Vi Waln: Don't attack your fellow Lakota citizens for attending ceremonies

Vi Waln

Every Lakota Person Is Worthy To Pray In Their Own Ceremony
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist
lakotacountrytimes.com

Lakota people criticize others all the time. Some criticism comes in waves. Topics drawing criticism also depends largely on what time of the year it is.

Our world is a small one. That is, it’s impossible to hide your behavior on the rez. And whether your actions are questionable or not, there are still neighbors and relatives who are quick to judge.

Summer is sun dance time. Ceremony time is when we see Lakota people entering a circle to pray, sing or support one another. Unfortunately, some of the sun dance people are being torn apart by an abundance of social media critics.

When our Lakota people make a spiritual commitment, they draw attention. For instance, the critics may regurgitate a life history of poor choices of any given Lakota person who is called into the sun dance circle. Mistakes you made in high school are recalled.

Your presence in a ceremony is questioned because let’s face it, you’re a terrible human being. You have absolutely no right to be praying in any ceremony. You are not worthy.

Granted, there are many of our people who struggle daily with substance use. But it’s not fair when we decide so-and-so has no right to sun dance because they have an addiction. Many Lakota people attend ceremony seeking help for their addictions.

It isn’t appropriate to question a fellow tribal citizen who chooses to attend ceremony. Our ceremonial experience is intimate. Ceremony is a private meeting between an individual and the Creator. Judgmental human beings have no place in our spiritual experience.

Interestingly, we rarely hear the same level of criticism voiced against Lakota people attending church on Sunday. Substance abusers attend church regularly; some are even church leaders or helpers. No one seems to make a big deal out of it.

It also isn’t right to blame our people praying at ceremony for all bad things that happen. This is a form of lateral oppression stemming from the superstitious nature of organized religion. Blaming someone for an incident that happened to someone else is also engaging in victim mentality. We have to stop blaming our own spiritual ways for the things that happen to us.

Summer is the time of increased social media critics dissecting the qualifications, or lack thereof, of our people who pray. Still, your judgement of what another person is doing spiritually should be deferred to your Higher Power. Compassion, respect, truth, generosity, humility and wisdom are aspects of a Lakota lifestyle which leaves no room to engage in the judgement of other human beings.


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Lakota spirituality is such that Tunkasila accepts us all, despite our human transgressions. Even though we are immersed in a colonized society, we are still Lakota. The on-going renaissance of Lakota youth attending ceremony must be embraced and encouraged. We have to remain in non-judgment of other Lakota who’ve been called to fulfill a spiritual dream.

It’s a stronger circle when all Lakota chose to love, support and encourage one another. The strength of the circle will be enhanced when we stop labeling one another as spiritually unworthy. Lakota people must leave behind this judgement. An unworthy human being is a concept introduced by the local churches. We don’t have a right to judge and condemn each other because of the way we pray.

Every Lakota person is worthy to pray in their own ceremony. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

(Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is nationally published journalist.)

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