In the Lakota language, Norma Rendon’s name is Waciampi Win, Dependable Woman.
Norma knows the power of her language and her culture.
Oglala Lakota grandparents, Wallace and Millie Little, helped shape Norma Rendon’s view of herself and the world by immersing her in tradition. Her grandfather, Wallace Little, told Norma that there is no word for “ugly” in their language because Creator Tunkasila doesn’t make anything ugly and that we shouldn’t use our language to talk bad about other People because it is a sacred language.
As a little girl, people said the spirituality was gone. Norma knew differently. There were times when her grandfather would wake her and some of the other children in the middle of the night. They would travel by horse and lantern to a medicine man’s log cabin to hold ceremony. Spirituality was not gone, it was hidden. Despite the residential boarding schools “ripple effects” on our lives, Norma states that she became the strong woman she is through prayer, ceremony and family love.
Norma extends her strength and protection to others. As a college student at the University of Colorado, she led a student organizing effort that met every Friday in front of the Chancellor’s office singing, drumming and praying to re-name Nichols Hall to Cheyenne Arapaho Hall. Norma heard women and children crying and screaming one day as she walked in front of this building and when she learned that Nichols was the second in command at the Sand Creek Massacre, she went about correcting history.
Norma states that the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sioux Nation in 1980 by upholding the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The Black Hills “mean everything to us” states Norma and we refuse to take the federal government’s billions of dollars. Money is not the solution to the illegal taking of our sacred land.
Owning no land to live and work in their ancestral Black Hills, Norma states that we have to keep re-inventing ourselves just to meet basic needs of our people. The federal government facility called Sioux San is all we have to work with in Rapid City and it has a troubled history, states Norma, like other government boarding schools. Sioux San was built in 1898 as a boarding school and then became a tuberculosis sanitarium in 1939. She believes numerous unmarked graves of tribal children and TB patients are there. In 1966, the building was re-opened as an Indian Health Clinic.
Norma worked to establish a women’s shelter at Sioux San Indian Health Clinic in Rapid City, South Dakota. It is called Winyan Wicanyuonihan Oyanke –Where All Women Are Honored.
Norma has written grants, provided domestic violence training to law enforcement, helped to draft the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Sex Trafficking Code, and serves as an expert witness at trials. Her commitment and actions are a reflection of her strength.
At this stage of her life, Norma is looking forward to working with youth and building their cultural knowledge to empower them. Despite the many challenges of today’s world, Norma lives compassion and love…Wahwala Omani ,“Walking in a Gentle Way”.