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Native Sun News: Ceremony welcomes return of spiritual beings





The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


Spiritual leader Ben Rod presents De’Andre Allison, Taopi Numpa, a staff so he may carry on the welcoming back Wakinyan Oyate (Thunder Beings) ceremony. Photo by Jeremy Vance

Welcoming back the Wakinyan Oyate
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

CUSTER –– Lakota voices sang in unison, drumbeats reverberated through the spires of rock known to the ancients as Hinhan Kaga, as hundreds of people welcomed back the Wakinyan Oyate (Thunder Beings).

The ancient celestial ceremony takes place each year during the Spring Equinox at the highest point in He Sapa, (the Black Hills), Harney Peak.

The ceremony was revived 28 years ago by spiritual leaders Russell Eagle Bear, Ben Rod, George Chasing Horse, Glover Runs Close, and Chauncey Dupree. The medicine men celebrated the rejuvenation of Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and led a dozen people to the top of Harney Peak, where they made offerings and prayers to the Thunder Beings.

“We welcome back the Wakinyan Oyate in a good way, as the givers of life. We want them to bring forth good rain and good weather and replenish Unci Maka,” Eagle Bear, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Tribal Historic Preservation Officer said.

“We know the Wakinyan Oyate can come contrary, they can come in a bad way. When you look around the country now days, there’s been tornados in different places that we’ve never experienced before, they can create havoc,” he said. “That’s why we are here to ask them to come in a good way.”

This year, those that made the annual pilgrimage grew to over 700 people and included groups from the Pierre Indian Learning Center, Lower Brule, Standing Rock, Crow Creek, Turtle Mountain, Spirit Lake, Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills.

“Now it is growing and we want our young people to understand and take ownership of He Sapa and ownership of these ceremonies so they may carry them on,” he said.

This year, special prayers are being offered to ask for life in harmony with the Sunka Oyate (dog nation) in light of recent fatal attacks on tribal members by stray dogs.

He said special prayers are also being offered up for the young people who have taken their lives by suicide, “That’s not our Lakota way and we want to emphasize that.”


Hundreds made the annual pilgrimage to the highest point in He Sapa, Harney Peak, to welcome back the Wakinyan Oyate (Thunder Beings). Photo by Jeremy Vance

Hinhan Kaga, the making of owl, is the Lakota term that has been used for centuries to describe this place and one of the proposed name changes for Harney Peak. Listening sessions are now taking place in South Dakota soliciting suggestions for the name change.

“If you sit up there at night all these stone structures look like owls sitting there,” Eagle Bear said. “We have a letter in support of the name change and eventually all the tribes need to come together in consensus.”

Ben Rod, Tribal Archeologist for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said that for more than a century the Oyate had to practice their ancient ceremonies covertly because the U. S. Government had outlawed them.

“I worked steadily for the advancement of our people to come back to the sacred places in the Black Hills, in the sense of reviving and reestablishing our presence here and our ceremonies,” he said. “Now the time has come where we need to pass on these ceremonies to the younger generation because the older generation is passing on.”

Both men spoke of the significance of Pe’ Sla, which was purchased by member tribes of Oceti Sakowin (the Great Sioux Nation) for $9 million in 2012.

Pe’ Sla, they said, is the site where the next sacred celestial ceremony paying homage to the Wakinyan Oyate will take place, on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2015.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News