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2018-04-12 / Voices

Our Children Will Keep Ceremony Alive


Many Indigenous people were raised to be Catholic, Episcopal or Mormon. There are Indigenous people who preach every day about being nonjudgmental and how there is only one God. They also may erroneously believe that praying at Lakota ceremony is the work of the devil. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is the norm in the wasicu world of organized religion.

Some communities on the Rosebud used to have Catholic priests living among the people. This was back when there were many Lakota families on our reservation attending Catholic mass regularly on Sundays. But today, there aren’t very many people faithfully attending church anymore. The big Catholic church in St. Francis is only filled to capacity on Christmas and Easter.

Many Lakota people share stories about how they were horribly abused as children by local priests and nuns. Most of the stories they share are about the beatings they suffered while attending boarding school. Our Lakota people were traumatized by the priests and nuns at St. Francis.

Consequently, over the last 40 years or so, we’ve seen growing numbers of Lakota people praying at our ancestral ceremonies. An elder once told me he’d grown up going to church every Sunday to pray. He said it didn’t do him any good. When he came back to pray in the way our ancestors did, his life improved.

As Lakota people return to ceremony, attendance continues to decrease at churches on our reservation. Thus, the availability of priests and the frequency of mass has dwindled. Yet, there are still many of our people who identify as Catholic, Episcopal or Mormon. Unfortunately, many church going Lakota condemn their own people who make the choice to pray at ceremony.

Those of us who pray at Lakota ceremony are often called inappropriate names by our own relatives. It’s what happens when organized religion creates fear amongst their members. Many of our people have allowed the influence of the church to plant fear in their minds.

I’m grateful for those Lakota people who’ve overcome the fear instilled by many churches. They chose to embrace the ceremonial life of our ancestors. There is no discrimination in prayer. That is, when you openly condemn your people praying at a Hocoka, you’ll likely be included in the next ceremonial prayer. In fact, many of us pray that all Lakota people will return to the ceremonial ways passed down by our ancestors.

The summer ceremonies are fast approaching. We’ve been preparing all year for the upcoming gatherings on our homelands. We pray at ceremony because we have witnessed the power of our faith as we gather with one heart and one mind to ask for good health for all of our relatives; whether they are there with us in the circle or making the choice to pray in the wasicu churches.

Today, the world looks to the Lakota to learn how to be spiritual. Lakota people who’ve prayed in ceremony for many years are often willing to visit with you about the miracles their prayers have brought into their lives.

Many were raised Catholic, yet they have no desire to ever be affiliated with the Catholic church again. We’ve witnessed the devastation and trauma inflicted on our Lakota people by the Catholic priests, brothers and nuns. These people of God traumatized the Lakota. Many adults are still recovering from the atrocities they suffered in boarding schools as children.

I invite Lakota people to attend one of their own ceremonies. If you can’t bring yourself to pray at your own ceremony, please encourage your children to become immersed in their own Lakota culture. Our way of life belongs to our Lakota children, we must encourage them to keep our ceremonies alive.

Consequently, if you’d like to hear what was actually said at the February 12 school board meeting, you can view a video on YouTube at this link

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