Probably one of the highlights of our trip so far was watching the Sun Dance and staying at Mary’s house, one of members of the tribe. The reservation was an endless flat land, which eventually some tiny hills appeared, full of corn and farming. A big sky extended over our heads and only a few clouds dotted the blueness.
The Sun Dance is something I’ll only be able to see and experience once in my lifetime, and I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity! As we drove across the fields, we were all excited and anxious, for we never had seen anything like it. Mary, the woman who kindly invited us, waited in her car to take us to the sacred spot where the dance would take place. I heard the ceremony before I saw it, drums and singing filled up the afternoon air. After passing by security, which later I learned they only let us in because our hostess talked to them beforehand, mom, Maria and I hoped off our house and walked towards the crowed.As we walked through the property, I saw traditional tee pee´s where people stayed during the ceremony and also tents. It’s very hard to comprehend everything that was going on-music, dancers, singers, colorful strings and fabric, traditional clothing, a crowed of people gathered around designated spots, and at the very center a sacred tree-but Mary and her husband, Dan, explained and guided us throughout the ceremony. Burned sage smell dominated the air and the singing got louder and louder. I looked around and I saw other guests, a non native can only come if they are invited by someone from the tribe, and I felt honored to be there.
The Sundance lasted for five days (I only came in the last day). Before the ceremony, dancers got spiritually ready with a cleanse and prayers; additionally dancers were not to talk to anybody else but the Medicine Man and his helpers. Dancers and singers are designated by the Medicine Man, Leonard Crow Dog, who is the tribe’s spiritual leader; accordingly, the dancers danced for the whole tribe, not only for themselves, and once the ritual started, the they were not to have food and eventually water as well. On one extremity of the circle buffalo skulls adorned the entrance, on the edges of the circle beautiful blankets rested on top of empty chairs, and at the very center a tall skinny tree grew, multicolored ribbons and adornments hung from it.The singers varied the songs throughout the ceremony and women held tin pots with burning sage. At the peak of the Sun Dance, dancers restlessly danced, singers sung louder than before, a man rode a horse in circles around the sacred tree, and the sage kept filling the air. The crowed supported the dancers by dancing along and raising their arms to the sky.
A few days after the Sun Dance, Mary, our hostess, invited us for dinner at her house. The drive there was beautiful. The prairie was a golden color, and humongous sunflowers fields colored the scenery along with crops. Hot air blew, and the temperature was on the high 90s, but on the extreme right dark clouds were rolling in. As we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Mary and Dan. After being introduced to Mary’s close friends and family, dinner was served: Buffalo meat, potato salad, corn and potatoes. Stories were shared, and I learned much more about the native Americas than any history class could have taught me. Each of the families had something unique to share, sometimes happy, sometimes tragic and unfair events. The dark clouds finally caught up with us and thunder shook the sky.
Next morning we prepared breakfast and got ready to go to Alex’s ranch, one of the woman we met the previous night. It felt so good to be riding again! No helmets, or “please, sign this so you won´t sue us if you end up in the hospital”, or “please, ride in a straight line and don´t run”. I was in Brazil all over again, riding a horse in the middle of prairies with friends. The fields were golden and Alex´s land stretched over the tiny hills. She showed us her other horses out on the fields, and she also took us to the arena where her and her daughter, Summer, practiced for barrel racing. After the ride, we had the pleasure to meet Mary´s mother, sister, and other family members. They were all so nice and welcoming. I´m so thankful I got to experience a little bit of the Lakota culture and see their ideals; their respect for the elders and towards others; their hope to gain back the rights that were taken away, and how welcomed my family and I were in their houses and land.
I dedicate this post to Mary & Dan, who are lawyers that fight for the rights of the Lakota Tribe.