Tiwahe Wica Yu Wita Win.
I’ve been thinking lately of my Lakota name. I always want to put it on things, like my cell phone, but I never can because the character allowance is not long enough. It stops at Wit. If I type it in with no spaces, it will stop at: tiwahewichayuwitawi. Which, I guess might be ok. But I know better. It could be seen as acceptable as the shortened version of Win, or properly, Winyan.
I say I know better, because I do. I was taught the proper way to use my Language and why we need to use it that way even though, as the days go by, this concept seems to be slipping away with the ozone.
An elder of mine and I have had many discussions on how our culture has become what I call the “7-11 culture”. Easy, fast, instant gratification. This isn’t right. Our culture has always had its very own language and rules for the language, reasons for WHY words are the way they are. As an alumni of Sinte Gleska University, I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, be for, use first, and defend (adamantly, if need be), our “true” language. The language that was put into print because of Albert White Hat.
Back to my name. Now, the proper word for Woman is Winyan. Over time it has been acceptable to use Win. However, to use Wi is shortening it for mere convenience. The word Wi has it’s own meaning; namely, the sun.
So knowing that I will not perpetuate the convenience of my culture, I will not allow my name to be bastardized and shortened to Wi. First of all, my name is sacred in the sense that it was given to me by my father. It was picked especially for me, and (to my knowledge) it is directly and correctly translated as is, without any adjustments needing to be made; meaning, he did not have to come up with a Lakota translation for an English word.
I am VERY proud of my name. It envelops completely my journey home and all the stepping stones that were put in place on that journey. It gave me goosebumps when I received it, because I knew what it meant, and flashed on a few specific times in my life when these events had happened, in a life so far away and so foreign from the people whose blood flowed through my veins. It was another confirmation that the spirits had kept their hands in my life, and I had not been tossed carelessly to the greater world beyond.
I am, by no means, a fluent speaker, but I’m a constant student, as are most people, even in the English language. But this is what I know — I am a Lakota Winyan (woman), I am an Ina (mother), a member of the Sicangu Nation, and therefore it is my duty to not let our language get bastardized by the wasicu “scholars” who want to make money of it, and who, by the way, DO NOT send one penny of that money back here to our tribe, our university OR our reservation. Nor can I allow it to drift away on the morning mist. I know that once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. And then we will be no better than common mainstream Americans who once had a culture but don’t know much about it now.
Had I not returned home, I’d have been a Indian with no tribe, no language, no pride. But I have returned and now I have this gorgeous daughter who speaks the language and knows her culture. She will grow up with the ceremonies, the traditions, the everyday, the “this-is-just-what-we-do-because-this-is-who we-are”. She will not know any different. As it should be.
We have had far too many generations of soul-wounded, displaced, lost children who gravitate and latch onto any form of connection (i.e. gangs). The time for that is over. We must do our parts to re-instill the culture in ourselves, our lives, our children, our tribe. Do we have the answers to EVERYTHING? No. But that is what our tiwahe (family), tiyospaye (extended family), and oyate (nation) is for.
“Touching the Sun” Matt McGree @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
Did you enjoy this article?
Please let the author know by leaving them a comment below!
And, subscribe to our free weekly digest!
Simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you.