Kȟe Sapa and Paha Sapa – Russell Means’ response to David Swallow
My name is ‘Works for the People’. I am a Lakotah/Dakota/Crow. I live at Porcupine, South Dakota on the former Pine Ridge Souix Indian Reservation which is part of the sixty-million acres comprising the Republic of Lakotah. I am also known as Russell Means. And I am now more than 70 winters old.
I read the July 5th communique of David Swallow. It saddened me that this younger man retold the history of the Black Hills from the White Athropological point of view. Which, at best, is incomplete, if not a downright lie. According to the former South Dakota State Archeologist whom I talked to in 1985 to be a witness in the trial of Yellowthunder Camp, a spiritual youth camp put on trial by the US Forest Service.
Our origin story takes a full year to explain, because you have to utilize all four seasons. The sacred Black Hills have two descriptions in the Lakotah language. Paha Sapa and Kȟe Sapa. The white man says that Paha Sapa means ‘Black Hills’. I will attempt to correct their interpretation of my language. The word ‘Pa-ha’ is broken up into two meanings: Pa describes the mountains emerging from the earth. Paha Sapa all together gives you a picture and a description of our sacred mountains as seen from a distance. The Ponderosa Pine gives the illusion of black from a distance and the mountains emerging from the earth. Paha Sapa. Therefore, what you see is holy. The words ‘Kȟe Sapa’ also gives you a description of what the sacred mountains look like close up, with the white stone cliffs, the meadows and the trees and the valleys. Therefore, you know it is holy. Think how profound Paha Sapa is. Just by linguistic interpretation, it begs the question, “Were we here at the plate tectonic movements and creation of these hills?” Wow!
A footnote to the above paragraph: International linguists have established that the indigenous languages of the Western Hemisphere are the most expressive languages on Earth. And the world’s languages become less expressive, as you move WEST!
Secondly, in 1975, I attended a Lakotah Treaty Council meeting at Mother Butler Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. At that meeting, was a young attorney from the Oglala Souix Tribe, by the name of Mario Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez gave a presentation to the elders present at that Treaty meeting. That presentation was a reiterization of the anthropological claims to where we originated in North Carolina and how we migrated west and arrived around 1750 at the Black Hills. Mr. Gonzalez had a page by page display that was placed on a tripod. The elders present were from most of the Lakotah reservations of the Northern Plains. All of whom had been born in the 1800s. Some couldn’t speak English. Others spoke broken English. None had been to a white man’s school.
At this point I want to mention Wowitan Yuha Mani, aka, David Swallow. He, in his mid-fifties right now, is much like those elders that were present. I must also add that he speaks broken English like the elders and he is a third-grade drop-out (I am proud for him). David Swallow and those elders have a clarity of mind and a purity of heart that only those indigenous peoples who have NOT gone through the brainwashing systems of euro-education.
All of these elders were in their 80s and 90s, one in partciular from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota stood up after Mr. Gonzalez concluded and humbly began the creation story of our people. Because Mr. Gonzalez does not understand our language, David Spotted Horse announced he would speak as best he could in English. He then gave a very abbreviated lecture on our creation story. Very politely and humbly, Mr. Gonzalez and his lecture were firmly rejected. The beauty of Spotted Horse and our creation story included our oneness with Kȟe Sapa. The facts are, we shared this holy land, along with the Bighorn Mountains, which are also just as sacred to us as the Paha Sapa, with other Indian Nations, and are part of our oneness with creation. All of our elders that are gone talked about the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains.
May the Great Mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones.