On the opening evening of the 2017 AIHEC Student Conference in Rapid City, students from an array of TCUs entertained conference goers with the spoken word at the annual poetry slam. Watch the video →
How the Rainbow Was Created
Long ago, a great warrior and his wife were expecting their first child. The couple had longed for a son, but had difficulty conceiving. One night, before the child was to be born, Anog-Ite (Double Face Woman) paid the couple a visit to confess a secret she kept. Many nights, the spirits listened to them lament for a son.
Because he had proved himself to be one of the fiercest warriors of the tribe, they decided to bless him with a child. The seed of life was laid in his wife’s womb and Unci Maka (Mother Earth) nourished it to prosper and thrive. As the infant inside began to develop, Wakiyan (The Thunder Being) would determine the child’s gender. Unable to decide, he erupted with anger and split the baby down the center with a bolt of lightning, which integrated both male and female genders into one body.
Anog-Ite told the warrior that this transformation was called for by the spirits. The child would be blessed with having both genders and would bring valuable gifts to the people. She said, “Love this child, for this creation belongs to all, and remember that each person holds a special place in society no matter how different they may seem.” With that, she covered both of her faces with a deer skinned hood, turned, and began her ascent up the Milky Way.
The signs of labor quickly set in for the expectant couple. The warrior smudged the tipi with sweet grass and prayed for strength as his wife delivered the newborn. Soon enough, he cradled a dark-haired son in his arms. There was no difference in appearances of this child from any other in the village. He hollered, “This is my blood and I shall love him no matter what!” The warrior named the child Wigmunke (Rainbow).
Seven moons passed before Wigmunke’s parents noticed that he wasn’t like the other boys. He was very effeminate in manner. The child loved to cook, clean, bead, tan hides, and was the first to create jewelry from the quills of a porcupine. He was more of a daughter than a son, and this embarrassed Wigmunke’s father. It was time to talk with his son.
The warrior sat the child down on the hard prairie floor and explained to him that he was his only son. It was expected of him to follow in his father’s footsteps and defend the tribe against enemy attacks. Wigmunke looked into his father’s eyes and told him that he would become a warrior. As long as he stayed true to who he really was, the only weapon he needed was acceptance.
Word traveled quickly amongst the villagers. “There was a boy allowed to behave and act like a female!” Parents warned their children to stay away. Even the girls who loved his beautiful creations weren’t allowed to play with Wigmunke. This made him very sad. Yet, he refused to change who he was. Many members of the tribe looked at this young boy in disgust. Adults would laugh and make fun of his life choices. The negativity soon spread amongst the children. They too would taunt and tease him until he ran away in tears.
One morning Wigmunke arose early and informed his mother that he was going for a walk to smell the unpicked sage growing throughout the prairie. He ran up the hill closest to the camp and begun frolicking in the sage brush. Suddenly, he was confronted by a group of older boys. They began to make fun of him for dressing like a girl. Wigmunke’s heart beat like a fast paced drum. He let them know that he did not seek their approval. All he wanted was acceptance to be who the spirits created him to be, but they ignored his pleas. The boys picked up buffalo dung and threw it at Wigmunke. The child fell to the ground and curled into a ball. He cried out for help, but there was no one to hear. Or so he thought…
Anog-Ite saw what had just occurred and went into action. She grew the razor-sharp, colored quills of a porcupine from Wigmunke’s back. Anyone who attempted to touch the child would be pricked. Some of the boys still threw buffalo dung. Wakiyan became enraged and his thunderous screams were heard for miles around, as lightning crashed throughout the darkened sky. Wakiyan expanded one of his enormous wings over Wigmunke’s body to shield him from harm.
The people searched frantically for their children, but it was too late. The spirits were quite upset with their actions. Unci Maka began to cry and her tears fell heavily upon the land. She pleaded with the other spirits to have pity on the people and allow them another chance. She asked that each Lakota be accepted and hold equal placement in society. Her tears then cleansed the hearts and minds of each member of the village, who then felt intense shame and wanted forgiveness.
Unci Maka, Wakiyan, and Anog-Ite agreed to let this day serve as a lesson to the Lakota. From this day forward, more “Two-Spirit” individuals would be born into the tribe, similar to Wigmunke. They would be considered wakan (holy) and hold sacred roles within the tribe. Anog-Ite would make sure to set their feet on both sides of the gender line and allow them to see into the hearts and minds of both men and women.
Unci Maka kept Wigmunke at her side and cried occasionally to remind the Lakota to be good to one another. Afterwards, Wigmunke would appear as multi-dimensional colors with his feet planted solidly on the earth, as his double spirits soared into the land above the pines and back again. Wigmunke brought color to the Lakota in the shape of a rainbow to remind them there were no throw-away people.
Darin Janis (Oglala Lakota) is a student at Oglala Lakota College where he is majoring in Lakota studies and English.