Tiokasin, who is a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota, was a Nominee for a 2016 Nobel Peace Prize from the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. He is motivated by a commitment to protect Mother Earth and all living beings.
He brings his knowledge, perspective and experience of living with—not on—Mother Earth to audiences worldwide through his radio show, his music (he is a master musician of the Lakota flute) and his teachings.
Tiokasin says, “We have to stop with the idea of creating peace on earth and begin with creating peace with Mother Earth. We’ve tried the first way for thousands of years but look where that has led us. Now is the time for the Original Ways—the Native ways. We all must make peace with Mother Earth. There can be no more altering the Native way.”
FIRST VOICES EMPOWERMENT
Tiokasin believes that Indigenous knowledge empowers through inclusion and teaches responsibility with regard to how all people—Natives and non-Natives—choose to live in today’s world. Radio is still one of the most effective ways for reaching people throughout the world—many of them of them are Indigenous peoples living in remote areas—and one of the best ways for the voices of Indigenous people to be heard.
It was Tiokasin’s initial desire to share his understanding, perspective and the fact that the voices of Indigenous peoples have been historically excluded from the mainstream media that led him to found “First Voices Radio” (first known as “First Voices Indigenous Radio,” he also serves as the show’s Executive Producer). The show has been airing weekly for 26 years and is currently syndicated on 75 public, community and commercial stations in the U.S. and Canada.
“First Voices Radio” ensures the continuance and survival of Indigenous cultures and original nations by letting the people tell their own stories in their own words and often in their own
languages and ways of speaking with as little outside interference and interruption as possible.
ENERGIZED BY & CONCERN FOR NATIVE YOUNG PEOPLE
Tiokasin is energized and inspired by the passion of Native youth and the Native youth movements that have emerged during recent years—in particular, at Standing Rock and other places where water and lands are threatened. He has observed a renewed commitment to culture and a growing engagement by Native young people to raise their voices to protect Mother Earth.
When asked if there was one issue that he is most concerned about in our tribal communities today, Tiokasin answered that he is very concerned about the Native youth suicide rate and has focused his charitable efforts in locales where suicide attempts are devastatingly high.
In recent years, Tiokasin has been working with Lakota children—promoting cultural values and music appreciation through educational workshops. Tiokasin says, “I work with several organizations that raise funds for Native children, which include holding concerts and giving talks on the reality facing Native youth in the places where historical trauma has devastated communities. I know communities where months go by without a suicide attempt and then there is a rash of suicides, which I believe is caused mostly by the isolation of our communities and lack of resources to intervene. The drug situation has also reached epidemic proportions in many communities with some drugs being sold more cheaply than alcohol by pushers living on and off the reservation—well, you can only imagine what this situation does to the youngest and most vulnerable.”
There are no simple solutions but Tiokasin believes more attention and resources need to be made available to address historical trauma and promote traditional ways of healing and existing in the world, and to continue to work together to decolonize ourselves from Western thought processes and behaviors, which have impacted all of us.
WE MUST NOT BECOME BIGGER THAN THE MESSAGE
Tiokasin has a saying, “We must not become bigger than the message” and he finds that humility seems to be missing in some advocacy efforts. In the U.S., where English is the dominant language and with many Native peoples accustomed to living a completely colonized life without their original languages, traditions and cultures intact, Tiokasin sees an unfortunate incidence in Native voices being silenced by a few outspoken ones who seem more interested in the “spotlight” than listening and being the conduit by which the many are heard and appreciated.
He says, "It seems to me that the more coherent voice missing from the struggle is that of Mother Earth, where we have turned everything into an anthropocentric Western view of human rights so that we piece-meal our lives around the colonial material matrix that we as Natives unknowingly reinforce while losing our cultural values.”
*How to listen to “First Voices Radio”: “First Voices Radio” airs live weekly on Tuesdays from noon to 1 pm Eastern Time on WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport, Connecticut (streaming at www.wpkn.org). Shows are available in the WPKN archive immediately following the broadcasts and later posted at www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org. Follow the show on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FirstVoicesIndigenousRadio.
(Photo of Tiokasin Ghosthorse by Ivan March)