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Listening to our Elders

In today’s rapid paced, high tech, internet connected and mobile communicating world we often overlook one of the most important elements of learning, listening. I was lucky to have an opportunity to sit and listen to elder and veteran Charles Lonewolf of the Umonhon tribe, a familiar face at NICC’s South Sioux City campus. His Umonhon name is Te huton bi which means Buffalo Makes Noise. Charles was born at home in Walthill which was very common according to Charles because a team of horses and a wagon were the main transportation at the time. He can remember when highways 77 and 75 were just wagon trails and had fond memories about the sense of community at the natural springs that watered the horses along the road. His young days were spent down by the Missouri river where he would gather gooseberries, raspberries, plums and apples from the timbers for his grandmother to make pies with. She would sell pies to the men working on channelizing the river for extra money for the family. Charles happily recalled memories of his early days playing in the timbers and the old abandoned Mission building.

At about five years of age, Charles was sent to boarding school. He reflected on the experiences of his elders at the old style boarding schools and is thankful that the military style approach to teaching his elders endured at the old style boarding schools was being phased out when he began attending boarding school. Charles considers himself lucky that he attended boarding school during the new era of boarding schools which was turning away from the military style of education. Charles stated: “the old days were much harder, but we faced similar problems then that we face today.” Charles sees positive changes for young people, “Things are more open to young people now, they have access to the languages, ceremonies, social programs and community. They also have options. When we were young there were few options for us. Families today have a lot of opportunities; I hope they appreciate the freedom of mobility and access to education that our elders didn’t have.”

I asked Charles what advice he would have for students and he shared some of his thoughts about what has helped him through the years. These are some of Charles’ words of wisdom.

1. Make good choices and decisions- it is up to you to choose your path.

2. If you start something finish it-respect yourself and your people

3. Have a goal, make plans and take on responsibility

4. Don’t do things halfheartedly- you only get back what you put into something

5. Your children depend on you- Be responsible and make good decisions for their sake

6. Be careful of the legacy of Alcohol- be aware and respect the cycle of alcoholism

7. Nobody owes you anything- you are in charge of your own destiny

8. If you have the right attitude, the right mind-set, and determination, you will reach your goals

9. The warrior tradition is important of our tradition- the eagle feathers are earned for bravery and protecting the people. Today men and women can be warriors. When you complete something, you have earned it, and no one can take that away from you. When you earn that degree, you have earned that honor, it is yours. Go in a good way as a modern warrior. Charles is a military veteran who has spent 40 years working in social services to better the lives of Native Americans, and raised a family and currently lives in South Sioux City. We all need guidance and Charles Lonewolf said: “if any students need advice they can call on me.” In today’s fast paced society we need to respect the importance of listening to our elders. 


Student Recognition Brian Morris

Brian Morris, Vice President of the Student Senate sets the bar high as an example for others. Brian’s academic work has developed a spot light for others to follow as his light shines bright with straight A’s last semester. Brian was born and raised in Omaha, NE. He went to junior high in Omaha but had difficulty and went to ISC, an alternative school, until 11th grade. He then pursued his GED and received it in 1993. Brian has three children in Omaha and one in Santee. This is his second semester at NICC. His grade point average is 3.9. Brian also currently helps in the library in the work study program. His goal is to be an alcohol counselor. He likes to sing at the drum and follow his traditional ways. He is an enrolled tribal member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. Great work, Brian we are excited to see your efforts rewarded. 

As Sovereign as You Act

 Edward L. Cline, Sr came from a long line of leaders. Both grandfathers and his father served on the Umonhon Tribal Council, and so did Mr. Cline himself at various times in his life. His granddaughter, Kyla Cline-Snake, remembers times when her grandfather would speak passionately about the days of old and how everyone would call each other by their given Native American names. Edward L. Cline, Sr. was Waca’be Zhinga, or Little Black Bear. He was often heard saying “you’re as sovereign as you act” and there is a lot of meaning in those 6 words. Sovereignty has been said to deliver a connection, which bares responsibly, to work in the best interest of the people. As with many great leaders, it is this responsibility that drives individuals to accomplish great things.

As a young man, Waca’be Zhinga, was a keen observer. Growing up during the depression, very few jobs existed and tribal people faced tremendous struggles on many fronts. Lack of appropriate education, good health care, homes, and solutions to address social issues, left many in Indian country looking for answers. Witnessing these struggles first hand, Waca’be Zhinga with our tribal leaders and many of the leaders across native lands, worked as advocates for change to address these and many other challenges for all people. Waca’be Zhinga was part of the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards that reformed education for the Umonhon people, and resulted in our Macy Public School System. He drove efforts that led to the Carl T. Curtis Health Care facility and developed housing programs and social programs. Additionally, much of our governance structure along with the Justice center has been grown through the efforts of Waca’be Zhinga and the Umonhon tribal leaders. While researching documents, Waca’be Zhinga discovered that thousands of acres of land were taken from the Umonhon people. A shift in course of the Ni shu da, the smoky waters of the Missouri had happened, and land reemerged to the Iowa side to be claimed by white farmers. Waca’be Zhinga stood strong with persistence and tenacity along with our other tribal leaders to win a battle that took decades against the federal government and white farmers to reclaim the Blackbird Bend land for the Umonhon people. As a tribal leader and chairman for the Umonhon Nation, Waca’be Zhinga, carried the virtue of humility, not wishing to take credit for the many things he worked to accomplish, however we owe much to our current and past leadership for the efforts and actions they take. I believe the legacy of Waca’be Zhinga leaves behind wisdom for all about this responsibility to work in the best interest of the people and I am proud that our new Macy Facility, Waca’be Zhinga Higher Education Center (Little Black Bear), carries his name.