Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota children are called little sacred ones

The following opinion by Delphine Red Shirt appeared in the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

The offending headline in the January 31, 2015, issue of The Rapid City Journal. Photo from Chase Iron Eyes / Last Real Indians / Facebook

The Lakota children are called wakanyeja ‘little sacred ones’
By Delphine Red Shirt

In all of life's cruelest moments, the worse is child abuse in any form. Innocence is born in us, as small infants when we come into the world; it is life's harsh lessons that harden us so that no one is ever born “bad.”

Lakota people know that and as long as a small infant has a soft spot on its head, it is sacred. It is through that opening that Tunkasila communicates with that child.

Children are the hope of a nation, especially the family it is born into, and everyone in that family knows a child requires nurturance. When a people are so enslaved on an “Indian” reservation for such a long time, it can be said that they are probably no different from the people so enslaved in biblical times as in the story in Exodus, so that they cried out to their God for relief. Lakota people have been colonized for so long on these reservations in South Dakota that they have forgotten the power of their own beliefs, just as Moses' people refused to see the power their God had over Egypt.

Our power has always been in the love of our Lakota children. It’s always been that way. Culturally we didn't discipline our children, but asked them as soon as they were old enough to understand, around the age of 10, to do the right things. In this we were very different from Europeans who heavily disciplined their children. Yet, we Lakota raised the greatest warriors and maintained a beautiful culture at the time of contact with other cultures.

From birth to about the age of seven we cuddled our Lakota children because they were not permitted to cry. Crying wasn't good for children, so we made sure they had everything they needed. It was said that if a Lakota child cried, and he or she didn't stop, a grandmother, an unci would cry along with him or her to help them get over whatever they were sad about.

I heard my own mother tell me, that as I grew older, it was “sad” when I cried and to learn to not cry as I grew older. That was how much we were loved, and we learned to love our Lakota children. All along we speak to our children so by the age of 10, a child didn't need to be lectured or talked to.

Very early on, they were taught to take care of themselves, their clothing and bedding and to show neatness, because we were a people that traveled and were never settled in one place very long, we were not materialistic. We didn't accumulate more than we needed and everyone had only what they needed so they were required to care for themselves from an early age. Simple lessons so that by the age of 10 Lakota children learned to take care of their own clothes and bedding and to learn to help the adults.

There was never a need for continually scolding a child, or ridicule them, or to strike them. It was the way we raised Lakota children. Some of us still raise our children that way. It is in our blood to be kind and compassionate to our children.

Yet, like any colonized people, when alcohol (now drugs) is introduced and our Lakota language and culture are erased, we lose our way. But, when we are clear minded, our hearts belong to our Lakota children and grandchildren. In the midst of “poverty” we still hold on tight to those Lakota values. We have not completely forgotten.

Just as the pharaoh and people of Egypt disbelieved God, the people of Rapid City refuse to believe how our culture once thrived because we loved our children and called them “little sacred ones,” wakanyeja. Especially as things unfold regarding the incident last week. Even when Moses turned the Nile to blood, the Egyptians didn't believe. So, the abuse, public abuse of Lakota children and our outcry at the incident a week ago involving the pouring of beer on innocent children, and then blaming them for not standing for the National Anthem seems hard to fathom: The public abuse in plain view of many. How a people's dignity is further denied.

God, your God, our Lakota God sees the disgrace, plain as day, that these children were subjected to plain abuse for who they were. Alcohol has killed many of us and the children's quiet despair in that single moment when that beer was poured on them, is a call to God. He will hear. The truth cannot be explained away; just as disgrace followed Egypt long after God's people were set free, so shall this one.

The good people of Rapid City need to see the truth and not justify a cowardly act.

(Delphine Red Shirt, Ph.D. can be reached at.

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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