Duane Hollow Horn Bear stressed to the student body and others present at his speech last Thursday night of the importance of “such pride to know who you are and where you come from.” Through his life, Bear spoke honestly about his struggle wrestling with the obstacles that invaded his path, and how he has come to the place where he believes in equal importance to feel connection to a belief, whatever it is.
Bear appeared at peace when he spoke of his own ancestral belief in a connection between people and a creator. He also emphasized that, through prayer, “you can make things happen.” Bear said that his people believed that creation starts in the sacredness of water from the womb when the water breaks.
“When that water touches this earth, and your afterbirth is ceremonially taken care of in a proper way, you have a deep connection with my culture, the Earth Mother,” Bear explained.
Heritage is important to Bear since his people were born near a little creek that ran through the Black Hills, Crazy Horse’s birthplace. Bear said that, despite the many stories told as to the reasons why Crazy Horse fought to keep the Black Hills, what mattered most is the spiritual element of the water that had connected him to his land. But what drove the intensity of the fighting is when the new Western civilization of the white man mandated that the Lakota people start birthing at hospitals.
After that happened, Bear said, “People feel a loss of connection to earth and feeling to pursue their own journey.” Bear said he himself was born on the western edge of the reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota.
“I always felt fortunate that my elders were willing to share with me, to give me their insights on life and shared their wisdom with me to pass on,” Bear said.
Bear noted that from 1980 to 1987, he had to learn patience, acceptance, and virtue, but in 1989, he began what he called his “spiritual sun dance.”
Historically, the Lakota were nomadic and followed the buffalo. Because of that, a deep desire resonated in Bear to know what comes after the hill. That’s the reason why Bear’s grandfather gave him his Lakota name since it meant to “go after something bigger.” Bear added that’s what every human should strive for, not just a Native American.
When Bear talked about the Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, you could feel more of his pain being stripped away with the emotion that welled up in his eyes.
Bear thinks Eisenhower lifting the appeal of the alcohol prohibition is one of the worst things he could have done. Bear witnessed the effect the excess drinking had on his family especially in those he looked up to, such as his parents and his uncle. Because of the domestic violence situation that occurred, Bear lived under the guardianship of his grandparents who taught him his native culture.
Then when Bear attended a Catholic boarding school, his grandfather ordered him to endure the suffering he took for speaking the Lakota language rather than the required English. During his time at school there, he was told he needed to decide what he wanted to do for his life and Bear decided he wanted to attend a university. However, while waiting for his acceptance letter, he was told he needed to enlist or be inducted into the Vietnam War. At that time, his native people were having an uprising but somehow he was convinced to join the army instead.
While in service, Bear said he realized what the war had done to him and that he needed to find his way back. A medicine man he befriended him taught him to thank creation and made him aware that he was a spirit on a humanistic journey.
“This is what I sacrifice,” Bear said. With that, he added how since he was a little boy, he had blamed his memories, bullying, and Vietnam for his problems.
Through friendship with the medicine man, Bear said he learned to forgive others, including himself. While Bear stood on a hill at one point in his life, he forgave and prayed to Father, the Creator.
“Forgiveness is a powerful, powerful moment of your life, when you find yourself in a state of being very humble,” Bear said. “I am someone… I am going to live.”
Toward the conclusion of his talk, Bear reminded his audience of the unshakable relationship between the creator and us as humans. The Lakota people, he said, knew what ceremony they must perform based on the star constellations at certain times of the year.
“All empires fall,” Bear stated.
Along with encouraging his audience as a collective society, Bear encouraged that people pick up morals and values and bring those with them into the future. He also voiced concern but at the same time a hope for the young people. He said that most of his challenges had come from working with young people and helping them understand classes and that, overall, they lack a spirituality.
“What is lacking is a focus on spiritual needs rather than instant gratification,” he said.