One Lakota Creation story tells of how the Lakota people came into world thru a hole in the Earth. One person stayed behind and when he came out, he saw the people dying of famine and so he turned himself into a bison (Tatanka) and multiplied himself until he covered the Earth. While some tribes do not place an emphasis on sacrifice, in the Lakota/Dakota traditions, Sacrifice is Honored as an important Value to one’s character, as well as to the care and survival of The People. Waíč’iuŋyan (to sacrifice oneself) or Ič’íčhupi (to give oneself, volunteer or enlist) describes the basic understanding of how integral Sacrifice is to the Lakota/Dakota People.
Most people have some familiarity with the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, a Warrior Society of extraordinary skill and courage. One of their roles as Dog Men was to protect The People at all costs, often in the face of overwhelming odds. If the situation looked hopeless, they would stake themselves to the ground in front of the oncoming enemy, knowing that it would likely be their last breath, in order that The People could escape.
The Sun Dance (Wiwanyang Wachipi), of which I previously shared, is a demonstration of Sacrifice. Sun Dancers dance for 4 days in the hot sun, with no food or water. Why would they do this? Often times it is to ask for a Healing for a Loved One or to offer Gratitude to the Creator for all the blessings they have received in the past year…but mostly, they Sacrifice to Pray for The People.
Perhaps, we have forgotten that we too Sacrifice. Mothers Sacrificing for their Children that they may grow to be healthy, fed and protected. Giving our bone marrow to save another life. Sacrificing our ‘normal’ lives to care for our aging Parents. Volunteering our time at local food banks and shelters that others may be fed and safe. Even the simple act of opening a door for an Elder. Often, the only rewards we receive is the knowing that our efforts have hopefully improved other lives. The Lakota recognized, and Honored, what we have forgotten…that Sacrifice…no matter how painful…IS necessary and that it is in our very nature to make Sacrifices for ourselves or for others. Sacrifice gives us all Dignity and gives those who follow after us an example. Haho!