Progressing to the Future with RCCC
~ Mary Burrows

Facilitator Chas Jewett welcomed an enthusiastic crowd to the

February 2017 Rapid City Community Conversation (RCCC), with

an invitation to those in the circle to share their names and

which Lakota value most resonated with them that day. The

twelve Lakota values are Humility, Perseverance, Respect, Honor,

Love, Sacrifice, Truth, Compassion, Bravery, Fortitude, Generosity,

and Wisdom.

Afterward, she shared an experience she had on a recent road trip to the American Southwest. She visited with a class of young school children and was gratified to answer their questions about Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and marveled at their interest in and knowledge of the issue.

The focus of the Conversation was an overview of the RCCC Blueprint for Action in 2017.

Four community innovation teams have evolved over the past two years: Healing and Transformation, Wayusapi/Talking Circles, He Sapa Otipi (the future indigenous cultural center), and Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are ALL Related). Teams meet regularly and among them have initiated community events and programs that enhance relationships among all cultures, with even more plans in the works.

A city-wide pilot Medicaid enrollment program was rolled out during the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) basketball tournament in Rapid City during December. That has prompted other community organizations to join with the Healing and Transformation Team in carrying the program forward.

On April 14th, the first of the monthly Brown Bag Luncheon speakers series will feature a discussion of the Lakota kinship system and how its intricacies compare with the dominant culture.

June 3, 2017, is Community Unity Day in Rapid City, featuring the Four Directions Five Kilometers (4D5K) race/run, which draws competitors from far and wide.

The Healing and Transformation Team also strongly supports the annual Native American parade in Rapid City, an event that grows each year.

Plans are formulating to hold a Community Justice Summit on September 13-14, 2017. Conversation participants identified several areas of concern with law enforcement, including unsolved murders in Rapid City, the high Native arrest rate, and wearing of body cams by police, that they intend to discuss during the Summit.

Stephanie of the Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related) team spoke of plans to honor the late Linda Edel, former director of the Community Action Program.

On March 18, 2017, the team sponsored a “Calling Back the Thunders” ceremony at Black Elk Peak.

According to Richard Goodman in “Lakota Star Knowledge” (Sinte Gleska University, 1992), long before the advent of the horse, Lakota people used the positions of the sun and stars as guides for the timing of various ceremonies at sacred landmarks in Paha Sapa (the Black Hills). When the sun entered certain Lakota constellations, the People knew to be at specific places to participate in annual ceremonies. When the sun was in Wicincala Sakowin (Seven Little Girls—the Pleiades) the People went to Hinhan Kaga Paha (Place of the Making of Owls—Black Elk Peak) to celebrate Yate Iwakicipi—Welcoming Back the Thunders. Goodman wrote:

“The ceremony at the [Black Elk] Peak area was called, 'They are dancing for the thunders that are theirs,' Yate Iwakicipi. It was a ceremony to welcome back Wakinyan, a spiritual power which manifested itself through thunder and lightning. Wakinyan is both a life-giving and a life-destroying power that fights against evil.” (pg 12)

Additionally, the team is in contact with local faith communities and conferring about sponsoring interfaith conversations on topics such as racism, DAPL, and White privilege.

The Wasuyapi/Talking Circles team has been offered the use of a modular structure, and Gene would like to start a drumming and singing circle there. He uses the Talking Circle as a tool for healing within his treatment program. He also wants to implement youth and detox programs, as well as start a circle within the local jail.

The Visioning Process for the He Sapa Otipi center will be ongoing from May through August. The Process is defined as “discovering, dreaming, designing, and delivering,” and is sponsored by Rapid City mayor Steve Allender, along with outreach to various community collaborators for ideas and suggestions. He Sapa Otipi is to be a Haven for Hope: a resource center open to the community.

February marked the second anniversary of the first Conversation, and the annual Community Innovation Summit will convene on April 29, 2017. According to Chas, there will “definitely be cake!”

Currently the search is underway for a speaker, specifically one knowledgeable about treaties and treaty rights in preparation for the 150thanniversary of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

The Conversation groups from Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations will be included and honored, as will RCCC community institutional partners, and the focus of the summit will be on highlighting successes and achievements of RCCC. A drum group will be invited as well.

Following reports from the teams, a prayer was sung with a food offering to the creator, and everyone enjoyed a potluck together.

RCCC Mission: “We are co-creating a new community in Rapid City that reflects our values and honors, respects, and keeps safe all of the people who live and visit here. We try hard to take the high road and focus on solutions. We welcome everyone.”

Photo Credit: Mary Burrows