The Lakota medicine wheel is the sacred symbol of the Lakota people. It represents the six Great Powers (or Grandfathers or Creators) of all things:
- The Power of the West (represented by the color black).
- The Power of the North (represented by the color red).
- The Power of the East (represented by the color yellow).
- The Power of the South (represented by the color white).
- The Power of the heavens & sky.
- The Power of mother earth from which all living things are born and to which all living things ultimately return.
Some Lakota spiritual leaders also speak of a Seventh Power; the power of the individual. On the medicine wheel the Seventh Power stands at the intersection of the west – east road and the north – south road, below the heavens and just on top of the earth. The Seventh Power sits in the center of the medicine wheel therefore, wherever you are, you are at the center with the six Great Powers all around you. The work of the six powers always influences you and, in return, the actions you take influence nature and the lives of those around you. In Lakota spirituality, nature and god are one and the same. Everything is related and connected.
The Lakota people were once free and self-sufficient. Their society had a very low degree of central government. The power all went to local communities. Within each local community every individual played an important role and was cared for by the rest of the members of each local band or tribe. The lack of a central government frustrated official treaty makers and military leaders from Washington D.C. who would show up on the Northern Plains in the 19th Century and ask to be taken to the leader of the Sioux nation but such a leader did not exist. Only in Washington D.C. was there a single great chief. “No one speaks for all of us,” is a famous Lakota saying.
Today, ironically, Pine Ridge is one of the most government dependent places in America. Most decisions for the community are made by central government and most financial resources come from and are allocated out by the government. Getting things you need at Pine Ridge often entails filling out government applications and waiting. Over the last 125 years, as the Lakota have transitioned to a form of governance defined by strong central control their economic quality of life has disintegrated. As a society, they are now among the most government dependent people in America AND they are among the very poorest in our nation.
The name “The Seventh Power” is therefore symbolic. It calls for a return to a more traditional Lakota governance model where local communities and single individuals take care of themselves and each other thereby decreasing the need for dependence upon a central or national government. The Seventh Power encourages individuals to begin taking steps to regain their economic freedom and independence.
Government support will be essential for the people of Pine Ridge for generations to come but now is the time to begin walking toward economic independence. Lakota spirituality puts a strong emphasis on direction. The Lakota people pay attention to what direction clouds and animals are moving in or appear from. In the spirit of this tradition, The Seventh Power exists to encourage individual citizens of Pine Ridge to begin facing the direction of economic independence and to start walking the “good red road” back toward freedom and prosperity as envisioned by Black Elk, the most famous Oglala holy man of the 20th century. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” No one knows this better than the Lakota people.
The people of Pine Ridge are proud, creative, resourceful, fun and talented. You, the inhabitants of Pine Ridge, and your ancestors have kept your culture alive against all odds through the dark days of the reservation era. A new era is now dawning. It is to be an era of economic independence led by a return to traditional values including the spirit of The Seventh Power.