The Heavenly Part of the World


If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the  journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural  way of my forefathers and that of the . . . present way of civilization, I would,  for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child’s feet in the path of my  forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great  unifying life force that flowed in and through all things — the flowers of the  plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals — and was the same force  that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and  were brought together by the same Great Mystery.

Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a  real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a  brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of  the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood  they spoke a common tongue.

The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the  right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to  man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never  enslaved an animal and spared all life that was not needed for food and  clothing. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that  kept the Lakota safe among them.

This concept of life gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with the joy and mystery  of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in  the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.

The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one  blood, made by the same hand, and filled with the essence of the Great Mystery.  In spirit, the Lakota were humble and meek. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they  shall inherit the earth’ — this was true for the Lakota, and from the earth  they inherited secrets long since forgotten.

We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful  rolling hills, the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the  white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was it ‘infested’ with  ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people.
Not until the white man from the East came—and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved—was it “wild” for us. When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was for us that the “Wild West” began.

Luther Standing Bear, Chief of the  Oglala Lakota (1905-1939)


There was once a Lakota holy man, called Drinks Water, who dreamed what was to be . . . .
He dreamed that the four-leggeds were going back to the Earth, and that a strange race would weave a web all around the Lakotas.
He said, ‘You shall live in square gray houses, in a barren land . . . .’
Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.

-Black Elk (1863-1950), holy man of the Oglala Lakota, written in 1932

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