As Lakota, our advanced sciences, lifeways, culture, governance systems and ceremonies taught us that we as human beings are a part of all life, never separate from it or above it. Our ancestors taught us that each of us are, in fact, a unique ecosystem, as our physical experience here on Unči Maka (Grandmother Earth) is made possible by countless “little relatives” (now described in mainstream science as “microbes”) and many other critical life forms with which we interrelate and interdepend. Indeed, much of our bodies are made up of what mainstream science now refers to as the “DNA” of other life forms, which symbiotically co-exist within, on and around us. We are part of them and they are a part of us. We all collaborate to give each other the most precious gift imaginable … the experience of life, itself.
As Lakota, we understand these critical facts of necessary interrelationship, interdependence and symbiosis, and we know our role in this circle of life. It is one of great responsibility. It is a core societal mandate for us that we must think at least seven generations ahead for our Oyate (People), humankind and all life. We are caretakers of sustainability and are required to fulfill our role of helping to maintain balance between all life forms as a core principle of our existence as Lakota. This informs every leadership decision-making process, and determines the way we walk on Unči Maka.
Our People, together with our relatives throughout the Očeti Sakowiŋ have never lost a war with the United States or Canada. In 1851 and 1868, our leaders made a decision to – once again – hold our hand out in peace to the US government. Time and time again, we have consistently done this. In these instances, our ancestors did this by participating in the creation of treaties to respect the fact that the European-based cultures seemed to value and prefer this way of “making a binding promise” among Nations. If the process was valued so highly, our ancestors understood that it would be honored.
We agreed through these treaties as equal Nations of the world to occupy and manage all of our treaty lands under our laws and lifeways in perpetuity. We never agreed to be placed in prison camps or reservations. We never agreed for our lands and lifeways to be forcibly occupied, our narratives denied, or our cultures subjugated. These things were only done after we peacefully lay down our arms as agreed, as equal Nations, through these treaties to achieve peace for all.
We did not enter into these treaty arrangements lightly, and we did not enter into them from a place of fear or weakness. Rather, we did this from a position of strength, responsibility and great love. Our ancestors could see that the life forms that we had protected for many thousands of years were suffering from this new imposed way, and as Lakota, it was our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect their right to exist and hold their place in the circle of life. We had reserved through our agreed treaty lands the minimal amount of physical space our ancestors believed was required to achieve this goal. Our leaders planned seven generations ahead to ensure that a sustainable, healthy path forward would be available for all of our relations.
Yet, the United States broke these treaties almost immediately. To our horror, activities have happened and are still happening in He’Sapa (our sacred Black Hills), in all of our traditional lands, and around the world that are causing massive destruction and imbalance. Every day we attempt to educate and encourage the United States and Canadian governments and the American and Canadian publics to address these legal and moral breaches. Not just for ourselves, but to preserve the balance required between all life forms to ensure health and wellness.
As Lakota, we never gave up the right to protect Unči Maka and all life through the practice of our sciences. Our efforts are well documented. Our leaders have made countless trips to Washington D.C. and other places of power for the United States since the 1800s. They traveled the globe doing the same. Their words have been preserved, and our collaborations, partnerships and initiatives at GIFTS will serve to mirror our ancestors’ messages and communicate them clearly cross-culturally through science. As Lakota, we will enact the vision and teachings of our grandfathers and grandmothers to protect the balance of life for all of our relations.
Overall, the mainstream culture sees aggression and the imposition of a one-sided mythology and narrative as an exhibition of power. Some create their narratives about us as Lakota and look back at our decision not to conduct total warfare against those who were determined to colonize us as a mistake. However, had we adopted the “total warfare” approach, we would have ceased to be “Lakota,” which means “a friend and ally to all life.” Had we done this, we would have gone against our foundational scientific and governance principles and we would not have been able to fulfill our promise to Unči Maka and the life she supports today, at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Our ancestors made very difficult decisions, thinking seven generations ahead and more for what the world would require and when our Oyate, our sciences, governance systems and our lifeways would be most needed and able to be heard. Our Oyate, and other Indigenous Peoples, have fought – and continue to fight – the effects of genocide and assimilation policies in a world that, up until now, has had little to no ears for sustainability.
We have quietly and steadfastly continued to practice our sciences despite extreme persecution. In secret, in the dark, away from the eyes of those who would silence us. In this, we have managed to preserve the very things our ancestors asked for us to guard and protect. Today, we are in the seventh generation, and it is time to step into the fulfillment of our responsibility to all our relations. As Lakota, we are here, and together with our relatives, other Indigenous Peoples, and our partners and allies around the world from all Nations, we are coming forward to stand for Unči Maka and all life. We will stand for you, your children and your grandchildren. Mitakuye Oyasiŋ (all our relations).
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