The Power of Words

The purpose of words is to convey meaning. How they’re spelled, how they sound differs tremendously. Sometimes they convey the same meaning, such as for a cat or dog. Others are unique and can’t be translated into another language, especially if they’re based on cultural context.

When immigrants come to a country, they assimilate better if they learn the host language. This is not simply a matter of getting along better in society. It integrates them into the culture. America became a “melting pot” as immigrants came from a multitude of foreign nations, then were united in a common language, i.e. English, even if they maintained their ethnic traditions.

When Europeans came to the American continent they encountered indigenous peoples whose languages were entirely foreign. While there’s a similarity in etymology and syntax among Latin-based languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, etc.), those spoken by Native Americans (which were several) had no similarities to European languages. Their culture and society were so different, many words common to Europeans didn’t even exist in theirs and vice versa.

Most of our thoughts comprise words. A person’s vocabulary determines their ability to think and comprehend the world around them. Without applicable words, unfamiliar concepts cannot exist. Emotions, however, exist beyond words. If you see someone laughing or crying, you know they’re feeling something.

Europeans took possession of this country in a less than friendly manner. Eventually, indigenous people became the “Indian Problem.” They refused to cooperate by giving up the land gifted to them by the Creator, a.k.a. Great Spirit. After numerous wars, massacres, and ugly confrontations, those that remained were herded off to reservations. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their children were taken and sent to government boarding schools where they were “reprogrammed.” This comprised cutting their hair, dressing them in “civilized” clothing, and forbidding them from speaking their native tongue. Being caught doing so resulted in their mouth being washing out with soap.

This was not a benevolent gesture to help Native Americans assimilate into European/American society. The intent was to annihilate their culture, identity, and beliefs, an insidious form of virtual genocide. A slight improvement, I suppose, over edicts from the Vatican that gave early explorers and colonists permission to kill them or make them their slaves.

Imagine forcing new immigrants to give up their language and customs. As “guests” in this country, it could almost be justified, a condition of habitation that promotes unity. Instead, just about any document they may need to read is available in their own language at taxpayer expense. Yet, quite the opposite was done to indigenous peoples who were here first.

If you have a difficult time relating to this, consider hoards of Chinese soldiers swarming our borders and forcing us to abandon our way of life, including our language, and adapt to theirs or die.

As intended, indigenous languages began to disappear. Fortunately, some survived. Ironically, helping the current younger generations to learn their native tongue is now a function of the very schools who originally forbade them from speaking it.

Why should they care? Because that is who they are. Culture, ceremonies, and their collective philosophy of life is embedded in their language. They have words with no English analog. Even in English, certain things have different meaning. For example, “All my relations” to a Native American includes all living things as well as the Earth herself. “Turtle Island” is not only this continent, but embodies their creation story.

Why should we care if their culture is lost? Because it’s in the world’s best interest for it to be revitalized. Assimilating it may be the only thing that can save us from ourselves in this war-torn, polluted, technology-dependent world.

This short video (less that 3 minutes) contains the 10 Commandments of Native Americans. As you listen, consider they initially welcomed Europeans to their land. They only became aggressive when the Founding Fathers and those who followed didn’t want to share this country with its original inhabitants.

They wanted them out of their way.

Harmony or Death?

Chief Arvol Looking Horse provided this message to the world back in August 2016. To think when he made these statements he referred to the Earth’s condition as horrible! So much has happened since it’s hard to comprehend. It appears that the consequences have begun since nothing has improved in the past five and a half years.

This video is a little over 16 minutes long. The music is haunting as are many of the images. Pay close attention to the words. The script is written so you can pause the video as needed to read them. Ponder their meaning and implications.

Prophecies declared we were at the crossroads back then. Bear in mind that was before the COVID-19 pandemic of body and spirit. As a result, people worldwide have lost many freedoms they took for granted.

Now we’re on the brink of war.

We were admonished to unite spiritually or be faced with chaos.

We are there.

Lakota Healing Song

This morning a beautiful Lakota healing song showed up in my YouTube feed. I didn’t understand a word, but it brought tears to my eyes. If there was ever a time when many of us–the entire planet, actually– needs it, it is now.

It also had special meaning because it fits perfectly with a scene in book 2, “Return to Dead Horse Canyon: Grandfather Spirits.”

 In Chapter 19, Leaping Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man, performs a healing ceremony for Charlie. You will meet Leaping Elk again in book 3. Here’s the excerpt:


BELTON MEDICAL CENTER

July 15, Sunday

1:50 p.m.

Charlie sensed a presence. Opening his eyes failed. The soul-crushing weight remained, confirming he was alive, like amasani told him. Surely it didn’t hurt this much to be dead. Every breath filled his lungs with pain soaked in suffocating fire.

The realization someone was speaking in a grandfather voice stirred within his soul. The reverent, beseeching tone indicated prayer, but he couldn’t understand the words. Not DinĂ© or Tsetsehestaestse, and certainly not English or Spanish.

Who was it?

Why was he there?

Mysteries and ceremonies came to men like Sweet Medicine from within the earth. Was that where he was?

Why else were some sounds muffled, others not? Though distinct, the man’s speech came as if from a great distance.

Perhaps he was within the earth. Swallowed by an angry Earth Mother.

The prayer ended and the man began to sing, accompanied by the rhythmic swish of a rattle. Even without understanding the language he recognized it as an honor song. Its healing effects settled upon him with an unexpected sense of peace.

The singing faded.

Again all was deathly still.


Here’s the song. Close your eyes and feel the words, even if you can’t understand them.

Some of the comments on YouTube explain the song is asking the Creator to have pity on us, that we understand our suffering is a vehicle to teach us something, and to please heal us.

There is so much to be learned from this beautiful culture. Teachings that we need today, more than ever before.


Image by Aline Berry from Pixabay