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Creating change for the good of all community members

Author: 
Rebecca Reyes

Vince Two Eagles tells his story of how he got involved in the Wagner (S.D.) Horizons Racism Study Circles and shares his insights on how to direct change to benefit everyone in a community.

Portrait of Vince Two Eagles in traditional clothingHi I’m Rebecca Reyes, the communication assistant at Everyday Democracy. Today I’m talking to Vince Two Eagles who is an organizer for the Horizon Study Circles on Racism in Wagner, South Dakota and also a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe. Vince, can you tell me a little bit about what motivated you to get involved?

Well I think because of my native teachings, we believe that we’re all brothers no matter what color you are. I’ve been to other discussions throughout the state about reconciliation between Indian people and white people. They seemed all to be the same. There was no action taken. First time through I was kind of skeptical because of that. When we got to the action step and started talking about how we were gonna move into action, I was really hooked at that moment. I’ve always been an advocate of reconciliation, but not the kind where you sweep things under the rug but that you have to talk about those hard issues.

So from your perspective, what do you think it takes to create change rooted in dialogue?

Change is going to happen whether we participate or not. How are you going to direct that change? I think people in our communities are starting to see that we could have a hand in directing that change for the good of everyone. I don’t know if there’s a recipe but it definitely involves an interest, reconciliation and an open mind and willingness to recognize that diversity is an asset in any community. So change comes through that discussion with the most important things coming from taking action. You have to do something. You have to move it from those talks to something done in the community however small or however big you want it to be. We’re not going to change this overnight but if we stick at it change will come.

What do you see as the greatest barrier for creating lasting change in your community?

Whatever you’re going to do it has to have a sustainability built in, in other words there has to be a way for it to continue. You can come up with all great ideas but if you don’t have the where with all, whether it’s infrastructure or interest, whatever it is, if people aren’t willing to keep their commitment to what they began in those study circles, then of course it’s going to fall by the wayside. Instead of pointing figures, we can say how can we make it better. I think that’s another barrier. If everyone starts pointing fingers and blaming, that kind of discussion is not useful. Figuring out ways of how can I make it better--that’s a better discussion.

Are there any changes that you’ve seen in your community thus far, either physical changes or just changes in perspective?

We notice that a lot more Indian people are moving into town. We have the Boys and Girls club here in town too, which is not a result of the study circles, but some of the same people who are involved with that are involved with study circles. There’s this vision of including White and Indians kids in community activities and future community development. We’re working on trying to get a multi-cultural center built, one that would showcase culture in our area, so we can draw people to our area like for tourism, and they’ll be able to learn about not only Indian culture but also Czech culture and the German culture. It would be kind of a focus point in the community, not only for the community itself but for educating the next generation about getting along.

Do you have any final thoughts or anything you’d like to add?

If we’re going to ensure a long-term future on this planet for us all then we have to have faith that human spirit, regardless of the culture, can transcend language and culture and color and that we’ll recognize each other for who we truly are. When we get to that point, I think we’ll be okay.

April 12, 2010
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For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked with communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – characterized by strong relationships across divides, leadership...

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.