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James Giago Davies: It's time to honor our keen Lakota intellect

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: james giago davies

James Giago Davies

Time to honor keen Lakota intellect
Give the Just-Smart-Enough Clan the boot
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Every year hundreds of talented Lakota athletes bolster basketball rosters all across West River. We marvel at their skill; fans are familiar with their names, their style of play, and their history.

In every one of these schools there is another type of student. He might even be on the basketball team, but he did not make the roster for this other gift he has, because in the Lakota world, that other gift, has far less value than basketball skills.

This can be excused given the society at large thinks about that other gift pretty much the same way. They tend not to like it, don’t trust it, they can’t relate to it, understand it, so they don’t value it, encourage it, and seldom honor it.

To the extent this gift is routinely acknowledged it is only through artistic expression most people can relate to it. Because at least that entertains us, at least that is something we can incorporate into our life without feeling threatened or intimidated by the other gift.

A keen intellect is rare, and you are far less likely to encounter a Lakota with this gift, than you are a skilled ballplayer. More than likely, you won’t even recognize a keen intellect when you meet one, because like the rest of us, most of their activity focuses on the day-in-and-day-out world of school, work, small talk, they aren’t bursting into every room, declaring; “Listen up! I’m the smartest person in here!”

Not sure why keen intellect is rare. Seems like every healthy person should be extra smart, just like every healthy grizzly bear has the ability to break your back with a single swipe. But that is not the way it is.

Those who are smart enough to know they are not stupid, but not smart enough to recognize or appreciate the keen intellect when they meet one, are the most dangerous people in our world.

They have enough smarts to get in positions of power and responsibility, to meet and exceed success benchmarks, because they have the numbers, the opportunity, and because most people can understand who they are and what they are about. I call them the Just-Smart-Enough Clan.

Since many keen intellects become academics we can dismiss them as know-it-alls who teach but can’t do. Those who become scientists and writers and artists and great thinkers are removed enough from our everyday lives we assume that they will always be at the far end of a long road, in some far off city, maybe across a wide ocean. And most of the time we are correct in assuming that.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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