October 17, 2011

Indians slam Children of the Plains

Lakotas to Diane Sawyer:  Let Lakotas tell their story

By Brenda NorrellReaders of Censored News said Lakotas must tell their own stories, rather than allowing a corporation to spoon-feed a contrived program of sugar-coated sympathy that refuses to document US colonization.

Debra White Plume, Lakota from Pine Ridge, S.D., points out that this type of television program leaves out the issue of colonization, and is based on the perspective of the corporation.

White Plume said, "Remember when Tom Brokaw did a show like Diane Sawyer is doing. His was called 'Tragedy at Pine Ridge,' about 20 years ago. Brokaw's showed a lot of drunkenness and White Clay, cops busting folks intoxicated, etc. These video journalists rarely interview anyone who speaks of colonization, and how the drinking and drugging is colonized behavior, and that booze and drugs are white man's poisons. Hmm, these journalists show what the corporation they work for wants them to show."

John M. Kane, Mohawk, said the real story is about the theft by the US government and will not win Sawyer an Emmy.

Kane said, "The show was all about evoking sympathy for these poor 'Americans' that 'time' forgot and casting Sawyer as a compassionate hero for telling this 'compelling' story. Time didn't do this to the Lakota, Americans did. They trespassed on our lands until their government 'legalized' the theft. They cheated us on mineral rights, water rights, grazing rights and general land use. $40 billion worth of Native assets have been lost by the BIA. No financing available for businesses unless it is for 'Americans' to set up beer stores just off the rez line. The real story won't win Sawyer an Emmy. The real story would evoke anger, not sympathy and disgust."
Reactions on Facebook

Some reactions to Norrell's article on Facebook. First, from a woman named Kathryn:Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this, Brenda. The 20/20 show was appalling and exploitative. Sawyer was ghoulish and patronizing. My friends and I watched this and were sickened by Sawyer's inappropriate tone and focus, and aghast that so many people online were praising it.

There were blatant falsehoods in the piece, and promotion of corporate interests. Perhaps the most dangerous part of the piece that some of us saw was the suggestion that Native children should be taken out of their communities--potentially laying the groundwork for attacks on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

If Diane Sawyer really wants to "help" the "Children of the Plains," maybe she should listen to their Elders. Maybe she should take some of the money they spent on this and give it to a Native filmmaker, and use her media and showbiz contacts to help promote media that is controlled by Native people.
Two others:This article is a great response to her and others' skewed reporting, seemingly more for ratings than "delving" into the facts of the real history and cultural anthropology of the Native peoples. Though, I do strongly believe that WE all need to know the present situation and conditions of rez, much more needs to be told about exactly, why, why why? Shame on propagating the myth and soliciting tears, in lieu, of truth.

Sawyer's condescending laugh and self conscious backtracking when the young man said his ambition was to be President of the US pretty much set the tone for the whole piece. Same ol', same ol'.
What the show didn't show

Many people trying to make it right at Pine Ridge

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)The show was well done and as always, Sawyer was down-to-earth in her presentation. It showed her visiting a school with many structural problems, and the home of one family that housed many more inhabitants than the house was built to support. The obligatory shots of drunks lying on the streets of White Clay, Nebraska were highlighted.

The show could have included some of the schools of the Shannon County School District at Wolf Creek, Rockyford or the brand new school at Batesland. It could have visited Little Wound School at Kyle or Crazy Horse School at Wanbli, or it could have visited the campus of Oglala Lakota College and talked to Tom Shortbull and of the many things he is achieving and is hoping to achieve with this great college.

Sawyer kept referring to the Red Cloud Indian School and the fact that it was a very good private school that only takes about 600 students and she mentioned that students from around the reservation wanted to enroll there. Red Cloud, which began its existence as Holy Rosary Indian Mission, a school run by the Franciscan Nuns and Jesuit priests, had its own history of child abuse and like Ms. Sawyer, no one is happier to see the dramatic changes at that school than its former students, myself included.

There are programs now in place on the reservation to combat and cure alcoholism and drug abuse. The commodities food program was slammed by Mark Tilsen, a co-manager of Tatanka Bars in Kyle. I am sure that Joe Blue Horse, Jr., the man who has been running the program for many years would object to Tilsen’s comments. The commodity program has done a complete turnaround over the years when most of the commodities were starch filled, and Blue Horse has made an extreme effort to get the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the overseers of the program, to stock much more healthy foods even to the point of bringing in fresh vegetables and fruit.

For every point made by Sawyer there is a counter-point. The problem is that all of the major television affiliates never look at the counter-points.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Reactions to Children of the Plains and Children of the Plains on 20/20.

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