Seeing too much of some things, not enough of others
In regard to your Nov. 5 article “Lakota-eye view” [about photographer John Willis’ book Views From
the Reservation], we were appalled at the pictures of the sacred places of Lakota spirituality. If there was an aerial photo of one of our pueblos or a close-up of a kiva, you would have a major war party at your door, let alone lawsuits. I know some pueblos allow photos with permission, but the majority don’t. There are a lot of people who are naive about Native spirituality, both local and out of the area, but ignorance is not an excuse.
We are sure there are many Native people, including the Sioux and other tribes, who live in our area and feel as we do. After reading your article out loud to my family, their first reaction was, Why does it take a non-Native to call attention to the general public as to what has been happening in reservations across the country? There is plenty of information from native writers who have the inside scoop from personal experience and can share it without exploiting their spirituality.
Another reaction was, here we go again. Another non-Native comes to the rez, befriends a family, gets taken in, and is given all the help they can think of, including prayers, ceremonies, food, bed, and love, and then it’s like ... book! We’ve seen it over and over again. Willis says he’s helping the Lakota people by donating all proceeds of the book to the KILI radio station, but to us he’s helping his career and conscience. Go to any bookstore and you’ll find that the majority of the books written about Native spirituality and rituals are written by non-Natives! Why not donate the proceeds from another book to help the people?
Please, if you really want to help Native people, think twice! What you might feel is something good and beneficial may cause harm and heartache. And if you don’t understand the meaning of “sacred” from different cultures, don’t think you can learn its meaning by visiting a place a couple times a year. Dominic Arquero (Cochiti Pueblo) and Imogene Goodshot Arquero (Oglala, Lakota Sioux)