Native Americans in Lincoln Set Up A Prayer Camp in Protest

May 3, 2022, 5:42 p.m. ·

7 white Native lodges on land
Native American community members stayed at these native lodges for three days. (Photo by Melissa Rosales, Nebraska Public Media News)

Listen To This Story

Lincoln City Council approved a housing development for 162 single-family homes, 134 townhomes, and 205 apartments near Wilderness Park in Lincoln, across from the only two Native American sweat lodges within the city, last week. Now, a group of Native American community members set up a prayer camp on the approved land in protest.

Seven native teepees surround Native Americans while they burn cedar and pray for the sanctity of the sweat lodges across the street. In the 1970s, Chief Leonard Crow Dog set up those lodges on private land surrounding Wilderness Park for Native Americans to hold traditional ceremonies, pray, and heal. Now, the sanctity of those rituals are in danger of traffic, light, and noise coming from a new housing development.

Man burns sage and walks around Native lodges
Native American sweat lodges are sacred land for the community. (Photo by Melissa Rosales, Nebraska Public Media News)

Wendy Little Elk drove down from Grand Island to be in the prayer camp when she heard the news. She’s from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

"I'm hoping I can make a little bit of a difference by being here to support and pray and because at first, I was like, I felt anger. You know, it's happening again," she said "For me, watching how the Native people have been treated over the years with the experiences they've been through and what I've been through.. It's like, when is it going to end? You know, when are they going to recognize us as people?"

The Niskíthe Prayer Camp hopes Lincoln’s mayor will veto the city council’s decision to build the housing development. Autumn LaDeaux, from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota plans to pray and stay until she gets a decision from the city.

Autumn LaDeaux said she was able to connect to her spirituality when she found the sweat lodges after moving to Lincoln years ago. (Photo by Melissa Rosales, Nebraska Public Media News)

"Indigenous people have always been here," she said. "We always had a voice, and you're going to hear our voice. Please respect it. Just as we respected you."

The prayer camp plans to stay there until they have meaningful engagement with city officials. They ask for their land, ceremonies, and religious rights to be protected.