Category Archives: Cheyenne River Sioux

Saving America From The Death Of Decency


As I do each summer, I spent the last week on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Although you may not be familiar with the Reservation, there is a good chance that you have heard of the Sioux Native Americans or, for that matter, one of their famous chiefs, Sitting Bull. This year, in addition to helping residents in a variety of ways, I was honored to be asked to conduct a few STEM oriented classes for the local children.

What you may not know about this remote Reservation, a place six hours from the nearest good size city (Rapid City), is that its residents are some of the most impoverished people in North America. Jobs are scarce, health hazards are high, and the suicide rate for adults and children is alarming.  Many of the ancestors of these good people were murdered by settlers intent on stealing their land and those that survived were forced from their homes, places that they owned and farmed and fished and hunted for generations, into the Reservations where they now reside. America has a long, indecent and savage, history of stealing their property, their primary food source (bison), their hope for the future and so much more.

The Cheyenne River Sioux’s poverty and desperation reminds me all too much of what we are watching in Washington today. The indecent manner in which our government is treating immigrants, our environment and all-to-often our own citizens is appalling and must stop.

One of the highlights of my trip to South Dakota each year has been spending time with a little boy that I will call “Liam” to protect his true identity. A couple of years ago when I first met him, the time that we spent together was a highlight of my trip. When I returned the following year, I was eager to see “Liam” although I could not possibly imagine he would remember me. Much to my surprise he totally remembered me, my name and even the things we did together the summer before. Our friendship picked up right where it left off a year earlier and so you can imagine my disappointment this summer, on my recent trip, when “Liam” was nowhere to be found.

Day after day passed and I neither saw nor heard about “Liam”. That is until my last night, during dinner when one of the town’s elders, his grandfather, explained that “Liam” had just returned home and was recovering from a suicide attempt. Mind you, my friend “Liam” is no older than nine.

The source of the desperation that “Liam” and the Lakota and other Native American tribes like theirs face can, of course, be traced to the indecent manner in which our forefathers treated our country’s native people. Sadly, that indecent behavior towards those who are less fortunate, who think differently and who look or speak differently is alive and well in our country today including in places such as The White House.

Which brings me to my beloved Aunt Marcie and Uncle Steve. While I was out of town this past week, my aunt and uncle had dinner with my father and later that night Dad explained how distraught Aunt Marcie was, repeatedly in tears during dinner, over what President Trump and our government are doing to immigrant families, including separating children from their parents as they try to enter the United States in search of a better life.

Now, I understand that not every single person on planet earth that wants to come to the United States can do that, for a variety of often complex reasons, but I also understand that we are a nation of immigrants; ultimately, each of us or our families came from somewhere else perhaps with the exception of my Lakota friends and other Native Americans like them. But I also understand, and would like to believe that this is the case to our core, that America is a place where our citizens treat one another with decency, respect and civility.

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To separate desperate families in search of a better life is about as indecent and shameful a thing as I could possibly imagine. And to cover it up with politics, with the President beating his chest about strong borders and walls or, for that matter, his wife disrespecting pretty much everyone in our country by wearing a billboard of a jacket that shouts “I really don’t care, do u?”, is disgraceful.


The question that Mrs. Trump’s jacket asked brings me back to Aunt Marcie and Uncle Steve. As distraught as she and any decent person was over what the President did, I’m proud to tell you that she took action and while I was traveling back to Miami last night, she was marching in Homestead with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other people to answer that question with a resoundingly loud “YES, we care”.


My aunt and the people who marched in Homestead sent a loud message that, in a week filled with desperation and many stories about indecent behavior from our President, gives me hope. And most importantly, those that rode those buses and stood up for those less fortunate – the children separated from their families who are forced to live in a ‘camp’ that reminds too many of Nazi Germany – are ‘just’ normal every day American citizens. They are your friends and neighbors, not politicians in search of the limelight or trying to stroke their ego, but everyday people simply trying to do the right thing by helping others.

Those who marched made it clear that Americans care about family, including immigrant families.

They made it clear that treating others with decency, kindness and respect is important to our country despite the appalling behavior some are displaying for political gain or simply because they are evil.

Our country has many serious, and often complex and costly, challenges: immigration, race relations and our climate crisis to name just a few. But I believe those who marched made it clear that only by working together, by embracing and celebrating our differences, can we address these important issues.

And to solve such issues the politics of fear that some seem to so enjoy touting or tweeting must come to an end.  I believe that those who marched thankfully represent the vast majority of Americans, people who intend to right what is wrong and I do hope that you will join us over the next few months by helping revise and embrace decency in our country.

Fixing what is broken begins with your vote.

If restoring decency to our democracy is important then we must focus on America’s primary elections this summer and the critically important midterm election in November.

You and everyone you know must vote.  Please.

