is. Because they said that they didn't want to sign anything involving the government. Yes, it is that way. They said that, like they mentioned, take 'em out. That's the fear that they have. And so they spoke, almost all of our people spoke about that, in fear of the government.

WHN: In terms of ceremony, what was the ultimate decision of everyone? Are non-registered Lakota going to be allowed to participate in the H'ocoka or are they only allowed to be in the prayer areas?

ALH: Well just...., we're still working with that because, like we have some people that are not registered either, enrolled. And I know that when we talked about this, that said that if they're not, they've got to prove their blood quantum and probably through their DNA testing too, blood test.

WHN: So anyone who doesn't test out with their paperwork or their DNA cannot enter the h'ocoka. Is that correct? I mean like go on the hill [Hanblecha, Vision Quest], for instance, or Sundance, even with a medicine man's training or permission or counseling?

ALH: That's just protection of ceremonies.

WHN: I'm not battling you Arvol. I'm just trying to make sure I have it clear in my mind. I understand everyone is clearly in favor of protection of ceremonies. And it seems to be unanimous that everyone wants Lakota to be leading the ceremonies and speaking Lakota.

ALH: Yeah

WHN: It's when it comes to the participation area that people get confused.

ALH: Yeah. And it is because you take the way that the newspaper said, now I can't remember who, like Indian Country or Lakota Journal, they said we blocked everybody from participating in ceremonies. But like in my statement, I said I give that responsibility to that medicine man. If they want to pray, they can pray with anybody they want to. Anybody can come to our ceremonies and pray.

WHN: And pray in a support capacity and it's the same at Sundance?

ALH: Yeah, pray in support.

WHN: But what about going on the hill?

ALH: See, when we say protection of ceremonies, that means all the 7 sacred rights. We can't leave one out.

Tokala: I think what she's trying to get at, okay, so the wasicu, I think what specifically what you were saying, that they can participate in the ceremony but they cannot run the ceremony because they don't have the h'ocoka. This is what you're saying?

ALH: Yeah

WHN: So they can Sundance?

ALH: No, they can't Sundance.

WHN: They can't Sundance.

ALH: No.

WHN: And they cannot go on the hill [Hanblecha, Vision Quest].

ALH: No.

WHN: That's where the confusion comes in because I think many people do not understand the terminology. They get confused. They don't understand the difference between supporting and Sundancing, the difference between praying in the arbor and being a Sundancer inside the arbor. It's very confusing.

ALH: Yeah. Because when we, like talking about the protection of ceremony, I'm just saying that once we open that door, like to the Sundancer or Vision Quest, then now all of a sudden they're saying now, "I was there so now I get to run a ceremony."

WHN: So that means you're cutting everyone out then from those ceremonies, from being....

ALH: They have to follow the protocol to our ceremonies.

WHN: I understand that.

ALH: And now the problem that we're having is the blood quantum. And I guess that's where, I guess, yeah, that's where it's at. I mean, we were having problems all along with tribes and trying to recognize people with blood quantum too. But I think this will have really set a foot down on the protection of who can run ceremonies or not.

WHN: Oh, I understand that everyone wants Lakota to run Lakota ceremonies

ALH: There's other, like what we're talking about is the 1st nations people here. And anybody can, like they been sharing ceremonies for a period of time, a long time. And what I said here was the Pipe has gone into other tribes or nations. They use that in their ceremonies.

WHN: I appreciate your time, Arvol. You understand where the confusion comes from people because they don't understand the difference between being a Sundancer and supporting at Sundance or supporting at Hanblecha and being the one on the hill. They don't understand the difference between praying and being inside the h'ocoka. They get confused. And I think there's a great deal of pain because the people who are in the middle of their commitment, say they have a 4 year commitment to Sundance or a 4 year commitment on the hill, and they don't know what to do.

ALH: We have people that went on a vision quest and all of a sudden they're runnin' workshops.

WHN: Well, I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about people who are actually doing things in a proper manner under the supervision of a Lakota. Where does that leave them? What do they do if they're in the middle of their 4 year commitment?

ALH: You know that I did say that I leave it up to that person to make that decision.

WHN: No, I didn't know.

Tokala: What she's saying is, okay it's the medicine man....

WHN: No....

Tokala: If he [the medicine man] wants the wasicu to dance or he wants to put him on the hill or they come to the other ceremonies, then that man can be responsible. Is that what you're saying?

ALH: Like I guess one of the ceremonies is the adoption ceremony, Hunka. But only the family can bring that person into the ceremony. And it's up to them, that family.

WHN: Ah, so if you are hunka, then you can do those things but if you are not.

ALH: Well no. I don't know. I just ah....

WHN: Am I being difficult?

ALH: Yeah.

WHN: I'm not trying to be, I'm really not. I'm just trying to make it clear because there's been so many different things said and I want to make sure we get it right. I don't want to go to print with something that then, you know, we have to turn and say, "Oh, this was wrong."

ALH: Yeah. They can't Sundance or Vision Quest or all the 7 sacred rights.

WHN: But they can support at Sundance.

ALH: Yeah

WHN: They can support at Hanblecha [Vision Quest].

ALH: Yeah.

WHN: They can go to and participate in an Inipi Ceremony led by a Lakota?

ALH: Yeah. They can as long as that [Lakota] person doesn't say no.

Tokala: Are people with true intent, not looking for power or to be an instant medicine man per se, then, are these people allowed to pray with the Lakota?

ALH: Like it's up to you now. Like if you want to come to him, we can't, like the Elders said, we can't hold anybody out from praying with us. But it's the ceremonies that....

WHN: Praying is different than being a Sundancer?

ALH: Yeah. We're just talking about the altar itself.

WHN: So even if you are of good intent, you cannot Sundance and you cannot Hanblecha?

ALH: Yeah.

WHN: No matter what unless you have the blood test or are adopted by Hunka Ceremony?

ALH: See, if you're adopted by hunka, it still it doesn't matter. You still can't Sundance

WHN: You still can't Sundance even if you're Hunka? Oh, I didn't understand that.

ALH: Yeah. Now I guess, like people that do adopt non-Indians, they know their boundaries too. So we leave it up to them.

Tokala: ah, pilamiya

WHN: Thank you Arvol. We sincerely appreciate your time here.

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