Words of Wisdom ~Chief Luther Standing Bear -Oglala Sioux

Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners, and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner.
No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Native American arrow page divider

The character of the Indian's emotion left little room in his heart for antagonism toward his fellow creatures .... For the Lakota (one of the three branches of the Sioux Nation), mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and the woods were all in finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The Lakota was a true naturalist - a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, and the attachment grew with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power.
It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Their tipis were built upon the earth and their alters were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth, and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing.
This is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its live giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged....
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The attempted transformation of the Indian by the white man and the chaos that has resulted are but the fruits of the white man's disobedience of a fundamental and spiritual law.
"Civilization" has been thrust upon me since the days of the reservations, and it has not added one whit to my sense of justice, to my reverence for the rights of life, to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity, or to my faith in Wakan Tanka, God of the Lakotas.
For after all the great religions have been preached and expounded, or have been revealed by brilliant scholars, or have been written in fine books and embellished in fine language with finer covers, man, - all man - is still confronted by the Great Mystery.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The white man does not understand America. He is far removed from its formative processes. The roots of the tree of his life have not yet grasped the rock and the soil.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The white man is still troubled by primitive fears; he still has in his consciousness the perils of this frontier continent, some of it not yet having yielded to his questing footsteps and inquiring eyes.
He shudders still with the memory of the loss of his forefathers upon its scorching deserts and forbidding mountaintops. The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien. And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

But in the Indian the spirit of the land is still vested; it will be a long time until other men are able to divine and meet its rhythm. Men must be born and reborn to belong. Their bodies must be formed of the dust of their forefathers' bones.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things - the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals - and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The animals had rights - the right of a man's protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man's indebtedness - and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing.
This concept of life and its relations with humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The Lakota could not despise no creature, for all were of one blood, made by the same hand, and filled with the essence of the Great Mystery. In spirit, the Lakota were humble and meek. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" - this was true for the Lakota, and from the earth they inherited secrets long since forgotten. Their religion was sane, natural, and human.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than in words. They were never allowed to pass between the fire and the older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Expressions such as "excuse me," "pardon me," and "so sorry" now so often lightly and unnecessarily used, are not in the Lakota language. If one chanced to injure or cause inconvenience to another wanunhecun, or "mistake," was spoken. This was sufficient to indicate that no discourtesy was intended and that what happened was accidental.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Our young people, raised under old rules of courtesy, never indulged in the present habit of talking incessantly and all at the same time. To do so would have been not only impolite, but foolish; for poise, so much admired as a social grace, could not be accompanied by restlessness. Pauses were acknowledged gracefully and did not cause lack of ease or embarrassment.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand on the ground and explain: "We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever." So we, too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of life about us in its multitude of forms.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Sometimes we boys would sit motionless and watch the swallows, the tiny ants, or perhaps some small animal at its work and ponder its industry and ingenuity; or we lay on our backs and looked long at the sky, and when the stars came out made shapes from the various groups.
Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.
Even the lightning did us no harm, for whenever it came too close, mothers and grandmothers in every tipi put cedar leaves on the coals and their magic kept danger away. Bright days and dark days were both expressions of the Great Mystery, and the Indian reveled in being close to the Great Holiness.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation; it was expressed in a multitude of forms.
This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian lived - lived in every sense of the word - from his first to his last breath.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Nothing the Great Mystery placed in the land of the Indian pleased the white man, and nothing escaped his transforming hand. Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life - that to him is an "unbroken wilderness"

But, because for the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy - free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.

In sharing, in loving all and everything, one people naturally found a due portion of the thing they sought, while, in fearing, the other found the need of conquest.
For one man the world was full of beauty, for the other it was a place of sin and ugliness to be endured until he went to another world, there to become a creature of wings, half-man and half-bird.
Forever one man directed his Mystery to change the world. He had made; forever this man pleaded with Him to chastise his wicked ones; and forever he implored his God to send His light to earth. Small wonder this man could not understand the other.

But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature's softening influence.
Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Luther Standing Bear (December 1868 – February 20, 1939) (Ota Kte, "Plenty Kill" or "Mochunozhin") was an Oglala Lakota chief notable in American history as an Native American author, educator, philosopher, and actor of the twentieth century. Standing Bear fought to preserve Lakota heritage and sovereignty and was at the forefront of a Progressive movement to change government policy toward Native Americans.

Standing Bear was one of a small group of Lakota leaders of his generation, such as Black Elk, Gertrude Bonnin, and Charles Eastman, who were born and raised in the oral traditions of their culture, educated in white culture, and wrote significant historical accounts of their people and history in English. Luther’s experiences in early life, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Wild Westing with Buffalo Bill, and life on government reservations present a unique view of a Native American during the Progressive Era in American history. Standing Bear’s commentaries on Native American culture and wisdom educated the American public, deepened public awareness, and created popular support to change government policies toward Native American peoples. Luther Standing Bear helped create the popular twentieth century image that Native American culture is holistic and respectful of nature; his classic commentaries appear in college-level reading lists in anthropology, literature, history, and philosophy, and constitute a legacy and treasury of Native American wisdom.

