Appeal to the Great Spirit. Image by Helena.
It's time Indians tell the world what we know . . . about Nature and about God. So I'm going to tell what I know and who I am. You better listen. You've got a lot to learn.
I'm an Indian. I'm one of God's children.
I'm a full-blood Indian from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. My Indian name is Noble Red Man. That was my grandfather's name. White Man mistranslated his name as "King," so they call me Mathew King. But my real name, my Lakota name, is Noble Red Man.
I speak for the Lakota people. You call us "Sioux." But that's White Man's name for us.
Our real name is "Lakota." That means "People together," or "Allies."
That's what we call ourselves.
And that's what God calls us.
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Call me a chief of the Lakota. I'm a speaker for the chiefs. I say what I have to say. That's my duty. If I don't say it, who's going to say it for me?
I'm a prophet of the Indian people. I can see what's coming. I prophesy what's going to happen. I walk with the Great Spirit, with God. Wakan-Tanka, that's what we call him in Lakota. I talk to Him. The Great Spirit guides me in my life.
Sometimes He comes to me and tells me what to say. Other times I just speak for myself, for Mathew King.
THE GREAT MYSTERIOUS
You can call Wakan-Tanka by any name you like. In English I call Him God or the Great Spirit.
He's the Great Mystery, the Great Mysterious. That's what Wakan-Tanka really means -- the Great Mysterious.
You can't define Him. He's not actually a "He" or a "She," a "Him" or a "Her." We have to use those kinds of words because you can't just say "It." God's never an "It."
So call Wakan-Tanka whatever you like. Just be sure to call Him.
He wants to talk to you.
TALKING TO GOD
When we want wisdom we go up on the hill and talk to God. Four days and four nights, without food and water. Yes, you can talk to God up on a hill by yourself. You can say anything you want. Nobody's there to listen to you. That's between you and God and nobody else.
It's a great feeling to be talking to God. I know. I did it way up on the mountain. The wind was blowing. It was dark. It was cold. And I stood there and I talked to God.
LISTENING TO GOD
When I go up on the hill to pray I don't just talk to God. I try to get the talking over quick. Mostly I'm listening.
Listening to God -- that's praying, too.
You've got to listen. God's talking to you right now. He's telling you all the words you've got to speak and all the things you've got to do in this life. If you don't listen, you don't hear what God's saying, and then you don't know what God wants you to say and do.
So that's how you pray to God.
I pray, pray, and pray before I go to bed. Every time I wake in the middle of the night I pray to God. I thank Him for the life He gives me. I ask Him for understanding. During the day there's things I have to do. People come to me, they ask me to go out and talk. I do it when I can. Otherwise I like to stay home and study, pray, and clean my Peace Pipe.
Maybe some think I should be doing something else. But God knows I'm doing the right thing.
There's only one time to pray, and that's now. There's no better time to pray than now. Now is the only time you need to pray. You can't pray any other time than right now!
VISIONS, DREAMS, AND MIRACLES
We live by visions. We live by dreams. We live by miracles. Miracles come to us in our everyday lives, in our ceremonies, in our prayers.
Every day is a miracle to us.
Many times I've seen the eagle come out of the empty sky and circle over our heads when we blow the eagle-bone whistle. The eagle is the witness of the Great Spirit, the eyes of God.
Once I had an eagle dream. I left my bed and flew with the eagle out below the sun and above the clouds. After we circled around up there ten times, I flew back down to my bed. The eagle came down with me and flew around my head four times, then flew away.
Now, whenever the eagle joins us in our ceremony, I always say a friendly hello to him.
He remembers me, and I remember him.
We keep an eye out for each other.
The eagle's my symbol. In our Way, you always have a symbol. That's your power. It reminds you of God. It reminds you to do good.
Some missionaries came to one of our ceremonies. They watched us while we danced. I told them, "Everybody, look up in the sky. See, the eagle's come to join us!"
The eagle came over and flew right down into our ceremony. He stood there on one foot, with one leg up in the air. He carried two feathers in his claw and he put them on his head like a crown. Then he started dancing. We danced with him.
We all cried to see the eagle dance. Even the missionaries cried. "We can't believe it!" they said. "It can't be happening!"
But it happened.
God danced with us!
I've seen the spirits of our ancestors come join us when we sing the spirit-songs. They sing with us all night. They take our hands and dance with us until they fade away with the morning.
