April 11, 2019
Lakota people, as well as other Indigenous nations, speak about the sacredness of women. As women, we hold the power to navigate the transformation of spirit into a human body through childbirth. Our power to bring children into this world is an essence of our sacredness.
Lakota people wouldn’t have a ceremonial foundation without the power of women. That is, Pte San Win is perhaps the most sacred woman known to our people. She is also referred to as Woope because she brought the laws we are to follow when it comes to our ceremonial way of life. Pte San Win gifted the Lakota people the Cannunpa, which is kept in the Green Grass Community on Cheyenne River. The Cannunpa is used in all of our ceremonies.
Colonization brought many ills into the Indigenous world. The mentality of colonizers is one which views women as second-class citizens. Colonizers invaded our land with misogyny embedded into their psyche. We’ve come a long way in terms of women’s rights; but the psyche of the colonizer still tends to subjugate women.
The online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, defines misogyny as “a hatred of women.” Throughout my life, I’ve encountered many misogynists living on Lakota land. Most of my experiences are on the job or happen regularly during meetings I attend. Consequently, misogyny is not Lakota tradition. Our ancestors deeply understood the sacred power every woman holds.
Unfortunately, I’ve met many Lakota men in my lifetime who are active misogynists, even though they believe their disdain for women is hidden. Many of them also profess to be spiritual while they secretly harbor hate or deep-seated resentment for women. Most women can identify these closet misogynists by the way they talk to us in public.
For instance, the next time you attend a public meeting on any reservation, pay attention to how women are treated. Watch the expressions on the faces of the men when the women are talking and compare it to how they look when other men are speaking.
I’ve gotten really good at reading the non-verbal language of other people. Much of the time, I can spot these misogynists just by the way they look at me or other women when we speak out in public. The difference in how the closet misogynist treats women is subtle. Women are known for our intuition. If something doesn’t feel right about the way you are treated by a man in a public setting, then there is likely some closet misogyny going on.
It’s ironic that many closet misogynists will also speak in public about the damage colonization has done to our people. They will present eloquent, passionate speeches about how colonization was responsible for the murder of our ancestors, the continued imprisonment of Indigenous people and the abuse our people suffered in boarding schools. Yet, these same closet misogynistic men will continuously point out what they think a woman is doing wrong, especially in the work place. Their misogynistic psyche also criticizes everything women do.
Misogyny is prevalent in Indian country. While most of us look outside ourselves to solve problems, the key to overcoming misogyny begins at home. Our tribal programs, tribal councils and tribal schools can also take steps to overcome the misogynistic mindset of our males.
As parents and grandparents, it is up to us to instill values into our boys. Today, many of our small children, teenagers and young adults are running amuck with zero guidance and no sense of spirituality. We are responsible for teaching our young Lakota people how to behave.
Please help your children understand the sacredness of women. Don’t let the misogynistic mentality poison the minds of our male relatives.
Vi Waln (Sicangu Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org