Vi Waln: Wi Wang Waci a renewal ceremony for the Lakota people

Even though many Lakota people attend ceremony all throughout the year, this is the season when we pray in our most important rituals. Many Lakota are now sacrificing in the Wi Wang Waci for our people to live another year.

I am always in awe of being allowed to witness the Wi Wang Waci in my homelands. Praying and singing with my people on the land I grew up on provides a renewed sense of clarity. I love being Lakota.

Wi Wang Waci is a renewal ceremony for us. It is the time and place where we offer our prayers for Unci Maka to sustain us through another year. The prayers we give during these scorching summer days will bring us renewed sustenance in the spring. Prayers are made for all of the elements we depend on so that our life will continue. And of course we give thanks for our lives and our families. We ask for good health for all living beings.

I have attended ceremony for several years. I learn something new each time I attend a sacred gathering. Our culture is not stagnant. Our way of life has evolved with major changes. The wasicu didn’t want us to survive but we are still here and still culturally strong.

All of our traditional Lakota ancestors who lived the pre-reservation life are pretty much gone. The guidance our medicine men get nowadays in terms of how to conduct traditional ceremony actually comes from what the Wakan Oyate tells them. Sometimes I believe our own people fail to realize that our contemporary medicine men communicate with the same spiritual entities as our ancestors did.

Today there is a cultural and ceremonial renaissance taking place in Lakota country. It brings me great joy to see our young people coming back to the circle to pray. If you don’t believe this then you must be one of those who stay away from ceremony.

We have spiritual leaders who are exerting a profound influence upon our young people. I am grateful to these leaders, especially Jerome Lebeaux and Roy Stone, Sr., who encourage our youth to come back into the circle to dance under the Tree of Life. I also appreciate the fact that both the Thunder Valley and Stone/Lost His Blanket sun dances are for our Indian people only.

All of our young people and medicine men are the most judged individuals nowadays; and always by our own people! Our youth are condemned for the way they talk, the way they dress, the music they like, etc. Still, I see many of them praying or singing for our people in ceremony.

Our own people are highly critical of contemporary ceremony. Those Lakota who are the most faultfinding about how our sacred rites are supposed to be conducted are the ones I never see at ceremony. They talk about being taught this or that while accusing others of not doing ceremony right.

Some experts even tell me I should not be writing about ceremony. What? I have a right to freedom of speech. How else will our young people learn? Give me one rational argument about why I should not write about ceremony.

I also have to say Wopila this week to Faith Spotted Eagle. She is one of the driving forces behind the Isnati Awicadowanpi Woecun every year. This ceremony is held in the land of the Ihanktonwan people along the Missouri River.

There were nine young ladies who participated in the ceremony this year. They join the other members of the Cante Ohitika Okodakiciye who have completed the ceremony. All total, there are ninety young ladies who have completed this rite of passage into womanhood.

Our own people will say the women’s ceremonies are lost. They are wrong. This particular ceremony has been conducted near the Missouri River for 14 years. I appreciate all the women who were a part of the Isnati camp. It was very refreshing to see our girls embracing their own way of life in learning what it means to be a self-respecting woman and a good relative. Watching these girls renewed my sense of hope for our Lakota-Dakota-Nakota Oyate.

I want to thank all the girls who stayed in the camp for their commitment. Ceremony is held for four days and there are many tests when you are a participant. These young ladies displayed strength, courage, humility and respect. I am very proud of them.

The women’s ceremonies are our way of maintaining a balance between the male and female energies of our people. It is always good to pray but today I see so many women participating in men ceremonies. In addition, other ceremonial roles that were exclusively carried out by either men or women seem to be reserved nowadays. How strange.

I still like to think that women are women and men are men. Apparently, not everyone is comfortable with their gender. This role reversal plays a huge part in why our way of life is so out of balance, I believe. The Ihanktonwan people are fortunate to have an elder like Faith Spotted Eagle to carry on our sacred rites for our young women.

The Lakota women could unite to bring back our own ceremonies. I am aware of some families who do the Isnati privately and it does make a difference in the outlook our young ladies have on their lives. I hear so much babble on how our children are sacred. But there are very few people who actually take time to do anything positive or cultural for our young people.

Perhaps it is too much to ask for women to be women. There is so much jealousy and competition between the women of my tribe now. Sometimes it is safer to just do things on our own than try to make changes by working with a group.

Finally, I say Wopila to the Wi Wang Waci Oyate for their prayers and sacrifice.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at vi@lakotacountrytimes.com.

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