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Four Lakota Values

Wacantognaka, the Lakota word for generosity, means to contribute to the well-being of one's people and all life by sharing and giving freely. This sharing is not just of objects and possessions, but of emotions like sympathy, compassion, kindness. It also means to be generous with one's personal time. The act of giving and not looking for anything in return can make you a better person and make you happy.

Giveaways have always been part of Lakota society. At important events, the family gathers their belongings and sets them out for any person in the community to take. "What you give away, you keep; what you keep you lose" is an old Lakota saying.

No matter what race or nationality or tribe, people have found when you reach out to help others in your community, you become less focused on yourself and more in harmony with the world.

Wotitakuye, or kinship, is one of the important values coming from the tiyospaye, the extended family. It includes the ideas of living in harmony, belonging, relations as the true wealth and the importance of trusting in others. It is one of the values that made the tiyospaye work.

Family is the measure of your wealth. They will support you in good times and in bad times. For a Lakota, you belong to a tiyospaye through birth, marriage or adoption. Your family even extends out to your band and the whole Lakota nation. Whenever you travel somewhere, you can expect to be welcomed and supported as if you were in your own immediate family.

In traditional Lakota society, wotitakuye was a little different from what it is today. The Lakota were a warrior and hunting society. This meant the men might not return when they went out to fight or to hunt. So, the network of relatives ensured the women, children and elders would not be left alone. In these times, generosity was the way of life, and resources were meant to be shared.

Wacintaka, or fortitude, means facing danger or challenges with courage, strength and confidence. Believing in oneself allows a person to face challenges. Fortitude includes the ability to come to terms with problems, to accept them and to find a solution that is good for everyone.

One of the first lessons a Lakota child learned in the old days was self-control and self-restraint in the presence of parents or adults. Mastery and abilities came from games and creative play. Someone more skilled than oneself was viewed as a role model, not as a competitor. Striving was for achieving a personal goal, not for being superior to one's opponent. Success was a possession of the many, not of the few.

Fortitude may require patience, perseverance and strength of mind in the face of challenges. It involves having confidence in oneself and the courage to continue even when all odds are against you. Fear still exists, but you proceed in spite of fear.

Woksape - Wisdom: The knowledge and wisdom of old people is very important for the well-being of the Lakota people. This is understood to be something sought and gained over the course of one's entire life, but not just by adding years to one's life.

Wisdom has to do with understanding the meaning within natural processes and patterns. It means knowing the design and purpose of life.

It also has to do with understanding and living the spiritual values and beliefs upon which one's culture is founded and being able to share these with others. Wisdom means being able to incorporate the sacred way of life into one's own life and to respect and honor all life. It means being open to the dreams of the day and the night when spiritual direction may come to a receptive child or adult seeking wisdom.


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