By Vi Waln
“Get up early to greet the Morning Star and Tunkasila will bless you all day.” ~Dinah Crow Dog-Running (Aske Win) 1933-2006
March is Women’s History Month. Most of the commemorations related to Women’s History in this country are focused on females of European descent. For instance, Susan B. Anthony is a woman well referenced in American History books. She worked for women to have the right to vote.
Consequently, we rarely read about the contributions of Lakota women during Women’s History Month. There are many tribal women who have contributed a lot to our society. They are rarely spotlighted by the American media; still, it’s important to teach our children about them.
So, this week I want to remember the late Sicangu Lakota elder, Dinah Crow Dog-Running (Aske Win). She was a Tuwin to me, yet the relationship we had was also one of great friendship. So, despite our difference in age, she was one of my beloved Maske. She was my spiritual counselor. She shared many of her teachings with me about our Lakota way of life.
For example, Dinah always stressed the importance of nutrition. She helped me understand how crucial it is for women to take the utmost care in preparing the food we feed our children. She often spoke about the nutrition law of our people. I doubt many of our people truly understand the law of nutrition in the same way our ancestors did.
She helped me understand the importance of food to our body, mind, emotions and spirit. For instance, we put our energy into whatever we create, including meals. I believe that’s the reason for certain cooks we know, like our Ina or Unci, having the ability to create those delicious meals we love to eat. They carry the family love energy and that is what they put into their meals.
The energy we put into creating our meals is the most important ingredient. The food we prepare and feed our children helps them to grow into responsible Lakota adults. In addition, Dinah was asked on a regular basis to prepare spiritual food for different occasions. She was instrumental during times when a local family wanted to honor one of their own, or when a family was spiritually devastated.
I will never forget her taking the time to prepare the wasna for my late Takoja to take on her spiritual journey. The simple ceremony she conducted when feeding my Takoja’s spirit still helps me get through hard times even today. Consequently, Dinah’s interpretation of nutritional law was carried into the next world by those lucky enough to be blessed with the spiritual food she created and shared with their spirit.
Maske Dinah was also an articulate orator. I witnessed her addressing the Governor of South Dakota in his mansion in 2003. She offered him much wisdom to move forward during his term in office, suggesting practical ways to include the Lakota tribes of this state. Of course, he did not take her advice.
During her time here on Earth, she did serve as a representative on the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council. In her later years, I was privileged to hear Dinah publicly address the tribal council on many occasions when I attended meetings with her. She also offered sound, sensible advice as well as suggestions addressing the needs of our people. However, I don’t ever recall the tribal council incorporating her advice or following through with her suggestions.
I also attended many ceremonies which Dinah was an essential part of. She helped many women in ways that are indescribable. Her prayers were very powerful. The sacred ceremonies she participated in were greatly enhanced by her presence.
She could see the truth inside people. It was often intimidating to those who had something to hide. Yet, the things she saw inside people helped her to understand human nature more clearly. There were times when she could see things in people who were close to me. This would prompt her to offer me advice based on her perceptions. Her intuition about people was never wrong.
Dinah walked on from this life on February 27, 2006. I miss her early morning calls. I miss listening to her talk and laugh as we rode to meetings together. I miss seeing her at wacipis, the sun dance and Native American Church ceremonies. Some days I could really use her wisdom, as well as her humor.
Aske Win is one of our Lakota ancestors. Remember her in your prayers. She and the multitude of Lakota ancestors are there to help us walk this human path.