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Some of what Tiokasin shares today includes:

00:00:00 Land raising children, Lakota language and trusting the future

00:06:00 Male and female energies, intuition and ceremony

00:10:00 No teaching and traditional education as a giving

00:13:00 Burying diplomas to return to Self.

00:15:00 Land ownership, colonial coma and defined by Earth

00:21:00 Dualistic psychology, premeditated ignorance and the ultimate philosopher.

00:24:00 Deathsong, innocence and grief

00:26:00 Adapting to Nature and the language of Earth

00:28:00 Grief, freedom and containment

00:34:00 Dreams, the 5th world,

and ancestors going into the future

Our previous conversation on Lakota, Elders & Evolutionary Understanding:

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About Tiokasin Ghosthorse

Of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota—is an international speaker on Peace, Indigenous, and Mother Earth perspectives. A survivor of the “Reign of Terror” from 1972 to 1976 on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud Lakota Reservations in South Dakota and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding and Church Missionary School systems, Tiokasin has a long history of Indigenous activism and advocacy. He spoke as a 15-year-old at the United Nations – Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Tiokasin frequently speaks at venues such as Yale University’s School of Divinity, Ecology, and Forestry focusing on the cosmology, diversity, and perspectives on the relational/egalitarian vs. rational/hierarchal thinking processes of Western society. Tiokasin was a 2016 Nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize from the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. Selected for 2016 Native Arts Cultural Foundation Fellowship, a Nominee for a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship 2018, National Native American Hall of Fame Nominee 2018, and 2019 Indigenous Music Award Nominee for “Best Instrumental Album” for “From the Continuum.” A master musician and a teacher of magical, ancient, and modern sounds, Tiokasin performs worldwide and has been featured at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Apollo Theatre, and the United Nations, as well as at many universities and concert venues. Tiokasin serves on boards of several charitable organizations dedicated to bringing non-western education to Native and non-Native children. Tiokasin says he is “a perfectly flawed human being” and a Sundancer in the cosmology of the Lakota Nation.

Tiokasin and First Voices Radio

Rough Transcript

Please excuse all errors

[00:00:00] I’m Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Tiokasin Ghosthorse. Tiokasin is of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota, and has a long history with Indigenous activism and advocacy. He has been the founder, host, and executive producer of “First Voices Radio” for over 30 years.

Amongst many other recognitions, in 2016, he received a [00:01:00] nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is also a master musician, and the song played today is from Tiocasin, titled, Raining Trees. This is our second conversation. You can find the link to our first conversation in the show notes.

Olivia: Thank you so much. And I would love to hear about where you were born and your early years. And just a bit earlier, when you were having this weekly gathering, you were mentioning about your elders or grandparents [00:02:00] and females having certain rhythms and males having certain rhythms, related to the earth and curious about that as well.

So like any rhythms that you feel tether yourself to home, like what you sense when you sense home related to these rhythms.

Tiokasin: Well, thank you. I really think there’s no secrets to be given away here. So I’ll just be what it is. So it was very tragic for me to be removed from the land, the way I perceive How things were for me, we could take today’s African proverb that was really hijacked by Hillary Clinton, it takes a village to raise a child.

That’s not true. For Africans, it is true. Because it comes from them, and we could rationalize, Oh, all people did this at once. They thought this way at one time, but it’s not here now. So, for [00:03:00] us here in this country, or where I grew up, it takes the land to raise a child. Because I experienced that. It was the land that raised me, not the village.

The village was there, as is a natural thing. For humans to be among humans, but it was a land and I say this because it could be a political thing and it could be a human right thing, which is political. It could be that explaining a loss of culture as we go along in this interview, or to explain the hardships and maybe a hard, hard conversation.

These are the things that we need as we continue with IRF. It’s going to get harder to explain why the earth is this way and why we don’t know about it. So we take desperate measures as to survive while we are at war with earth. Or basically we [00:04:00] say that it’s like a war zone after a hurricane or a blizzard.

And that’s the lingo we’re talking. But when I talk about at home, when the, when the land raises you, All the knowledge intelligence is present. And to recognize that, to acknowledge that, to be in rhythm with that, there is a language that comes from that land and growing up my first six years that way and speaking Lakota, learning English after in boarding school and how to understand concepts. Basically, domination, which I did not understand, and still don’t,

how to interpret my existence when there was no future for Lakota, as you couldn’t be who you, [00:05:00] who your people were in the past. So it was a kind of a good thing to say, well, you can’t have a future, you can’t have a past, because that’s exactly Lakota. We, we are in the present. The language always. puts you in the present, so we, we can understand the future because we know we’ve been in the past.

