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More Thoughts on Being Native

This morning I woke up thinking about a dream I had where I was telling someone about the tribal colleges and tribal people and he didn’t believe me. He acted like we couldn’t possibly be so culturally different and dismissed my remarks as if I was telling him something that was not important – I think he was someone who worked at the UN. I even got someone to go back with me so I could share my anger at his treatment, I think it was my therapist, although I don’t have one. That was a very strange dream.

But it made me think about the fullness of my past week as an example of how we live our lives as Lakota people, as Indigneous people. I am home on the Rosebud for the first time in several months. We came home for a visit and for the 136th annual fair. This has been a busy week of seeing family and friends, visiting our relatives at the cemeteries, and attending events. It is more than visiting and special occasions because each of these experiences comes from a different understanding of ourselves as human beings and how we live well together.

Like most I have many friends from all different kinds of experiences and backgrounds. I am especially honored because I have women friends called maske, sister friends. What is different about this is that we Lakota have a name for them, maske, sister friends, we know as Lakota women that when you call each other maske you are calling forth a special relationship. Many people call me Auntie, Tunwin or Grandma, Unci. When I hear the voice of someone calling me that whether or not we are blood relatives, my whole self immediately becomes that person who is their Auntie or Grandma. We show each other mutual love and respect when we call each other by relative names. We do this because our kinship is the foundation of who we are as tribal nations. Our kinship teaches us how to live together.

We made a trip to Mato Paha, Bear Butte. Many people go there to hike up the trail because from the top of the butte you can see for miles in all directions. The horizon curve of the earth can be glimpsed from there. Native people go to Mato Paha to pray and to offer tobacco to the spirits who come there to hear the prayers of the people. We go there to look off into the distance to the sacred places of our emergence as human beings and to be with the prayers of all of those who have climbed the trails and stood there in prayer for thousands of years. I have been wanting to go back there for years and this time it felt like a necessity as I gather my prayers for our new journey. It was not a trip to just take in the view or to prove I could walk uphill.

The 136th annual Rosebud Fair, Wacipi and Rodeo was also this weekend. As I sat at the dance arena, I remembered being a teenager and walking around the pow-wow grounds in an endless circle visiting (and of course flirting with all the boys – I am pleased to see this is still done). When I was young there were not lots of food stands and vendors so we would have to go back to our grandparents camp for bologna sandwiches and pop. I think that was how our parents made sure we checked in. I got my Indian name, Wacinyanpi Win, They Depend on Her, from a family naming ceremony at Rosebud Fair that my Grandma Alice Cadotte held the summer I was 16. We saw relatives who only came home for the fair. There were vegetable displays and other homemaking contests with jellies and pies. There are Indian dances and white dances with country/western bands. There is a championship rodeo where the fearless horsemanship of our people is showcased. Now there are more modern events, carnivals and mud races but it is still at its heart a gathering of people who are related to celebrate our victories in battle, to show our finest artistry and craftsmanship, to share food, friendship and the end of summer.

Everyday as tribal people we live a life built from Creation stories that honor our shared existence on the earth, we practice rituals like feeding of the spirits or smudging ourselves and our homes because those were taught to our ancestors in dreams and visions and they passed it on to us. We have everything we need to know about how to live well together and on our grandmother earth, Unci Maka, right in front of us. We only need to open ourselves to these teachings, to observe and practice them ourselves to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.

2 comments to More Thoughts on Being Native

  • Sherry Red Owl

    Maske: It was so good to spend a little time with you. I remember my Grandfather telling us that the first Rosebud Fair was held to celebrate the Lakota victory at Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn)in 1876. He said it took that long for the news to reach the Sicangu. When the news came, the Oyate gathered at Rosebud and celebrated the victory.

  • Marjane Ambler

    Hey girl friend — I really enjoyed this and sent it to a friend but i don’t see anything with your name here? Hi to Sherry, too. I appreciated her addition.

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