The Superior Great Spirit: The First Period of Creation
|Words to know:Anp: (Aunp)
Light, dawn & dusk
Anpetu: Day time
Han: (HAHn) Darkness
Hanyetu: Night time
Inyan: (Een-yan) Rock, Foundation
Kan: (Khan) forever
Nagi Tankan: Great Spirit
I first received the Lakota creation stories from an inmate at a correctional facility in the Midwest. I was finishing my bachelor’s degree and was working as a chemical dependency counselor at the agency’s community correctional facility. One afternoon; shortly after I started my shift, the biggest Indian man I had even seen walked into my office and shut the door. An absolute security breech! He stood between me and the door, looking ominous and magnificent at the same time; shoulder length hair (that was the regulation) tucked behind his ears and black eyes glistening under florescent beams. True to form, I stood there, trying to look all hard and non-pulsed, when the truth was I was scared to death. I had never noticed him in the facility and that scared me. My posture in the world at that time was a survivalist. I constantly scanned my environment for any threat or danger. I worked out vigorously in the weight room and ran 2-5 miles a day to stay in shape to fight off any predatory threat. My inner senses were honed sharp and I constantly surveyed my environment looking for any threat, any warning to run, hide, or become invisible. I had walked this facility looking into every room, looked for every door and window in case I needed to make my escape. I knew the layout and recognized most of the faces and where they belonged. Yet, In spite of my vigilance, here stood a giant of a man between me and the closed office door; a man who had already served 10 years of a life sentence; had been in our small facility several years and I had never seen him. I had not felt his coming. Yes, I was more than a little bit unnerved. Truth be told, I was terrified. My viper senses screamed as I reviewed in my mind’s eye all the faces in the facility, trying to find his and where it should have been.
He stood quietly looking at me as if pondering my existence. I stood looking at him over the rim of my coffee mug sipping casually while trying to be small and hide behind the cup. Finally, he said. “You are black, but I know you are Indian. I stared at him and started breathing heavily. What the…! Talk about stating the obvious! My race and gender were obvious but it was that ‘indian thang’ in his simple declaration that touched a part of me that I thought I had buried forever years before. I recalled my first memories of living in a city after leaving our hood in the little town called “home”. A handful of neighborhood kids had gathered in our back yard trying to figure out who and what we were. New kids on the block; yes, but I did not understand the ridicule. Being who I was just felt ‘natural’ and I did not know we stood out so boldly. It was my brother’s ribbon shirt; the red one with white dots and yellow cross lace and navy-blue ribbons streaming in the front, that said that we were different. Shiny. New… They wanted it. My brother; although two years older than me, was much smaller, less athletic and agile. He didn’t see it coming. They grabbed him and began tugging at his shirt trying to pull it over his head. I watched as my brother’s ribbon shirt was torn at his chest as he fell backwards into the dirt, crying. I felt the veil of red that rose from my core; the compression at the base of the spine then the explosion. Feeling five times bigger, I struck and struck hard. I don’t remember which one I hit or if it was just one, only that they scattered and ran away leaving us alone and lonely.
I heard the tenor voice speaking while I struggled to close the Pandora’s box of pain that had suddenly illuminated and burst open. “ As an Indian…,” I heard him say, “ You need to know something about being Indian.” No!, I thought…don’t want to hear nothin’ about being no Indian! Well, maybe. Images of my mother putting away those special things of our lives surfaced in my vision. It was after that last big fight in the front yard with Duwan and them four crazy cousins. One by one they came at me and one by one I had beaten them all; all except Duane, who pinned me on the ground and soundly trumped me until my mother; who had stood watching in the window, came out and pulled him off. “Fight back!”, she had said as she shoved me out the front door, “..or you will run the rest of your life!” Then the first one came to take my face. Afterwards the blankets, the beautiful star quilt, items whose names I did not know went neatly into the chest and was locked away. I don’t remember the box after that. Gone it was and almost like it had never been. He was talking again. “… I am Lakota.” My head began pounding! I stepped back and fell heavily into my chair struggling to keep the final drops of coffee from splattering on my desk. I felt trapped and in a corner. My inner senses hissed violently. I fought back the rising veil of red as I stared at this strange man towering before me. So tired. I thought those days were over. My mother’s image appeared before me. Stooping, she put a towel on the box, lifted it and put it in her room in the corner. The lamp and clock placed neatly on top marked the box as a table. The box had never been. Sadness. He began to speak more. At first I didn’t understand a word he said. There was English then something guttural then English again then something musical. The strain of holding back red tired me and I relaxed from striking position. His softened voice continued to speak and at some point I began to breath and listen. He compelled my complete attention.
So began my education in Lakota culture and spirituality. Here is the first of a series of stories he began to tell me.
“Inyan, (Rock), the Foundation was in the beginning. He contained all powers and all things. He is not like your god, who is weak. He had power and the power was in his blood. And his blood was blue. He said Han (night-darkness) was there as well but she was no-thing, only the black and darkness.
At some point Inyan got lonely and wanted to have others to be with him. But he was the only one and would give his life to bring others out. so he opened his veins and let all his blue blood flow into the darkness. As his blood flowed out he noticed Maka (earth) speed past him in the darkness. He did not want her to speed away forever, so he chased after her and surrounded Maka with himself. His blood continued to flow and became the waters which covered the earth. As He continued to shrink his life force flowed from the waters of the earth and flowed around the earth and became the spirit and the sky around the earth. The spirit and Sky were called Skan who is also called Nagi Tanka, the Great Spirit.
After a period of time, Maka began complaining that there was no light and she asked Iyan to produce light. Inyan said he could not because he had given all his power to Skan. He decreed that Skan would be the judge of their issues. So they both approached Skan who decreed that Inyan and Maka must be forever united but that he would banish the darkness of Han. Skan pushed back the darkness and made Anp who came forward and surrounded Inyan and Maka with red light. However, Anp did not produce heat nor shadows and was just a red glow.
Maka complained again because there was no heat, so Inyan and Maka approached Skan to create heat. Skan plucked a braid from Maka and a stone from Inyan and formed a huge glowing ball, which he named Wi. Skan commanded Wi to shine and produce heat. Wi did as he was commanded and produced heat and shadow.
Maka complained a third time saying that it was always hot and wanted Han to return. So Skan commanded that Wi would go to first into the regions of Han, then Anp. He also decreed that Anp would come first from the darkness of Han before Wi. The morning was called Aanp-etu (day time) and the night he named Han yetu. So; in that manner, Skan set the rising and setting of the sun, the dawn and the dusk. After this, Maka was pleased and finally ceased her complaining and the World came into being.