I attended the Black Hills Historical Conference this past week and learned many new things. The one talk that impacted me the most was from a elderly Lakota woman who I had as a professor in college. She had a big impact on me at that time and even through today. Seeing her again made my heart very happy. Her talk was about wokikuye (wa-keek-su-way) which means memorial or remembering the words and actions of your ancestors. I’d like to do that with this blog.

My mother’s mother was the only one who ever encouraged me to go to college. I never forgot her encouragement. I’d love to talk with her again and tell her I did in fact go to college and was very glad I did. I’d love to tell her that I got married in spite of playing football with my brothers out in the cow pasture and coming in the house covered in manure (she said no man would ever marry a girl like that). I’d love to tell her I remember her teaching me how to be a proper young lady and keep practicing the skills. I don’t think I’ll ever master them, but I hope she’d be proud of me trying.

My mother’s father taught me how a young woman should walk down the sidewalk. The man should always walk between her and the street. It was an insult for a man to not place himself there because it gave the wrong connotation. He also taught Hubby that too, and Hubby is adamant about it when we’re out walking. Granddad also taught me to love reading and history. His library was enormous, and he encouraged me to pick a book and read while I was visiting. I’ll always appreciate him for that.

My father’s mother taught me how to be content with very little. She was always poor and rarely had two coins to rub together, yet she was always happy and welcoming. She’d do anything to make visitors feel comfortable. Her eagerness to please got her in trouble sometimes, but I’ll never forget how excited she was when she made someone happy. She tried to teach me how to crochet, but my fingers were too clumsy. She taught me Swedish embroidery which needed less dexterity.

My second family was my best friend’s family. They brought me into their loving Christian home like I belonged to them and taught me many things. That’s where I found out that butter on hot brownies is amazingly good. It’s where I watched the late shows and slept until 9 am, something never allowed at home. Both of the parents are gone now, but I remember them very fondly and the lessons I learned from them.

I remember my cousin who died of breast cancer at 43, leaving behind two young daughters. I think of her often and how she waited so long to have those girls, then died before she could watch them grow up. Whenever I feel down about growing old, I think of her and how she would trade places with me if she could. I got to watch my kids grow up; she didn’t. She keeps me appreciating that I am aging after a full life.

I remember my niece who died too soon. I always admired how brave she appeared that day I saw her in the hospital after she’d been horribly mauled by dogs. She lay in bed with bandages on her head and arms and legs, with tubes running here and there, and she was singing You Are My Sunshine. She taught me what it was to be brave and find sunshine even in a hospital room. She overcame so much, and I admired her for all that. I wish I had told her. She taught me to tell everyone how much I love them so they know. I should have told her sooner.

I hope you’ll think of your ancestors and relatives who had an impact on you. Do your own wokikuye. Maybe they can hear you and know how much they are remembered.

Now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did to you and your fathers… I Samuel 12:7

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