By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
There has been debate among our tribal leadership and among our people for years regarding ethics. We, the people, want our leaders to be accountable for their actions and I believe many, if not all, of our leaders feel the same way.
Money is one of those things that cause much debate with regard to ethics. A famously misquoted saying based on a verse in the Bible is many times stated in this way, “Money is the root of all evil”. The verse actually reads, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Whether you subscribe to the Christian faith or not, it is easy to see, in society today, the results of greed and the pursuit of riches.
We live in a world where money is equated to power. And, I will have to admit, in a country that has been built on capitalistic thought, it is hard to argue against the power of the dollar.
For years, the Tribe has fought to sustain itself, as a sovereign nation, in a country and in a world that was contrary to its beliefs as a native people. Ask any elder that you happen to see, and they will tell you of a past where money didn’t matter. If you had enough food, clothing and shelter to provide for your family, life was good. If you had enough to share with your neighbor, that was a blessing. You considered yourself rich. Helping out and doing right by others. That was the Cherokee way.
You still see it to some extent in the communities today. It is an odd Friday that you don’t see someone doing a benefit fry bread, hotdog, Indian dinner benefit for someone in need. When a community member finds out that someone is suffering in their community, there is usually a swarm of activity around providing for that family. You may still see the heart of the people in the way we take care of our own.
That is why it is so unusual to see people standing in front of leadership with complaints that they cannot get adequate dental and medical care or can’t get through all of the red tape that must be navigated to provide affordable housing or any of the other requests for need that come. I know that there are two sides to every story and certainly issues as complex as health care and housing can’t be solved universally because each person’s situation may need a unique solution. But, the volume of these complaints continues to rise and answers are not given in the public eye. When we are not informed, we tend to conjecture. In our world, perception is reality.
Maybe it is just the nature of environment we live in that we tend to consider the financial bottom line more that we do the societal. As we watch the Standing Rock people stand their ground against a threat to their way of life and to sacred places, we see a people who are not concerned about economy, but about physical and cultural survival. Money doesn’t mean as much to those who are fighting for their lives and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are fighting, not for monetary gain, but for their children’s future environment.
We have been blessed as a Tribe to have the resources to care for our people, protect our cultural identity, and provide a foundation for future generations of tribal members. My elders always reminded me as I was growing up that, whatever my level of financial success, that I should never forget where I came from. I am sure many of you were told the same thing because many of you have had to work hard to get what you have. My elders and yours were telling us that we should not forget the important things in life. Life is about relationship, not revenue. The old Bible admonition wasn’t saying money is negative. Many good things are done with it. But, it wasn’t meant to be loved – no material thing is. Love is to be reserved for the living. Hopefully, in our discussions about investment, both personal and governmental, we remember the words of our ancestors and elders. Generations to come won’t measure our success in dollars.