Rez Dogs – What does Rez Dogs mean to a Lakota

a A tragic event occurred in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, where we live, a few years ago: the death of an 8-year-old girl. She was viciously attacked and killed by a pack of dogs while she was sledding a few steps from her house. In response, Lakota tribal officials collected stray dogs from the communities and killed them.

sAfter a similar incident occurred in 2015 in the nearby Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, a 49-year-old woman was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs. Once again, the stray dogs were picked up and taken away to be housed.

Joogle searches grab a lot of US news headlines about dog attacks, which are often recorded in tribal media and community newspapers: “Bull attacks little boy”; “A dog attacks an 84-year-old woman” – headline after title. Pit bulls often monopolize the negative press, but they aren’t necessarily the problem for us at Pine Ridge Reservation. This does not appear to be a specific breed (or hybrid mix) but the problem is more than the phenomenon of organizing the animals into groups.

TEruptions of many types are often very common for many of the people who reside in our reserve. Endemic poverty creates endless problems for members of society, from bags of violent dogs to the spread of alcoholism and diabetes. The dismal statistics paint our reservation as “Third World” here in the United States. The numbers are hard to pin down, but they are always dismal: unemployment is sometimes listed as high as 85-95 percent, and more than 90 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line. In this environment, caring for dogs or other animals is often at the bottom of the priority list.

BThis story is not intended to be one of the always-existing novels of poverty you are likely to encounter, of the kind often considered “poverty porn” to entertain the basic instincts of a more privileged audience.

Reese’s puppies are usually left out in the wild and free – not treated like indoor pets. Richard Myers

IRather, this is a story about the deep and profound cultural meaning that dogs had for the Lakota people, and the tragic fall of dogs in our society. As members of the Lakota tribe with a background in anthropology, we can see that this history is often misunderstood or overlooked.

IIn our culture, people don’t usually own animals like other cultures have pets; The animals are left wild, and they may choose to go into a home to offer protection, companionship, or even to become part of a community. People feed and take care of dogs, but dogs still live outside and are free to be their own creatures. This relationship differs from that in which a human being is the master or owner of an animal considered property. Instead, dog and people provide service to one another in a reciprocal relationship of reciprocity and respect.

BClearly, something has gone wrong with this system; Things are out of balance. How did we, as a tribal people, get to this point – a place where members of our community are killed by our fellow “kin”, the dog, and where dogs are now seen as “monsters” and must be killed for our protection?

DrOogs, just like the American Indians, had a long and complex history before the invasion Wasicu (White settlers, or literally, the one who takes the fat*) and the so-called modernity of North America. Dogs have been an integral part of Indian plains history.

IIn the Lakota language, there is no hierarchy of animals. All animals belong, including humans, horses, dogs, etc. oysters (a group of animals/living things). none of these oysters They control others, and co-exist on the planet within nature. The idea of ​​humans being at the top of the gamut, superior to other animals, is colonial.

hTheoretically, in the Lakota culture, the dog (sonka, pronounced sh-un’-ka) as a sacred object that protects the camps and provides various sacred rituals. The dog also helped the people, before the horse, by carrying firewood, watching camp, or pulling a tipi in what is known as a travois. A dog’s thoughts and spiritual relationships are complex and often specific to different healers in communities.

TheIt has been observed that the Akota sometimes eats dogs, or more specifically, puppies. “She gave herself to us as medicine,” says one Ernst, and that’s why we have kettle dances. uni (grandmothers). Much like the concept of kosher in Jewish culture, food in Lakota culture requires a ceremony to maintain a proper balance within the natural world. There is a healing property associated with eating puppies. All food is ‘medicine’ to some degree and serves a purpose that is often intertwined with a story.

This early 20th century illustration shows a Native American community using travois dogs to help carry goods.
This early 20th century illustration shows a Native American community using travois dogs to help carry goods. Clark Whistler / Wikimedia Commons

THere is a story in Lakota culture about an old lady and Sinkbala (Puppy) We are all told that we grew up. The old lady wears – a craft that uses porcupine feathers to decorate various things – buffalo skin, and it is said that when she finishes hiding, the world will end. Fortunately, the Sinkbala Is there to help because, as the story goes, when the lady gets up to take care of something else, the pup cancels some of her work, giving people more time on the planet. This story is documented and popular, and it is not one of the many stories that are still in the possession of others tiyóšpaye (Extended families).

eLadders who speak our language know that there are more stories that have deeper meanings. It is said that dogs understand the Lakota language and that the many stories that are there are supposed to be spoken and intertwined with specific contexts by specific families.

