Tribute to Women

Student Movement of Real Change: Celebrating women around the world this Mother’s Day

By: Mina Tanaka on Women’s Role in Lakota Spirituality May 18, 2009

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 9:10 am

In the tradition of the Lakota people, women employ a very high status within the home and society. This creation story of the Lakota not only highlights their beautiful connection to the Earth and their spiritual nature, but also reveals the roots of their sacred view of women.

In the beginning, there was an Entity which moved about in the blackness of space. It was soft and shapeless like molten lava. The Lakota people called it Iyan Tokaheya (The First Stone).


At one point in time, Iyan Tokaheya decided to create something beautiful from himself, so he turned himself inside out and covered himself all about. This is where selfishness originated from. For once he started creation, he had to satisfy selfish desires for everything that was created after that. It is here where we acknowledge that selfishness is a natural occurrence.


As he did this, his blood came out and his blood was blue. This is where we get our water from, and so it is sacred. And in this water is the spirit of our women. Her name is Woope. Because she is created from the blood of god, she is closest to god and is therefore sacred. Woope is the keeper of the laws of god.


Woope took the water in her hands, threw them into the heavens and created the stars. Thus, what is on Earth is also in the heavens, and a Lakota belief that we are related to the star people.


As Iyan Tokaheya began to create everything that is, he began to harden and so the world was born, half Earth, half Water.


In Lakota, the word “Woope” also refers to the proper way to behave, or the code of conduct for a respectful and peaceful lifestyle that the Lakota traditionally follow. We can see how central the female figure is in this creation story and also in their culture, and because women of subsequent generations are representations of Woope, they are to be treated with equal amounts of reverence and respect. Sadly, generations of turmoil have led this esteemed view of women somewhat astray. Today, we see unprecedented levels of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assaults in the Lakota communities. In fact, Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the United States. Perhaps what is needed to remedy this devastating problem now is a retrospective eye on the given situation, to take a step back to their spiritual past.

[The story in italics is adapted from “The Creation Story of the Lakota” by Lawrence Swallow]


One Response to “By: Mina Tanaka on Women’s Role in Lakota Spirituality”

  1. Sandylee Says:

    What a beautiful story on Lakota spirituality!
    Thank you for sharing this!

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