Saturday, January 23, 2021


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From the Editorial Board


Wokisuye: Remembering from Wounded Knee and Oceti

For the last few weeks, we have been writing about the sorrows of Wounded Knee and practicing the sacred act of remembering, of wokisuye. This week we highlight the return of a piece of family history and a cultural artifact to Cheyenne River. The saddle of Chief Iron Lightning (c1845-1921) returned to his family after generations with a white family in Yacholt. Washington.

Mr. Jay Cook spoke on behalf of the Iron Lighting family. He spoke of how he felt waiting for the return of the saddle. The act of remembering put him in mind of other sacred memories. He spoke of his time at camp at Oceti in August and into the winter of 2016. The act of remembering and of storytelling moved his mind into a different place; one where he shared his feelings and the ephemeral quality of his memories.

The telling is a wonderful counterpoint to the retelling and remembering of the murders at Wounded Knee. It offers healing and calls us on the way forward.

Below are selections of Mr. Cook’s words, edited for flow.

When the family learned of the existence of the saddle in October:

My heart was beating since October 30. I had to force myself, I had to calm myself down. I prayed and I just — patience — a virtue, I had to expound on it.

Mr. Cook was very touched when he spoke of the feeling of peace and calm that came over him when the saddle was again with his family. 

Now the trip was made and when we came back, we were at ease. There was no rush to get home. There was rush to get out there to get it, and then the feeling was, ‘We have it, we are calm again. We are at peace with ourselves because we have Grandpa’s saddle,’ {pause} and that was a such a good feeling.

He described a similar feeling when we spoke of the quality of the time he spent at the Oceti camp with his granddaughter, Precious, in August 2016. They spent one evening in camp, went home, and she said, “Grandpa, I want to go back up there. Can we buy a tent?” They were one of the first ones to set up camp in their area across the river. They spent the week at home in Eagle Butte and came to camp on the weekends. He spoke of the people coming together from around the world. 

I really enjoyed that, just sitting down there in the evenings in the full moons. The most meaningful one was when we were sitting down in camp for our evening. People kept riding by or running by. You can hear the laughter as on horseback they go by. There was a woman who was talking up in the main group on the microphone. And as she started singing a Lakota song — the women, their voice, the way it sounded, it just carried all the way across that camp toward the river and on that little valley. Oh, that was so good.

I could sit there looking up at the sky and clouds and listening to these kids laughing. I always wanted to find that woman who sang at the moon. I finally found her and I found it was something that she did, in moments like that. Oh, there were these people from all over the United States, the islands, and South America, Canada, across the oceans, they were there.

It sure changed my granddaughter’s outlook on things. And mine also. We were able to go and camp and be part of a group. And there was no nationalities and we were all one, at the start. 

When you think too much, it affects you. I learned that. That’s what we were always told, ‘Think, think,’ but no. When you feel with your heart, that feeling, you go with that feeling. It takes you. It shows you what you need to do, it shows you where to go. It shows you how to feel. 

That feeling, that’s I will always remember. Being at peace. With Mother Nature and river being there and the land and sleeping on the ground. Campfire wood burning, smelling that wood smoke.

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