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Teaching Children

Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than words.
They were never allowed to pass between the fire and an older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person.
If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set them right.
Expressions like "excuse me," "pardon me," and "so sorry," now so often lightly and unnecessarily used, are not in the Lakota language.
If one chanced to injure or cause inconvenience to another,the word "wanunhecun"or "mistake" was spoken.
This was sufficient to indicate that no discourtesy was intended and that what had happened was accidental.
Our young people, raised under the old rules of courtesy, never indulged in the present habit of talking incessantly and all at the same time.
To do so would have been not only impolite, but foolish; for poise, so much admired as a social grace, could not be accompanied by restlessness.
Pauses were acknowleged gracefully and did not cause lack of ease or embarrasment.

In talking to children, the Lakota would place a hand on the ground and explain:
"We sit in the lap of our Mother.
From her we, and all other living things, come.
We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever."
So we too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of life about us in its multitude of forms.
Sometimes we boys would sit motionless and watch the swallows, the tiny ants, or perhaps some small animal at its work and ponder the industry and ingenuity;
or we lay on our backs and looked long at the sky, and when the stars came out made shapes from various groups.
Everything was possesed of personality, only differing from us in form.
Knowledge was inherent in all things.
The world was a library and its books were everything in it.
We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows.
To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.
Even the lightning did us no harm, for when it came to close, mothers and grandmothers in every tipi put cedar leaves on the coals and thier magic kept danger away.
Observation was certain to have its rewards.
Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere manifestation;
it was expressed in multitude of forms.
This appreciation enriched Lakota existence.
Life was vivid and pulsing;
nothing was casual and commonplace.
The indian lived --- lived in every sense of the word --- from his first to his last breath.

Chief Luther Standing Bear
Teton Sioux
End