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Sunday, December 26, 2010

SITTING BULL'S GREAT-GRANDSON

snowy day


What seems like 4 to 5 inches of snow fell yesterday and in the night. Snow on limbs and pine needle clusters, an even blanket of white on everything. In the warmest time of the day when it was 18 degrees I went out and made a few photos close around the house. Big gusts of wind blew snow in clouds that flew over the ground. Now that it's dark the wind is picking up, wind chimes going, and by morning the snow will be blown out of the trees and settled in low places, like deer hoof-prints and tire tracks in the road. In the morning we'll know how easily this snow makes drifts. It's powdery, easy to drive on, easy to walk in. It offers no resistance to foot traffic. If it weren't so bitter cold, it would be a pleasure to walk in. It's 15 degrees now.


Reading SITTING BULL: His Life And His Legacy by a great-grandson named Ernie LaPointe, son of Angelique Spotted Horse, daughter of Sitting Bull's daughter Standing Holy by his wife Seen By Her Nation. It's the story of Sitting Bull as told down through the family over time. I've read a good bio by the wasicu (white man) historian, Robert Utley, twice, which brought Sitting Bull to life for me. It may not be authentic to read a wasicu version of an Indian's life, but there aren't many Indians writing about him. Until Ernie LaPointe's testament I don't know that there are any. I heard him in Krista Tippet's Sunday afternoon radio show on NPR called On Being. It's something I hear every once in awhile. Turned it on about 10 minutes after it started and there was Ernie LaPointe talking about Tatanka Iyotake, Sitting Bull. Tatanka is bull and Iyotake is translated sitting.


I listened to LaPointe talking with wide open ears, taking it all in. Sat with Caterpillar on my lap and listened to the rest of the hour. Not often to do I do that. This small book of 127 reading pages and appendixes with b&w photos throughout of individual Indians, one picture of him holding the pipe with One Bull, a traitor who ultimately was responsible for the killing of Sitting Bull by two members of his tribe working for the Army, bringing him to the office for being a nuisance. A ruckus started, the two Lakota tribal police shot him at once, one in the head, one in the heart. One was named Bullhead, the one that shot him in the heart. Not long before, he had walked to a special place to pray. On the way back a meadowlark called to him, The Lakota will kill you. Sitting Bull was a medicine man as well as a chief, psychic would be what we call now some of his powers. Someone else hearing the same meadowlark at the same moment would only hear the bird call, Sitting Bull heard it speaking to him. Lakota killed him.


Reading LaPointe's Life and Legacy is very much like a testament, a gospel. Gospel meaning the life story of a spiritual Master, which Sitting Bull indeed was, in his own culture. About three-quarters through it, I'm feeling more and more reverence for the book itself as a gospel. I feel a spiritual closeness to it, to Sitting Bull, Tatanka Iyotaka, the last of his people to surrender his rifle. He was hired to have a part in a couple of Wild West shows as "the killer of Custer," though he wasn't even in the battle. He charged a couple dollars for an autograph in the cities they visited. He gave his money to the ragged white poor children in the streets. He never understood how the white people could neglect their children. There was much he never got, like the US gov never honored any treaty.


This gospel of Tatanka Iyotaka's life his great grandson wrote has a lightness of being about it. I could keep it on the shelf next to the TaoTeChing. It has a spiritual lightness where no words are wasted, where what is said is clear as daylight. It has the information of a biography, though Ernie LaPointe's life of Sitting Bull is told from the inside, from the Lakota perspective by kin. I can't help but think of it as a holy book of the life of a holy man. Sitting Bull was regarded by his people a holy man for the manner of his everyday life, who he was, not for what he said. It caused them to pay close attention when he spoke. Sioux was a name white man gave the Lakota, which meant the enemy. They liked being called the Enemy and identified happily with the name. Sitting Bull was a childhood hero for me who remained a hero throughout my life, even more a hero as time went by and I learned more about him. He is a man I look to as a true human being. He is not my enemy.



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