TBW: Wisdom From The Lakota.

My sister and I were raised by a pack of rabid surfers and hippies.  When we were very young our Godfather, Todd discovered the world of Ishi-The Last Yahi.  

Todd was already one of the most accomplished outdoorsman you will every meet.  For instance; look what he can get with a snorkel and sling spear- breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

A typical catch of the day around camp.  California Ling cod caught by sling spear. Poles? we do need no sticking poles.
A typical catch of the day around camp. California Ling cod caught by sling spear. Poles? we do need no sticking poles.

The new focus on native practices brought many amazing new skills and missions to the weekly itinerary.  Todd taught himself to flake arrowheads, scrapers and blades.  We would search and collect the correct materials to carve bows and fletch arrows the way it has been done for thousands of years.  The rest of us leanrned too and reaped the benefits of this ancient knowledge.

Me shooting a bow Todd made (one of his first I think)
Me shooting a bow Todd made (one of his first I think.)

We were raised with the strict belief that nature was the source of all things.  We were ingrained with simple mandate to observe, learn and follow the natural way whenever possible.

This focus on outside living and respect for the bounty of the Earth has been the most important tenant in my life and I am lucky to have found a partner who shares these views.

A little while ago I came across these excerpts taken from the writing of the Lakota Chiefs that have been circulating around the net.   I felt a instant connection to the sentiments.  There is a lot about our modern societal tendencies and ‘manners’ that bother the hell out of me and I thought that these rules pinpointed my issues completely:

Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner.

I have always disliked our culture’s tendency to focus on appearance.   It is often the first thing people say upon greeting one another; “I love your …”  or “that … looks great on you!”  I have never understood why these should be the things we talk about at all, never mind at the beginning of every interaction.

Appearances change, they are not immutable traits and should not be treated as achievements.  I definitely prefer silence to superficial prattle.

Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than in words. They were never allowed to pass between the fire and the older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right.

Consistant actions speak louder than words.  Always and forever.

Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that ‘thought comes before speech.’…and in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect… strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling.

The most important happenings in our life defy description and that is ok, in fact sometimes words diminish them.  Thinking before speaking should not make things awkward.

 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. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.

We have ‘tamed’ this world and given ourselves a terminal illness in the process.  We have thoughtlessly poisoned our Mother Earth so that we may have more ‘stuff.’  We no longer give the Earth that provides us with sustenance; the respect it deserves.  We look upon many aspects of basic survival needs as ‘gross’ or ‘dirty’ without reverence for the fact that all we have comes from that dirt and will one day return to it.

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.

Communication is achieved only when both parties believe it is possible and finding a common language may have nothing to do with the spoken word.  Instead, communication is achieved over time and through action.

It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth… the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

Being able to sit on the ground insures two things:

1) That you will feel the energy of the Earth.

2) It will make sure your cloths are not more expensive than they need to be.

Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.

Until we accept that we have more to learn from the world than we have to teach it; we will never understand our place in it.  A beginner’s mind is essential for daily growth.  Bending with the storm allows you to survive unbroken.

…the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.

Wise they were.  Ever wonder why life in cities seems so hectic and like everyone is on edge?

It is because they are!

The human animal was meant to have space.   We are an apex predator.  We need large amounts of territory to live and roam.  We know enough not to stick 20 lions together in a small enclosure at the zoo and expect everything to be hunky dory.  Why did we think that slamming millions of people on top of one another would be good for anyone in the long run?

Civilization has been thrust upon me… and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity.

Amen.  All you need for that, is to go outside.

3 Comments on “TBW: Wisdom From The Lakota.

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