Wacantognaka, the Lakota word for generosity, means to contribute to the well-being of one’s people, one’s world and all life by sharing and giving freely.
This sharing is not just of objects or possessions. No this sharing is of emotions like sympathy, compassion, kindness. It also means to be generous with one’s personal time. It means sharing of your strengths to help others.
The act of giving and not looking for anything in return can make you a better person and this will make you happy. Joy is found in giving because we are all related you and I. We share this earth, we share all things above and below.
Giveaways have always been part of Lakota society. At important events, the family gathers their extra belongings (furs, clothing, sleeping bags, ect..) and sets them out for any person in the community to take. “What you give away, you keep; what you keep you lose” is an old Lakota saying. This is why you hear me say “The only gifts we ever keep are those we give away.” Because giving is kept in the heart and that gift can never be stolen, lost or misplaced.
No matter what race or nationality or tribe, people have found when you reach out to help others in your community, you become less focused on yourself and more in harmony with the world. We are all brothers and sisters in the circle, we are all related.
This is the way of the Lakota in generosity.
Wotitakuye, or kinship, is one of the important values coming from the tiyospaye, the extended family. It includes the ideas of living in harmony, belonging, relations as the true wealth and the importance of trusting in others. It is one of the values that made the tiyospaye work. Wotitakuye is the only value by which true riches are defined.
Family is the measure of your wealth. They will support you in good times and in bad times. For a Lakota, you belong to a tiyospaye through birth, marriage or adoption. Your family even extends out to your band and the whole Lakota nation and even to the world. Whenever you travel somewhere, you can expect to be welcomed and supported as if you were in your own immediate family.
In traditional Lakota society, wotitakuye was a little different from what it is today. The Lakota were a warrior and hunting society. This meant the men might not return when they went out to fight or to hunt. So, the network of relatives ensured the women, children and elders would not be left alone. In these times, generosity was the way of life, and resources were meant to be shared.
It was not uncommon for women to form a family to raise children. Because the men were off hunting the women stayed and protected and educated the children. Every member knew how to fight like wolves to protect their pack, their tribe. It was through sharing that the family larger people survived.
Wacintaka, or fortitude, means facing danger or challenges with courage, strength and confidence. Believing in oneself allows a person to face challenges. Fortitude includes the ability to come to terms with problems, to accept them and with thought toward the tiyospaye to find a solution that is good for everyone.
One of the first lessons a Lakota child learned in the old days was self-control and self-restraint in the presence of parents or adults. Mastery and abilities came from games and creative play.
One key difference was someone more skilled than oneself was viewed as a role model, not as a competitor. Striving was for achieving a personal goal, not for being superior to one’s opponent. Success was a possession of the many, not of the few.
Fortitude may require patience, perseverance and strength of mind in the face of challenges. It involves having confidence in oneself and the courage to continue even when all odds are against you. Fear still exists, but you proceed in spite of fear. Because ones tiyospaye was more important we push through fear.
Woksape – Wisdom: The knowledge and wisdom of old people is very important for the well-being of the Lakota people. This is understood to be something sought and gained over the entire course of one’s entire life, but not just by adding years to one’s life.
Wisdom has to do with understanding the meaning within natural processes and patterns. It means knowing the design and purpose of life. it means knowing the difference between intelligence and experience.
It also has to do with understanding and living the spiritual values and beliefs upon which one’s culture is founded and being able to share these with others. Wisdom means being able to incorporate the sacred way of life into one’s own life and to respect and honor all life.
It means being open to the dreams of the day and the night when spiritual direction may come to a receptive child or adult seeking wisdom. Faith, belief, experiences, and finding answers from all that surrounds you.
Wisdom can be found in all things, from all peoples and from within. The process of learning from these takes time and practice. Something all Lakota value is wisdom shared because this is what being Lakota is all about. Did you notice the circle once more?
Sharing -> Kinship -> Fortitude -> Wisdom -> Sharing
And the circle is complete we all have gifts to share in our kinship. That kinship will give us fortitude to press on even when all seems hopeless. Pressing on in fortitude brings lessons and wisdom which in turn is shared a gift of time, words and experience. It represents a life long circle of learning, caring, growing and sharing.
Four is important to Lakota as circles halved and again have four equal pieces. Four vitues/values, four seasons, four directions (North, East, West, South) all the best things come in four.