Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is a place that I am proud to call home.
A little over 20 years ago, I was growing up in a house with no running water, when my parents were chosen to receive a brand new home. I remember the house falling apart, with the roof sagging on the inside and out. We hauled water from various manual pumps in the community and used an outhouse. We drove every Sunday to Brandon to do laundry, and we our rode bikes to my grandmother’s house to bathe.
I share these stories with my children, who look at me with disbelief.
But I don’t remember my parents complaining because we were happy to have a place to call home. My family now lives in a two-level CMHC house with four bedrooms that was built about 18 years ago. We have the luxury of running water, garbage pickup services, cable, Internet, air-conditioning, a fridge, stove, washer and dryer.
Like any house, it is in need of constant maintenance, which I could go on and on about. I could use social media to complain about what it needs for improvement and blame the chief and council for not taking care of it, or I can take responsibility and do something about it and take action because I am employed.
I go to Home Depot to buy material to fix our home. I teach my children and grandson that if you want something done, you take responsibility and do it yourself because no one is put on this earth to serve us. The water lines were down in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation for a few weeks, but were we in despair? The water was not totally off, unlike the broken lines in Winnipeg, where residents went for months without water.
All houses need repair, just like in Brandon, but your paper portrays this as “living in Third World conditions.” Whatever happened to respecting each other, family and friends taking care of each other and our homes?
I live less then 1,000 metres away from where the tornado touched down last year. I don’t know what money was received or spent, but I do know I saw many roofs fixed and many repairs made to many housing units. If houses have pest problems, it is up to the owner to do something about it. I know I battled a mice problem and won without the help of anyone. I am sure many people in Brandon and elsewhere have shared a similar experience, but I do not recall reading articles in the Brandon Sun about others.
In every city, town, reserve, province and locally we demand accountability from our leadership. But we only see what we choose to see in life. I see more positives then negatives, but when you put your blinders up to the positive and focus only on negativity, that is also all you see. Nothing good can come from that negative perspective.
Going out in the media and pushing an undesirable perspective of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is unfortunate and appears to be designed to embarrass the members. Have you ever been to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation? Can you see how beautiful our community is? Will you acknowledge the extensive health services offered here in Sioux Valley?
How many other First Nations have a doctor available weekly, have nurses available to do home visits and provide care that is not covered anymore by Manitoba Health? How many other First Nations have a percentage of homes on water and sewer lines, a daycare, a personal care home for the elderly and an education system with a Headstart Program right up to Grade 12, just to name a few of our benefits? We have much to be thankful for.
Self-government is also a vision of a self-sustaining community that was passed down from our elders. We carry on the spirit of those who lead us here. We reflect on the past and present leadership, and all those who sacrificed their time and effort to get us to where we are today. We come from a history and culture which is so strong that we have not and should not fear change.
Self-government is not something new to Dakota people because we once had our own form of government. For too long, we have lived under the constraints of the Indian Act, a piece of legislation forced upon us with intentions of assimilation. The Indian Act was designed for failure and it created dependency among our people.
Some of our members, like other people, are quick to only point out problems when they should also provide solutions. We must stop pointing fingers and blaming the government for the issues at hand. We now have another opportunity to flourish and thrive as a prosperous Dakota Nation, as we once were. We need to take responsibility for our own lives, our children’s lives and steer them to take care of themselves.
That is true self-government, when we take an open palm that is waiting for contributions and put those hands to work instead, contributing to the community and society at large. This is an opportunity for all of us to educate ourselves and dismiss the misinformation and find out for yourself what is really going on. We now have the ability to create laws that are applicable to ourselves on Sioux Valley lands.
The governance agreements will not fix everything we perceive to be wrong, but are tools for us to use to and we need to fix problems ourselves when that journey begins. Change will not happen overnight. We now have the opportunity to make change, rejuvenate our language and culture, instil respect back in our families, and give our Dakota identity back to our children that they so deserve.
It was said in legend that when the White Buffalo Calf Woman returns we shall unite and become one again. She is now home, and it’s time to stand up and say enough is enough to those few who would do not represent the majority, but seek to tear Sioux Valley Dakota Nation down and keep us dependent.
Let’s take care of ourselves.
Donna Marie Elk (Roulette)
Grandmother, and former chief
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 17, 2014