I am an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. My family and I live in the town of Sisseton. I spent 12 years teaching and working in the Sisseton Wahpeton College. I resigned my position as vice president of Academic Affairs in June because I want to devote more time to completing my doctorate in educational leadership through the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
I had an opportunity to read Charles Trimble’s recent column on victimhood (“Let go the chains of victimhood” [Vol. 28, Iss. 11], and I completely agree with his perspective on this whole notion. I see it being perpetrated in our tribal colleges and in mainstream American Indian studies programs. Indians are always depicted as victims of some traumatic historical event or by white people in general. This elicits sympathy or pity for Indians.
I know there are Dakota people who constantly bring up the hanging of the 38 men at Mankato in 1862 as an act of injustice. After awhile, they seem to hit white people collectively over the head with this tragedy. We know it happened. We know it was wrong. But where and when do we stop reliving Mankato? This is comparable to the Lakota who bring up Wounded Knee as a constant reminder. We need to move beyond these historical injustices.
As an educator, I am not interested in perpetuating victimhood thinking, but selfhood thinking. I want our young people to be able to think and act for themselves, but also to remember where they come from. I want them to know the strength and courage of our ancestors. I want them to know our ancestors had their own minds and ways of looking at the world.
Mr. Trimble’s column made me think of my own father, who was strong as an oak tree. He refused to be a victim of anything or anyone. He lived his life on his own land. He had a strong mind. He experienced the boarding school system at Santee Normal Training School. He lived through the allotment period and the IRA. He always said to his sons, he wanted to go to college when he was young but couldn’t because “Indians couldn’t go to college back then.” He’s in the spirit world as a content man because three of his five sons have college degrees.
The column is timely because we need to all think beyond victimhood. I commend Mr. Trimble for writing about something that needs to be addressed and discussed by all Indian people.
– Harvey DuMarce
Sisseton, S. D.