The persistence of hope in Indian country : the Lakota/Dakota of South Dakota

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The intent of this study is to research the existence of hope and its manifestation among the Lakota and Dakota communities of South Dakota, despite centuries of oppression, marginalization, cultural disruption and structural violence. It will be shown that these communities of the Great Sioux Nation exhibit courage and resilience, and that something vital has sustained them for centuries - the element of hope. Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, this study will first explore historical multigenerational trauma and the theoretical approach of Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart. The impacts of historical trauma lend to better understanding of the present situation among these communities. Additionally, the issues of violence and abuse are researched in the context of women and youth, those appearing to suffer the greatest impacts. The effects of this violence have produced secondary issues such as critical suicide rates and the emergence of gang activity. Finally, the element of hope is explored as it is manifested among these communities through resistance. Demonstrated in various forms, resistance is a key component in the persistence of hope and possibility. The strength and commitment generated by such efforts address the critical issues impacting these reservation communities, especially the highlighted target groups - women and youth. Interviews among generous participants from Pine Ridge, Crow Creek, Cheyenne River and Lower Brule Reservations in South Dakota lend to the overall substance and credibility of the assertions in this study. They are invaluable in clarifying that, despite incredible odds and what is seemingly interminable crisis, hope exists. Questions asked included: How is hope maintained? How is it manifested? How did it sustain people in the past and what force keeps people moving forward in the face of the paradigm of continued oppression in contemporary societies? The conclusion reached is that despite the impacts of poverty and despair among the Lakota and Dakota, there is a tangible and pervasive element of hope that sustains these communities and has allowed for their continued existence as unique and distinct nations.




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