In other words, if I was to, if I was to talk about the future and being a form of a spiral, and on that spiral, I’m walking backwards forward into the future, the same as the Maori people, and It’s because we trust the future. That’s where our ancestors went. The future first. And so we see that. And so the oldest ancestors to us is Earth.

They are the elders. So we trust that. But we run into a, a, a society [00:06:00] That doesn’t trust the future, they’re afraid of it, because they don’t want to be who they were in the past, that there is always something bigger, better, than being in the present. So, that’s what I got from my earlier years, learning how to survive in a society that’s learning how to exist.

And hasn’t really understood living because the language is in concepts and it only uses reality and doesn’t live. It’s not living reality. When I would sit at the table and grandma and grandpa would come in and they would speak to each other, either at the end of the day or beginning of the day. And they would speak to each other, but very differently.

The subtlety and the [00:07:00] nuances. As a young child growing up in that environment and learning, yeah, males speak differently than females and understanding what they were creating as energy, the energy that they were using with two types of energy to put everything in perspective and acceptable. And I sit there as a young, young man, young boy, understanding that without having to speak both.

So you’re understanding it, um, intuitively. And that’s what has propelled me from that time of understanding it, even though I didn’t have words for it. But today, in English, it’s intuition. Everything comes from and through and lives with intuition because that’s the language we speak. My [00:08:00] 90 year old mother talks a few years ago, told me about that we cannot speak Lakota without intuition.

And that’s what I remember as the mainstay. And if you really look at all life, is that all life really does live by intuition. Trees can’t speak, yet they do, right? They just don’t speak the same way as humans with vocal cords. Yeah.

Olivia: You were sharing earlier before this recording that your grandmother and grandfather had different offerings.

Tiokasin: Yeah. They would go out different times during the same time, and not necessarily that you have to go to the same place, same time. That relationship with creation is very personal, very private. And from that, you understand [00:09:00] not just what it is to be an individual, because that doesn’t matter. You’re reminded of what it is that you rely upon, your relationship with Earth, first.

And then comes the human. So there is a, a difference, I think, when they would go out and father would say his thing and mother would say her thing and understanding that it was okay because it is a personal relationship, which is ceremony, ceremony with earth, not a ritual with earth. So there is definitely a different perspective.

Olivia: And I’m also going to share about your elders, your uncle, especially the education he would receive from his elders. What are some ways that traditionally your family would be educated?

Tiokasin: [00:10:00] First of all, there would be no teaching, no instruction. They think about it in a Western way, like that’s not learning or that’s not education.

But if you’re. watching as a child and they’re actually living what you’re learning and acknowledging. That’s the education. That’s how things are. Passed along, not down, passed along. And that’s not sharing, that’s beyond, that’s giving. So, in a way, what are you giving to the moment? What are you giving to what you’re seeing?

Are you acknowledging what you’re seeing, which always is in the present of what you’re seeing and experiencing. Once you’re in that place, you understand that all life is actually [00:11:00] educating you, showing you by example, because obviously what you’re seeing is here first.

So this issue in a Western world, a Western mind might be issues of trust. But if that had anything to do with ego, that wouldn’t be necessary. So what I’m saying is that ego may get in the way. If you, if you need to be trusted or if you need to trust somebody because everything is truth anyway.

So it’s in a constant barrage, I guess you would say of learning and then relearning. And again, that. Is very different in native world is that we’re always learning, learning, learning by, by, by observing. It doesn’t [00:12:00] mean that we are in one place just watching something. It’s like, no, you’re participating in it.

Your eyes, your ears, your, your touch, your spell, your taste, your intuition, right? Is participating in every moment and that’s education. Even I, I know what the etymology of educate means. So I use it because that’s who we’re talking to. Yeah.

Olivia: Yeah. If this is accurate. I heard you say that you burned one diploma and buried two.

What was occurring within you that, or around, or where you decided to do this?

Tiokasin: I think there was a point of resolution, a point of understanding what was confining me. It was that type of education. And what failed. [00:13:00] Was a, I would say an asset value rather than an added value. So did I get the education to get the job to say, I know something that was all about in this society.

