SDSU’s Consider the Century conference marks silver anniversary

Matthew Allison Reporter


 On Oct. 4, 10 days before Native American Day, the 25th annual Consider the Century: Native American Perspectives on the Past 100 Years, enjoyed its silver anniversary in room 101A of The Union. The conference included Native American speakers whom have lived in South Dakota. 

The first speaker was Sidner Larson, who gave his lecture about American Indian Studies and the challenges American Indian students may face in a university.

“The Academy has a tendency to separate itself from Life when critically analyzing it. What is wanted is balance between the initial look and the messiness of lives,” Larson said. He earned his Ph.D in English and is now the director of American Indian Studies at Iowa State University. 

“There are more homely aspects of history which can be hidden beneath nationalist narratives,” Larson said. “Complementing the reward of knowing tribal history and the oral stories … tribal stories try to describe the world as it actually is.”

Tim Giago spoke about the prospect and progress of reconciliation in South Dakota. Giago is a Harvard Nieman Fellow and founded South Dakota’s reconciliation movement in 1990. 

He also spoke at the first Consider the Century conference in 1989, 25 years ago. The conference originated when the state was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Organizers wanted to put together a conference that was more retrospective of what has happened in South Dakota’s past and what can be done about it in the future. 

“When I met Governor Mickelson 24 years ago, I asked him what the toughest part of his job was,” said Giago. “Trying to do something about race relations.”

Giago narrated to the governor that the Lakota people, in honor of the three hundred men, women, and children slaughtered in the Massacre at Wounded Knee, were going to follow that same trail to Pine Ridge.

“The next year, 1990, was officially proclaimed the Year of Reconciliation,” Giago said. 

Giago was pleased with the progress of reconciling movements, owing a measure of its advance to fast media outlets like the radio, television and social media sites Facebook and Twitter: but Giago’s prospect is still further ahead. 

“Sometimes I see Columbus Day signs on business windows. If the signs are coming out of corporations in other states, we need to educate corporate headquarters that South Dakota celebrates Native American Day,” Giago said.

Marianne Decora delivered the last message of the conference. Decora is the Mental Health Case Manager of Wiconi Wakan Health and Healing Center, in Rosebud. Decora earned his master’s degree in Counseling at SDSU, and is now a licensed professional counselor. Decora talked about multi-generational post-traumatic-stress, and its effect on American Indian communities.

“We call our patients relatives,” Decora said. “Our therapy follows a family-based approach.”

Noting the P.T.S.D. induced from American wars, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee, Decora argued that early-American boarding schools also were sources of enduring trauma. 

“The language and the land is the basis of who we are as a people. The language describes our world. The land gives us our sovereign right as a people,” Decora said.