APTN: ‘I am sorry’: Pope Francis apologizes for role Catholics played in residential school abuses
Notes from Indian Country
And now the Churches are looking for reconciliation?
Monday, April 11, 2022

Someone asked what the Lakota word ahhkahneeah meant. I can’t even tell you if I spelled it right in this sentence. What does the word mean?

The best way to explain it is that it is more of an emotion than a word. For instance: A Lakota woman sees a young child who is really cute and she says, “I just want to ahhkahneeah him.”

She is saying that she would just like to hug him or squeeze his cheeks or words to that affect.

When I was a child at the Indian boarding school we would say “Ookh.” It is probably a derivation of a Lakota word. It had many meanings to us as boys. It could mean “Really” or “I believe it.” Or if the boy dragged out the word like OOoookh, it would then mean “That is a bunch of bull.

Tim Giago
Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Whenever we walked by a bunch of Lakota girls on the “girl’s side” of the Mission we would do something stupid just to hear them say, “Yaaaahh.”

A young lady was riding with her mother as they drove into Rapid City from Pine Ridge. As they drove by the Waste Department she asked her mother, “Mom, why does it say Waste on all of those trucks?” Of course she meant Waste in the Lakota sense which is pronounced “Washtay.”

Washtay if usually preceded with Lila Washtay which means very good.

Which reminds us of the story of a Catholic priest new to the reservation driving past a Lakota woman hanging clothes out to dry. He gets out of his car, approaches the woman and says, “What a beautiful day.” The lady replies, “Lila washtay.” The priest responds, “And its Lily’s Wash Day.”

The boys at the boarding schools always had their pet names for their teachers. The notorious Father Edwards was always referred to as “Eddie Boy” behind his back. Sister Helenita had a very pointed nose so she was called “Sister Peaky” by the boys.

Of course speaking the Lakota language was forbidden at the reservation schools and so the boys had to sneak around to speak it and if they got caught they were severely punished. And that is how the Catholic Church attempted to destroy a language.

There is talk about a “reconciliation” between the Catholic Church and its former students. The talk is coming from the Church not the students.

When I wrote “Children Left Behind” it was originally called “The Aboriginal Sin.” As I said, I was blackballed and called a liar by the priests and nuns at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission, now called Red Cloud Indian School.

Do you think I will ever be invited to attend or to speak at any of the so-called “reconciliation” meetings? I doubt it. I busted their little, reverend bubble and then the walls came down.

Sorry to say, but I would not attend if I was invited. The Christian Churches destroyed the lives of more Lakota boys and girls than they will ever know and now they are talking about “reconciliation?”

To what end? I don’t want to hear them say “We’re sorry.”

I want them to preach from their pulpits around the world every Sunday about how they tried to destroy a people. Tell the world and your congregations about your sins because we Lakota Oyate already know them.


Tim Giago is an Oglala Lakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. His book “Children Left Behind, the Dark Legacy of the Indian Missions” is available at: order@clearlightbooks.com. The book won the Bronze Star from the Independent Publishers Awards. He can be reached at najournalist1@gmail.com

Note: Content © Tim Giago