Because the more I understood that the more I accepted this type of education, the more culture I would be losing. So at that moment came one of realization that does this, what does this mean to me? Yeah. What does it mean to my being? If we all end up the same? If we all start the same? What does this piece of paper know but to learn how to, to mechanically exist within a system and be, and to learn to think dualistically within a system.

And I didn’t need that anymore. That’s what I did was to [00:14:00] bury it. To signify part of me that I thought was living was actually killing me. And I had to put that away so that at least, at least the paper would go to the earth and signify that I don’t need these diplomas because these diplomas and all the learning comes from someplace else.

I learned about other societies, mostly the Western way of thinking, and made me feel further from myself. So I have to say, no, where’s the best place to center? This is under a tree. And I think that’s part of understanding more of an education from where I come from, that the education was already provided by Earth.

Olivia: I saw a map recently [00:15:00] of Earth, and It was showing who’s inhabiting Earth right now. I mean, that we can see, and nearly half of the Earth were humans. Nearly half of the Earth were domesticated animals. And then there were these two tiny little pockets. One were the wild ocean beings. Then really even tinier than that, the wild terrestrial beings.

And I was thinking, and feeling heartbroken in general by the huge loss of richness of sharing existence, and also thinking of different Indigenous people I’ve spoken to, and you’ve experienced this directly, and I’m wondering any thoughts you have on freeing this fabricated, uh, idea of ownership of beings, whether it’s earth beings or human beings, and then also freeing our minds of this fabricated idea.

Tiokasin: Wow, two things. [00:16:00] There was a, an elder who said something recently, he was either Cree or Ojibwe from Canada. And he was talking to a group of Canadians and some visitors from Europe. And he, he said, You Europeans, because into Native people, everybody’s European. He says, you Europeans, you came here with your laws, you know, first he said, you came here with your religions, and we respect that, we acknowledge that, that’s yours, we won’t touch that, no one’s going to take that away from you.

Then he also said, you came here with your laws, and he said, that’s yours, we respect that, no one’s going to take that away from you. But the one thing that we didn’t see you come here with is [00:17:00] land, and we don’t know how this land became yours. So in that way of thinking is that we were free before freedom came.

Because you see, as Native people, we’re not free. We speak a different language. We dress differently. We eat strange foods, which makes us sick. We drink strange drinks, which makes us even sicker. And, and we don’t live where, where our ancestors came from. And that’s disturbing to know that may have happened to other people.

So is it, we continue the colonization or do we stay in the, in the coma of it? And maybe someday people will wake up from this coma, this colonial coma. Because if there are people who realize [00:18:00] the hardship of outlasting this colonialism. Because we know that colonialism is greed, because it needs a resource to keep it moving and going.

And that resource is running, it’s scarce. And so with that afraidness comes scarcity language. And that’s what came on the ships. So you’re talking about being free by being on the shore, the view from the shore, and watching the ships come. With all these ideas, these sciences, these religions, these laws, as we on the shore are in view of this.

And trying to understand the onslaught and the slaughtering of land and the people. And hundreds of years later, we’re [00:19:00] still in a shock of having culture being destroyed while society and their own reasoning and ownership and domination are coming and work with guilt and blame and sin very well. It explains their, their religions, their laws, and their sciences, their, their governments, right?

So this is how one part of the human has lost the being, where these other human beings are trying to be that human being, because they know the human being is defined by earth. The meaning is earth, where another view from the ships is telling us what a human being is. So you come to a people who have no orphans or homeless people or starving people, and that there is simply a giving and no expectation.

And return, so they [00:20:00] take that idea back and they say, Oh, charity, let’s use charity. So they, that’s someone who has taken from someone to give back. So here in the States, here in the Western hemisphere, they’ve taken everything away from us. Then they tell us what’s wrong with us. Which is abhorrent thinking, as denying oneself from actual responsibility.

Because, as Anup would say, we are the evidence of the crime committed, as Native people.

Olivia: You’ve said that the way psychology is right now is avoidance, like it’s a tactic of avoidance and it feels quite resonant with what you’re sharing right now in terms of the ways that we’re creating systems to avoid earth being the source of, Existence.

Can you share more about that and also a more intelligent way of relating to that realm?

