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Lakota Rites, Ceremonies and Symbolism

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Before entering this section:

When something is sacred, it does not have a price. I don't care if it is white people talking about heaven or Indian people talking about ceremonies. If you can buy it, it isn't sacred. And once you start to sell it, it doesn't matter whether your reasons are good or not. You are taking what is sacred and making it ordinary.

"Dan" (Neither Wolf nor Dog)

Spirituality cannot be bought or sold and nobody has the right to capitalize by attempting to do so. Prayer cannot be purchased. Those who participate with and support the fraudulent 'Pipe Carriers', 'Medicine Men', 'Clan Leaders' and 'Shamen' heal only the exponent's personal finances and, in doing so, assist in the destruction of not only Lakota culture but the spiritual ways of all traditional indigenous people.

Lakota Oyate (


Declaration of War Against the Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality

Original statement passed on June 10, 1993 at the Lakota Summit V,
an international gathering of US and Canadian Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations.


Whereas we are the conveners of an ongoing series of comprehensive forums on the abuse and exploitation of Lakota spirituality; and

Whereas we represent the recognized traditional spiritual leaders, traditional elders, and grassroots advocates of the Lakota people; and

Whereas for too long we have suffered the unspeakable indignity of having our most precious Lakota ceremonies and spiritual practices desecrated, mocked and abused by non-Indian "wannabes", hucksters, cultists, commercial profiteers and self-styled "New Age shamans" and their followers; and

Whereas with horror and outrage we see this disgraceful expropriation of our sacred Lakota traditions has reached epidemic proportions; and

Whereas our precious Sacred Pipe is being desecrated through the sale of pipestone pipes at flea markets, powwows, and "New Age" retail stores; and

Whereas pseudo-religious corporations have been formed to charge people money for admission into phony "sweatlodges" and "'vision quest" programs; and

Whereas sacrilegious "sundances" for non-Indians are being conducted by charlatans and cult leaders who promote abominable and obscene imitations of our sacred Lakota sundance rites; and

Whereas non-Indians have organized themselves into imitation "tribes", assigning themselves make-believe Indian names to facilitate their wholesale expropriation and commercialization of our Lakota traditions; and

Whereas academic disciples have sprung up at colleges and universities, institutionalizing the sacrilegious imitation of our spiritual practices by students and instructors under the guise of "educational programs in shamanism"; and

Whereas non-Indian charlatans and "wannabes" are selling books that promote the systematic colonization of our Lakota spirituality; and

Whereas the television and film industry continues to saturate the entertainment media with vulgar, sensationalist and grossly distorted representations of Lakota spirituality and culture which reinforce the public's negative stereotyping of Indian people and which gravely impair the self-esteem of our children; and

Whereas individuals and groups involved in the "New Age Movement," in the "men's movement," in "neo-paganism" cults and in "shamanism" workshops all have exploited the spiritual traditions of our Lakota people by imitating our ceremonial ways and by mixing such imitation rituals with non-Indian occult practices in an offensive and harmful pseudo-religious hodgepodge; and

Whereas the absurd public posturing of this scandalous assortment of pseudo-Indian charlatans, cultists, "'wannabes", commercial profiteers, and "New Age" shamans comprises a momentous obstacle in the struggle of traditional Lakota people for an adequate public appraisal of the legitimate political, legal and spiritual needs of real Lakota people; and

Whereas this exponential exploitation of our Lakota spiritual traditions requires we take immediate action to defend our most precious Lakota spirituality from further contamination, desecration and abuse;

Therefore we resolve as follows:

  1. We hereby and henceforth declare war against all persons who persist in exploiting, abusing and misrepresenting the sacred traditions and spiritual practices of our Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people.

  2. We call upon all our Lakota, Dakota and Nakota brothers and sisters to actively and vocally oppose this alarming take over and systematic destruction of our sacred traditions.

  3. We urge our people to coordinate with tribal members everywhere to identify instances in which our sacred traditions are being abused, and then to resist this abuse, utilizing whatever specific tactics are necessary; demonstrations, boycotts, press conferences, and acts of direct intervention.

  4. We especially urge all our Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people to take action to prevent our own people from contributing to and enabling the abuse of our sacred ceremonies and spiritual practices by outsiders. As we all know, there are certain ones among our own people who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole.

  5. We assert a posture of zero-tolerance for any "white man's shaman"' who rises from within our own communities to "authorize"' the expropriation of our ceremonial ways by non-Indians. All such "plastic medicine men" are enemies of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people.

  6. We urge traditional people, tribal leaders, and governing councils of all other Indian nations to join us in calling for an immediate end to this rampant exploitation of our respective American Indian sacred traditions by issuing statements denouncing such abuse, for it is not the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people alone whose spiritual practices are being systematically violated by non-Indians.

  7. We urge all our Indian brothers and sisters to act decisively and boldly in our present campaign to end the destruction of our sacred traditions, keeping in mind our highest duty as Indian people: to preserve the purity of our precious traditions for our future generations, so that our children and our children's children will survive and prosper in the sacred manner intended for each of our respective peoples by our Creator.


Wilmer Stampede Mesteth; (Oglala Lakota); Traditional Spiritual Leader & Lakota Culture Instructor; Oglala Lakota College, Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Darrell Standing Elk; (Sicangu Lakota); President, Center for the Spirit, San Fancisco, California, & Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Phyllis Swift Hawk; (Kul Wicasa Lakota); Tiospaye Wounspe Waokiye; Wanblee, South Dakota.


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