Lakota children deserve to learn about their culture. Our children have a right to be a part of ceremony, even if their family knows nothing about Lakota culture. We must empower our children by helping them learn about ceremony and encouraging their active participation.
Our ancestors worked hard to pass down traditional knowledge to Lakota families. Our contemporary Lakota elders, raised by parents and grandparents who lived a ceremonial way of life, are our most valuable resource. They can teach our children what it means to be Lakota.
Yet, many ancestors were forced to abandon Lakota culture. Our ceremonies were against the wasicu law for several generations. A lot of our Lakota ancestors were locked up behind bars in wasicu prisons for having ceremony. Still, our Lakota way of life persisted and today we are witness to a cultural renaissance.
Every single one of our Lakota ceremonies has an important purpose. Consequently, our ancestors realized they had to carry on our ceremonial way of life because it is crucial to our survival. A handful of brave ancestors refused to allow wasicu laws prevent them from conducting ceremony.
Thus, as Lakota people, we must all be grateful to the foresight of our long-gone ancestors. Our culture would surely have perished without the dedication of Lakota people who continued to have ceremony, despite the wasicu laws forbidding it. Because of the efforts of our ancestors, today’s Lakota children can still partake in our ceremonies.
On Rosebud, we have tribal programs employing dedicated Lakota staff who work hard to ensure our people have an opportunity to learn about their own cultural way of life. One program at Rosebud is the Child Care program. The staff there works hard to provide sessions for our people to learn skills to carry on our Lakota culture.
For instance, program staff have provided free sessions for tribal citizens to learn how to make star quilts and shawls. There was also a session on how to make choke cherry juice. Over the summer, staff invited tribal citizens to join them in harvesting medicinal plants on the Rosebud.
Another way the Child Care staff makes a difference is by promoting ceremony. For example, all year long the dedicated staff worked to help 70 children receive Lakota names during the Rosebud youth wacipi. Another 200 children were gifted a shawl or vest so they could participate in the wacipi.
I understand the naming ceremony and making of wacipi regalia has traditionally been the role of family. But the persecution of our ancestors, whom were dedicated to our Lakota ceremonial way of life, resulted in the loss of traditional practices. The federal government worked hard to Christianize our people with tales of hell fire which put fear in many Lakota people. Also, the federal government established the boarding/residential schools to basically beat the culture out of Lakota people.
Christianity and the residential/boarding school experiences were devastating, not only to our culture, but our Lakota ceremonial way of life as well. These experiences continue to encourage lateral violence, which a majority of our Lakota people continue to perpetuate. For instance, I read a post on social media about how it wasn’t right to have a “mass naming” of Lakota children.
We should be applauding our relatives who work to ensure our children have an opportunity to be Lakota.
The dedication and tenacity of our ancestors was essential in the survival of our cultural ways and ceremony. I am forever grateful to my ancestors for preserving our knowledge to empower all Lakota people who are alive today.
Kudos to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Child Care Program staff for helping our children carry on our Lakota way of life!
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org