Tiokasin: We’re taught to [00:21:00] think dualistic and that keeps us from our truer intelligence, which is much bigger than the binary we’ve been taught. Think about what it does to one’s body. You know, you have to journey to the heart.

In Lakota, we come from the heart. There’s no other place that we come from but from the heart. So we can’t journey to the heart if we’re already there. It’s the language. So the language is intuitive. That’s the intelligence that we know, and always has been, because intuition comes from all points. that we can possibly imagine as humans.

And this is a reference point. And that has to be Earth. That happens to be the sky. The stars, the things that are flying, things that are moving, things that are still. These are all reference points. And if you think about every iota of energy, they’re not in some psychological mode. [00:22:00] So what we’ve done to present day psychology, as people call it, is that that’s medication.

To keep you from actually understanding medicine and because it’s the spirit that makes us healthy. We’re not just talking about physical health, spiritual health is first and foremost for all native people anywhere, whether they realize it or not. So earth is the ultimate philosopher. And if we use psychologies, we have to develop new psychologies.

To explain the old one, why that didn’t work. So it’s always a phase of experimenting and going back to the drawing board. So we never really go anywhere.

Olivia: You’ve also said that energy can’t be taken away. And also, we are all returning to the earth. [00:23:00] And, and what are your thoughts on where we come from?

Where we’re going when we die. And then also what happens after.

Tiokasin: In the Lakota way, we, we all have a death song. And so especially the males have a death song and we sing it in life. One day we’ll, I’ll sing mine again. Cause I’ve sung it so many times, but it doesn’t teach you not to be afraid of death, but it actually keeps you in the present moment that, wow, this is, you’re living this life innocently every moment.

And so if you’re in the present moment of dying. You realize, oh, this is part of the crossing over that’s been described by [00:24:00] those who have actually gone there and come back. And Crazy Horse is one of those who said, we live in a shadow of the real world, because he went there. I think what keeps us from getting there and understanding in this country is the grief in this country does not want to accept what is, what they’ve done and the benefits they have gotten from what their ancestors did to native ancestors, but especially to the land that keeps them from realizing because it’s a way of life that has to die anyway, because it’s not conducive to living with earth.

So there’s a lot of grief. That needs to be allowed, and it’s not going to be worked with present day psychology. It has to do with, not forgiveness, but one of us assessing what Earth means to you, what you mean to Earth. [00:25:00] So I’ve come into a world, a society, that’s so ignorant about what they’re doing.

They are constantly adapting Earth to their needs, but the way that I grew up was we were adapting to nature, to her needs. That is part of addressing grief. We can’t destroy grief. Seems like there’s been creating grief a lot more and causing more of it all over the planet. That we’re actually causing it to earth, and we even deny it.

So I think part of it is really understanding what’s in the way is domination. Domination and then grief. There are all these points that are so overwhelming that people do not [00:26:00] want to go there. I heard an elder say, build a fence around our home. Then we build a fence around the property. Then we make boundaries around our counties.

Then. The state, the states is a fence, a boundary, then the whole country is, is an offense, everything is fenced. So we fenced guilt, we fenced domination, so that we can’t get there. It’s like a Fort Knox, I guess you’d say, of gold. And it’s grief that we have to understand, which this country does not know how to do.

And I’ll take it back to Martín Prechtel. He said in 599, he said that it was outlawed to grieve the dead, to have ceremony with the dead. Because at the time of the bubonic plague, or [00:27:00] the plague in Europe, millions of people were dying, and anybody who was caught grieving the dead was either killed, put in prison, or tortured, or their land was taken away.

So, at that point on, everyone knows the fear of grieving. You kind of go back to a starting point. That came on the ships here. I think the grief and freedom gets in the way because it definitely got in our way. And we know part of the last part of freedom is dom. A dom is domination. It’s not that the free are dominating and that freedom got in our way as Native people.

That needs to be removed. Because we still remember that. My grandfather, my father, remember what being free is all about. Maybe I did when I was younger.

Olivia: Do you think that there’s an art to grieving or letting our heart [00:28:00] burst forth? We used to be held in spaces where it was okay to be seen in those really full energetic states.

I mean, that’s just so much energy when you grieve. And I don’t think we know how to be with the intensity of truth in that way. And what’s needed to start to lean into what you’re speaking of. We

Tiokasin: all know that it’s land that helps us live, but that’s been removed. People were taught to grieve in churches.

