Lakota Grandmothers hold our society together by Dana Lone Elk*Tweet
The most respected role in Lakota society is that of grandmother, also the role most feared. Men can go around talking about being warriors and members of warrior societies but a grandmother who merely stands five feet tall commands more respect and sends more fear in peoples hearts than any so called warrior.
Our uncis are nation builders, they carry us on their shoulders no matter how much we think we help them out, they are always more worried about us than twenty grandchildren can worry about them.
I had a close friend lose her grandmother this past week. She was alive long enough to see five generations down. And the love and power that radiated from her was very infectious. I had the opportunity a few years ago to have lunch with my friend and her grandmother. Her grandmother had been having a long, hard fought battle with cancer but was just as sprite and curious as ever.
Asking me about myself and my life as we ate lunch. It was refreshing to me to be around strong women because at the time I had just come from my lawyers office with not so good news about my future. Just being around my friend, her aunt, and her grandmother was empowering and made me forget my impending doom. More importantly, it made me feel as if there was still hope for me to one day be strong again with the power of other women.
As we left the restaurant that day, my friends grandmother needed help into her huge SUV. Her aunt tried to pick her up like a baby, putting one arm under her arm and behind her back while putting the other arm under her knees. Her mother laughed and became mad, chewing her out. “Geez, I am not a baby! You can’t pick me up like that, I just needed a little boost.”
We all laughed. The rest of the trip included picking up my stepdaughter and her nephew to give them a ride back to the reservation. As we women all talked and ate salt and vinegar chips. “They’re addicting, try them,” my friend’s grandmother said.
My stepdaughter nephew threw up. I mean he didn’t just throw up he sprayed vomit all over the car and even reached the front seat. I was horrified, so was my stepdaughter. The grandmother just took it in stride and pulled some napkins out of nowhere.
“Oh dear, you didn’t give him any of those chips did you?” she asked. Of course as horrifying as it was to us, she stayed calm and still made us laugh about it.
To us Lakota people, our uncis hold the power to make everything better. In fact they just hold the power. They hold our families together and they seem immortal. When you lose a grandmother, even if they were sick, they still seem so strong.
A Lakota unci won’t ask for help, she is to used to being the caretaker. They are very generous, wonderful hostess’, they make sure all is right in the world for those they love. That is why it is important for us to take care of them. Even if they insist they do not need help.
My grandmother has been gone for almost seven years now and it is clear she held our family together. I have hope with the generation below me, my first cousins. I believe they will get along better than the generation before us because I see a strong sisterhood there full of support and hope.
To date, I have one grandson, which is also the lady in this column’s great great grandson. And I will be having a granddaughter this coming October. These are just with my niece and nephew. I still have yet to have takojas with my own children. But I can’t wait to be that Lakota grandmother.
Rest in peace, Isabelle Janis.