Nothing the Great Mystery placed in the land of the Indian pleased the white man, and nothing escaped his transforming hand. Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life — that to him is an ‘unbroken wilderness.’
But, because for the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy — free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indians and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.
In sharing, involving all and everything, one people naturally found a due portion of the thing he sought, while in fearing the other found need of conquest.
For one man the world was full of beauty; for the other it was a place of sin and ugliness to be endured until he went to another world, there to become a creature of wings, half man and half bird.
Forever one man directed his Mystery to change the world He had made; forever this man pleaded with Him to chastise his wicked ones; and forever he implored his God to send His light to earth. Small wonder this man could not understand the other.
But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.
Opperhoofd Luther Standing Bear. 1868-1939.