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Hospitality has always been a Lakota virtue


Every society develops its own standard for hospitality, how accommodating they will be, how gracious they are as hosts. In the Lakota world, guests are fussed over a bit when first greeted, taken out to dinner. Because what is shared between friends over a good meal is one of the undeniably sacred and positive aspects of any culture, but it resonates most powerfully among hunter/gatherer peoples who built their society on respect for the individual.
When this hospitality is not forthcoming, it is far more noticeable, and a much bigger transgression than what would be perceived by mainstream culture. Still, despite the mistreatment, the Lakota way is not to call out the people that did it specifically, but to reflect on the virtue of hospitality, and to remind all Lakota that it is a hard life, and an unfair world, and made all the more difficult when we can’t be gracious and considerate to others.
There is no doubt that every situation is different, and that demands will alter interaction, unforeseen circumstances create awkward responses where a person is unintentionally disrespected or ignored or wronged. But if this pattern persists throughout the visit, then there is a reason or cause beyond the unintentional. As a journalist, I have been invited by tribes and organizations to travel some distance for some event or honoring. The Winnebago tribe of Nebraska bears mention. When I was asked to cover the historic Winnebago v Omaha Central basketball game, I was provided a room for me and my family at the casino. A young man chaperoned me as I toured the rez and introduced me to lots of nice people. I was invited into people’s homes, and fed. When the game came, I rode with the players down to Omaha, where the Indians unfortunately lost to a school ten times their size, but it was quite a sporting event, and I had intimate access to every part of it. Afterwards, we stopped at the team’s favorite restaurant, and the importance of such socializing became apparent, as I learned much more about each player and coach and person than I could have learned otherwise.
When I drove away, I felt sad I could not continue hanging out with my new friends. We had invested a part of ourselves in each other. When the Winnebago came to our part of the country, and twice convincingly won the Boys Championship at LNI, we did not treat them with the same gracious hospitality they would have shown us had we gone to Winnebago. For this reason, they chose not to come back a third year, although they made no fuss about it.
There have been, unfortunately, occasions where I accepted invitations and the hospitality was awful. Nothing is accomplished in pointing fingers and hurling invective when this happens. All you can do is hope that the bad host recognizes and apologies for what was done. To this point, no bad host has ever done that, but you hold out hope there will be a first.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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