I wanted to do something different in this blog. A lot of negative aspects of Reservation life has emerged over the years; the high suicide rates, poor Native American health, unhealthy living conditions, alcoholism and the fact that the employment rate is over 80%. Yes there are negatives that need to be addressed, but the Reservation can bring unexpected beauty and positive aspects to, not only the Native Americans who live on a reservation, but visitors to such areas.
So sit back, take time out from the hassle and bustle, and let me show you some of the most wonderful sites the Reservation (My home land of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota) has to offer through the Lakota Beliefs and Culture.
Lakota mythology says that prior to birth, when the time has come to enter the physical world, one must enter it through the middle of the Big Dipper. This is where Hi Han Kara, the old woman, decides who may pass. Once in the physical world, our whole purpose is to learn and grow spiritually.The way we do this is to pass through the stages of youth, middle age and old age, always learning and growing through the tough time and the good ones. At journey’s end we must pass back through the middle of the Big Dipper, where Hi Han Kara decides if we have completed our journey (we enter back to the spirit world), or have not learn the lessons needed (we are reborn back to the physical).
I thought the image on the left, which is the road going through Cuny Table on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, were the bends and turn of our life on earth; some good, some bad, but all teaching us how to be human and our place in the world and universe.
In very old times the Lakota believed that there existed dangerous creatures called Unktehi. The Thunderbird, (Wakinyan Tanka) is said to be one of the Thunder Beings, a large bird like creature who lives with Tunkasila (the Creator) in the spirit world. The Thunderbird serves Tunkasila by carrying messages from the earth to spirit world. One day the Unktehi, who did not want to live with some of the land creatures , caused the earth to flood, killing many of them. This made Wakinyan Tanka very angry and he began to battled with the Unktehi, which caused the earth to shake and rumble. The battle lasted years till all the Unktehi died. It was the belief that the Badlands were the place were Unktehi and Wakinyan Tanka battled and Unktehi died.
This image (right) is part of the badlands running through the Reservation. It has a beauty of its own; rugged, very hot during summer, and yet life is found everywhere. I have been going to this place since i was a boy and always like the quiet reflection i could gain in her presence.
The Thunder Bird (Wakinyan), part of the thunder beings, was one of the first creatures in the universe. Lakota mythology describes these creatures as bird like, who had a voice like thunder, and eyes of lightening. This thunder being governs weather, clouds and rain. Stories tell of them coming to the rescue of the people in times of trouble. They are considered so powerful, that they are able to give or take life. It is believed that the Wakinyan see everything backwards. So if a man has a vision of a Wakinyan, he is considered Heyoka (opposite to nature) and must fulfil a ritual for a certain time that involves doing everything backwards. During this time they are considered very mysterious and powerful. To have Wakinyan on your side means great power.
This photo was taken right out the front of my house in Kyle, South Dakota, in the center of the Reservation. The moon was fantastic and the thunderstorm brewing in the distance reminded me of the power of the thunder beings.
Long ago a beautiful butterfly had lost her man in battle. She was so full of grief that she decided to take off her colorful wings and wrap herself up in a plain cocoon. Her grief was so great, that she stopped eating and sleeping, choosing to wander the earth alone. For many, many months she wandered the earth with her head and eyes cast downwards towards the ground. Each stream and river she crossed she would step on each of the stone, till one day she stepped on a stone and noticed how colorful it was. The beauty of the stone was so powerful, that it healed her sorrow. This caused her to take off her plain cocoon and put her colorful wings back on again. She was so happy that she started dancing and thanked Mother Earth for giving her another chance to begin a new life. The wings on this shirt represent this same story. When going through sorrow and sadness, these butterfly wings are the gift from Mother Earth, allowing us new beginnings and new life
On one of my travels down to the Badlands on a very hot summer day, i noticed the wonderful orange colors of this butterfly reflecting back off the stark clay. I remember as a boy, that the great warrior and chief Sitting Bull’s animal guide was the butterfly. Native Americans believed that butterflies were the symbol of transition, joy, dance of life and color. Chief Sitting Bull use to wear a butterfly on his hat. It was believed that this was his spirit animal and guide. So powerful was the butterfly that legend tells that if you were to capture a butterfly, tell it your wish then let it go, it would take your wish to the Great Father, Tunkasila. In gratitude for the butterfly’s freedom, Tunkasila would hear your wish and grant it. Other Lakota beliefs were that the butterfly was the departed relatives returning to the earth to visit the living.
All these images I have taken and shown were reminders of the beauty mother earth has given us on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It also brought back to me the legends and stories of my people. All were the inspiration of many of the my designs and artwork; the connection back to my homeland and my people.
Well, thank you for your time Kola (Friend) and hope you enjoy your day
Founder and CEO
Hanblechia Designs – Be Part of the Legend