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Lakota Culture Of Heyoka And Sun Dance

By Angela Fisher

While there are many cultural aspects with regard to Native American tribes, most differ in comparison. The lakota culture hosts a number of interesting ceremonies and figures not found in other tribes. One such figure is that of Heyoka, a sacred clown which is associated with the lakota people of North America.

Another aspect of this culture is that of the Heyoka. While the Heyoka has ties to both the Sioux and lakota, which is actually a branch of of the Sioux, it is only tribal members whom have been visited by thunder that have been accepted by the larger community as a Heyoka. In the simplest terms, a Heyoka is a sacred clown or jester whom reacts in opposition to others through speaking out, satirist moves and contrarian acts.

While Heyoka are a local figure, the ceremony known as Sun Dance is a gathering of tribes whom come together in an act of prayer and healing. While this is the case, the ceremony also includes a sacrificial element. While the Heyoka is an external force with freedom of voice, the tribal member involved in Sun Dance represents a sacrifice to the community at large.

Sun Dance, one of many ceremonies prohibited by the Canadian and United States governments was aimed at suppressing Indigenous cultures from practicing Sun Dance and other ceremonies. Canada eventually lifted prohibition against Sun Dance, speaking native languages and other Indigenous practices. Unlike Canada, Indigenous tribes in the United States continued to ban the speaking of Native American languages and the practice of Sun Dance and other cultural activities until the late 1970s.

The Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Aleuts and Eskimos gained protection through an act of the United States Congress which gave protection to the tribes along with preserving the religious and cultural rights associated with each of the tribes. After which, tribes could once again practice the ceremonies, rituals and speak using the native language of the tribe.

Sun Dance, one of the most sacred of Indigenous ceremonies is often considered a test of physical and spiritual endurance. For, the practice involves tribal members dancing around another member whom is attached to a pole with thongs. At some point and time during the ritual, the members pierce the chest skin of the individual on the pole. After which, the letting of blood represents the sacrificial element of the ceremony.

As the ritual is considered a sacred ceremony, most tribal members are hesitant to discuss the event in detail. In fact, given the long period of misappropriation, many tribes are concerned that outsiders will abuse these and other rituals. As such, the words spoken during ceremonies and rituals are often the native language of tribe.

Later, the Lakota people passed a declaration of war associated with exploiting the tribe. The declaration was originated and unanimously passed at an event known as the Lakota Summit V. After which, those caught using the ceremonies, rituals or exploiting the tribe in any way could be prosecuted, tried and punished under a local tribunal court.

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