Whatever that means, to be in churches, to contain it. And therefore you contain it when you went to a natural state of being in nature. So it makes more sense to me that when you’re outside grieving, that all of the beings, trees, birds, animals, they come to recognize you. And that’s part of their understanding also, because they [00:29:00] also have dying in their lifetimes.

And that’s what’s taken away from the modern human. So I think it’s a natural way is to be in nature, to know that it’s not going to be one psychology class to get over grief, but it takes a while. It’s because it’s a part of life to grieve, it’s to balance, actually. So I think if we, the more land there is, we might find this possible.

That we need land as human beings to help us with the grieving. But look what we’re doing in the modern context to land. So we only feel that humans with our modern day intelligence [00:30:00] and psychologies can alleviate grief with a pill and pill psychology, um, which takes us away from natural thinking, natural human beings all automatically go to work.

Nature, because nature understands the essence of grieving.

Olivia: It makes so much sense. I just had the feeling of concrete and how no water goes into concrete and it doesn’t take in feeling. It doesn’t take in our rivers of inner life. You’ve also talked to the path of being in vibration with the earth and you’ve shared stories of playing the flute and animals.

Finding you and making songs that awaken the ancient relationships between humans and animals and plants. And I’m wondering what you think in terms of a way [00:31:00] to, to start turning ourselves towards creating. As you were saying earlier in response to earth, because so many people talk about humans, like humans are made to be creative.

That’s the big thing. Like we’re not meant to just be, I hear this often. And yet what we’re creating is not in harmony with earth. And so what do you suggest if we are considering our lives and considering how we co create in these lives? How can we And turn our gaze towards Earth as the guide.

Tiokasin: From my experience is that we always try to think non anthropocentrically.

And that’s difficult if you have to say, I, me, my, mine, and ours, which this language demands, so that you become that individual. It’s separate from everything [00:32:00] else. So even when we say the Earth or the Earth, that’s distancing. You say Earth, we understand, but then we turn Earth into a noun, person, place, or a thing.

Right? So understanding the language, the language of Earth. Is when, when I play the flute, it’s all of those tones, notes that are already present. So when I recognize that by playing the flute, I recognize that, oh, this piece of wood is still alive and understanding everything is, is living. Nothing really dies.

They just change shape. This language, like I say, English gravity. And it’s like, Oh, you know, scientifically, but in Lakota, [00:33:00] it’s the earth loves you. I want to keep you close. It’s just really changing a little thought into something meaningful rather than definition.

Olivia: Is there anything you want to share?

Anything that’s moving through you today?

Tiokasin: I would say dreams. Dreams are a dimension, and we tend to keep those dreams within understandable meaning in this society, in this language. So dreams are hinting that there is another dimension, and it’s always not in the future, always not in the past, but they come to you now because you’re living what your ancestors have left with you.

And if those ancestors have [00:34:00] gone into the future first, they’ve died first, then what did they leave with you? The present. So, when it all comes up to empowered by dreams, you have to understand the feeling of presence, the intuition that we are already in the fifth world, and that fifth world is being blocked by domination and grief and is preventing masses of people from moving where we need to.

Some people already are. It doesn’t mean that anybody is chosen. It means that people need to realize through acknowledgment and acceptance, not who’s right or wrong. So dreams are part of that. We say shifting paradigm, new paradigm, changing the narrative. That’s nice when [00:35:00] it came out, but it doesn’t mean anything.

So allow dreams to understand you. Allowing the dreams to understand us is really, truly learn how to express our ancestors. And I think we’ll find the knowledge and the ways of expression. If. We understand not going back or returning to the earth, but allowing the earth to come, as she always does. Stop trying to save the earth and allow earth to save you, and then we can get out of our Jesus mentality.

We’re not messiahs, we’re just human beings. We have to learn how to live with that.

Olivia: As you [00:36:00] share that, I feel the body in it, like how necessary it is that we get out of our heads and be in the body because if the earth were to save us, we’d have to really trust and give up control. Who wouldn’t trust the earth?

I mean, totally, but like changing the center of our universe. Yeah. Yeah.

Tiokasin: Yeah. Black Elk, right? Black Elk. The center of the universe is everywhere. It’s true. We are not the center, but yet we are.

Closes with song: Raining Trees by Tiokasin Ghosthorse