Lakota Narrative on SILENCE
from Aŋpétu Wašté Wiŋ
“We Indians know about silence. We are not afraid of it. In fact, for us,
silence is more powerful than words. Our elders were trained in the ways of
silence, and they handed over this knowledge to us. Observe, listen, and
then act, they would tell us. That was the manner of living.
With you, it is just the opposite. You learn by talking. You reward the
children that talk the most at school. In your parties, you all try to talk
at the same time. In your work, you are always having meetings in which
everybody interrupts everybody and all talk five, ten or a hundred times.
And you call that ‘solving a problem’. When you are in a room and there is
silence, you get nervous. You must fill the space with sounds. So you talk
compulsorily, even before you know what you are going to say.
White people love to discuss. They don’t even allow the other person to
finish a sentence. They always interrupt. For us Indians, this looks like
bad manners or even stupidity. If you start talking, I’m not going to
interrupt you. I will listen. Maybe I’ll stop listening if I don’t like
what you are saying, but I won’t interrupt you…
People should regard their words as seeds. They should sow them, and then
allow them to grow in silence. Our elders taught us that the earth is
always talking to us, but we should keep silent in order to hear her.
There are many voices besides ours. Many voices…”
Deer Women and Elk Men: Lakota Narratives of Ella Deloria (1889–1971),
educator, anthropologist, ethnographer, linguist and novelist of Yankton
Our culture is full of busy minds and talking, with too little listening. We “already know,” and we think that is intelligence. We are taught to “have an opinion,” take a…