Manape LaMere and Frank LaMere honoring Reuben Snake

HONORING REUBEN SNAKE

“THE EAGLE THAT SITS ATOP THE STAFF FROM WHICH HANGS THIS COUNTRY’S SYMBOL OF JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY, THAT IS MY LAWYER.  THAT IS THE INTERCEDER BETWEEN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS.  THAT IS MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE INDIAN WAY OF LIFE.”

I HEARD REUBEN SNAKE SAY THESE THINGS AS HE CAMPAIGNED TO BE THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS.  I REMEMBER HIS WORDS AND I REPEAT THEM QUITE OFTEN.

I KNEW REUBEN SNAKE WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MAN.  MY INTERACTION WITH HIM WAS INFREQUENT BUT IT WAS ALWAYS MEANINGFUL, INSIGHTFUL AND PURPOSEFUL.  WHEN I LOOK BACK AND REFLECT ON THE DISCUSSIONS WE HAD OF THE PAST, THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE I CANNOT HELP BUT THINK THAT OUR COMING TOGETHER WAS BIGGER THAN US. THAT IT WAS PRE-ORDAINED AND GUIDED BY THE CREATOR THAT GOOD WOULD COME OF IT FOR THE FAMILIES, THE CLANS, AND THE PEOPLE.

THAT IS THE WAY WE USED TO SEE THINGS AND IT IS THROUGH THAT LENS THAT I REFLECT BACK AND GIVE TESTAMENT TO THIS MAN TODAY.   IT IS AN HONOR TO DO SO AND INDEED A GREAT PRIVILEGE TO BE ASKED TO SHARE SOME THOUGHTS WITH YOU AS WE BEGIN THIS HOMECOMING CELEBRATION.

REUBEN WAS A MENTOR TO ALL AMONG THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD LISTEN.  ALL THAT I HAVE DONE AND ALL THAT I HOPE TO DO IS BECAUSE OF HIM AND OTHER WINNEBAGO PEOPLE WHO TAUGHT US THAT IT IS OKAY TO BE BOLD, TO STEP FORWARD AND TO TELL EVERYONE THAT THE WINNEBAGOES ARE HERE AND THAT YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY.

THAT IS BECAUSE IT WAS THE WINNEBAGO WHO FIRST CONSECRATED THE GROUND ON WHICH WE LIVE, GROW AND FLOURISH. WHO FIRST ASKED FOR BOUNTIFUL HARVEST, FOR A GOOD HUNT AND FOR PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS.  IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS WE PROMISED TO BE GOOD STEWARDS OF THE LAND AND TO BE MINDFUL OF THE GENERATIONS WHO WILL COME AFTER US.  COVENANTS HAVE BEEN MADE AND COVENANTS MUST BE RESPECTED.

REUBEN SNAKE UNDERSTOOD THE COVENANTS THOUGH THEY ARE NOT WRITTEN IN STONE.  THEY ARE CARRIED IN THE HEARTS OF MEN WHO WILL LEAD AND WILL SPEAK AND ACT IN DEFENSE OF THE PEOPLE. REUBEN WAS ONE WHO CHOSE TO ACT AND WHO CHOSE TO LEAD.

HE DEFENDED HIS CULTURE, HIS TRADITIONS, HIS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND HIS INDIAN PEOPLE.  HIS BATTLES ARE CHRONICLED, HIS VISION WAS CLEAR, AND HIS VICTORIES ARE STILL CELEBRATED!  HE AUTHORED BEING INDIAN IS, A SNAPSHOT OF NATIVE EXISTENCE AND STRUGGLE WHICH REMAINS A MUST READ FOR WINNEBAGOES AND ALL INDIAN PEOPLE TODAY.

HE HELPED TO MOLD MANY OF MY BELIEFS.  “THERE ARE NO LITTLE PEOPLE,” HE SAID. I HAVE COME TO KNOW THIS AND BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE NO INSIGNIFICANT PEOPLE AMONG US.  NO ONE IS GREATER OR LESSER THAN THE NEXT. MAO-UNA HAS GIVEN TO EACH AND EVERY PERSON GATHERED, CERTAIN TALENTS AND ABILITIES TO BE USED NOT ONLY FOR THEMSELVES BUT FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE. I DO NOT HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT REUBEN GAVE HIMSELF TO THE PEOPLE AND HE LEFT HIS FAMILY AND THIS SIDE OF MAO-UNA’S CREATION MUCH TOO EARLY.

