occupation. it’s not just for the dominant culture anymore.



An open letter to the Lakota Nation.
It’s my belief that the Lakota People of Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Blackpipe Creek Community, Wamblee, Mission, St. Francis and many others, forgive me for not naming them all, are among the most marginalized Humans in the United States.
When outright elimination of the People did not prove successful, occupation of the land and assimilation of the People became the “option” offered by the U.S. government. As we all know, this was a dirty trick that resulted in stolen land and attempted annihilation of culture. If one “chose” not to participate in U.S. economy and become “american”, they were left to suffer on reservations. While i very much appreciate the Lakota resistance to domination, the expectation on the part of the U.S. government was that you would only take so much suffering and either enter the U.S. economy or die. No one at the top expected you to last for so long.
Now, since the 60’s at least, we have seen Pine Ridge hold the lowest per capita income of any county in the U.S. At this point, as I understand, Pine Ridge also now has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the country. We have come to expect gang activities, drug use, rape, violent crime, poverty, disease, and premature death as the “norm” there. As in the poorest inner cites, this is driven by ignorance, racism, classism, and hatred from the dominant societal norm, which shapes the “rules” of the game. This oppression is even occurring from within the People’s culture by the mechanism of internalization of these offenses. People outside your community are aware of these things yet, there is an even deepening level of marginalization. The help that makes it there barely scratches the surface.
The Lakota reservation is also my Home and place of birth. I am the second generation of european immigrants who came from their own landless oppression in Russia, and before that Germany, and before that, probably Mesopotamia. We are all indigenous somewhere and many of us had our land taken, our culture robbed and were forced to assimilate, flee or die…sometimes all three. Even with this, many of my People have still been racist, classist, hateful, resentful, and overall oppressive to the Lakota. Personally, even though i have at times, been this way myself, I have never understood this behavior and have refused to accept things as being “just the way they are”.
In some ways, I can relate to your marginalization through my own experience leaving the reservation. I was born with meritless “white privilege” regardless of the fact that all of us from there have far less money, educational opportunities, access to health resources, arts and culture and overall quality of life than much of the rest of the country. Because of the privilege in being of european decent, I am not seen as who I truly am, which is a person from a place that is vastly different than what people would expect. in essence, I have to use alot of words to explain to people where i come from.
I chose to leave there because I always felt (i blame sesame street) there was more out there than I could possibly know from my isolated experience. I was raised to be a man according to the prescribed patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, and misogynistic ways. As it so turns out, I am a Queer person who has had to go through much personal exploration of self to come to acceptance and pride for what in the end just makes me human. As do we all.
We are all humans. If we could remove our skin, we would all look the same. Biologically, we are all the same. Homosapien, Human, one species in a world of more than can be counted.
I became very moved by what I have seen coming from the Occupy Wall St. action. Last week, I went there to learn something for myself. What I encountered was more organized, peaceful, respectful, energized, and inclusive than I could have expected. I got a digital camera (best buy,18 months no interest!) for the trip and though I barely know how to use it, I documented some of what I saw. I realize that, at first, there was somewhat of a media blackout from the mainstream news sources. Most of the good information has come to me, passed down the line of communication from other concerned individuals via facebook. This medium has now evolved for me, from social outlet to a viable way to network and connect with the “truth” coming from the masses verses the “truth” constructed by the media for our consumption. The mainstream media often now focuses on the negative aspects of the movement to distract people from the real story about this group occupation. Much of it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having said all of this, I don’t know how much all of you out there are seeing about this event or how involved you may or may not feel. I offer my documentation, albeit, unedited and raw (i still don’t know how to use my camera that well yet!) to offer you insight into this action. My focus is to assure you that a place for your voice to be heard is here with this occupation. I have put these videos together on vimeo and youtube so they can be easily viewed and shared if you wish. This is just a tiny snapshot of what is happening. If any People of the reservation including descendants of european immigrants feel that this doesn’t affect or represent you, let me offer an example:
I feel that the “straw” that broke the camel’s back in this instance was the behavior and actions of the corporate banks after recieving bailouts. They chose to bolster their own profits at the expense of the “common good” of the People who are participating in this economy, which is all of us. Look around your communities and notice how many “local” banks you have versus corporate banks. Notice how many credit unions, which are non-profit, are available to you. Notice how consumer goods are delivered there for you to purchase versus value placed on what you have to offer. Notice how “organic” food is not available where Mac Donald’s is. Notice how much is taken from you and how little is returned.
A powerful tool used by dominate power structures is to divide and conquer. This movement is not based on political differences or personal belief differences or cultural differences. It is based on our sameness while honoring our diversity. We are all, call us the 99% if you wish, being exploited and taken advantage of in the same way. Much of our power is limited in this country’s structure but, in this economy, we can start by choosing who we do business with. If you have money in one of these corporate banks, the easiest thing to do is take it out. Many of us have and many more will. The credit unions are seeing a surge in interest since this direct action has begun. Speaking of interest, the credit unions usually offer their members lower interest rates and the absence of many charges that corporate banks have.
In conclusion, I encourage the People of the Lokota Nation and all of it’s other Human residents to take a look at what’s happening at Wall St. Take part or not in any way you see fit but please realize that this movement does, in truth, include you too. Thank you for taking your time to hear me and feel free to contact me with your opinions about anything I’ve stated here. For the record, I’m expressing all of this with the very best intentions and respect.
We can participate. We can be heard. We can change the way we operate, not just within out lifetimes, but in this day. Let’s occupy our lives.

-burton ring

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