James Giago Davies. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

James Giago Davies: Let's keep an open mind about other cultures

Keeping an open mind about other cultures

When defending our sacred we too often disrespect what is universal
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Iyeska Journal has a different perspective, neither Lakota or Wasicu, and getting readers to understand what that means, and accept that an Iyeska perspective matters, has been a challenge.

For those who still do not know, an Iyeska is a mixed-blood Lakota. The term has a long history, where the definition shifted, but the current definition is not “translator.” The meaning of words change, every language is an ever evolving dynamic, which is why Lakota cannot understand Crow, although both spoke the same language, thousands of years ago.

Many times a well written column can inform, even transform, the perspective of others that previously had no real understanding of what an Iyeska is. But just as often, no amount of words, however profoundly and artfully presented, can sway minds shackled to myopic certitude, often expressed as—“What I believe is sacred truth. I demand the right to speak for all Lakota. If you don’t believe this sacred truth, you are not Lakota. I will not respect your mind or intelligence, if you refuse to believe what I believe.”

None of us choose who we are, we don’t choose our parents. I know people half Lakota who totally discount their Wasicu half. Most Lakota have Wasicu blood, most Lakota have lots of non-Lakota blood, because for millennia it was common to marry outside the Tribe. Choosing one identity over the other, rather than finding a way to honor all parts of who we are, forces us to internally reject our actual heritage, which today is a jumble of many heritages.

The purpose of Iyeska Journal, though, is not to advance the identity of Iyeska, it is to inform and entertain through essays and stories about any issue humans can discuss, but from the life perspective of an Iyeska.

I do not believe in Lakota spirituality. I do not believe in any spirituality, including Christianity. I am an atheist. But I try to honor and respect the spirituality of each person I meet, with the exception of a Facebook group I administer, where the express intent is to discuss all spirituality with no reasonable expectation of respect.

But beyond internet social media, tolerance of people who do not accept what we believe is fundamental to a decent society. We cannot write off every new idea or practice as “assimilation,” while we sit blabbing into a cell phone, clacking on a keyboard, or knocking back a Budweiser.

Most of the core conflict we see is not between Wasicu and Lakota and Iyeska, it is the consequence of individual personalities imposing distorted agendas that sow contention. We can explain, even defend, who we are, without resorting to accusations and invective, often from closed minds impervious to reasoned correction.

Many times, as a journalist, I have attempted to engage in reasoned conversation with angry personalities, meetings held often at their request, and these experiences indicate, more often than not, most people do not want a resolution to the conflict, they embrace the conflict as a cudgel that they revel in wielding.

This is, sadly, especially true in Lakota country. But what Iyeska Journal wants to do is process the Lakota reality through this prism— a world filled with seven billion people, all with their own deep cultural history, their own religious beliefs and practices, because there is no alternative where we can reject living with them.


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Keeping an open mind about other cultures
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today