Wearing the feathered headdress bestowed upon him when he was 12, Chief Arvol Looking Horse stood tall in front of the full-capacity crowd at the NationalUniversity’s (UNA) Clodomiro Picado Auditorium and presented the message of his people to the audience.
That message, one passed down through the many generations of the Lakota Sioux tribe, emphasizes spiritual unity, peace, prayer and love of Mother Earth.
“We are at a crossroads,” he said. “Either we can continue to face chaos and disasters, and tears from our relatives’ eyes can continue to fall, or we can decide to unite spiritually.
It is time for people of all nations from all over the world to come together. We have come from our homeland in the Black Hills of South Dakota to bring the message of peace and harmony to all of the two-legged people that share our Mother Earth.”
Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of the Lakota Sioux tribe from the U.S. state of South Dakota, visited UNA in Heredia, north of San José, last week to give a talk on “Ancestral Cultures and an Education for Peace and World Unity.” The vibrant presentation, which featured traditional Indian songs and dances, was organized by UNA’s Women’s Studies Institute and the Fabio Baudrit Experimental Station of the University of Costa Rica.
A revered international peace symbol, the chief has won a multitude of peace awards over the past 15 years, including Canada’s Wolf Award, recognizing figures who serve to improve harmony between cultures and races, in 1996, and the Juliet Hollister Award in 2006. Granted to religious figures who bring interfaith values into places of worship and to secular figures who promote greater understanding of spiritual values, the Hollister Award has been given to such international peace figures as the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
Born on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1954, Looking Horse is primarily recognized as the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, an emblem held by the Lakota tribe member considered a sage within his community. The chief was given the pipe when he was 12, making him the youngest carrier of the pipe in tribe history.
The legend of the sacred white buffalo calf pipe teaches a lesson of discipline and respect in the Lakota community. It is said that 19 generations ago, two scouts from the tribe went out on an errand and came across a beautiful woman. One scout stared and lusted for her, while the other remained humble and respected her. The woman urged the lusting scout to come near and, when he did, a cloud enveloped him. When the dust settled, only a skeleton remained. The woman told the other scout to return to his camp. The next day, she arrived in the community to present him the white buffalo calf pipe. It has since been considered a sacred emblem among the Lakota representing discipline and respect for women.
Last week in Heredia, the chief and his wife, Paula Horne, preached peace but also expressed their concern for the continued damage done to the Earth, the unwillingness of people to strive for peace, and the self-centered focus of human beings today.
“We are going in the direction of places we have never been before, as the elders said we would,” Looking Horse said. “Elders said that this can be seen in the eagles. Eagles are powerful animals, and now they are going to trash pits and dump sites, they are weak and unhealthy, as are other animal nations, including the two-legged people.
“There is so much negative energy. Brothers and sisters are fighting. Every morning people wake up, they have a bad attitude and bad feelings. Negatives only bring negatives, instead of positives bringing positives… “Mother Earth is sick and has a fever.”
Horne, an accomplished traditional Dakota singer and artist and Indian rights activist, spoke as, if not more, eloquently: “We have not even tapped into our abilities as two-legged people. We live only on the outside: how people perceive us, how we want to look and what we have. It’s not the ability to look at one another’s spirit and want to be a good person anymore. We’ve adopted a thinking that we need to climb on top of one another and be on top in order to be noticed. No longer do we listen to Grandmother Earth that we are the sacred hoop of all life.”
Horne expressed the belief that the remedy to many of the Earth’s problems can be found in a proactive youth.
“It is the young people who can change what is happening to Grandmother Earth,” she said. “Scientifically and in our policies, we cannot see past three to four generations. This is why we reach out to the whole global community and try to bring about a consciousness that we, the two-legged, have a responsibility we need to own up to. One of our ancestor’s sayings was: Look at your children’s children’s children’s children. And you must live for them. No longer can we be individuals. We don’t have that much time.”
“I am proud of you, Costa Rica, for respecting your resources and respecting the life you have here,” she added.
Looking Horse and Horne are organizing an International Day of Prayer for Peace and Harmony June 21, and are encouraging nations around the world to join together in prayer that day.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world,” the chief said. “This one day, we must pray to create worldwide peace and harmony.”