October 11, 2008

One day left for reconciliation

Native American Day:  Just another holiday?

Some fear Native American Day's potential is squanderedIt's been almost 20 years since Gov. George Mickelson called for a Year of Reconciliation in South Dakota.

It was a Big Idea--forcing the state to talk about race relations and confront an ugly history wasn't easy.

"At the time, we saw it as a great victory," said Avis Little Eagle, vice chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

But the Big Idea appeared to die with Mickelson. Ten years after the Year of Reconciliation, a different South Dakota governor, Bill Janklow, dismissed as "garbage" a federal report that shined a light on serious racial tensions simmering throughout South Dakota.

Any gains we'd made, it seemed, were fleeting.

But there is one measurable remnant of the Year of Reconciliation--one indication that those efforts in 1990 weren't for naught. South Dakota still is the only state in the nation to replace Columbus Day with a day honoring Native American history and culture. We observe that day Monday.

Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President William Brewer, though, said Native American Day has become "just another holiday" to many. "I really don't see efforts being made, anything happening to bring awareness," he said.

But by virtue of this one day per year, the lofty goal of the Year of Reconciliation continues to draw breath.
Comment:  We're doing our bit here to increase awareness of Native people.

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