A Response to Chuck Trimble's "Keeping Victimhood in Perspective"

A reader response to a Chuck Trimble column about victimhood.

I was very disappointed to read Chuck Trimble’s mean-spirited, divisive commentary “Keeping Victimhood in Perspective.” I have never met Mr. Trimble, so I will introduce myself. I live in the rural community of Enemy Swim on the Lake Traverse Reservation. I am a Dakota author, member of the Oak Lake Writers, a member of the South Dakota Humanities Indian Task Force and I am the Gaby you mention in your article. My family has experienced injustice as Dakota people. As a family we have not whined about victimhood as you imply in your commentary but have worked hard to confront injustice and help our communities improve with compassion as Kunsi, my grandmother, modeled.

It was my mother who was brutalized as a 6-year-old and she will never forget it. In spite of many of my mother’s negative boarding school experiences she continued her education attending the University of Minnesota and graduated with distinction. She went on to attend Harvard University and obtained a graduate degree and a Certificate of Advanced Study. As a retired professional in the field of education her training and experience have given her insight into the reasons why education institutions have failed to adequately educate tribal people and changes that should be implemented. In 2004 she was recognized by the South Dakota Hall Of Fame for her achievements in the field of education.

My siblings and I have followed the strength of my mother’s hard working example and these were difficult steps to follow. I am a published author, my sister is a lawyer, my brother is a licensed psychiatrist and my youngest brother works as a surgery technician at a hospital trauma center. I tried to emulate the protective strength of Dakota motherhood as I raised my children. My eldest son is a captain in the Marine Corps and my daughter is a senior at Wellesley College. It is this tenacious spirit that was also instilled in us by Kunsi that helped us to achieve. I am deeply grateful to her for her ancestral knowledge, courage and support to help us strive against great odds.

As a writer I have respect for other writers, their views and opinions. The written word is one method we can use to educate the larger society. Dialogue is how we challenge one another to think clearly and to make society better. I find your conjecture of the fabricated disrespectful conversation between my aunt, Maxine Good Thunder Eidsvig and me objectionable. I do not always agree with my aunt, she is among those who in her opinion were privileged and feel they did not suffer from racial harm. I have never treated her in a disrespectful manner in regard to her perspective. She is entitled to her opinions and memories as an 84-year-old as I am entitled to mine. It is a Dakota value to honor each other with civility as relatives and especially elders as they have reached a status in life where they can say what they want. If we do change our traditional kinship practices we are endanger of no longer being Dakota.

Not everyone has been fortunate to escape the damage caused by racism or to have the means to fight against these injustices. Blaming victims or denying their story of suffering is divisive. Many tribal people have not been able to receive protection, good guidance or opportunities to fight against injustice and harms. The statistics demonstrate there are many social ills in tribal communities. If we focus on the most vulnerable, the children, maybe we can create positive change.

I will repeat my final statement here that I made that night at the reading of Beloved Child. The survival of the Dakota Oyate depends on the protection of our most precious resource, sacred beloved children. In the 21st century as a world community if we truly aspire to celebrate the rich complexity of the diversity of human life the children in the world can only benefit from the responsibilities inherent in ensuring all children are raised as a "beloved Child."

A responsible journalist would have viewed my remarks on “Beloved Child” September 9, 2011, on The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) Press’s Channel – YouTube Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan. Fictitious conversations will be attributed to a make-believe speaker this is not honest writing to print an imaginary conversation. It bends the boundaries of truthful journalism possibly stepping into the realm of defamation.

My latest work from He Sapa Woihanble (Black Hills Dream) will be read at South Dakota State University 36th Annual Great Plains Writer’s Conference on March 26, 2012. To paraphrase my aunt’s advice, who quoted Steve Jobs, I will continue to write and not allow the small minded noise of others’ opinions to drown out my inner voice.