Speaking Wakan: Ceremonies in Past, Protest, and Page
Lakota, Oceti Sakowin, Sioux, Indian; regardless of their appellation, this tribe of American Indians roamed and ruled the Great Plains for centuries immediately following , their first contact with French traders, and their powerful culture extends well beyond memory into the past of North America. After acquiring guns and horses from traders in the area that would become Minnesota, the Teton division of Sioux abandoned their moderately successful attempt at stationary living, well before the settlement of reservations, and flourished to an unprecedented extent in the buffalo territory of the prairies and plains of the west. These circumstances gave rise to an intricate mythology and set of rituals that would sustain the Lakota as a tribe throughout their tribal-life. continuing on reservations today. While once thought of. in the milieu of the Manifest Destiny and Civilizing rhetoric of the late 19th century. as a primitive culture with primitive religious beliefs. in recent years Lakota culture has resulted in its own field of academic studies, Lakota studies, apart even from American Indian studies. The complexities of Lakota mythology are still being discovered, and often remain closely guarded by the storytellers and medicine men that live on reservations presently. The Lakota segment of the Sioux tribe has been one of the most forthright in representing their religion in the wake of colonization. Medicine men such as Black Elk, Standing Bear, and Finger, important religious figures in the tribe during the late 19th and early 20th century, agreed to teach certain Euro-Americans in the ways of the medicine men and shamans in an attempt to have their religion recorded in view of the changes occurring in younger generations of Lakota due to expanding American influence and forced board schooling. Writers like Ella Deloria began writing novels based on her personal experience on the reservation as well as her ethnographic research to present the religious traditions of the Lakota within the context of daily life. And, most importantly, the Lakota continued to practice their religious ceremonies, openly or in secret, through the entirety of conflict with Americans and forced settlement, in such rituals as the Sun Dance, to connect to their past, Yuwipi, to maintain the vitality of their religion, and the Ghost Dance, an incorporation of Christian tradition that allowed the Lakota and other tribes to anticipate a day when American pressure would be relieved and their ancestors vindicated. The Lakota Sioux have created and maintained their tribal identity by embracing their religious beliefs and ceremonies while allowing for historical changes in a dynamic way that preserve the vitality of their culture. The crucial role of religion and its dynamic character are evident in the ceremonies and myths themselves as well as the Lakota's ability to adapt their beliefs to the new medium of writing introduced by Europeans.