may appear petty and out of place in these fast modern times, but
the lack of cultural knowledge among our younger generations deserves
mention. Regarding the future, cultural knowledge should be among
the essentials of modern education. Without this particular knowledge-base,
our youth have very little chance of surviving as Lakota people.
For starters, the indigenous meanings of colors are nearly gone
from the mindset of the present-day "Indian." People see
colors and use colors without a second thought. Actually, the European
and Lakota meaning or interpretations of colors are as dissimilar
as peas and carrots in a pot and we must recognize that.
For instance, the colors red, white, or blue, are widely used
in modern society and they are used in the flag of the U.S. White
meaning purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor, blue, vigilance,
perseverance and justice. However, these same colors do not mean
the same thing in Lakota culture, especially in a spiritual sense.
Unfortunately, among zealous supporters of Americanism, native
ideology is often seen as a contrariety, "un-American,"
or "Communist." So the meaning of these particular colors
is synonymous with political principles and practices essential
to a biased American culture. So, as food for thought, does Native
America change their ancient world view and principles and "go
with the flow?"
In Lakota culture, black denotes honor, respect, adulthood.
It also acknowledges the wind, water, the lightning and thunder
that reside in the west. All of this is called Wakinyan (of the
air) and it does not mean merely "thunderbird." Wearing
black face paint is earned by a warrior. It isn't worn because
it looks awesome. Although it frightened early Europeans, it is
not used to "scare" an enemy.
Red is a color of the north and denotes perseverance, endurance,
pureness, and wisdom of the White Hairs (reference to age). To illustrate,
a pte (buffalo) or tantanka (buffalo bull) faces into the cold wind
in the dead of winter. This act is indicative of astuteness in the
face of adversity. As a side note, domestic European cattle will
simply face away from the wind.
Yellow signifies the source of light that usually comes from
the east. It also represents the beginning of understanding, a symbol
of light and a time of rebirth. White represented in the south and
denotes source of life and is a symbolic representation of intellect.
Blue is the most sacred of all colors as it is the very essence
of Inyan (Stone) who helped to create the world. In creating Unci
Maka (grandmother earth), he bled out and shriveled up to become
stone. His essence could no longer live in Inyan's "blood"
and left it to surround itself around Unci Maka. So his power is
in the air and water and is now known as Wakan Tanka (Great Embodiment).
Based on Maka's wants and needs, Inyan beseeched Wakan
Tanka and thus created the world. Today, Lakota people still believe
water is medicinal which originates from this ancient ideology.
This is the impetus behind the current native resistance to "fracking"
by major oil companies. This mining method is wreaking havoc with
the earth just to obtain more oil and money.
In modern Wasicu culture, black is often associated with death,
evil, mystery, fear, and the unknown. For instance, Dracula always
wears black and black cats are bearers of bad luck. It usually has
a negative connotation such as black plague, blacklist, black humor,
or Black Death. It also denotes strength and authority as in black
tie or black Mercedes and it is a symbol of brief.
Red is the color of fire and blood and is often associated with
war, danger, strength, power, determination, passion, desire, and
love. Red is also used to signify hardiness and valor in the American
flag denoting the blood shed to defend and maintain the new nation.
Yellow is the color of sunshine and usually associated with
joy, happiness, energy, intellect and is said to enhance concentration,
hence it is used in legal pads and pencils. It is widely used to
Blue is the color of the sky and oceans and signifies loyalty,
vigilance, perseverance & justice. Dark blue is also considered
a masculine color that is associated with depth, expertise, and
stability. It is a preferred color of corporate America.
White is associated with cleanliness and purity. It also signifies
innocence, righteousness, and is considered the color of perfection.
Angels are usually imagined wearing white clothes and is associated
with hospitals, doctors, and sterility.
Anyway, controversy abounds within both Wasicu and Lakota culture
over color. For the Lakota, the meanings of colors are ancient teachings
that serve as a guide on how to live this life. Perhaps there is
a lesson within that perception alone. It was not until recently
that the controversy infiltrated those ancient teachings and philosophies
This new nation is not going to give us back our language, culture,
or history. We have to take it back but that cannot happen until
we establish our own awareness. Increasing our awareness of even
the tiniest bits of our culture and history is necessary for our
continued existence in the future, both near and distant.
We have realize that although native thought and philosophy
is dissimilar to the European's, it is not bad. This is the
very reason the European perceived our ancestors as primitive sub-humans
incapable of thought or intelligence and did everything possible
to destroy them and obliterate their ways. We must realize that
this phenomenon continues to dominate the Native struggle to survive
as culturally intact as possible.
I close here with one of Sitting Bull's 18th century quotes,
"It is through this mysterious power that we too have our own
being, and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even to our animal
neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land."
Indigenous people once believed the European was not so different
and readily accepted them. Today we endure the consequences. Awareness
is a vital step!
(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at POB 147, Oglala, SD
57764; 605-867-2448; or firstname.lastname@example.org)