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Recognizing Ikce Wicasa tawoope


In all honesty, I never understood what our elders meant when they discussed Ikce Wicasa tawoope (natural/human law) during their meetings. Eventually, I learned that these particular laws are natural and guided our ancestors to live emotionally healthy lives, including families and tiospaye (extended family), and led them to nationhood. They understood the laws enough to honor them even when no one was looking.

There are many ikce wicasa tawoope (natural/human laws), but only 7 are presented here: wowaunsila (empathy), wacanteognake (generosity), wayuonihan (respectfulness), wowacintanka (perseverance), wowahwala (humility), woohitika (courage), woksape (wisdom), and woaktunje (clemency). According to many an elder, these principles gave our ancestors identity and are the roots they lived by.

The late Birgil Kills Straight, speaking before a United Nations assembly in 1993, referred to the recent chaos involving national and local political events, “We see people doing things with their minds rather than through the heart (done quickly and often marked by violent force). We all have egos (one’s sense of self-esteem). Then there is the arrogance, the attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner.”

He alluded to the facts that the world today is seriously lacking these human/natural rights. “We see the opposite in the world around us, accumulation of wealth, greed, hatred, an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth (retaliation), disrespect (lack of courtesy or good manners), kill and destroy what is not understood.”

I was pleasantly surprised, and intrigued, to hear his words regarding man-made laws, specifically about the 14th Amendment, the one that accords equal rights and protection of the law to everyone. “This law is the result of a lack of truth and understanding of the things mentioned here.” Imagine that, congress made a law to enforce ikce wicasa tawoope (natural/human law).

When the “founding fathers” plagiarized from the Iroquois’ Great Law of Peace to “invent” the U. S. Constitution, they had little understanding of equality and justice and thus omitted much of the Great Law of Peace’s human/natural laws. It wasn’t until 1871 that amendments were made to the original constitution making it more democratic.

The 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It also prohibiting congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak. The new nation had to correct a serious shortcoming with the new constitution. There are 27 Amendments and some of them made it more humanitarian or participatory.

The original U. S. Constitution did not come with equal rights for all. The slave was acknowledged as 3/5th human, 3/5th of a vote and women were considered subhuman. It took a tragic civil war to incorporate ikce wicasa tawoope (human/nature law) in the constitution to change it more humane, equal, and just.

Christianity began in the 1st century CE after Jesus was killed and was claimed to have risen. Despite persecution, a small group of Jewish people spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. In a nutshell, Jesus ministered to the region’s spiritually and physically impaired, promoted a purist, personal faith based upon love of God and neighbor, and challenged the corruption/oppression of the political and religious elite.

In short, Christianity became synonymous with justice, truth, humility, service, government, compassion, and love. Then, as Mr. Kills Straight alluded to in 1993, American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, violence, and bigotry found their place in America. Far right Christianity has transgressed to a point where it is now a base for racial superiority, homophobia, nationalism, wealth, and hatred.

At any rate, as Lakota people, we still have a chance to revive our profound Ikce Wicasa philosophical ways, or as people say, the “old ways,” like language, ceremonies, social customs, and history. Being traditional does not mean going back to living in a tiikceya (natural home), which originated from the racist mentality – a non-traditional way of thinking.

Traditional way of life promotes justice and equality. The basic principles of self-determination and control over our lands is now eminent. We have to alter our indoctrinated ways and relearn the principles of our ancestors and begin to live them in every aspect of our lives. It is imperative that Lakota people learn their ancestral ways. Otherwise, without our language, culture, and history, our children will be selling cigars in a drugstore somewhere.

(Contact Ivan Star Comes Out at matonasua@gmail.com)

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