Early life
Luther Standing Bear was born in December, 1868, on the Spotted Tail Agency, Rosebud, South Dakota, the first son of George Standing Bear and Pretty Face. Luther’s father, George Standing Bear was a Brulé Lakota chief who raised him as a traditional hunter and warrior. In the late 1870‘s, George Standing Bear built a general store, the first Native American-run business on the Spotted Tail agency. In 1879, at about age eleven, his father enrolled young Luther in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Luther’s father was aware of white peoples’ great numbers and influence, and believed that education was the path the Indians must follow in order to survive in the 'white world'. Luther was taught to be brave and unafraid to die, and was determined to do heroic deeds to bring honor to his family. Standing Bear’s father celebrated his son’s heroism by inviting his friends to a gathering, where he gave away seven horses and all the goods in his dry goods store.

Carlisle Industrial School for Indians
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was one of the earliest Native American boarding schools, whose goal was cultural assimilation of Native Americans. Luther was one of the first students to arrive when Carlisle opened its doors in 1879. Once there, he was asked to choose a name from a list on the wall. He randomly pointed at the symbols on a wall and named himself Luther, and his father's name became his surname. Luther soon became Captain Richard Henry Pratt’s model Carlisle student. Like many other Carlisle students, Luther had high personal regard for Captain Pratt. Standing Bear interpreted and recruited students for Pratt at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, led the Carlisle Indian Band across the Brooklyn Bridge upon its opening ceremony on May 24, 1883, and served as a student intern for John Wanamaker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Carlisle gave its students opportunities to interact and live in the white world. During the summer months students were enrolled in an “outing program” which found them in jobs with white families for which they earned their first wages.
Red flannel underwear

"The civilizing process began at Carlisle began with clothes. Whites believed the Indian children could not be civilized while wearing moccasins and blankets. Their hair was cut because in some mysterious way long hair stood in the path of our development. They were issued the clothes of white men. High collar stiff-bosomed shirts and suspenders fully three inches in width were uncomfortable. White leather boots caused actual suffering. Standing Bear later wrote that red flannel underwear caused ‘actual torture.' He remembered the red flannel underwear as the worst thing about life at Carlisle.”
“One day an astronomer came to the school and gave a talk and explained that there would be an eclipse of the moon the following Wednesday night at twelve o’clock. We did not believe it. When the moon eclipsed, we readily believed our teacher about geography and astronomy.”
Bows and arrows

"In 1881, after the school closed for the summer vacation, some of the boys and girls were placed out in farmers’ homes to work throughout the summer. Those who remained at school were sent to the mountains for a vacation trip. I was among the number. When we reached our camping place, we pitched out tents like soldiers all in a row. Captain Pratt brought along a lot of feathers and some sinew, and we made bows and arrows. Many white people came to visit the Indian camp, and seeing us shooting with the bow and arrow, they would put nickels and dimes in a slot of wood and set them up for us to shoot at. If we knocked the money from the stick, it was ours. We enjoyed this sport very much, as it brought a real home thrill to us.”

Sitting Bull
“One evening while I was going home from work, I bought a paper, and read that Sitting Bull, the great Sioux medicine man, was to appear at one of the Philadelphia theaters. The paper stated that he was the Indian who killed General Custer! The chief and his people had been held prisoners of war, and now here they were to appear in a Philadelphia theater. So I determined to go and see what he had to say, and what he was really in the East for. I had to pay fifty cents for a ticket. The theater was decorated with many Indian trappings such as were used by the Sioux tribe of which I was a member.

"On the stage sat four Indian men, one of whom was Sitting Bull. There were two women and two children with them. A white man came on stage and introduced Sitting Bull as the man who had killed General Custer (which, of course, was absolutely false). Sitting Bull arose and addressed the audience in the Sioux tongue, as he did not speak nor understand English. He said, ‘My friends, white people, we Indians are on our way to Washington to see the Grandfather, or President of the United States. I see so many white people and what they are doing, that it makes me glad to know that some day my children will be educated also. There is no use fighting any longer. The buffalo are all gone, as well as the rest of the game. Now I am going to shake the hand of the Great Father at Washington, and I am going to tell him all these things.’ Then Sitting Bull sat down. He never even mentioned General Custer’s name.

"Then the white man who had introduced Sitting Bull arose again and said he would interpret what the chief had said. He then started telling the audience all about the Battle of the Little Big Horn, generally spoken as the ‘Custer massacre.’ He mentioned how the Sioux were all prepared for battle, and how they had swooped down on Custer and wiped his soldiers all out. He told so many lies that I had to smile. Then the white man said that all those who wished to shake hands with Sitting Bull would please line up if they cared to meet the man who had killed Custer. It made me wonder what sort of people the whites were, anyway. Perhaps they were glad to have Custer killed, and were really pleased to shake the hand with the man who had killed him!"

