Lakota people have different definitions of what they deem as hate speech. Most of us living on Indian Reservations experience hate speech, either in person or online. Social media has empowered those who thrive on hate. Still, the majority of social media users regularly posting hateful speech are cowards at heart.
I did an informal poll on social media by asking my friends to define what they believe is hate speech. All of the answers were based on how Lakota people are treated by the wasicu when they travel off the reservation. Sometimes remarks made by the wasicu are ignorant and most of the time hateful speech is actually fear-based.
I’ve learned there are only two emotions: love and fear. All the good feelings and acts of kindness come from love. The negativity we all experience in life (the bully, anger, violence, racism, discrimination, etc.) stem from fear. Hate is basically fear. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about – maybe it’s a person, an idea, the government or something else – we tend to hate what we fear.
Our ancestors understood love. This can be seen in how the camp took care of everyone. There were no homeless people. There was no hunger (unless it was a time of famine when everyone went hungry). Our virtue of generosity stems from love.
Christianity is a fear-based religion. The Catholic church teaches that when a follower commits a mortal sin, they’re going to hell when they die. The fear of an afterlife in hell was systematically instilled in a majority of Indigenous people. Many ancestors gave up our Lakota way of life, as the clergy said they would go to hell if they continued to hold ceremony. Christian agents worked to devastate our spirituality by preaching fear.
Christianity and the bible continue to encourage hate speech among our people. Last month, an Oglala tribal citizen spoke out against the same sex marriage ordinance recently adopted at Pine Ridge. She said:
“This law [same sex marriage] is a moral sin, it is unnatural, ungodly and the most gruesome, repulsive act. It is an abomination unto our Lord God of the Bible. We are not dogs; we are humans and we are created by the most holy God. In Genesis, God created man and woman. And this is the design that God planned for men and women, he told them to replenish the earth. Homosexuality falsifies God’s design. In Leviticus 20:13 if there is a man who lies with a male, as those who lie with a woman, both have committed a detestable act, they shall surely be put to death and their blood guilt is upon them. The Lord God said defile not yourselves in any of these things. Nations are defiled. Those that God cut off therefore he said I will visit the iniquity of man and he said that the land will spew you out of this land. The severe consequences of men laying together, women laying together, there’s severe consequences in that. They shall surely be put to death and their blood guilt is on them.”
This example shows us that hate speech is being uttered by our own Lakota people. Hate speech, like the words spoken by the Oglala tribal citizen, is everywhere. It even comes from our own relatives.
I appreciate the legislation recently approved by the tribal council at Pine Ridge approving same sex marriage. I also applaud the legislation passed by the tribal council banning hate speech. This legislation ban means that when Lakota people come to verbalize their inner fear of our Two Spirit relatives at a public meeting, tribal officials can stop them from speaking their hate out loud.
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org