I've sat down with the buffalo and they don't bother me. They know I'm an Indian. They nurse their calves beside me and let me be. Any white man try that and the only miracle'd be if he got out of there alive.
I've gone up on the mountain praying for a vision and talked to Crazy Horse. I've talked to Red Cloud and Noble Red Man. They teach me things the living have forgot, things the White Man can never know or understand.
White Man came to this country and forgot his original Instructions. We Indians have never forgotten our Instructions.
God gives His Instructions to every creature, according to His plan for the world. He gave His Instructions to all the things of Nature. The pine tree and the birch tree, they still follow their Instructions and do their duty in God's world. The flowers, even the littlest flower, they bloom and they pass away according to His Instructions. The birds, even the smallest bird, they live and they fly and they sing according to His Instructions.
Should human beings be any different?
Our Instructions are very simple -- to respect the Earth and each other, to respect life itself. That's our first Commandment, the first line of our Gospel.
Respect is our Law -- respect for God's Creation, for all the living beings of this Earth, for our mother the Earth herself.
We can't harm the Earth or the water because we respect their place in the world. We could never kill all the buffalo because that shows no respect for why the buffalo are here.
You need to respect the animal you kill. It's following God's Instructions.
You must respect other people's dreams. Respect their dreams and they'll respect your dreams.
We need to have respect even for those not yet born, for the generations to come. They have their rights, too. We must respect them.
That is our religion and our Law. That is our Way. Those are our Instructions.
We Indians haven't forgotten them and we never will.
Goodness is the natural state of this world. The world is good! Even when it seems evil, it's good. There's only goodness in God. And that same goodness is in us all. You can feel it in yourself. You know when you feel good inside.
Yes, you're God's child, too. You are good. You are sacred. Respect yourself. Love the goodness in yourself.
Then, put that goodness into the world. That's everybody's Instructions.
God made you so you feel good when you do right. Watch when you feel good and follow that good feeling. The good feeling comes from God. When you feel good, God feels good, too. God and you feel good together.
EVERYONE IS SACRED
Everyone is sacred. You're sacred and I'm sacred. Every time you blink your eye, or I blink my eye, God blinks His eye. God sees through your eyes and my eyes.
We are sacred.
God shows His mercy every day. Whether you're wrong or whether you're right, He still loves you. He loves what He has created.
We Lakota people have our giveaways. When something important happens we celebrate by sharing what we have. There's nothing we like more than to give gifts to others, to share with others. Even the poorest of us share what we have. We are a sharing people.
The more you share the more you're given to share. God gives you more of his goodness to share with others. When you share with others you share with God.
God loves a sharer.
GOD MADE EVERYTHING SO SIMPLE
God made everything so simple. Our lives are very simple. We do what we please. The only law we obey is the natural Law, God's Law. We abide only by that.
We don't need your church. We have the Black Hills for our church. And we don't need your Bible. We have the wind and the rain and the stars for our Bible. The world is an open Bible for us. We've studied it for millions of years.
We've learned that God rules the Universe and that everything God made is living. Even the rocks are alive. When we use them in our sweat ceremony we talk to them . . . and they talk back to us.
The Universe is the tabernacle of God. When the wind blows, that's the breath of God.
When you or I breathe, that's also the breath of God.
God gave us peace. Go up on a hill early tomorrow morning and look out into the valley. See how peaceful it is. Everything's quiet. All you hear is birds singing, praising God.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Beyond Words Publishing Inc. ©1994.
Noble Red Man
compiled and edited by Harvey Arden.
The grandson of both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, Mathew King was a respected Elder of the Lakota (Sioux) Nation. His personal history, vision, and insights are compiled in this volume, structured to read like a conversation between trusted friends. King speaks about Native American spirituality, personal responsibility to one's land and people, and the struggles of the Lakota people to coexist with white people.
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About the Authors
Noble Red Man (Mathew King), longtime spokesman for the traditional chiefs of the Lakota (Sioux) nation, was one of the preeminent leaders of the great Indian Reawakening that began in the late 1960s. He gave political and spiritual counsel to the American Indian Movement (AIM) during and after the 1973 "Occupation" of Wounded Knee. He passed on to "the Great Reality" on March 18, 1989. More articles by this author.
Harvey Arden, former National Geographic senior writer, compiled and edited Noble Red Man: Lakota Wisdomkeeper Mathew King. He was also co-author of Wisdomkeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders where he first presented the words of Mathew King.