This past week I learned that the Lakota Sioux have no expression in their language for “good-bye.” When I first heard this, it was during a trip that a group of us from Holy Comforter Church had just made to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. We arrived in the Lakota village of Kyle on Wednesday, September 13 and spent four days doing various work projects, learning about the Lakota culture and visiting with the people and hearing their stories. We worked on projects at the Oyate Teca youth community center (Oyate Teca = young people), worshiped with the Lakota at Mediator Episcopal Church, shared a hot lunch with the elders at the senior center, and toured the reservation with a guide, Gus Yellowhair, who shared with us sacred stories and sites of the Lakota people.
As we were leaving the senior center to head on our journey home, Mother Cordelia Red Owl, Episcopal priest at Mediator Church, said to our group, “Tókša akhé”, which means “see you later” or “see you again”. She said that there was no word in the Lakota language that translates into “good-bye”. So we immediately wondered why that was the case. She explained to us that the word “good-bye” signifies an ending, a permanent departure, which has no meaning for the Lakota.
I have been pondering what Mother Cordelia said to us. Based on what I have learned about the Lakota people and their culture, I understand that they believe that all things are related and sacred – all creation, all living things, all people. They use a circle with colors red, black, yellow, and white to designate the four directions and the colors of all people. With the circle, there is no beginning and no end. So, to say good-bye is to break the circle, to end relationship and connection between yourself and others.
So, in hearing the Lakota tell our Holy Comforter group “Tókša akhé” as we were leaving, it seemed that they were acknowledging to us that we are part of their circle of life. What an honor that is, considering the dark history that has existed and continues to exist between the U.S. and the Native American peoples. We were given the invitation to continue being part of their circle of life, and I pray that with God’s help Holy Comforter will take the Lakota up on their offer to “see you again”.
Deacon Linda Brown