Ivan Star: Sharing Lakota perspectives and meanings of colors

The following is the opinion of Ivan F. Star Comes Out. All content © Native Sun News.

Ivan Star Comes Out

The settlers and the Indians had a different perspective on colors
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out

This may appear petty and out of place in these fast modern times, but the lack of cultural knowledge among our younger generations deserves mention. Regarding the future, cultural knowledge should be among the essentials of modern education. Without this particular knowledge-base, our youth have very little chance of surviving as Lakota people.

For starters, the indigenous meanings of colors are nearly gone from the mindset of the present-day “Indian.” People see colors and use colors without a second thought. Actually, the European and Lakota meaning or interpretations of colors are as dissimilar as peas and carrots in a pot and we must recognize that.

For instance, the colors red, white, or blue, are widely used in modern society and they are used in the flag of the U.S. White meaning purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor, blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice. However, these same colors do not mean the same thing in Lakota culture, especially in a spiritual sense.

Unfortunately, among zealous supporters of Americanism, native ideology is often seen as a contrariety, “un-American,” or “Communist.” So the meaning of these particular colors is synonymous with political principles and practices essential to a biased American culture. So, as food for thought, does Native America change their ancient world view and principles and “go with the flow?”

In Lakota culture, black denotes honor, respect, adulthood. It also acknowledges the wind, water, the lightning and thunder that reside in the west. All of this is called Wakinyan (of the air) and it does not mean merely “thunderbird.” Wearing black face paint is earned by a warrior. It isn’t worn because it looks awesome. Although it frightened early Europeans, it is not used to “scare” an enemy.

Red is a color of the north and denotes perseverance, endurance, pureness, and wisdom of the White Hairs (reference to age). To illustrate, a pte (buffalo) or tantanka (buffalo bull) faces into the cold wind in the dead of winter. This act is indicative of astuteness in the face of adversity. As a side note, domestic European cattle will simply face away from the wind.

Yellow signifies the source of light that usually comes from the east. It also represents the beginning of understanding, a symbol of light and a time of rebirth. White represented in the south and denotes source of life and is a symbolic representation of intellect.

Blue is the most sacred of all colors as it is the very essence of Inyan (Stone) who helped to create the world. In creating Unci Maka (grandmother earth), he bled out and shriveled up to become stone. His essence could no longer live in Inyan’s “blood” and left it to surround itself around Unci Maka. So his power is in the air and water and is now known as Wakan Tanka (Great Embodiment).

Based on Maka’s wants and needs, Inyan beseeched Wakan Tanka and thus created the world. Today, Lakota people still believe water is medicinal which originates from this ancient ideology. This is the impetus behind the current native resistance to “fracking” by major oil companies. This mining method is wreaking havoc with the earth just to obtain more oil and money.

In modern Wasicu culture, black is often associated with death, evil, mystery, fear, and the unknown. For instance, Dracula always wears black and black cats are bearers of bad luck. It usually has a negative connotation such as black plague, blacklist, black humor, or Black Death. It also denotes strength and authority as in black tie or black Mercedes and it is a symbol of brief.

Red is the color of fire and blood and is often associated with war, danger, strength, power, determination, passion, desire, and love. Red is also used to signify hardiness and valor in the American flag denoting the blood shed to defend and maintain the new nation.

Yellow is the color of sunshine and usually associated with joy, happiness, energy, intellect and is said to enhance concentration, hence it is used in legal pads and pencils. It is widely used to indicate cowardice.

Blue is the color of the sky and oceans and signifies loyalty, vigilance, perseverance & justice. Dark blue is also considered a masculine color that is associated with depth, expertise, and stability. It is a preferred color of corporate America.

White is associated with cleanliness and purity. It also signifies innocence, righteousness, and is considered the color of perfection. Angels are usually imagined wearing white clothes and is associated with hospitals, doctors, and sterility.

Anyway, controversy abounds within both Wasicu and Lakota culture over color. For the Lakota, the meanings of colors are ancient teachings that serve as a guide on how to live this life. Perhaps there is a lesson within that perception alone. It was not until recently that the controversy infiltrated those ancient teachings and philosophies regarding colors.

This new nation is not going to give us back our language, culture, or history. We have to take it back but that cannot happen until we establish our own awareness. Increasing our awareness of even the tiniest bits of our culture and history is necessary for our continued existence in the future, both near and distant.

We have realize that although native thought and philosophy is dissimilar to the European’s, it is not bad. This is the very reason the European perceived our ancestors as primitive sub-humans incapable of thought or intelligence and did everything possible to destroy them and obliterate their ways. We must realize that this phenomenon continues to dominate the Native struggle to survive as culturally intact as possible.

I close here with one of Sitting Bull’s 18th century quotes, “It is through this mysterious power that we too have our own being, and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even to our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land.”

Indigenous people once believed the European was not so different and readily accepted them. Today we endure the consequences. Awareness is a vital step!

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at POB 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448; or mato_nasula2@outlook.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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