Peta Sakowin Omniciye, a meeting of the Seven Council Fires, took place in Eagle Butte from November 3-5. The three-day event was organized by Cheyenne River Tribal Councilman Bryce In The Woods.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier kicked off the events with a message of unity.
“We are all here today for one reason and that is for our children to have a better life. We need to work together for our children. There can’t be IRA versus treaty, full blood vs iyeska. There are battles everywhere around us. We are fighting pipelines, budget cuts, and loss of Indian land. It is like 1889 all over again. We can do it if we can stand together,” said Frazier.
The event was held at the C-EB High School auditorium on the first day. The presence of high school students did not go unnoticed and was commended by tribal leaders and guest speakers.
“I appreciate that the children were brought into the meeting throughout the day. That was the most important thing. It is good that this meeting took place on the reservation, because it allowed those who can’t leave the reservation to hear and share the knowledge,” said Royal Yellowhawk, Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council Representative.
Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue delivered a special message to students in attendance.
“You can do anything you want to do. Dream big and work for your dreams. You are the next generation of leaders. And just know that we fight for you today, so that you can fight for their grandchildren,” said Chairman Sazue.
Tribal dignitaries and traditional leaders who presented each had a unique message and shared rich cultural knowledge.
Virgil Taken Alive, Hunkpapa from Little Eagle, spoke of his educational upbringing and the personal loss and the recapture of his language.
“It was a bad time for Indian people. The white educational institutions literally beat the language out of my parents when they spoke Lakota. For that reason, my parents did not teach me Lakota,” said Taken Alive.
Through personal perseverance, Taken Alive says as an adult he started to learn his language and traditional ways. He is now a fluent Lakota speaker.
“Even though we have lost much, remember that it is never too late to regain your Lakota language. If I can do it, you can do it. Remember that there are no ‘old ways’, there are only ‘our ways’. Respect each other. Ask questions. Spend time with your grandmothers,” said Taken Alive.
Tim Mentz from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also shared stories and teachings of the Dakota people. Mentz taught the significance that traditional kinship has on families and personal identity.
“Hunka, the making of relatives was one of our first traditional values. A hunka relationship is stronger than blood, because the relationship is on a spiritual level. We need to remember the importance of kinship,” said Mentz.
On the second day of the event, Victor Douville, Sicangu from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, gave a presentation titled, “Star Knowledge: Lakota Astronomy.” Douville is a professor at the Sinte Gleska University in Mission, SD.
Douville’s presentation focused on the importance of traditional Lakota astronomy.
“The understanding of astronomy influenced everything from ceremonies, migrations, time keeping, and our sacred sights. Each ceremony is dependent on the location of the constellations that the Lakota people held sacred,” Douville said.
Numerous topics were discussed on the last day, including re-establishing the Seventh Generation Youth Council, addressing alcohol and drug addictions on reservations, and establishing “Wolakota” education.
Attendees agreed that revitalizing the youth council was important to molding youth leaders. The goal was set to have each community be represented by a youth delegate.
“All-in-all I think what took place here was such a great thing for our people. It is amazing what happens when we all get together and share our ideas and knowledge. I loved it,” said Sazue.