The team behind Maza Tipi Oyate
Robert A. Horse
Founder and Owner
Robert A. Horse, Oglala Lakota, is the founder and owner of Maza Tipi Oyate and an advocate for the marginalized and oppressed.
He can be reached by writing to:
Robert A. Horse #13466
South Dakota State Penitentiary
P.O. Box 5911
Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5911
Correspondent and Editor
Dr. Melissa Leal is Esselen and Ohlone and grew up in Sacramento, CA. She earned her Ph.D. in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis in 2012. Her research includes the reciprocal relationship between Hip Hop Culture and Indigenous Communities with an emphasis on performance, media, and film.
She is the Lead Researcher and Advisory Board Coordinator for Rebel Music: Native America, an MTV World documentary; she teaches culture, language, and dance for various tribal communities in Northern California. She is a poet, dancer, and artist advocate. She believes in the power and necessity of revitalizing indigenous languages.
She has taught Native American Film and Cinema at California State University, Sonoma and currently teaches Ethnic Images in Film at Sierra College. Melissa has more than 14 years of experience working with American Indian youth at Indian Education Programs throughout the Sacramento Region. She is the Executive Director of Education for the Wilton Rancheria Tribe of Miwok Indians and works as an advocate for the incarcerated by educating the public on realities of the criminal justice system, incarceration rates, and the criminalization of American Indians.
Website Designer and Editor
Marlena Myles, Spirit Lake Dakota, is known for her sense of justice and fairness. She respects the past and teaching of her ancestors: in order to protect the future, we all play a role in the present and need to live our lives with respect to the world and to each other.
She is currently a freelance graphic designer and artist, with pieces having been shown in art galleries around the United States.
Robert would like to thank all those that took time out of their lives to help his efforts in creating this website and other social media outlets and the countless books that helped fill his mind of knowledge and heart of compassion. He thanks all those people that he reached out to for their support and gave it for conferences and other events he organized inside the prison walls.
He also thanks his family for keeping his spirit strong for all the years he has been incarcerated. He dreams of the day that he will be amongst you all, and for an opportunity to start a family and do his part in creating the better world we all yearn for. He remembers all of you when he enters the sacred Inipi (Sweat Lodge) every week.
Biography of the Founder, Robert Horse.
Robert believes with people power that anything is possible, and if we only put our differences, judgments, and personal problems aside we can create so much change! He looks to all the great accomplishments of the world, and how far civilization came with compassion and regular people desiring something different for each other. He hopes you can help by supporting his efforts, and helping find new ways to reach this change.
Ancestry and Childhood
Robert A. Horse was born in Istawicanyazanpi wi (when the snow blinds) in 1984 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Robert’s father is Jerry Horse, Sr., a fluent Lakota speaker and Traditionalist and participant in the 71 day siege of Wounded Knee in 1973 by the American Indian Movement. Robert’s mother is Serena Pretty Boy and is Northern Cheyenne. She also participated in the 71 day siege on Wounded Knee. Both of his parents believed in justice and sovereignty for Native American peoples throughout the United States of America and are descendants of two ancient allies whose alliance helped secure the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868.
Robert was raised in both the city and reservation. Part of his life was spent in Sacramento, California where he describes his childhood as really diverse: where bright city lights are met with harsh realities of the inner city that can be seen in many daytime crime dramas. He remembers that many people in the city are fascinated by Native American culture and heritage because many had only seen Native Americans in old western movies and movies like Dances with Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans.
When growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation he describes his experience as a battle between traditions and addictions. Nevertheless, he loves his people and rich culture and traditions that have helped his people survive for millennia. He realizes that the reservation is considered “third world” to most of America, but he also understands that it was the Mecca for the Sacred Pipe, Sundances, and other sacred ceremonies that have provided the people with a connection to God/Creator.
Robert has been incarcerated since he was 16 years old when he was tried and convicted as an adult. In 2002 the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed his conviction and he later plead out to robbery and aggravated assault, which carried a 40 year sentence. He is scheduled to be released in June 2019. He states that the plea was the result of an overzealous prosecutor that would prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Knowing that South Dakota has the highest rate of incarceration for Native Americans, and the history of the Native and non-Native communities, he feels that this was a good decision.
Human Rights Advocate
Early in his incarceration, Robert became aware of the traditional teachings of his ancestors. Some of the older Native prisoners taught him culture and spirituality behind bars. He has utilized this knowledge to keep his spirit strong against harassment and retaliation from prison officials for his stance on prison violations and the religious violations that occur on the inside.
Robert has to his credit of writing over 1,200 letters to different human rights organizations, tribal governments, religious organizations, and U.S. Governments Officials to seek assistance and relief from state oppression. Although, the majority of the letters written never received an answer, he still believes that there are organizations out there that actually do what they advertise to the public. He has published some of his writings in Native American newspapers to bring awareness to the incarceration issues facing Indian Country. Throughout the years he has read books that will open his mind, and allow him to better understand government, economics, history, treaty rights, U.S. Courts, spirituality, influential leaders throughout history, and about nonprofit organizations.
He has lead non-profit organizations from inside the prisons in Sioux Falls, SD that strive to teach Native American prisoners culture, heritage, spirituality, and to return them to their homelands and communities as rehabilitated men. Through this experience he has learned how to apply for grants to keep the organizations functional and to bring speakers in to the conferences to motivate and inspire those that are incarcerated. Through this organization he has met people of compassion, and because he was incarcerated so young he used these experiences to connect with the world beyond the walls that confine him.
Robert is currently studying to become a paralegal to help his people understand the law because many are ignorant of the legal jargon in the courtrooms. In addition, he is motivated by a study that was conducted by the South Dakota Equal Justice Commission which found that Native Americans in South Dakota are being racially profiled by police and being unjustly incarcerated at unprecedented rates.
Moreover, he hopes to also tackle the extraordinary racial disparities wherever people of poverty are being prosecuted. He believes the mass incarceration of the poor is a ploy to try to control and manage our social-ills that will continue to plague our communities until we, the people, find real solutions. In addition, he has recently voiced support through his writings and is going to bring more awareness to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) violations occurring in Indian Country, especially the current legal battle taking place in Rapid City, SD. Several Lakota Tribes and families have filed a lawsuit for the illegal taking of Native American children. He has become so compassionate about the (ICWA) violations from hearing personal stories of fellow prisoners that were physically and sexually abused in foster homes, or placed in group homes and foster homes where they witnessed other children being abused. He argues that this is another form of genocide, and the new age Indian Boarding School.
Robert has become a spiritual adviser inside the prison walls to other fellow prisoners and takes pride in teaching them history and culture of Native America. He has been carrying a Sacred Pipe, this is a great responsibility because it is a connection to God and People. He has lead Inipi (Sweat Lodge) ceremonies that allows him to further reach young prisoners with sacred teachings of their ancestors and he guides them down a path of righteousness. Robert knows through these teachings and ceremonies that people can heal and rehabilitate them since many of young prisoners are unaware of their culture, he takes the time to help them absorb information.
Robert plans, when he his released from prison, to continue to do the work he started while on the inside, and hopes to create a youth organization that will help combat the high rate of addictions, high drop-out rates amongst Native Youth, and get them interested in culture. He also hopes to use the tools from what he learned inside prison and apply them to the youth organization. In the meantime, he will bring youth issues to the forefront because nationally Native Americans have the highest rate of incarceration per racial and ethnic group in the USA. Plus, he follows the true teachings of the world that children and young people are Wakan Yeja (Sacred Beings) that need our full attention because they will be the next leaders, fathers, mothers, and people of our communities.