REUBEN HAS BEEN CHARACTERIZED BY ALL AS A HUMBLE MAN AND I RECOGNIZE HIM AS SUCH EVEN ON THIS OCCASION SO LONG AFTER HE HAS LEFT.  I DO SO FOR A REASON.  THERE ARE MANY IN OUR SOCIETY AND EVEN AMONG THE TRIBES WHO RAISE THEIR VOICES FOR SOME STATED PURPOSE AND ANNOUNCE TO ALL THAT THEY ARE HUMBLE MEN WHO LIVE HUMBLE LIVES.  I DARE SAY THAT TO SPEAK OF YOUR HUMILITY ONLY SHOWS YOUR VANITY AND YOUR FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR WHOLE LIFE IS A SEARCH FOR HUMILITY AND THAT ONLY ON YOUR DEPARTING DAY AND THE YEARS AFTER WILL YOU BE JUDGED AS TO HOW YOU LIVED YOUR LIFE.  WHEN WE DEPART AND OTHERS SPEAK OF US IT SHOULD BE OUR HOPE THAT ONE MAN RISE UP AND SAY TO ALL THAT HE WAS A GOOD AND HUMBLE MAN.  ONLY THEN WILL WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE ATTAINED THE HUMILITY THAT WE SOUGHT AND THAT WE WILL HAVE LIVED A GOOD LIFE.

REUBEN SNAKE FOUND THE HUMILITY HE SOUGHT, HUMILITY THAT ELUDES THE REST OF US.  ALL HERE CALL HIM A HUMBLE MAN AND ALL OF THE INDIAN NATIONS HAVE JOINED THE WINNEBAGO PEOPLE IN ECHOING WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE.  THAT IS GOOD!

REUBEN WAS A MAN WHO POSSESSED A CLEAR AND LASTING VISION, A DEMONSTRATED WISDOM AND THE FORESIGHT THAT HAS BROUGHT THE WINNEBAGO PEOPLE TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY.  THERE CAN BE NO ARGUMENT ABOUT THAT!

IN HIS LIFETIME;

REUBEN AUTHORED AND SHEPHERDED THROUGH THE TRIBAL COUNCIL A SELF-SUFFICIENCY PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE THAT IS BEING RECOGNIZED AND SEEN AS THE VEHICLE FOR POSITIVE CHANGE THAT IS EVIDENT IN THE COMMUNITY AND AMONG THE WINNEBAGO PEOPLE TODAY.  HE HAD VISION.

HE GUIDED THE EFFORTS OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS AND FOUGHT FOR REPATRIATION AND TO HELP SECURE RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS FOR NATIVE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.

HE BROUGHT INDIAN SPIRITUAL LEADERS FROM THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA TO WINNEBAGO TO PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE AND FOR MOTHER EARTH.  IT IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE GREATEST EARTH DAY OBSERVANCE EVER EXPERIENCED IN INDIAN COUNTRY TO THIS DAY!

