The Indigenous Men’s and Women’s Oyate (Community) of the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Reservation in South Dakota has formed an alliance with the ManKind Project USA nonprofit men’s training and peer support organization, the first of its kind in more than 150 years.
For more than 20 years men and women connected with the ManKind Project have been building relationships with the people on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, creating trust and mutual respect. Beginning in the 1990s, a number of indigenous men traveled to attend the ManKind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure in Colorado and Iowa, taking the emotional and purpose-focused work back to the reservation to form men’s and women’s circles.
Signing of the Alliance
Signing of the Alliance – Dallas and Becky Chief Eagle
On March 14, 2015, Elders of the Pine Ridge Men’s and Women’s Oyate (community) and representatives of the ManKind Project USA met in ceremony to formalize a “Hunka,” a “Making of Allies” between the ManKind Project USA and the Pine Ridge Oyate.
Dallas Chief Eagle and his wife Becky Chief Eagle, who hold leadership roles in the Pine Ridge Oyate, said that this is the first such agreement in over 150 years, since an alliance between the Lakota and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in 1868.
The men and women of the Pine Ridge Oyate have benefited from the healing and connection that men have found through ManKind Project trainings and in peer-facilitated groups. In a 2013 article on “Indianz.com;” “The Men’s Oyate – Going from pain to healing” Dallas Chief Eagle described the evolution of the Oyate and the type of work being done in the men’s groups.
According to Chief Eagle, generations of [native] men have grown up without any emotional support. “Now we are able to get together and attend to these emotions. I am now more real than I used to be. I am more honest. I’m not as angry as I used to be, not as frustrated.”
In an interview with Boysen Hodgson, the ManKind Project USA’s Communications Director, Dallas described the events leading up to the alliance through a number of notable elders in the Lakota tribe, several of whom have now passed away.
The women of Pine Ridge support the work because of the direct impact it has on their families and community. From Indianz.com: One of the goals of the Men’s Oyate is to become the men their women need them to be.
Becky Chief Eagle has been married to Dallas for 5 years. She said, “I have seen mahasani do a 360 degree turn. I fell in love with Dallas because we could communicate, but in the last 18 months he has really opened up and shared a lot. It strengthened us. He helped my son and I help his daughters, and now he is not afraid to tell you he loves you.”
Speaking about the alliance, Dan Pecaut, a native of Iowa who has been assisting with efforts to bring Lakota men to the Central Plains community for ManKind Project trainings and supporting the development of peer-facilitated groups said, “To grow into a relationship of trust with these beautiful people upon whom were visited genocide, broken promises, and cultural destruction over the past century and a half is deeply humbling. I’m simply awed by their generosity of spirit.”
MKP USA has committed to support the people of Pine Ridge “for the generations,” and has gifted the full content of the New Warrior Training Adventure to the people of Pine Ridge to use in a way that best helps heal and build community. Formalizing the alliance was viewed by those participating as a step “toward healing built with accountability, trust, and responsibility for our peoples.”
Said Rich Tosi, co-founder of the ManKind Project, “This is not an occasion for MKP to take pride saying ‘look at what we’ve done’. It is a serious commitment we’re making to a people who have been betrayed. We are establishing a relationship based on mutual trust. It’s a large responsibility. What we offer now in this alliance is what we have to give, in the hope that community and healing will continue to grow in Pine Ridge. I think what is called for, and what I feel, is humility. It is my deepest prayer that Pine Ridge and MKP will benefit greatly from this relationship as we learn from each other.”
The ceremony took place over two days, March 13 and 14, and included a traditional lodge, a pipe ceremony, a traditional buffalo hunt, and a formal signing of the alliance with about 50 men and women from Pine Ridge and the ManKind Project in attendance. At the request of the Elders of the Oyate, Oscar nominated filmmaker Frederick Marx, who has a long history of relationships on the Pine Ridge Reservation, was brought in to document the historic events.
Coming out of this Alliance, the Pine Ridge Oyate is already actively integrating the new material. On May 1-3, at the Chief Eagles’ All Nations Training Center in Martin, South Dakota, a New Warrior Training Adventure was held for men, women, and children of the Pine Ridge Oyate to continue the work of emotional healing and community building that is the basis for the new relationship.
Men’s and Women’s Training, May 1-3
Becky Chief Eagle, in an interview with the ManKind Project USA, talked about the evolution of the work that she and Dallas have been doing. “We now have a big, big family of healthy people coming together, where we can share dreams, ceremony, and wishes,” she is excited for the possibility of bringing the work to more areas of the Pine Ridge Reservation through her extensive connections to service organizations in the area.
“This is all from the love, compassion, and commitment the people have within them,” said Becky, “our doors are always open.”
This alliance does not represent a formal alliance with the Lakota Nation, but with a community based organization of men and women at Pine Ridge.
The ManKind Project