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As we behold, we actively transform the image.
The first chapter begins with a metaphor that refers to the Native American Give-Away Ceremony. To better understand the Give-Away ceremony, I am sharing photographs from Father Don Doll’s archives that were taken in 1974. He is a professor of photography at Creighton University, and has generously shared them with me to add yet another dimension to my teaching story.
Photographs of the Give-Away Ceremony taken by Father Don Doll:
When a person dies on the reservation, there is usually a 3-4 day [ all 24 hour each day] wake in the home of the family that lost a person. Then on the day of the funeral, a half cow or full cow is boiled in a horse tank, and pass around to the friends and family gathered in a circle. Also, a decorated cake in honor of the deceased person is shown to the group within the circle before is is cut and served. Meanwhile, one of the relatives will call the names of folks gathered to come and receive a gift from the husband or wife of the deceased person. At this give-away in Spring Creek, on the Rosebud Reservation, Pearl Walking Eagle, the wife of Harvey Walking Eagle who was shot and killed breaking up a fight between their boys and a neighbor. After a year of morning, the family will collect gifts and have another ‘give-away’ and feed.
Father Don Doll’s book Vision Quest tells the story of Billy Mills who had grown up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He won the 1964 Gold Medal for the 10,000 meter race, October 14 2019, was the 50th anniversary of that race. The 1991 interview with Father Don Doll, talks about Running Brave, the 1983 movie about his life and accomplishments, and how he considers it his ‘giveaway’ for all of the positive support he received. He also started a foundation which supports activities on the reservation and here’s that link:https://indianyouth.org/billy-mills. There is a clip of his amazing run, and a brief interview with him where he also talks about ‘giveaway.’
Here is a quote from Father Don Doll’s book Vision Quest that further explains Billy Mill’s interpretation of the give-away:
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Billy Mills thrilled the world by winning the Gold Medal in the 10,000-meter race. More than his stunning upset victory, Billy’s many accomplishments and work on behalf of Native Americans are an inspiration for all people. The production of his life in the movie Running Brave is a contemporary giveaway to the world. Billy’s book, Wokini, is an allegorical how-to journey to happiness. Raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Billy lives with his wife, Pat Mills, and family in Sacramento, California.
“Actually the Gold Medal I won at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo was insignificant. It was the pursuit of excellence that I took from those Olympic Games.
Years ago, my Dad told me to learn to speak English and compete against white America. By doing that, he said I would take our Lakota culture into another generation. At that young age I understood him to mean to compete through sports as an athlete. In retrospect, he didn’t mean to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
What he and my high school coach said indirectly was to find my desires, know myself, and therefore to succeed. Similarly they both encouraged me to participate in sports or drama, art or music in order to have a better understanding of myself. Sports was just the means of understanding myself.
I discovered running by the process of elimination. Running became my positive desire. With desire comes motivation, with motivation comes work, with work comes accomplishment. I became motivated, and therefore was willing to do the 75-105 miles a week consistently for four years. In total I trained 15 years, running over 45,000 miles.
Because of running I learned how to pursue excellence, accepting only defeat, not failure. It has ultimately led me to victories in my positive desires. God gave me the ability with the rest up to me. We compete against ourselves to the greatest extent we’re capable of. We have to believe, believe, believe.
I ran track to have a better understanding of who I am as a man, as a human being, as a person who is half Lakota, half white. I felt lost and confused because I am Indian with full-bloods referring to me as a mixed-blood and whites referring to me as Indian.
I found a third culture, running. Running accepted me on equal terms, and I learned to walk in the Lakota world and white world with one spirit. It’s been a continual struggle to find how Billy as an individual fit in two cultures. I was dealing with the cultural values of the Lakota and contemporary values of white society. I ran in pursuit of my own self identity, and the Gold Medal happened because I had an awareness of who I am.
I didn’t win the Gold Medal because I am an athlete. I won because, to a great extent, I worked with my mind so powerfully that I conditioned myself to think I could win. I came to grips with myself spiritually to a level that freed up my mind from world pressures so I could concentrate and focus. When focused, the spirit does not allow the body or the mind to quit. That visualization, that imagery of I can win, I can win, I can win took over. My thoughts changed over and over again to I won, I won, I won. And I broke the tape!
In Lakota tradition, we have a giveaway to thank all the people who help and inspire us. I took ideas from coaches and athletes worldwide and would have gone bankrupt having giveaways throughout the world. So I attempted to give that inspiration back to another generation through the movie, Running Brave. I took a traditional giveaway and put it into a major motion picture. It was a theatrical release in the U. S. and later shown in 33 countries and syndicated to 100 different television stations in America. I took this positive desire and put the traditional giveaway into a contemporary concept, a perpetual lifetime giveaway”.
Now I have my own vision, my new positive desire which started being formulated as I stood on the victory stand being praised, and understanding the praise. In understanding it, I realized this tremendous hurt from America not understanding me or Indian people.
Indian people are the only group in America with no political representation. We have quasi-sovereignty. We have no vote from our sovereignty land base. So we have quasi-apartheid in America. Because this isn’t being addressed, I will devote time and energy there. That’s my heartbeat now.
You can learn more about Father Don Doll’s work by going to his website: http://www.magisproductions.org
The deep descriptions in this autoethnographic work are an attempt to show the ways in which a sense of belonging is transmitted. Searching for my roots transformed the familial futures of all my relationships. New life trajectories were subsequently co-created.
“Autoethnography is a way of caring for the self. We often write to work something out for ourselves, and when we do, we must take into account how we care for ourselves, as well as how we experience tension and conflict with others.” The autoethnographic process has allowed me to work through my story, giving self-care to my becomingness.  Tony E. Adams, Stacy Linn Holman Jones, and Carolyn Ellis.
Autoethnography (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 62.
My greatest hope is that my story will enkindle the transformative energy that Saint Hildegard Von Bingen called « viriditas » in the lives of my readership. She understood viriditas as a life giving and greening force.
Following flow leads the pathfinder to places where life invites the pilgrim to plunge into a new landscape of meaning. When we accept the invitation to quest, new paradigms emerge from behind the trees. When I began searching for my birth parents, I took a great leap of faith.
Author of Homing In: A Story Mandala Connecting Adoption, Reunion and Belonging