Dedication Speech

Medicine Wheel Memorial
Ada Hayden Heritage Park, Ames, Iowa
September 16, 2006

In December of 1890, Chief Bigfoot and his band were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in what the U.S. 7th cavalry called a battle.  And the War Department and the churches worked hand in hand to civilize my ancestors.  Our way of life and worshiping went underground after that to preserve it.  It was against the law to practice our traditional ceremonies from then until a law was finally passed by Congress. 


On August 11, 1978 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed.  So, we have only had a freedom to pray for the last 28 years.  My people fought long and hard to preserve our ways; but in that process, some of us have lost sight of our language and traditional ways.


I remember my parents and grandparents telling about their time in boarding schools. They would get beaten with rubber hoses and wet towels when they spoke their own Lakota language.  Consequently, they didn't teach the younger generation the language or the traditional spiritual ways. Although I never attended boarding schools, I suffered the same trauma as my parents and grandparents.  And the unresolved grief was passed on to me.  Mainly because we couldn't practice our spiritual ways, we couldn't grieve properly or find resolution to our grief because our ceremonies were illegal.

Before the Wounded Knee massacre, Chief Sitting Bull was killed by Indian police, (who worked for the US government).  The Editor/Publisher of the Aberdeen Pioneer, Aberdeen South Dakota, wrote an editorial about Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee.  Here is an excerpt:

The whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent.  And the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these despicable beings. 

--L. Frank Baum, Editor/Publisher of the Aberdeen Pioneer.   


Later, Baum wrote a children's book, and you have all seen the movie made from that book.  It is  The Wizard of Oz.

The act of genocide against the natural peoples of this continent took many lives. The death toll from those acts was more than all the casualties of all the wars that the U S has been involved in, on both sides, combined.

Today, there are many non-Lakota people who believe and worship our way.  And I'm happy with the respect that is shown to our way of life by those that take the time to learn the traditional way.

It is with great humility and honor that I am here today. On behalf of the Lakota people, and with great respect and gratitude for the Mes qua kee, whose ground I stand on today, I offer these final words:

I want to dedicate this site, this cangleska (medicine wheel), to the memory of all those great people of all tribes who gave their lives defending our principles, beliefs, and our God-given right to pray.  Also, to the future, the children and the unborn.  What are we giving them?  A depleted ozone layer?  Pollution?  Let us work together to make this world a better place for them.


Let this medicine wheel be a symbol of making peace with the ancestors, and a beginning to living with respect for each other.

Pilama (thank you),
Wanbli Gleska Wicasa (Spotted Eagle Man)
Lester Obago



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