What Is “Tatanka”?
In the Lakota language, the word “tatanka” is translated as “buffalo” or “buffalo bull.” However, according to native Lakota speakers, the literal translation is something more like “He who owns us.” Lakota elder Birgil Kills Straight explains it this way:
“The four-leggeds came before the two-leggeds. They are our older brother, we came from them. Before them, we were the root people. We came from them. We are the same thing. That is why we are spiritually related to them. We call them in our language “Tatanka,” which means “He Who Owns Us.” We cannot say that we own the buffalo because he owns us.1
Today, “bison” is considered to be the correct name for the species. Though both “buffalo” and “bison” are widely accepted and are often used interchangeably, the scientific name for the species is “bison bison.” The term “buffalo” is more frequently used in American Indian communities, especially when referring to the buffalo in its cultural context.
In Lakota, “tanka” means “great” or “large.” The name Tanka Fund represents both our focus on the significant and positive impact of buffalo restoration in Indian communities as well as our partnership with Native American Natural Foods, makers of the Tanka Bar.
History of the Buffalo Nation
The importance of the buffalo to Indian people throughout North American cannot be overstated. Before the colonization of the continent and the buffalo’s near extermination, the buffalo was an integral part of daily life. Nearly all activities, such as hunting, cooking, sewing, making art, teaching, praying, singing and celebrating, incorporated and honored the buffalo.
Buffalo are the subject of many traditional stories and are a central part of the religious and cultural practices of many Indian nations across the Great Plains. [More information here.] According to Karlene Hunter, Oglala Lakota, “The history of the Buffalo Nation and the Lakota Nation is so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable.”
Skull of Buffalo
This “intertwined” history was dramatically illustrated in the latter half of the 19th century. During this dark period, the U.S. government initiated a policy of removal, forcibly relocating Indian people to established reservations across the country. At the same time, European settlers and the U.S. military launched an all-out attack on the buffalo, the primary source of food, clothing, and shelter for Indian people in the Great Plains at the time. The military’s position concerning buffalo was brutally stated by General Phillip S. Sheridan, who said: “If I could learn that every buffalo in the northern herd were killed I would be glad…The destruction of the herd would do more to keep Indians quiet than anything else that could happen.”2
In the short span of 30 years, the North American buffalo population went from approximately 50 million to one small herd that at the time found refuge in what is now Yellowstone National Park. During this dark period in American history, not only were the buffalo almost exterminated, but an entire lifestyle and Buffalo-based culture that had existed for thousands of years were nearly destroyed.
Buffalo Are Returning
Many Indian people see the return of buffalo as a positive sign. According to Lakota leader and prophet Black Elk (1863-1950), when the buffalo return, the “Sacred Hoop” will be mended and Indian nations will become strong again. Working together with Native American Natural Foods and many other partners throughout Indian Country, we hope to build broad support for this vision so we can help to bring renewed life and strength to Buffalo-based Indian communities.
There are many good sources of information on the history and cultural significance of buffalo. Here are just a few:
LaDuke, Winona, Buffalo Nation, Sierra Magazine, May/June 2000 Issue
Black Elk, Nicholas, and Neihardt, John. Black Elk Speaks. 1932.
Traveling along the path of the Red Road is not an easy one, it is full of disappointments, obstacles, and temptations. But we must continue on it, for we know it is the right path to follow.” -Grandma Rosetta, White Eagle, OK.
Honor the Great Spirit
Every element of creation expresses the Creator. Within each mountain, each stone, and each heart lies the Great Spirit. All are of the Creator, each particle of the universe is equally deserving of respect and admiration. When looking upon a sunset, the trees, or even your worst enemy, you are looking at the Creator. Know this and give praise and prayer.
“A wee Child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of the birds and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan…” – Zitkala-Sa, (Red Bird), Sioux author and activist. 1876-1938
Honor Mother Nature
Mother Nature is not for us…she is part of us and we, like everything else that lives and breathes upon her, are her children. Your own direct connection with Mother Earth is to be encouraged daily. Paint her portraits, swim in her waters, tend to her flowers, stroll through her glorious forest, and care for her many children: all plants, people, and animals. We must live according to her principals and choose not to pollute her body. The alternative is death to our Mother – and death to her children.
“The Great Spirit is our father, but the Earth is our mother. She nourishes us; that which we put into the ground she returns to us, and healing plants she gives us likewise. If we are wounded, we go to our mother and seek to lay the wound part against her, to be healed.” – Bedagi (Big Thunder), Wabanaki Algonquin, 1900’s
Search for Yourself, by Yourself
Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your path road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Accept yourself and your actions. Own your thoughts. Speak up when wrong, and apologize. Know your path at all times. To do this you must know yourself inside and out, accept your gifts as well as your shortcomings, and grow each day with honesty, integrity, compassion, faith, and brotherhood.
“I have made myself what I am.” – Tecumseh, Shawnee, 1768-1813
Community Code of Conduct
Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed, and treat them with respect. Honor the thoughts, wishes, and words of others. Never interrupt another or mock or mimic them. Allow each person the right to freedom of opinion. Respect that opinion. Never speak ill of others. As you travel along life’s road never harm anyone, nor cause anyone to feel sad. On the contrary, if at any time you can make a person happy, do so.
“Even as you desire good treatment, so render it. -Handsome Lake, Seneca, C. 1735-1815
Banish Fear from Your Life
Fear stunts your soul and limit’s the amount of road needed to travel to reach the Tree of Life and to know the Great Spirit. Fear is nonbeneficial and body and leads to an unbalanced mind, body, and spirit. To banish fear you must know your path and trust yourself and the world around you. With trust comes confidence. Self-confidence banishes fear.
