I honor him not because he is dead but because he reminds me why a people with all the reasons in the world to hate still choose not to hate.
Haska Kata (White plume)
White plume in an interview with national geographic in 2009 said. “Do you know what saved me from becoming a cold-blooded murderer? My language saved me. There is no way for me to be hateful in my language. It’s such a beautiful, gentle language. It’s so peaceful.” Then White Plume started to speak in Lakota, and there was no denying the words came softly.
It’s true many native languages are so soft and beautiful that hatred would be the last thing you hear when enjoying the spoken word. But I think it’s deeper than that. We Lakota know we do not possess the earth, we borrow it and for a time our maker allows us to live upon his creation. We are taught early on to respect all life because it all comes from our creator.
For Lakota we are taught honor in creation. We are taught the beauty all around. Taught to respect and honor it because we don’t own it. Yes it was created for us as humans but we don’t own what God has made.
The Lakota have every reason to hate this government and even Europeans for that matter. Now I’ll explain why they have every reason. The American government and Europeans have tried when it comes to my people.
Extermination: They did their best to slaughter unarmed women and children like at Wounded Knee. They waged war on us even after peace treaties. They slay our heroes like crazy horse in cold blood while he was sick, unarmed and being treated for illness. They burned villages, banned our religion and language, raped our women and killed our boys.
Assimilation: They forced us to learn English and banned our language. The punishment for worship outside their faith was death. They took our traditional dress and forced us to wear their clothes. They banned the hunt and rights of passage. They even scattered my people to the winds.
They broke every single treaty they ever made with us: Every treaty! Not one stands honored by this government not even today. We gave up our arms for peace and even then were slaughtered and oppressed.
They took away our horses, outlawed our language and ceremonies. All in the name of peace by force. Even then peace was but a dream for the Lakota. Our faith and language had to go underground to survive and it did for over a century of oppression. In 1978 we Lakota gained the right to finally practice our faith and language publically.
American Indian Religious Freedom Act, in 1978, made it a crime to interfere in native spiritual practices. And yet our ceremonies survived, our faith survived, our language survived and our people survived. After more than a century of murder, forced assimilation, sub-human rights, broken treaties and broken promises. You would think he has the right to hate.
But like my father and grandfathers, my mother and grandmothers blind hate is not something the Lakota understand. From our beautiful language which I’ve finally heard spoken after twenty nine years of life to the beautiful spirit which survived a century of injustice the Lakota are resilient and beautiful as the language we speak.
I do believe Haska Kata said it best. I cannot hate because my language is too beautiful for that word. I think more should see life as Lakota see life. Too short and beautiful to waste a moment stuck in hatred. For the Lakota it’s true my language saved me from the road of hatred.
The lesson from Haska Kata? You can take a peoples things, burn their homes and destroy everything they have but you can’t squash the spirit. A further lesson is you can choose to hate and be stuck in the past or choose to love and move forward. We truly are not able to change the past but with a love for the now we can affect our future.
Haska Kata has lived his life on the reservation and he remains there to this day. I have never lived on the reservation. My family was one of the families stripped of their tribe and scattered to the corners of the nation. We share blood, faith and bond even separated by time and distance. My family never lost its language or its spirit.
I’ve always loved the outdoors I think it’s in my blood. I have an affinity for horses and was almost natural from the first time I rode. My blood is Lakota and my language is to pure for hatred. I think he’s right my language saved me from hatred.
It is funny to me the teachings of the native peoples even at “higher education” facilities and how backward the teaching is. Taught by those who don’t live the spirit to those who don’t understand it. Many a friends have tried to tell me my history and all the while fail to realize I’ve lived it through the spirit of my people.
I’ve been taught my history not the twisted half-truths taught even in the best of schools and the highest standards of modern education. I’ll never cease to be amazed when someone lectures me on my history, my faith, my culture.
They live in a little world isolated from the centuries of history taught parent to child, the language and culture carefully preserved. They can keep the education and I will keep the beauty and hope that is the spirit of the Lakota. I will keep my history, faith and language and pass them to my children careful to preserve its beauty and truth.
I’ve been taught the ways of my ancestors. They were secretly and carefully preserved even while the world wished them destroyed. The spirit of the people who are strong can never be stolen. Not slavery, not extermination, not assimilation, not broken promises and not broken bodies can steal the spirit of the people. The Lakota are strong and the spirit will not die so easily.
The Lakota are truly the embodiment of warriors. They fight only as a last resort and seek peace and understanding in all things. I see this as the best quality in a warrior. The ability to love and know peace and to always reach for those before reaching for your weapons and armor.
If I could share but one thing of the Lakota I would share our culture. This is our faith, our language and our ways. Perhaps if the world could see things through the eyes of Haska Kata and speak a language too beautiful for hatred we might live in a better world today.
Speak your language and see the beauty in it. Seek your culture, your faith and your peoples spirit and see hatred dissolve. Put hatred aside and hear the beauty and peace flow forth. Speak softly and listen well and may the language of my ancestors and some of my native heroes like Haska Kata find the peace and forgiveness into your language as well.
Many wishes of peace to my friends and remember hatred is a choice. It’s spoken and heard in your words and language. Choose to make your language free of hatred and you will see hatred fade. Thank you Haska Kata for reminding me of the simple joy of a language to beautiful for hatred.
~ Kuwa Sumanitu Taka (pursuing wolf) aka Michelle Styles – March 6, 2014