The only war the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and Catholic Church had was long ago. Massive deployments of missionaries invaded the reservation to eradicate tribal spirituality and impose religious conversions on our ancestors. Colonization triumphed, and with boarding schools our grandparents were forced into assimilation. Causalities of this war were immeasurable: We lost our language, lands, ceremonies and history, only to have them replaced with decades of physical mistreatment, sexual abuse, institutionalized exploitation and spiritual corruption.
The church mastered "divide and conquer" to stop any resistance. Today, this tactic remains effective for special-interest groups with sizable bank accounts to confound impoverished tribal communities and convince them to ignore cultural beliefs in exchange for much-needed social and economic enticements.
Michael Running Wolf's gallant stance to defend St. Labre from the tribe's lawsuit is a perfect example, and when put within a historical and cultural context exposes self-serving and egocentric motives of a "token Indian." St. Labre uses the tribe's name and land without any authorization to market and capitalize on the reservation's bleak conditions and receives mammoth amounts of charity.
The tribe doesn't receive any of the estimated hundreds of millions to help better things. Only a handful of St. Labre employees and students receive such benefits like scholarships, status, access, exclusivity and other advantages.
At the request of elders, the tribe unanimously voted to sue St. Labre for past injustices and seek equity for questionable fundraising activities. It remains about principle and integrity, not pride and greed.
L. Jace Killsback, Busby District representative
Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council