“I fear no man, and I depend on the Great Spirit.” – Kondiaronk, Huron, late 17th century.
Respect is to be given for all beings placed upon this earth by the creator.
Respect is to be given to elders, who are rich with wisdom.
Respect one’s privacy, thoughts, and wishes.
Respect human siblings by only speaking of their good qualities.
Respect one’s personal space and belongings.
Respect another’s spiritual path and do not judge their choices.
“Trouble no one about their religion; respect others on their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and it’s purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to one….” – Tecumseh, Shawnee, 1768-1813
Speak the Truth
Speak only the truth and do right always. You are what you say and what you say needs to be honest, forthright, and of your own personal belief. Without truth, you cannot achieve inner balance – balance within yourself, with other beings, with Mother Earth, and with the Creator.
“Good words do not last long until they amount to something.” – Chief Joseph (..Hin-..Mah-..Too-..Yah-Lat-Kekt), Nez Perce, 1840-1904
When one is materialistic, one is not right with the Red Road. To value and appreciate what you have to know that you are loved and save under the limbs of the Tree of Life, is to reject materialism and to live a life of virtue and appreciation. Materialism only fills your heart with envy and greed, while appreciation breeds contentment, balance, and true happiness.
“… These are young men. I am their Chief. Look among them and see if you can find among them who are rich. They are all poor because they are all honest.” – Red Dog, Oglala Sioux, 1870
Those who are wise have lived a lifetime with ears open and a willingness to not only experience truth, but to pursue it well.
Wisdom is gained by:
Listening to your elders. They have walked a longer path than you.
Seeking all that is true. Wisdom lies within honesty, not deception.
Realizing education is never-ending. Even death is a final lesson.
Learning from Mother Nature. Her wisdom is infinite.
“The greatest obstacle to the internal nature is the mind. If it relies on logic such as the white man’s mind, the domain of the inner nature is inaccessible. The simple fact is a man does not challenge the wisdom of the Holy Mystery.” – Turtleheart, Teton Sioux.
Your journey upon the Red Road will be filled with acts requiring forgiveness – forgiveness of others and forgiveness of yourself. Mindfully practice this incredible act of humanity and the Red Road will be an easy path to follow. Also, absolution breeds the same in others. Be quick ot forgive and others will grant you the same kindness.
“Indians love their friends and kindred, and treat them with kindness.” – Cornplanter Seneca, 1736-1836
It is easy to live within the shadow of fear, procrastination, and pessimism. But these are bad habits and stumbling blocks the keep you from experiencing life, the Red Road, and the Great Spirit. It is well known to the Native people that optimism is the key to good health. Worry makes you sick – as do bad thoughts. Replace them with happiness and optimism and you shall live a long and healthy life.
“Oh hear me, Grandfather, and help us, that our generation in the future will live and walk the good road with the flowering stick of success. Also, the pipe of peace, we will offer it as we walk the good road to success.Hear me, and hear our plea……” – Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, 1863-1950
Take What You Need, Leave the Rest Be
There is nothing placed on this Erath that deserves to be destroyed or wasted for the purpose of human convenience. To destroy trees and leave them unused because they simply block the garden, or to kill animals only for their fur, is not a rightful way to share the world with another. To waste or discard due to own selfishness is an act that goes against the Creator, and strays you from the good Red Road.
“Now tell me this one little thing, if thou hast any sense: Which of these two is the wisest and happiest – he who labors without ceasing and only obtains, and that great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rest in comfort and finds all that he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing? – Gaspesian Chief
Making Prayer Workshop
Traditional tobacco is sometimes used directly for healing in traditional medicine. It may be burned in a fire or smoked in a pipe, yet the smoke is generally not inhaled. In many teachings, the smoke from burned tobacco has a purpose of carrying thoughts and prayers to the spirit world or to the Creator.
Workshop: will cover basics in prayer medicines and creating sacred space. We will cover tobacco prayer, herbal medicine blends for prayer, prayer, offerings, smudge and smudge blends, fire medicine, intentions, how to use and when. No teachings on pipe medicine will be given other than the story of how that medicine came into being.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Cost: $35 per person
Location: The Potentialist ~ 836 E 2nd St, Reno, Nevada 89502
Instructor: Bridgette Lyn Dolgoff (She Walks Among Stars) has been a lifetime student & practitioner of Shamanism. Founder of the Snake Clan. For over 25 years she has taught & facilitated “Energetic & Structural Medicine” for humans, earth, and all living beings. Bridgette is registered with the International Association of Medical Intuitive. In 2006 Bridgette began consulting for Corporate & Political geared business with a focus on creating ECO-nomical Cooperation. Bridgette became a full-scale activist & citizen lobbyist for food, alternative medicine & environment in 2009. She is a sustainable, Biodynamic farmer she founded the Urban Farm Project in 2009. UFP’s focus is on consulting, building, education together in community for our returned focus back on Earth to cure and restore for future life, which is in the soil.
Private sessions: shamanism, ceremonies, health, healing, energy, nutrition, backyard food productions, food as medicine, diets for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 775.624.7862
A basic dousing class will be offered to help those who are interested to increase their testing in use of picking foods, assessing environments and health. This workshop will be at the Potential ~ 836 E 2nd St, Reno, NV 89502 Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. Cost is $25 per person.