Living Lakota/Dakota: Part 2 – Generosity

SAGE Development

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In a world where the pursuit of material gain often overshadows the values that truly matter, there is a timeless truth that speaks to the Lakota/Dakota heart. It is the belief that Wačántognaka, generosity, is the honest measure of wealth.

True wealth is not measured by how much one possesses but by how much one is willing to give away.

This concept will be foreign to us until we embark on the journey of decolonizing our minds, transitioning from colonized thinking to embracing the traditional Lakota/Dakota virtues. 

True wealth resides in the depths of one’s heart, in the capacity to give without expectation, and in the impact made on the lives of others. It is the act of sharing, giving, and contributing to the well-being of others. It is a measure of the abundance of kind-heartedness, compassion, and empathy that resides within us. When we open our hearts to give, we unlock a treasure trove of inner riches that not only enriches our lives but also the lives of those around us.

Think of the individual who, despite having limited material resources, always stands ready to lend a helping hand, lend a listening ear, or offer unwavering support.  Their generosity of spirit makes them rich in ways that transcend mere currency. They understand that wealth is not confined to bank accounts but is intertwined with the bonds of human connection and goodwill.

Decolonizing Our Mind (Lakota Virtues vs Today’s Society)

1. Interconnectedness vs. Individualism:

  • Generosity: Lakota/Dakota culture is deeply rooted in the belief that all living beings are interconnected. Generosity, in this context, is an acknowledgment of this interconnectedness. It’s about recognizing that our well-being is tied to the well-being of others and the land. Giving is a way of nourishing these connections.
  • Today’s Society: Modern society often emphasizes individualism and self-interest. While there are many generous individuals, the prevailing cultural narrative often promotes personal gain, competition, and the accumulation of wealth as primary goals.

2. Giving from the Heart vs. Transactional Giving:

  • Lakota/Dakota Generosity: Generosity in Lakota/Dakota culture is rooted in giving from the heart, without expecting anything in return. It’s about the purity of the act itself, driven by compassion and empathy.
  • Today’s Society: In contemporary society, giving can sometimes be transactional, driven by the expectation of reciprocity or public recognition. It’s not uncommon for philanthropy or acts of kindness to be influenced by personal gain or tax deductions. While there is value in this, it is not the fullness of generosity. 

3. Community Focus vs. Individual Wealth:

  • Lakota/Dakota Generosity: In Lakota/Dakota culture, the well-being of the community takes precedence. Wealth is often measured by one’s contributions to the collective, and generosity is seen as a duty to support those in need.
  • Today’s Society: Modern society tends to emphasize individual wealth and success. Success is often measured by personal achievements, financial status, and possessions. While there are philanthropic efforts, they may not always prioritize community well-being.

4. Sharing of Time and Wisdom vs. Material Giving:

  • Lakota/Dakota Generosity: Lakota/Dakota generosity extends beyond material possessions. It includes the sharing of time, wisdom, and emotional support. Elders play a crucial role in passing down knowledge and wisdom to younger generations.
  • Today’s Society: While there are acts of generosity, the focus is often on material giving. The value of time and wisdom sharing is not always as prominently emphasized in mainstream society.

5. Deep Connection to the Land vs. Resource Exploitation:

  • Lakota/Dakota Generosity: Lakota/Dakota people have a profound connection to the land and see it as a sacred entity. Generosity includes caring for and respecting the land, recognizing its vital role in sustaining life.
  • Today’s Society: Contemporary society often prioritizes resource exploitation for economic gain, leading to environmental degradation. This approach is at odds with our Lakota/Dakota values that emphasize the stewardship of the land. 

The differences between Lakota/Dakota generosity and today’s society highlight contrasting values and priorities. Lakota generosity is deeply rooted in interconnectedness, giving from the heart, community focus, holistic giving (including time and wisdom), and a deep respect for the land. In contrast, modern society often emphasizes individualism, transactional giving, individual wealth, materialism, and resource exploitation. Understanding these differences is essential for those on the path of decolonization and embracing Indigenous values.

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