Krista Tippett meets Ernie LaPointe, Sitting Bull's great-grandson(photo: Nancy Rosenbaum)

Last week, I traveled with Krista, Trent, and Mitch for a production trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. We’ve been planning a program about the spiritual legacy of Sitting Bull for years. Finally the pieces of this production puzzle have started to come together.

After landing in Rapid City, we drove through the snowy Black Hills until we arrived at the cozy home of Sitting Bull’s great-grandson, Ernie LaPointe. As we prepared for this trip, several people (including Ernie’s wife Sonja) advised us to bring him a gift of tobacco. Some of you responded to an earlier blog post, including David Born who once served as chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.

He suggested where to buy the traditional pipe tobacco, or kinnikinnick, and recommended that we wrap it in a red (a sacred color for the Lakota) cotton cloth. What mattered most, he advised, is that Krista should present the tobacco with humbleness, humility, and respect. Here are some notes from our conversation:

“You can let him know that you understand it’s traditional when seeking the advice/wisdom of an elder to present a gift. You want to acknowledge that the information he’ll be sharing is important and sacred and you want to honor that. You can acknowledge your own ignorance about his customs and let him know that you’re not trying to be Native, stereotype Natives, or romanticize them. The gift of the tobacco is a way of both making a request and expressing appreciation — not just of Ernie but of the Lakota nation. What matters most is that the tobacco is given with “a good heart.”

A quiet hush descended over Ernie’s living room when Krista formally presented a pouch of tobacco wrapped in red cloth. She spoke quietly and with grace. As I reflect back on this moment, it seems like this singular exchange set the tone for the two-hour interview that unfolded between them — one of respect and intimacy.

Share Your Reflection



It is a good thing to honor the elders and the wisdom traditions for which they speak. I look forward to hearing the dialog that results from this meeting. The Lakota (& Nakota, & Dakota) tribes( and other Grandfathers from other tribes) have wisdom that that we need.

Great photo and excellent write-up Nancy Rosenbaum; you folks do your work quite well.

I am really looking forward to hearing it. Thanks for posting the picture and the description.

Peter Carey+

If only leaders of countries would be able to accomplish this.... if only

I'm eager to listen and possibly view the interview. I understood the way the gift was explained and it resonates especially because of the pathological attachment we, in our society, are developing with regard to fame and celebrityhood. Ultimately, what we are becoming committed to is Self. Self in a way that eats at us and self destructs. Our sense of relating, our spirituality and our goodness gets warped into a consuming entity that is totally foreign to Nature. This insatiable urge to gossip and exposure limits our Evolution, our Growth... Learning from humble and nature loving people perhaps will awaken some of us from this lethargy of consumption.

Before I became a nurse, I was a Birth Sister (what our hospital calls our doulas) and did prenatal and postpartum home visits. My parents are Hungarian immigrants, and because I speak Spanish fluently I was primarily working with Central American families. I had to learn how to accept gifts across cultures. My culture said "I am here to help you or give you a chance to rest." The mothers would be only a few days postpartum, and they would prepare sometimes elaborate meals for me to thank me for helping them. It was a delicate dance - the new mothers were sometimes very tired, but I needed to say, in a way they could understand, "You're welcome. No, you don't owe me anything" before they could here me say, "And what can I do for you today?" I'm a vegetarian, by the way (not for religious reasons), but I rapidly realized that the "hospitality exception" was really important for the families in this case. So I would eat a small meal, thank the mother, and then we could sit down to work together. (By the way, Salvadoran pupusas are delicious!)

I am interested in the Reimaging of sitting Bull. Years ago I read an article about the yearly trip to Wounded Knee. I had a tshirt with Sitting Bull on it, and was motivated to do a picture of Sitting Bull with Ron His Horse. I used as special frame my daughter let me pick for mothers day, made of reclaimed cactus. I visited out west for the only time in 01, grand canyon, usual stuff, I've reimaged Sitting Bull myself to some degree, and use every opportunity to tell the truth of those times.

Being Native and Old Norse decent I am very weary of the kristons and their interest in our way of life. The outcome has never been good. I carry my ancestors in my heart everyday and speak to the west to them.

I am looking forward to hearing the interview... so much wisdom to be learned.

It's a reminder of the importance of faith that wisdom does prevail.

You can learn so much as i did in a short amount of time.Thank you for this broad cast story.