Ivan Star Comes Out: Living in two worlds requires tolerance

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

Ivan F. Star Comes Out

Living in two worlds requires tolerance and perseverance
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out

I believe most of us on the home land are aware of our undesirable but well-documented statistics like alcohol/drug abuse, violent crime, child sexual abuse, high illegitimate births, family breakdown, political corruption, and our elders being dumped in nursing homes and rarely visited by their children. I must say that these deeds, committed individually or as a group, are not indigenous or Lakota.

I can easily point that finger of blame at the wasicu (white man) for causing this mess. However, we have been doing that for decades and our situation has not gotten any better. With that, I believe it is fair to say that the steady loss of Lakota language and culture is our own doing. Most of us have conceded to the order of modern society.

Adding to our distress, about half of our homeland population is under the age of 18 and their overall demeanor seems to indicate an absolute disconnection from Lakota culture which is a sad but solid reality. I shouldn’t have to point out the fact that this age group is our future. Anyway, as I got older, I became increasingly aware of our younger generations’ behavioral traits.

The most troubling is the fact that they speak English only and know very little of their own culture. Even more troubling is their lack of interest in Lakota values and principles. Absolutely disturbing is what appears to be a solid detachment from the possibility of language death in the very near future.

Their most obvious trait is their appearance of contentment with their pre-occupation with modern technology. It appears that most have no clue as to what Lakota language and culture means to them. I ask myself often, “Do they know that the future of Lakota people rests solidly on their shoulders?”

I don’t expect to make a difference in our situation, not with one article or even a series. I am simply documenting my thoughts and feelings to help ease them out of my mind so I can live my life. I credit age to the fact that I have been steadily moving toward reflection and solitude. I am not the first though as my elders have been lamenting this very condition for decades.

Anyway, our schools ought to be acknowledged for their 40-year struggle to teach language and culture. They may have been unable to restore the language to its former status but they embedded a vital awareness of it in the minds and hearts of our youth. Their language programs struggled right from the start to reach every child with a mere 30-minute period per day and very little parental support.

Those few families who still speak the language deserve acclaim also. When one uses the Lakota language at home, they create that vital immersion environment. Their children can readily identify with their language and culture. This ancient language transmission process must be revived because cultural identity lends greatly to that vital sense of belonging. It defines who a person is.

Also, there are several community groups that have been busy keeping spiritual and cultural awareness in the forefront for their youth. One community has been actively conducting activities wherein the essentials or the foundation of Lakota culture, spirituality, and language are transmitted to their youth.

These culture camps are the best thing that could happen for our youth. At the same time, we have a variety of Christian faiths that have been doing this very thing for many years. Theirs are called Bible Schools or Camps or some other similar name. Both are engaged in a battle for the youthful mind.

What I have described previously involves an individual’s world view. This is one’s conception or philosophy of the world. The bottom line is that we have two very different worldviews in play on the home land, Christianity and Lakota. This is not to rebuke either one for both are equally valid.

I realize that those who are influenced by Christianity tend to lean toward the teachings of the Bible. Their thoughts, views, and even actions are based on Genesis, the Adam and Eve story. In contrast, those who are aware of the Lakota oral tradition of Inyan and Maka are more attuned to Lakota spirituality, culture, and language.

I see one major flaw though. It was man who altered the Word according to his personal demands and agenda and then preached those teachings while demonizing and obliterating the Lakota belief system. We have to force ourselves to realize that one is as valid and as good as the other. In other words, the Lakota origin story is just as valid as the Christian origin story.

Awareness or knowledge of Lakota creation is highly conducive to relearning Lakota language and to understanding spirituality and cultural customs. Another glitch I have been seeing is that too many of us have been trying to understand Lakota spirituality and way of life via the Christian mindset or worldview. We must understand that although the two are as different as night and day, they are equally valid.

So, why do Christians consistently try to convince others to believe in their way? My view of this practice is that these people believe their way is good and right and all other’s are bad and wrong. I tolerate it because I grew up in a parochial school and am aware of the teachings of the Bible. By the same token, in relearning the Lakota way, I learned to respect as opposed to being judgmental.

The fact that language and culture go hand-in-hand is well established. As such the common definition of culture is “the accumulation of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations.”

The commonly accepted definition of language is, “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.” I learned also that no one language or culture is more advanced or better than another. All languages and cultures are equally valid and perfect for the people who developed them, believe in them, and use them.

Again, it was humans who taught us that our Lakota language and culture and world view are primitive, archaic, and barbarous, and therefore useless in this day and age. Again, I know the Word is good, just as I know the Lakota way is good. I also know the two worlds cannot be combined, just as English and Lakota languages cannot be combined. In such cases, one always overrides the other.

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out, POB 147, Oglala, SD 577646, (605) 867-2448, mato_nasula2@outlook.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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