TStories that embody traditional cultural knowledge – about dogs and so much more – have been eroded by modern life, including modern struggles with alcoholism, drug abuse, health disparities and language loss.

hAstorians often write that when Wasicu Horses arrived on the plains in the 18th century, and dogs lost their place in our societies. In the Lakota language, the word dog –sonka-Used and modified to describe horses –Sonka WakanAnother kind of sacred dog. Although the horse had overshadowed the dog, he was still a priceless relative.

Today rez dogs roam tribal communities in search of food and shelter. Some of these rez dogs are well cared for and have a place to call home. They aren’t seen as “pets” in the middle-class American sense, but that doesn’t mean people don’t show them respect or love.

aHowever, they are neglected, creating a situation in which dogs starve and become violent. Last winter, Richie saw from his window a pack of dogs tearing up another dog for food. Dogs, like people, are often hungry and do not get the comforts of an indoor dog that falls into the pet category.

Treating a pet like a child requires a lot of resources – resources that not many people on reservations have.

TOh untrained eye, all of these dogs may look lost or neglected. But some just meander throughout life’s journey. in powwow, or Wasabi (They dance), and the dogs roam as people do, inspecting the spectacle, visiting relatives, and seeing what the vendors offer; They seem to know not to go to the dance floor out of respect.

TheLike the slang term “rat-hood,” a pejorative term used to refer to teenagers in low-income areas, “reas dog” can now also refer to a younger person found in a tribal society that, to outsiders, they seem to be walking through. Life without purpose. This highlights areas of misunderstanding or disagreement between cultures.

MMeanwhile, dogs’ place in mainstream American culture has also changed, becoming more like family members who need and deserve pampering. In a 2011 online survey of 1,000 North Americans conducted by Kelton Research, 60 percent of respondents said their dogs did, according to Psychology Today An article about the study, “Currently more important in their lives than the dogs they had during their childhood days.” This shift has made the contrast between mainstream American pets and Reese’s dogs even more stark.

IIt takes a huge amount of resources to treat a pet like a child—resources that not many people on reservations have. In the Pine Ridge Preserve, many of our fellow tribesmen do not have enough to feed their children. Caring for a dog as a child is often economically impossible. Veterinary services may be unavailable, even if people are able to pay for these services.

sine Ridge Reservation community members and volunteers from across South Dakota founded the Oglala Pet Project (OPP) in 2011 to rescue abandoned, unwanted, and abused animals, especially dogs. The OPP also works to provide medical services for confined animals: animal clinics usually come once a year, and provide vaccinations and spay/neuter services to communities. The Oglala Sioux Tribe also enacted Braeden’s Law Oglala Sioux Tribal Code 06-16, named after a boy who was unfortunately attacked by a pit bull in 2006, and banned certain breeds of dogs from communal living spaces.

A Lakota man plays with a dog at a protest camp against the Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota in 2014.
A Lakota man plays with a dog at a protest camp against the Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota in 2014. Andrew Burton / Getty Images

DrDespite the OPP’s assistance, most reserves in South Dakota lack the funding to operate adequate animal control measures, and accidents still occur (such as the one at Pine Ridge in 2014). Remembering the importance of such programs would be a tragedy. When a child dies, something has to happen. In many sanctuaries, the “thing” is often people trapping dogs and killing them.

aIn the Pine Ridge Preserve, several outside organizations have recently taken to work out of a desire to save people from attacks and dogs from euthanasia. However, there is something awkward about outside groups that pounce on the sanctuary to rescue the dogs, extracting them from their native culture to lead healthy and happy lives in mainstream America.

IIt is difficult to determine the right solution, or how to re-balance the people and dogs in these reservations or between caring for the dogs and allowing them to remain free. These are complex issues with complex solutions.

IIt will take society to solve this problem and to realize that it is people, not dogs, who have become real monsters that are ultimately responsible for the imbalance. We all have responsibilities and roles to play in our societies. In Lakota, we call this being a good relative and a member of you tiyóšpaye.

If dogs and people can be brought back into harmony across American Indian reservations, it will take much more effort than simply “rescuing” or killing dogs.

* Lakota is a spoken language with a variety of orthography in different societies. The translations in this article are based in part on the authors’ interpretations.

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