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Poverty is our greatest addiction

I have noticed that consistently across the reservations one common issue can be found that destroys the internal goals of any tribal program, project or home.

A grand division separates our people from ever accomplishing the good for the people. We consistently destroy each other by attacking one another with gossip. But it's not just gossip that destroys an organization, it's also corruption, stealing and those things associated with the sins of greed.

Money has become the root of all our evils and violence, but the worst form of violence is poverty. Poverty has become our new circle of life in a negative form. We have come to embrace the personality of poverty while becoming dependent on it.

I can see that when we need excitement in our lives, we look to the environment to provide this for us. If our community is engulfed in some sort of drama, we inhale this drama to satisfy our addiction to excitement.

In turn, we add to the negative issues that, in the bigger picture, keep us in perpetual poverty.

Infighting destroys us all, but the dynamic of what is truly causing the problems within a Native organization is complicated. But, if there is one consistent cause that starts the main problem, it's the abuse of leadership by the individual who is the boss of the organization ? the so-called leader.

Our problems can be fixed if we returned back to the way our tribes were run long ago. If we give everyone equal say in the function of an organization and equally disperse the responsibilities of those who are involved, then a working, functioning program could succeed.

Today many leaders confuse responsibility with power and in doing so they can abuse it without guilt.

Nowadays you will always see failure when you see an individual leading the pack. It seems that those who have the power always abuse it. It is my opinion that American Indians were never meant to lead like a white man. If a person grows up in an environment that is violent and in poverty and then they are placed in a position of power, they will become power hungry.

Poverty starves you of personality and integrity, morals and values. It is only through spirituality that all these issues can be balanced.

A man or woman without spirituality will always feel that the world or the Great Spirit owes them. This is wrong for no one owes the tyrant his freedom and no one owes the tribal dictator his conformity.

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When we embrace our traditions or any form of spirituality and truly follow them and live our lives by their teachings, we can then influence the way other people want to live. And, if they want a better life, they will eventually lead a better life and when this happens the children are affected by their positive change and through this our future will become better.

Our greatest weakness is our misconception of poverty. Take a good look around and you will notice that our children all act and dress alike. They are a sign that something is wrong all across our reservations and the only common factor in all our reservations, communities and homes is how we have come to embrace the image and personality of poverty.

Whenever an individual wants a better life on the reservation, they dress nice, have a nice home, have a clean yard, talk educated. Yet, they are put down by the majority who are too afraid to take that step toward a healthy lifestyle. The individual who wants a better life is looked down upon and is called 'trying to be white' This statement is this greatest insult our people can give to their own blood relative, but it also perpetuates the poverty mentality.

Eventually time changes us all. If we don't get to the point where our children are proud of who they truly are, as Natives, practicing their traditional customs, then we will fail in the protections of the unborn future.

I was told that long ago Crazy Horse said that the Seventh Generation will change it all. I asked my elders if this was true because I doubted the man who proclaimed it, Joe Chasing Horse.

What I was told was that if we don't teach our children the customs and traditions of our people, then our people will lose these traditions by the seventh generation. They say this was the true message.

I believe this to be true. I can't overstress the importance of keeping our traditional ways alive, but along with those ways comes the way we act as traditional Lakota. It can be said we have lost a lot of the traditional behavior, but we still can see this positive behavior in the way the elders act.

If we want to learn how to conquer our internal demons, then we must act accordingly with respect for all men, women and nature and have spiritual knowledge of the ceremonies of our people.

There isn't any such thing as a holy or sacred man or woman, only the Great Spirit is sacred. So if any Lakota fools you and tells you that he is a holy man, he is lying. No man or woman is above the sacred Pipe or the Great Spirit.

Poverty is our greatest addiction. When we choose to get healthy, we choose to release our poverty mentality to the wind. Our traditions are the treatment for this illness and it is curable.

Once we find ourselves as Lakota, or whatever tradition we are from, we will find growth and prosperity and everything will begin to heal even our governments.