Fighting with Spirit: How Greasy Grass was Won, By Ruth Hopkins
In ceremony, Sitting Bull gave 100 pieces of flesh. He went without water for two days and two nights. At Deer Medicine rocks, Sitting Bull was given a vision. During his life, Sitting Bull had several visions that came true. Yes, Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull) was a Chief, a statesman, and an exemplary warrior who was a sash wearer and member of the Kit Fox Society and the Midnight Strongheart Society, but he was also a respected holyman. He was a prophet.
In his vision, Sitting Bull saw soldiers riding on horseback, falling asunder into his camp. Their hats fell off. They fell like grasshoppers, he said. It was then that a voice told him: “I give these to you because they have no ears.” To Sitting Bull and other Lakota this vision meant they would have a great victory over the bluecoats. Sitting Bull’s vision occurred just two weeks before the Battle at Greasy Grass.
During the Battle of Greasy Grass, Sitting Bull did not fight because he was older. Instead, he gave his strong medicine to his nephews White Bull and One Bull, who did.
When Custer attacked, some warriors were just getting out of Inipi. They grabbed their weapons and started fighting right out of the sweat lodge. Was this because Custer caught the Lakota sleeping? No. The Lakota knew the 7th Cavalry was coming. Those men were in Inipi because ceremony and prayer are central to living Wolakota. We don’t compartmentalize our spiritual beliefs and keep them separate from the rest of who we are. This isn’t Sunday church service. Ceremony is life. We are to live our sacred ways every day the best we can.
We are a prayerful people, a soulful people. Spirituality is key to our identity as Oceti Sakowin, and the same can be said for many Natives who practice their traditional ways. We are spirits inhabiting bodies and there’s no defeating the spirit of a Native who is the living embodiment of his or her ancestors. This is something the Western Empire never fully understood, although they realized it was powerful. That’s why the government outlawed our sacred ceremonies for decades. We should all be thankful to those who kept them safe so we could pass them onto future generations.
Each of us is fighting a difficult battle- be it personal one, or for your family or community. Some fight addiction or trauma, others fight poverty, oppression, environmental destruction, or societal ignorance. Some of us are simply born to rage. Yet no matter your battle remember this: do as your ancestors did and consult the spirits. Let them help. Sitting Bull did. Purify yourself with sage and cedar. Pray. Sometimes that’s all you have, but it may be all you need. Arm yourself with the pipe, the canupa. This is the missing piece of our current puzzle, folks. Returning to the ways will bring healing and mend the sacred hoop.
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