The Lakota/Dakota Culture Today
Although the assimilation period had a great impact, the culture of the Lakota/Dakota people has endured and adapted. There are certain aspects of the culture that are lost or fragmented such as some specific ceremonies, stories, and bits of language. But the basic values that the Lakota/Dakota people lived by hundreds of years ago are still being taught today. One way that the American Indian culture survives today is through what the Lakota/Dakota people call the “wacipi,” more commonly known as a “pow-wow.” The wacipi celebration is a cultural and social event that is still very important as a means of sharing and perpetuating cultural values and beliefs.
Contrary to the belief that they are summer events, pow-wows are held throughout the year. Winter pow-wows are usually one day events held in a local gym or large community building. They are generally smaller than summer pow-wows with the majority of the participants coming from the local area.
The summer pow-wows last from three to five days on the weekends. Participants in the summer pow-wows usually include visitors from other communities, states, and countries who camp around the bowery (dance arena) throughout the weekend.
At a northern plains pow-wow, spectators will see six different types, or styles, of dancers. The men will dance traditional, fancy bustle, or grass. The women will dance traditional, fancy shawl, or jingle dress.
Although the pow-wow is an important cultural event, it is not the only one. Many Lakota/Dakota families still participate in a variety of important ceremonies such as namings, adoptions, the Sun Dance, and the sweatlodge.
A Cultural Renaissance
The Lakota/Dakota culture and Native American cultures in general, have been experiencing a cultural “renaissance” in several ways. Families are now seeking tribal elders, asking them to teach about the old traditions. There is also a greater emphasis on learning and preserving the native languages. Further, some schools and social programs now include and emphasize the teaching of traditional cultural ceremonies such as the sweatlodge and traditional cultural values, such as generosity and being a relative.