Summer solstice is upon us. The changing of seasons is always a powerful time on Unci Maka. The solstices and equinoxes are times when we could all be in prayer. The potent time of a seasonal transition is when our prayer is the most powerful.
Human beings all over the world held prayer ceremonies on June 21. They also hold prayer ceremony during the winter solstice, as well as the fall and spring equinox. Many Lakota people will sacrifice themselves in ceremony during the coming weeks to pray for all that is. The concept of Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relations) is at the heart of Lakota prayer.
Our ancestors watched the stars year round to help them know when it was time to be in a certain area or when certain ceremonies were to be held. There are still Lakota people who pay attention to the stars throughout the year. They are also the people who get up before the sun to go outside and offer a prayer to morning star to greet the new day.
Many Lakota people also take notice when the planets align. An awesome solstice conjunction was visible on Saturday night. The crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus formed a triangle in the western sky. Paying attention to the universe has always been an integral part of Lakota spirituality.
Today there are many Lakota people who have no idea of the meaning behind the solstices and equinoxes. The Gregorian calendar does note the dates when seasons transition. So, to most people the first day of summer is just a date marking the new season, they have no idea of the significance of a solstice or an equinox. Many Lakota people do not pay any attention to the star patterns or movements, even though many are up all hours of the night drinking, drugging or gambling.
Actually, the only time I really see local people notice what is going on in the heavens is when there is an eclipse where the moon turns red. Then people get all paranoid about the red moon in full eclipse being some sort of sign of impending doom. Many forget to pray and only feel fear when they see the red moon. Still, their paranoia really does nothing to motivate them to overcome their addictions.
Many Lakota people will tell you they believe in their own spirituality but do not involve themselves in ceremony because they are not worthy. Others say they do not want to play with their own way of life. In reality, they just don’t want to give up their alcohol, drugs, gambling or other addictions they are held hostage by. It’s also a fact that many of our people who have given up their Lakota spirituality for Christianity don’t even attend church on Sunday.
Personally, it’s pretty sad to know there are many people living on the Rez who have never been to an inikaga. They have lived here all of their lives but never once attended a ceremony. Still, many Lakota people pray for their own to find a way back into the ceremonial circle. Some medicine men tell us to never pass judgement on our own Lakota people who attend ceremony because they go there for help. It gives Lakota elders hope when they see our people at ceremony.
Solstice week marks the beginning of summer. It also is the time when our summer ceremonies are taking place. Our people used to have only one sun dance. All the Lakota bands would travel to the designated area to take part in this very important ceremony. Sometimes, I like to imagine what the sun dance circle looked like before the encroachment of the wasicu. It had to be one of the most powerful times our ancestors ever experienced.
Today is also a very powerful time for us. We have many elders who hold the energy of our Lakota spirituality for all of us. They look at our children who are abused by family members. They see their family members devastated by alcohol and drugs. Many elders are living in fear of their lives in their own homes because of alcohol and drugs. Still, they offer prayers every morning before the sun comes up. They faithfully attend ceremony to cry and pray for our children to embrace the Lakota way of life.
They pray every day for all the Lakota people who walk around full of unresolved anger. And when that anger provokes Lakota people to hurt others or destroy property, they still say prayers for them. They say daily prayers for all our people who are in the Maza tipi or hospitals or fighting terminal illnesses. They also pray for the Lakota people who are lost in their meth, vodka and casino addictions.
Our elders pray for those children who are at home alone with no food because their parent is off somewhere on a meth or drinking binge. Elders pray for a better way for us. We could be adding our good thoughts to their daily intentions. We have lots to pray for.
If you have never been to a sun dance on your own Rez, I encourage you to make this summer the one where you go. Come and pray with your people. Many of us pray for you to join us at ceremony. Put aside your thoughts of being unworthy and come say a prayer. Stop being afraid of your own way of life. Our ancestors died defending this way of life so we could be here today. They were good ancestors.
It’s time for us to be good ancestors by praying at our own ceremony for our unborn grandchildren.