PLAINS - In the span of a few weeks, the ice has broken on the Missouri
River and melted away, the song birds have returned, the first rainfall
has cleansed the air and earth, and the trees have begun to bud new
The wind has changed too. It smells somehow different, warm
and clean. The Lakota call this spring wind Niya Awichableze, the
Enlightening Breath. It is the first spring wind upon which the
Tasiyagnunpa, western meadowlark, returns.
"O'iyokiphiyA Omaka Theca Yelo! [The joyous season of the new
earth is here!]," sings the western meadowlark. This is the song
that starts Wetu, the Spring season. The meadowlark has been singing
in the new year for about a month, and has been recently joined
by the cooing of the wakinyela, the mourning dove.
This is the start of the Lakota new year. According to Leroy
Curley, "The meadowlark is the forerunner who announces a new season,
a new earth and the beginning of the Lakota New Year."
Curley believed that the meadowlark was the smartest bird, "Tasiyagnunpa,
the smartest bird stays within the regions where it is always springtime,
and that is why, without the meadowlark, there would not be quite
the same Omaka Theca."
In the Lakota calendar there are thirteen months, each numbering
about twenty-eight days. This month, or moon, is called Magaksica
Agli Wi, the Moon When Geese Return.
This year, the day following the night of the full moon, or
April 15, 2014, marked the beginning of the new year for the Lakota.
The Lakota record their history on Waniyetu Wowapi, the winter count.
Each spring, the thiyospaye, extended families, who kept winter
counts, would gather and determine how to remember the year with
a name and an image. The Waniyetu Wowapi Ta Waposta Gi, the Brown
Hat Winter Count, recorded pictographic history, reaches back to
But how far back does the archaeological record of the Lakota
reach? Ask any Lakota, and he or she will be quick to tell you,
"We've always been here."
In 2010, Curley offered this wonderful summary on his thoughts
about how long the Lakota have been here: "In verbal and symbolic
Thituwa Lakota history, the medicine wheel built of large boulders
in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and the other sacred circle
built near Sioux Valley, Manitoba, Canada show carbon-dating at
20 to 40,000 years old of man-made structures. Thus this new year
is Lakota Year 40,010 as most nearly the correct annual record of
our Thituwa Lakota history in this region of the world."
"In the alternative star knowledge and in the sacred Lakota
language, the Lakota people and the Tasiyagnunpa have always been
here," Curley concluded.