School recruiter
Luther was a school recruiter for Captain Richard Henry Pratt and periodically visited reservations. He was sincere in his desire to show what we had learned, and persuaded parents to send their children to Carlisle by his appearance, language and skills. However, many children died in boarding schools and parents were fearful to let them go. Moreover, many parents were treated unfairly and had not been notified until after the children died and were buried. It was not the negligence of Captain Pratt, but rather lax Indian agents who would set aside letters from Carlisle until the parents came into the agency for something. While many parents were proud of Luther, they were afraid to send their children away fearing they would never see them again. Luther got mixed reception home on the reservation. Some were proud of his achievements while others lamented that he had, in effect, become a white man. He was happy to be home and some of his relatives aid that he “looked like a white boy dressed in eastern clothes.” Luther felt proud to be compared to a white boy. But others would not shake his hand because some returning Carlisle students were ashamed of their culture, and a few even tried to pretend that they did not speak Lakota. The difficulties of returning Carlisle students disturbed white educators. Returning Carlisle students found themselves stranded between two cultures, and not accepted by either. Some rejected their educational experiences and “returned to the blanket”, casting off white ways. Others found it more convenient and satisfying to remain in white society. Most were able to adjust at least partially to both worlds.

Back on the reservation
Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Wild Westing and the Carlisle Indian School were portals to education, opportunity and hope, and came at a time when the Lakota people were depressed, impoverished, harassed, and confined. Most Wild Westers were Oglala Lakota people from Pine Ridge, the first Lakota people to go Wild Westing.

In 1884, following his final term at Carlisle, Standing Bear, armed with a recommendation by Captain Pratt, returned home to the Rosebud Agency, Rosebud, South Dakota, where he was hired as an assistant at the reservation's school at the salary of three hundred dollars a year. In 1890, some time after Wounded Knee, Luther moved from Rosebud and followed his father and brother Ellis Standing Bear to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Pine Ridge provided a series of varying employment and family ventures. In 1891, Luther became principal of a reservation day school. Standing Bear also worked in his uncle’s little general store. One day they were talking about the delay in mail delivery. “I told my uncle that John Wanamaker, the man for whom I had worked in Philadelphia, was Postmaster-General, and that I would write and see if we could not have a post office established at his camp. I suggested that we call it Kyle. It was a short name and easy to spell. When Mr. Wanamaker received my letter, he replied immediately. He was pleased with my suggestion, but said that he could not appoint me postmaster, as I was an Indian. It would have to be some white man. There was a Joseph Taylor who was one of our missionaries, and we sent his name. He received the appointment, but I took care of the office.” Later, Luther opened a dry goods store with his brother Ellis at Pass Creek and started a small ranch raising horses and cattle. Standing Bear organized public meetings at his dry goods store in Pine Ridge to discuss treaties and current events.

Marriage and children
Luther married Nellie DeCrory in 1886, and they had six children: Lily Standing Bear, 1886; Arthur Standing Bear, 1888; Paul Francis Standing Bear, 1890; Emily Standing Bear, 1892; Julia Standing Bear, 1894; and Alexandra Birmingham Cody Standing Bear. June 7, 1903. Around 1899, Standing Bear married Laura Cloud Shield and the couple had one additional child, Eugene George Standing Bear, c. 1900

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in England
In 1902, with his wife Nellie and their children, Standing Bear joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and traveled through England for eleven months. Luther was hired as an interpreter and chaperone for seventy-five Indians, and also performed as a skilled horseback rider and dancer. The most difficult part of Luther's job was keeping the Indians sober.

Chief of the Oglala Lakota
After returning to Pine Ridge in 1905, Standing Bear was chosen as a chief of the Oglala Lakota on July 4, 1905. There was a great celebration. “In different places they started to sing songs of praise for me. Frank Goings, the chief of the Indian Police and interpreter for the agency, had brought the Boys’ Band from the boarding school, with all their instruments. In between the Indian songs, the band would play. I then started giving away things I had brought along. I kept this up until I had given away everything I owned, and my wife and I walked away with practically nothing. We figured that we gave away that day about a thousand dollars’ worth of goods ourselves, not counting all the presents that had been donated to be distributed.”

“A chief receives no salary, and at gatherings it is up to him to see that everything is done properly. We have no more war councils, but if a Commissioner is sent from Washington to make any sort of contract with the tribe, it is up to the chief to be present and investigate the matter. That is the law among the Indians. It is a great honor to receive the title of ‘Chief,’ but there is much hard work about it also.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a message...A quick hello or suggestions for more pages.
Thanks, LadyHawk

back to top