REUBEN WORKED TO EMPOWER THE WINNEBAGO PEOPLE AND ALL NATIVE AMERICANS POLITICALLY AND SPOKE OF OUR NEED TO TAKE OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THE PROCESS.  HE WAS ONE OF A HANDFUL OF INDIAN LEADERS WHO STRATEGIZED AND UTILIZED THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO GET THIS DONE.  THEY FORMED THE NATIONAL INDIAN DEMOCRATS WHO GAVE ME THE FORUM TO BECOME THE FIRST AND LONGEST SERVING NATIVE AMERICAN ON THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE AND THE CHAIR OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN CAUCUS AT SEVERAL NATIONAL CONVENTIONS. IT CAN BE SAID THAT I, AS A WINNEBAGO, WAS ONE OF FOUR NATIVE AMERICAN SUPER DELEGATES TO ELECT BARACK OBAMA AS THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2008.  IT MUST ALSO BE NOTED CHAIRMAN BLACKHAWK IS WIDELY RECOGNIZED FOR THE POLITICAL SUPPORT THAT HE BRINGS TO STATE AND NATIONAL ELECTIONS AND THAT HE HAS MADE THE WINNEBAGOES MUCH SOUGHT AFTER POLITICAL ALLIES!  REUBEN’S DIRECTION THAT WE EMPOWER OURSELVES DID NOT FALL ON DEAF EARS AND HAS DEFINITELY NOT GONE UNHEEDED. HE WAS A ROLE MODEL IN THIS REGARD.  HIS TENURE AS A STAFF ADVISOR FOR SENATOR BOB KERREY LENT TO HIS RESOLVE THAT OUR PEOPLE BE HEARD!  WE HAVE A BIG VOICE!!

IN THE 1990’S REUBEN TALKED OF A NEW NEO-LIBERAL APPROACH THAT WAS BEING PROPOSED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT THAT WOULD AFFECT OUR BROTHERS SOUTH OF THE BORDER.  IT REMAINED IN THE BACK OF MY MIND AS HE SAID WE MUST FIGHT IT AND TRY TO ENGAGE LAWMAKERS WHO WOULD SUPPORT THE MISGUIDED EFFORT, LATER CALLED THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT.   I TRAVELED TO CHIAPAS IN SOUTHERN MEXICO TO TALK TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND ZAPATISTA REBEL SUPPORTERS WHO WERE OPPOSED TO THE EFFORT AND ADVISED SENATOR JIM EXON WHO WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE

IMPACT WOULD BE ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.  IT WAS TO NO AVAIL!  NAFTA WAS PASSED AND DISAFFECTS INDIAN PEOPLE EVEN TODAY.  REUBEN SNAKE KNEW OF THIS NEO-LIBERAL DICTATE AND SPOKE OF IT!  SUCH WAS HIS WISDOM AND FORESIGHT!

I ONCE WROTE A SPEECH AT REUBEN’S REQUEST AS HE WAS BEING HONORED IN WASHINGTON, D.C. AND MADE A MEMBER OF THE NEBRASKA SOCIETY.  BECAUSE OF TIME LIMITS HE COULD NOT USE IT.  HE TOLD ME THAT IT WAS A GOOD SPEECH AS IT ACKNOWLEDGED HIS WORK AND HIS LEGACY AND THAT HE LOOKED FORWARD TO USING IT.  THAT OPPORTUNITY WOULD NEVER COME.

I OFFER THAT HE TRUSTED ME YEARS AGO TO SAY WHAT WAS FITTING AND APPROPRIATE.  HE KNEW THAT I WOULD DO THE BEST I COULD.  I HAVE TRIED TO DO THAT TODAY.  I THINK HE WOULD APPROVE OF THIS MISSIVE THAT I SHARE FOR HIS FAMILY AND THE PEOPLE.

REUBEN SNAKE AND THOSE WINNEBAGO LEADERS WHO SHARE HIS VISION HAVE GOTTEN US TO WHERE WE ARE TODAY, AND WILL CONTINUE TO GUIDE US INTO THE FUTURE.  THOSE WE HONOR HERE BY FLYING THEIR FLAGS GAVE US ALL THE RIGHT TO SHARE IN THAT VISION AND TO BE HEARD.

“THE EAGLE THAT SITS ATOP THE STAFF FROM WHICH HANGS THIS COUNTRY’S SYMBOL OF JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY, THAT IS MY LAWYER.” HIS WORDS ARE HIS LEGACY. HIS WORK FOR THE PEOPLE HIS TESTAMENT.  AND HIS LOVE FOR ALL HIS RELATIONS WILL ENDURE UNTIL THE SNAKE FAMILY IS NO MORE.  REUBEN SNAKE IS FOREVER.  REMEMBER HIM AS YOU GATHER.

PI-NAH-GI-GI.

~Frank LaMere, 7/25/13

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