2018-08-09 / Voices

Spiritual Violations


It’s summertime in Lakota territory. It also means sun dance season. A ceremonial renaissance is underway in Lakota country. But ceremonial renaissance isn’t real unless it’s founded on Wolakota.

People make the personal choice to not get along, even in ceremony. There is lots of clamor about Wolakota, yet the people genuinely walking their talk are rare. It’s hypocritical when Lakota people talk all good about the importance of living Wolakota when most don’t even have their own act together. They are the people who live the “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle of Wolakota.

Despite all of the conflict we see, it’s still good to know our people know how to pray. We are in dire need of sincere prayers from the heart. I appreciate all the Indigenous people who pray the way their ancestors did; as well as those who are faithful followers in other denominations. It is good to see Lakota people spiritually active. Our Lakota children need to see adults emulating spiritual integrity. A big thanks to all the Lakota people who are good spiritual role models.

Many of us have problems with outsiders who come here in the summer to study our ancestral Lakota ceremonial ways with an explicit intent to exploit. For instance, there are scores of non-Indian people who come here in the summer to observe, support or participate in sun dance and other ceremonies. I realize there is nothing basically wrong with this, especially if they are invited and the land is respected, as well as the family hosting the ceremony.

Yet, some of the non- Indians come here full of ignorance and arrogance. They are driven by ego. I have witnessed non-Indian visitors disrespect local Lakota spiritual leaders to the point where they are eventually banished from the ceremony. When this happens, those outsiders are heard bad-mouthing our Lakota medicine people who initially shared ceremonial knowledge with them.

These people are dangerous. Some mistakenly believe they’ve learned enough to start their own sun dance. These non-Indians often engage the help of a Lakota person to start their new ceremony. Maybe they believe the involvement of the Lakota person brings validation. Yet, there are instances when these self-appointed leaders of these newly created circles will quickly find an excuse to run off the Lakota person they recruited to start their ceremony.

So, believe it or not, there are now sun dance circles held in places far removed from our homelands. Some of these ceremonies are happening without the guidance of a true Lakota spiritual leader. Many Lakota people cringe to think of what goes on in those places.

There are charlatans out there selling many of our sacred Lakota rites for money, quoting a fee for different ceremonies. Many are even bold enough to wear or carry eagle feathers. Others will wear full eagle feather headdresses in their big cities even though they aren’t citizens of a federally recognized tribe.

They are violating federal law by illegally possessing eagle feathers. It doesn’t matter what kind of paperwork they have because if they are not a bona fide citizen of a federally recognized tribe, they aren’t lawfully entitled to possess eagle feathers.

Also, with all these sun dance circles on both the Rosebud and Pine Ridge, many pine boughs are harvested for shade or standups. A lot of firewood is also used in ceremony. It’ll be great when we see sun dancers plant trees to replace what they’ve harvested.

Replacing what we’ve used during one season will ensure it is available for the ceremonies our great-grandchildren will pray at. We must make a serious effort to protect our environment and ceremonial ways for the coming generations.

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