Selling the Sacred


Here is something that is important to understand. When something is sacred, it does not have a price. I don’t care if it is white people talking about heaven or Indian people talking about ceremonies. If you can buy it, it isn’t sacred. and once you start to sell it, it doesn’t matter whether your reasons are good or not. You are taking what is sacred and making it ordinary.

We Indians can’t lose what is sacred to us. We don’t have much left. What we have is in our hearts and in our ceremonies. The land is gone. It was sold by false Indians who were made into chiefs by white people. Our sacred objects are gone. They were collected by anthropologists who put them in museums. Now there are Indians who are selling ceremonies in order to make money.

When they are gone, all we will have is our hearts.And without our ceremonies, our hearts will not speak. We will be like the white man who is afraid to say the word ‘God’ out loud and goes around trying to buy sacred ceremonies from other people. We will have the same hunger in our hearts and the same silence on our lips.

– Dan, Tribal elder, Ogalala Lakota; from Kent Nerburn’s book Neither Wolf Nor Dog

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