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Seven Lakota Values

Fortitude – Wowačíŋtaŋka

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, 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 despite fear.

Generosity – Wačáŋtognaka

Generosity means contributing to the well-being of one’s people and all life by sharing and giving freely. This sharing is not just about objects and possessions but emotions like sympathy, compassion, and kindness. It also means to be generous with one’s 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.

Kinship – Wótakuye

Kinship is one of the essential values coming from the tiyóšpaye, 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 tiyóšpaye 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 tiyóšpaye 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, wótakuye 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.

Prayer – Wóčekiya

The Lakota stress the importance of speaking directly to the Creator – Tuŋkášila, and to having a close and open relationship with the Great Spirit – Wakáŋ Táŋka.

They believe Mother Earth is sacred, and so they honor and respect her greatly. They give thanks to the Creator daily through living consciously and by praying to the Great Spirit. The Lakota people believe that the land does not belong to them, but rather that we belong to the land. As such, they recite daily prayers of thanks to Mother Earth and the Great Spirit for all they continue to bless us with and for the great privilege and honor of life.

Respect – Waóhola

Respect for the self, family, community all life. For people to live together in peace, they have to respect one another. The old are respected for their wisdom, and the young are respected because they are the people’s future. This attitude also means reverence for all other living things in the world.

Everything was put on this earth by the Great Spirit. All people and things are relatives. Holy men tell us “everything is one.” This reverence is expressed in daily prayers and by the way we act.  The outcome of this respect is peace in families, among tribes and other people regardless of nationality.

Wisdom – Wóksape

The knowledge and wisdom of elders are 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.

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.

Compassion – Wówauŋšila

Compassion and care for all especially the old ones, the young ones, those in mourning, those who work helping the people. Care for others as you would yourself because we are all part of this circle of life. Compassion is important to the Lakota people, as they all work together and lean on one another for support and survival. This includes following the values each day and including everyone in daily wóčekiyaPrayers.