Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lakota Lessons

    The Indian, in his simple philosophy, was careful to avoid a centralized population, wherein lies civilization’s devil. He would not be forced to accept materialism as the basic principle of his life, but preferred to reduce existence to its simplest terms. His roving out-of-door life was more precarious, no doubt, than life reduced to a system, a mechanical routine; yet in his view it was and is infinitely happier. To be sure, this philosophy of his had its disadvantages and obvious defects, yet it was reasonably consistent with itself, which is more than can be said for our modern civilization. He knew that virtue is essential to the maintenance of physical excellence, and that strength, in the sense of endurance and vitality, underlies all genuine beauty. He was as a rule prepared to volunteer his services at any time in behalf of his fellows, at any cost of inconvenience and real hardship, and thus to grow in personality and soul-culture. Generous to the last mouthful of food, fearless of hunger, suffering, and death, he was surely something of a hero. Not "to have," but "to be," was his national motto.
Thus spake Charles Eastman, "born Hakadah and later named Ohíye S’a," whose quote begins this piece — Lessons from the Sioux in How to Turn a Boy Into a Man. I'm currently reading Fred Chiaventone's excellent A Road We Do Not Know: A Novel of Custer at Little Bighorn.

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