As the healing camp came to a close today, the team was able to partake in a very sacred act called a Hunka ceremony. At this ceremony, the Lakota youth receive a name that is given to them from their ancestors. It’s one of seven sacraments that Lakota follow. Every Lakota child is presented by an adult, which unites them with a very special bond that will continue throughout life. The child is able to call on their Hunka in times of need and their Hunka needs to do whatever they ask (“within reason,” said Rick, the medicine man). Our team member Josh was asked to be the Hunka to Garrison, one of the three children being named today. His name is “Tasunk ska” or “white bear.” (Josh didn’t know he’d be getting a son on this trip). The ceremony was closed with dancing to drums, gift bearing, and thanks.
After we said our good-byes we ventured to Red Cloud Indian School for an art show. We learned about the dark history of the school as it was a boarding school for Lakota youth up until the 1960s. Many Lakota speak about the harm that boarding schools had on their culture as children were taken from their homes, forced to cut their traditional hair, and were taught white American culture. When they returned to their homes, they were unable to learn the language and culture, which is why so many do not speak Lakota today. The school now educates the community on Lakota history and encourages the growth of the Lakota culture and art. The art we saw was truly amazing and mirrored traditional Lakota art with a modern influence.
The final event of the day was touring the Badlands. We initially planned on hiking, but we were all feeling pretty wiped out from the week and it was nearly 100 degrees today. We drove through and took photos at some of the scenic overlooks.
This trip has been influential on us all. I know for myself, I have learned so much about the Lakota culture and am grateful for my experience here. The Lakota people and children have been through a lot of trauma and the grief is passed down to the next generation. There are many Lakota that want to change this pattern, like Ethleen, Rick, Saige, and the many other Lakota that contributed to the healing camp.
by Laura Gundersen