Report date
November 2022
Learning Log

A year ago, I was struggling with imposter syndrome and feeling unsure of myself. I was thankful “The Plan” was already in place, and all I had to do was start. I started courses on birthwork as well as permaculture. I have since completed the permaculture design course and am continuing to work towards completion of the birth knowledge keeper course.

In my plan, I wanted to explore sovereignty through birth sovereignty, food sovereignty, and education sovereignty. My understanding of sovereignty was largely based in theory and conjecture. The Fellowship has provided the space and time to study and experience what it means to be “Sovereign”; to go beyond ideas and musings.

I chose a deep study on “Sovereignty” because as one of the Founders (leaders) of the Mni Wichoni Nakicinze Wounspe, a sovereign education space on Standing Rock, I wanted to help us move beyond saying we’re sovereign to actually being and functioning as a sovereign education space.

In Lakota, we say or translate “decolonize” to Kilákȟota . The actual translation of Kilákȟota is, “To become human again”. As a leader/founder within the Wounspe, I’ve helped to create a model of education that revolves around decolonizing the body first, which in turn decolonizes all of the other systems.
In this year, my understanding of sovereignty has expanded to include the whole body.
If we start with decolonizing our Naǧí, or Soft Spot, we remember our connection to the stars and where we come from. Becoming human again via our naǧí is also a remembering of the nobility of the human spirit.
In practice this means we remember our connection to the universe. In remembering our connection to the Universe, Mitakuye Owasin, “We are all Related” then becomes the central ideology.
The Fellowship gave me the opportunity to explore this connection. I chose to make Pilgrimage to the Black Hills, specifically Wind Cave, the Origin of the Lakota People. In addition to Wind Cave, I was honored to attend several ceremonies in the Hills. There I heard our oral stories and was able to make/create deep connections and understandings.
During one of my trips to the Black Hills, several members of the 100 Horses Society, myself included, said prayers at Kheya; a sacred place that has been under private ownership since the early 1900’s. Kheya or Turtle is part of the Lakota origin stories, and all of the origin stories include our connections to the stars through our Naǧí.

Continuing from our Nagi, we decolonize our “Lote”, or throat. This is done in both the language we speak in and also by speaking our truths. Language Reclamation and Revitalization not only decolonize our lote, but also our mind, thoughts, and understanding through language. In remembering our humanness via speaking, we remember the connections within our own bodies.
A large part of my personal ideology comes from my Lakota side. The Fellowship provided an opportunity for me to connect with my Dene roots in Alaska. I recorded oral history with Elders and realized the similarities to my Lakota identity. Through language of both my paternal and maternal lines, I’ve come to understand “Becoming Human Again” Khilakhota/Decolonize, is the same across Indigenous Peoples. Becoming Human Again is a remembering of our connection to the Land.

In remembering our connections, we are also becoming human again through our Chante/heart and kinship connections. Colonization causes disconnect from our relatives; a large part of our goal within the Wounspe is helping the students/next generation feel connected. As a leader who talk being connected to our Relatives, I found myself wanting to also reconnect with my relatives.
In September, my nephew, my daughter, my mom and I traveled to Alaska to visit our maternal roots/family. For my daughter and nephew, it was their first time in Alaska; my mom and I hadn’t been back in well over a decade. Reconnecting and reuniting with relatives and being on the land, seeing the mountains, glaciers, and feeling the power of the land along with my mom and my daughter and nephew was healing and restorative.

In remembering the nobility of our relatives, we learn that “Protocol” is really the ways we show respect to our relatives. For example, when we learn the protocols of the Animal and Plant Relatives, such as when to hunt or harvest, how to hunt or harvest, the healing and medicinal properties of each, the oral history and songs of each, we also heal our “Thezi”, or stomach.

Similarly, when we remember our Nagi and that we come from the stars, we also recognize the sacredness of our chana, or genitals. Kilakhota is a return to the most basic teachings of the Pipe, when the bowl and the stem come together life is formed. Becoming human again is a restoration of the sacredness of birth and coming of age.
A year ago, I was at the beginning of the birth keepers course, and was not sure how to incorporate this knowledge into the Wounspe. In the course of this year, the Wounspe team incorporated several Coming of Age ceremonies which had previously not happened on Standing Rock since the early 1900’s. In decolonizing our creative energy, we are removing the taboo imposed by the colonizing culture. As a leader within the Wounspe, birth work/knowledge and Coming of Age ceremonies and practices are becoming a large part of my contribution to the Wounspe.

My understanding of leadership has not necessarily changed, but rather has gained more depth in understanding of what sovereignty really is Through learning/understanding sovereignty, I’m continuing to co-create a space where Kilakhota is the central component. A place where we honor the whole person which includes honoring their home/environment, their family/kinship, and the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.