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Crime and Justice: A Traditional Sicangu (Rosebud) Lakota Perspective

Voss, Richard W
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Social Policy Times. 3(2). Research Center on Societal and Social Policy. Downloaded 2 March 2004.

Over the past 10 years I (Richard Voss) have been visiting family and friends on various reservations of the Great Sioux Nation in South Dakota. More recently I have led “cultural immersion” courses where I have taken students to learn about traditional Lakota values and practices related to social work practice. Invariably, the experience evokes a crisis of consciousness where my students discover that there is an indigenous nation within our great American nation and begin to realize that there are other ways of thinking about the various problems that confront our communities and very different ways of helping to resolve these problems. One of my Lakota relatives told me that many problems result from a deep lack of awareness between mainstream American culture and traditional indigenous cultures; an awareness so deep that there is not even an awareness that there is an unawareness, hence the Lakota term, Aicibleze’sni (“to not have an awareness of oneself”). When we think about social justice in the criminal justice system there seldom includes a discussion about indigenous American (traditional Lakota) practice. I discussed this question with Sheryl L. Klein, Chairperson of the Human Services and Ione Quigley, Chair of Lakota Studies, Department at Sinte Gleska University, a tribal college of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, specifically in reference to Professor Klein’s article “Crime and Justice Among the Traditional Lakota’ (1987), based upon personal interviews with traditional elders, which she used in her Criminal Justice course. This essay is based upon discussions with Professor Klein (2002) and a paper she wrote in 1987 at Sinte Gleska University, Professor Quigley, Chair of the Lakota Studies Department, and discussions I had with Alex Little Soldier, former Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (1997). (excerpt)


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