Monday, October 12, 2009

Native American Day

In many places today people are enjoying a holiday from work and school, and typically it is known as Columbus Day. Here in South Dakota we celebrate Native American Day, a day set aside by our former Governor George Mickelson in his declaration of a decade of reconcillation. That decade has come and gone and I'm not sure how much reconcillation has been achieved but I am proud to have a day that celebrates my heritage. My Father was half Indian and my mother is white, which makes me a quarter Indian. I grew up on the Indian reservations in South Dakota and my family is from the Oglala Lakota Tribe. I grew up with a respect and love for a beautiful culture and have made an effort to learn about the traditions, beliefs and values of Indian people. It is with pride that I remember my ancestors on this day and think about the values and beliefs that shape my life. A belief that all things are sacred, whether it be the earth, the skies, the animals, or humans. That there is a circle of life, the circle is important in Indian culture, in early days their homes were made of a circle, the camps were made in a circle, just as the birds made their homes in a circle. The cycle of life is a circle and in Indian culture the values of the circle include belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

Children were raised with a sense of belonging, whether it was within their immediate family or the extended family called a tiospaye, which played an important role in their lives. Children were sacred and cared for by the entire tribe, they had a sense of belonging. They were gently instructed and trained in skills to acquire mastery for themselves in areas of their lives; independence was encouraged and lovingly supported and finally in all things generosity. Indian culture does not value acquiring material possessions, relationships were far more important and they only took what they needed. Sharing food, your home, or belongings was and is common. Growing up I remember anyone who ever came to our home was provided a meal and I also remember my father literally giving the coat off his back to those less fortunate.

My life has changed dramatically from what I knew in childhood, I have moved away from the reservation and acquired an education as my father encouraged. For all intents and purposes I have been successful in my life and enjoy the fruits of my labor. But today, I remember those lessons learned and honor my family and my tiospaye (extended family). Mitakuye Oyasin - This Lakota phrase means "we are all related." Kinship with all creatures above, below, and in the water is a living principle that gives the Lakota a feeling of safety in the world, as well as a feeling of reverence for all lives, a sense of purpose for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all, and above all an abiding love.

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