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By Rep. Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author.

We continue to have a crisis in education on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, all the way through post-secondary education. The federal (BIE) and state (public) educational systems continue to fail the educational needs of Rosebud tribal members.

BIE is in the process of implementing a Strategic Plan to reorganize itself so it can provide a “world class” education for Indians. BIE claims this plan is still in the planning phase and has not been implemented, but that is bureaucratic rhetoric.

BIE says it wants tribes to tell it how to put this plan into effect. But shouldn’t it be asking, “How can we help you (tribes) develop your own educational system(s)?”

The Todd County School District just recently “non-renewed” the contract for its Superintendent of Schools, who is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Apparently, the non-renewal was based upon bringing too much culture into the curriculum.

If that isn’t accurate, then the Board of Education should come forth with a clearer explanation. Approximately 75% of school-age tribal members are enrolled in Todd County School District, SO, WHY SHOULDN’T THERE BE MORE CULTURE INCLUDED IN THE CURRICULUM?

Schools teach culture. The problem with our local school district is that it teaches very little Lakota culture and a lot of American culture, or to use another word: ASSIMILATION.

St. Francis Indian School (SFIS) appears, to me, to have an identity problem; it can’t figure out if it’s a Catholic school, a community school, or a tribal school. Individuals who graduated from St. Francis Mission School believe they are alumni of SFIS, and they hang onto that worn out premise, and withholding authority from the true alumni of SFIS.

The Catholic influence over the school and in the community continues to interfere with SFIS becoming an effective tribal educational institution.

Education is critical to who we become, helping shape our identity. How do we overcome this coercive Christian influence? I believe education is the foremost tool to address the issue. Individuals have freedom to choose faith and how they worship, and we can’t go back and undo what has been done, but there needs to be a recognition by the oppressors—the Catholic church through its pope.

From the Queen of England, to the Portuguese, the Spanish explorers, the federal government and its supreme court—all these are responsible for the political status and underpinning of tribes in the U.S. today.

Pope Nicholas V in 1452 issued the papal bull Dum Diversas (Until Different). It granted to the king of Portugal the pope’s blessing to go to the west coast of Africa and, “Capture, vanquish and subdue the Saracens, pagans and other enemies of Christ, and put them into perpetual slavery and to take all their possessions and their property.”

This papal sanctioning of Christian enslavement and power over non-Christians became known as the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine of Discovery became reinforced with the papal bull, Inter Caetera (Among Other Works), issued in 1493. Pope Alexander VI settled a dispute between the monarchs of Portugal and Spain by drawing a line 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde. Spain was granted authority to take all lands and possessions west of the line, so long as no other Christian ruler had previously claimed them. Portugal was given dominion to possess all lands east of the line with the same proviso that no other Christian ruler had previously claimed them.

In 1496, King Henry VII granted a patent to John Cabot and his sons to possess all lands in the New World not previously discovered by Portugal or Spain.

It reads in part: 

“And that the before-mentioned John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors, lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered.”

The Declaration of Independence speaks of the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, to which a people are entitled, and which impels them to separate. One of the truths held to be self-evident in the Declaration is that, “All men are created equal.”

The colonists put forth a long list of abuses in the Declaration and this statement: “The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World and one of the facts included is: He has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

The political status of tribes today is based on so much hypocrisy that it is most imperative that we, at the very least, are made more fully aware. The Christian Doctrine of Discovery functions as the basis for U.S. law, as it pertains to the “Indigenous People (Indians) of this land.”

The most important Indian-related case ever decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Johnson v. McIntosh, cites the Christian Doctrine of Discovery as justification for Congress’ “plenary power” over Indian Nations.

There is only one God and every culture strives to understand the “Great Mystery” (Taku Wakan). It is amazing that one person who did not understand the spiritual practices of many cultures could give permission to monarchs to violate his own commandments and that would lead to other political actions justifying all the atrocities committed against Indian tribes.

This Christian Doctrine of Discovery was included in the most famous and damaging U.S. Supreme Court decision (Johnson v. McIntosh), authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, who is responsible for the Marshall Trilogy, which made tribes dependent to this day.

We have to understand how we got to be where we are, to know where we’re going.


/s/ Rep. Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman

RST Council

Rosebud Community

—Rep. Lunderman is currently serving his third year representing Rosebud Community. He is up for reelection this summer.

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