I can't hide that discouragement, sadness and loneliness were often my prevalent feelings during my stays on the Rez...Often an impotent anger caught my heart....But when I was finally losing my hope, a delicate breeze or an unexpected rain..helped me to believe again that this Culture can't die and haven't to die. Each one of us would be 'poorer' if this spiritual heritage was forgotten.
I'm just a drop in the ocean, anyway I had always done my best to be consistent with these wordview and virtues.....I don't know other ways to live.
THE GREATEST OF THE GREATEST (Joseph M. Marshall III)
Toss a pebble into a pond and the waves flow outward in ever-growing circles. That is a physical reality. In the Lakota encampments of old, the biggest and tallest lodge stood in the very center of the encampment. There the Elders met. The oldest men in the village formed the council of Elders. There was one basic requirement: obviously, one had to be old....As a matter of fact, there really is no word for 'authority' in the Lakota language. So, how did the council of Elders fulfill its responsibility?
The council fulfilled its responsibility through the power of the influence of their wisdom. Vqrious matters of concern and importance were brought to the council, from everyday life issues to matters of war. Every issue was discussed at length, sometimes for several days and nights. At the end, the council didn't issue ultimatums or edicts. They simply informed the people what they thought. That opinion, or opinions, was the basis of action because of the depth of the council's wisdom.
The Lakota consider fortitude, generosity, bravery and wisdom to be the four greatest virtues. In any discussion or mention of these virtues, wisdom is invariably the last to be named....It is entirely appropriate because wisdom in not only the greatest of the four greatest, it is also the most difficult to achieve. Furthrmore, wisdom is associated with old age and that is entirely appropriate because wisdom cannot be had in ten easy lessons. One has to live a long life to gain wisdom and it is regarded as life's gift by some who finally achieve it. It is, many also realize, a gift they cannot keep to themselves. It must be given back to life.
What, then, is Wisdom? Just as knowledge is derived from information, wisdom begins with knowledge, grows with experience and is empowered by discernment. On the other hand, wisdom is one of those realities of life that is best perceived by the effect it has, like the wind. Wind cannot be seen, but its movement is visible when an entire hillside of grass bends in the same direction. Wind does not speak, but it can give whispery voice to the branches of a red cedar tree. Therefore, we know wind exists. Hence, we know Wisdom exists.
We know it is an ancient virtue, but at times it seems difficult to see its effect on our society and our world. Sometimes its absence seems more evident.....We contemporary humans, especially in American society, think that all that matters is the present. We live in a world that moves at cyber speed, craves instant gratification and revels in technology. Consequently, we are so impressed with the current version of ourselves tha we aren't aware that our ancestors contributed to what we are and what we do and what we think...modern technology and the astounding tasks that gadgets can perform have effectively blinded us to the intelligence of our ancestors. We've become arrogant as a society and as a nation.
Up to the reservation era, wisdom was an inherent part of the leadership in Lakota society. Wisdom was more important than authority. There was no concept of authority. Indigenous societies did have expectations and rules for behavior but just as important, they looked to the wisdom of the Elders among them.
the council of Elders did not pass legislation or issue edicts. After discussion, the council would arrive at an opinion regarding the issue pr question at hand. that opinion was revealed to the people, who accepted it as advice and counsel, rather than a a directive or an order. But the people understood that the council's opinion had the weight of several hundred years of life experiences and the wisdom the council possessed individually and collectively. therefore, much more often than not, the advice of the council was followed.
While the 'omniciyyapi' was the overall deliberative body for each community, there were also other leaders who could generally be categorized as civilian or military. In either case, leaders were chosen on the basis of their common sense, sound of record of achievement and good judgment, and compassion. To keep the position of leadership, a man had to put the needs of the people before his own and make good decisions. If a man did his job well, the people continued to follow him; if he was a poor leader, the people smply stopped following. It was not unusual for a poor leader to wake up one morning and find that the people had moved away from him during the night...
So, let us ask again, where are our Elders today? Sadly, if we are honest, we know where they are not. They are not in the center of the village. Their wisdom is not flowing outward.
Any person or society or nation that ignores the lessons of the past will, sooner or later, face the flames of their own fears and arrogance. Some may not survive.
Isn't time, then, to put the Elders back in the center of the village?