Snapshots

Indianz.Com > Tim Giago: Tatanka Iyotanka was a pure Lakota traditionalist

One cold winter day Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull), the great Lakota warrior, was sitting on a bench in front of his home with his two wives on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South and North Dakota. He looked off in the distance at an approaching buckboard and smiled to himself as he pointed with his lower lip at the dust stirred up by the wagon. I am told he was a man with a great sense of humor.

Sitting Bull knew exactly who was driving the wagon and the question he would be asked when the wagon finally reached his door. And sure enough, as the wagon got closer he and his wives could see clearly that it was the minister from the local church.

He climbed down from the buckboard and approached Sitting Bull as he shook the dust from his black hat. The minister exchanged a few pleasantries and then got down to the business of why he was making this visit. He said to the great Lakota leader, “It is un-Christian of you to have two wives. It is against the will of God. And it is barbarian and heathen.”

Sitting Bull sat there with his head cocked and listened patiently to the outburst of the minister. He was being dressed down by this white man but his only emotion was the slight smile on his face. Finally he raised his hand to quiet the angry minister and waved his hand at his two wives and said to the minister, “Well, there they are: you tell them which one has to leave.” And that was pure Lakota logic. Which of these Lakota women would be deprived of a loving home? Lakota logic had baffled the white man for a century or more.

It was this logic based on centuries of Lakota culture and traditions that was so foreign to the white settlers that they waved it off without ever making an effort to understand it. Lakota men had more than one wife at times because they considered it their duty based on their survival to care for, feed and clothe a woman who did not have a home, or perhaps their second wife was married to a brother who was killed in battle. Often a Lakota man took over the responsibility of caring for a fallen brother’s wife and children: To the children he became atay or father.

FULL ARTICLE: Indianz.Com > Tim Giago: Tatanka Iyotanka was a pure Lakota traditionalist.

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