These are our chances to send a message across our country, and to the world, that America is a decent place filled with good, caring people. People who care about the “Liams” of the world, who respect even those with whom we might have a difference of opinion and, of course, that want to be good stewards of our environment in our short time living here.

It’s time to step up America and put an end to this dictatorial madness and the politics of hate. Let us all come together this year and save America from the death of decency. Before it’s too late.

I’m off on another week of shark tagging adventures with the Field School, this time off the coast of South Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll be catching and releasing all sorts of different and amazing shark species and performing important science all week. I’ll look forward to sharing stories from this adventure upon my return and hope that you enjoy the rest of June and are having a wonderful summer.

Attack dogs, rubber bullets and mass arrests. Tear gas too.

Attack dogs, rubber bullets and mass arrests. Tear gas too.

Those are some of the weapons being used against innocent Americans in the climate change war right here in the United States as 2016 nears an end. You read that right, good, innocent, unarmed American citizens who care about protecting our environment are being assaulted by attack dogs, rubber bullets and tear gas, as well as being subjected to mass arrests.

Over an environmental concern.

In America.

In 2016.

Before I tell you about these atrocities, I first need to tell you a few things about me that most reading this blog never knew.


Over the last two summers I have been honored to participate in humanitarian efforts to help members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota. I’ve lived among the Cheyenne River Sioux in rather primitive conditions and I’ve seen what’s left of the remnants of a once proud Native American nation.

I’ve learned how these proud people have been abused by our government and forefathers for well over 100 years and, sadly, I have also seen the resulting poverty, ravaged environment and limited resources that have been left behind.

The  Cheyenne River Sioux are never far from my thoughts and as we think about Thanksgiving I find myself thinking of how the souls of generations of Native Americans were stolen in the Dakotas (and elsewhere), along with tens of millions of acres of land and the priceless natural resources in and on them. What I’ve seen and learned is, itself, shameful but only gets worse when we consider what is happening in that region today in the global climate change war.


Perhaps calling what’s happening ‘shameful’ is not strong enough. Appalling might be a better word to describe what is happening to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe of North Dakota. As I write this I’m not even sure what is more disturbing:

The fact that local police, along with private security forces likely hired by a Texas based oil company, Energy Transfer Partners, that is intent on building a 1,134-mile long pipeline next to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, have resorted to using attack dogs, rubber bullets, tear gas and mass arrests to fight the peaceful demonstrators trying to stop construction of the pipeline or;

The insane injustice the Sioux face by learning that the pipeline was moved from the state capital closer to the reservation because people in the city had more political influence than the tribe or;

That, in 2016, we are even building another crude oil pipeline in the first place.

Frankly, I don’t even understand why we have to build another pipeline anywhere on the planet when the crude oil it carries will end up being turned into carbon dioxide that will further pollute and warm our planet’s atmosphere. The entire scenario from the pipeline to the location to the bullets, everything, seems like it should come out of a science fiction novel rather than modern-day America.

Sadly, this is not a book.

It is the reality on the front lines of the global warming war and I fear that the weapons and the war are only about to get worse. News that our new national leadership wants to expand the use of coal, install new pipelines and drill new oil rigs should scare every American not working for the fossil fuel oil and utilities industry.

And after it scares you, I hope that it will make you SO very mad that you will stand with me and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We have a world of clean, sustainable, affordable options such as solar power that can help solve the climate change crisis and in the process create new industries and tons of jobs.


So on this eve of Thanksgiving 2016, allow me to suggest that we must stop building new pipelines, drilling for more oil, increasing our fracking, pretending ‘clean coal’ exists or that carbon dioxide does not pollute our atmosphere and oceans. We must put an end to this madness before we destroy our planet and the very soul of America.

We’ve already nearly destroyed Indian nations like the Sioux and their lands and while I would have thought we would have learned lessons from history, I can tell you that I’ve seen with my own eyes that that’s not the case.

But we have another chance to change things and I remain hopeful, ever hopeful, that Americans will put a stop to what’s happening and demand an end to the use of fossil fuel and the pollution that comes with every drop. And while we are at it I need your help in protecting the sacred Sioux. If any of this concerns you then fighting for Standing Rock and helping the Sioux would be a good start. They can’t do it alone, nor should they have to this time around.

As you give thanks this week for what’s important in your life please consider learning more about the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their fight by visiting or I am positive that they will be grateful, thankful, for your care, concern and support.

To learn more about musician Dave Matthews’ benefit concern that will take place later this week in DC click here (or view Dave Matthews’ live stream of his benefit concert by clicking here). To learn more about Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt’s benefit concert from Standing Rock please click here.

I stand with Standing Rock.



And as the Lakota people of the Black Hills say, pilámaya (thank you), and Happy Thanksgiving.