LOOKING THROUGH LAKOTA EYES
LOOKING THROUGH LAKOTA EYES
An Essay by David Little Elk
To speak the Lakota Language, one needs to be aware of the Lakota perspective so that the correct words will be used. This is achieved by either growing up among Lakota People whose first language is Lakota and who live in their homelands. Or it can be introduced by a Lakota who has lived that perspective all of his life. Because of the experience of Natives with western civilization, meanings of some words were altered by those from the dominant society to attempt to change and control the Natives. They did this hoping it would tame us.
During the early part of the 20th century, the american government set up boarding schools to "civilize" Native children so that they would be able to function within american society. They realized that the earlier they took the Native children away from home, the easier it was to transform them. They also realized that the further away from home they took these Native children, the easier it was to break them down emotionally. These schools offered low paying salaries and not much benefits. Thus, a lot of teachers of questionable character were hired to "civilize" these Native children.
These children were taken hundreds of miles away from their extended, loving families to these boarding schools. When they arrived there, one of the the first things they had to do was to stand in a line to get their hair cut. In most Native cultures, hair contains the essence of the soul, and this is why most Native peoples grew their hair long. The only time when they were to cut their hair was when a relative died. This hair cutting was done in a ceremoniously way, as this was a cultural rule. Thus as these children were forced to stand in line to have their hair cut was really shocking. So these children thought that someone in their families must have died. And since they all had to stand in the same line, they thought that all of their families must have died. And then they felt that they were now facing death, as well. That had to have been a most traumatic shock experience.
Then they were told their language and culture was evil and from them devil. When these Native children spoke their language or talked about their culture, they were severely beaten, molested and made to feel ashamed to be Native. Soon many of them died in those schools from broken hearts, as well as the physical, spiritual and emotional abuse. And some adopted the abusive ways of the teachers, priests and other authority figures in these schools, as the older students began to abuse those they considered weaker than themselves. Thus, these children grew up away from their extended families that normally would have helped them to learn to process their emotions and thoughts, as they grew to become adults. And instead they were grew up facing constant abuse and with no emotionally healthy adult role models to emulate.
When these children became parents themselves, they did not want their children to speak their language or to know their culture, so they did not teach them much concerning these things. This process continued for several generations and surprisingly, some of them thought the best way to survive was to adopt the ways of the christianity; thus, many of these children were brainwashed. And when they returned home after they were finished with their "schooling", this brainwashing was continued by the christian and catholic priests on the reservations by their perverted mistranslations of certain Lakota concepts and teachings. They must have felt that their "old" ways were now being corrected by the priests.
When the christian and catholic priests first came to the reservations in the early 1900's, they wanted to convert us to their religions. One step they chose was to learn our language. Some attempted to translate bible information into the Native tongues so that they could better approach the Natives, which would also make for an easier conversion. These churches later built schools on the reservations, which were havens of constant abuse from the priests against the Native children. More Native children began to accept what they were being brainwashed with, as it led away from this abuse. And those who still spoke their Native tongues accepted the perverted translations of some of their Native words, as they accepted the new ideologies being forced upon them. In some instances, the priests built themselves up to be the literal ears of their god. Thus, these priests would have the Native children ask them for forgiveness of their (Native children's) sins. This put the priests ABOVE the natives. From this experience, the priests mistranslated the sacred Lakota word "unsimala" to the covert and oppressing expression of "have pity on me".
HOWEVER... THROUGH LAKOTA EYES... "unsimala" means "I have a genuine need and I need your help". If I am need of assistance and I say "unsimala" to someone, that person has a choice to help me or not. If he/she chooses to help me, the Lakota Natural Law of Generosity goes into action. This Natural Law states that the energy a person uses to communicate with others will return to him/her fourfold. Thus, that person chooses to help me, the result will be that he/she will be receiving good medicine fourfold (x4). And my need will be met, also. When I said "unsimala" to that person, I was presenting an opportunity for that other person to receive blessings fourfold. The original definition of "unsimala" is very different from the christian and catholic priests' definition.