A community is only as strong as its mothers and fathers.
The heritage of Native Americans is rich in community and family bonds. In the Lakota culture, the word tiyospaye encompasses the conviction that family is not only made up of immediate blood relatives, but also extends to all those within their tribal clan. The abundance of family is the measure of your wealth and creates the very foundation of one's life.
This weekend, we're sharing some thoughts about Native men who are strong fathers and father figures for their communities and for the world.
Understanding the Native American Sense of Family
Different cultures develop different conceptions of what it means to live in a family and in relationship with each other. Every culture understands and highlights the importance of fathers, mothers, and healthy families, but Native American culture is uniquely relational. For Native Americans, family and tribal relationships are sacred and interdependent. The pain or joy of your family is your pain or joy
In Lakota culture, tiyospaye embraces the beauty of living in harmony, taking care of one another, and trusting each other. Your tiyospaye will support you throughout life’s journeys, whether the road is rocky or the path smooth. For the Lakota, you are not only a member of the family through birth, marriage, or adoption, but also your family extends far beyond to include the whole Lakota nation. Throughout history and into the present day, the Lakota welcome and support each other, wherever they find each other, as if they were in their own immediate family.
This Father's Day, we celebrate the Native fathers and father figures who are supporting, raising, and loving the next generation of young Natives, showing them what it means to live with honor and strength.
The Role of a Father
Kyal Middletent, a member of the Native Hope team and a proud father, shares his thoughts about the responsibility of fatherhood:
"I knew when I became a father I could do it my way, instill values and share knowledge that I learned too late. From having a hard childhood and experiencing many difficult times, I always told myself, ‘When I become a father, I’m going to do it the best I know how, and my kids will never experience the feelings I’ve had to.’ My kids are my Cante [heart]!”
A father has many roles in a child’s life. Everyone has their own way to be a father, everyone also has their own way of understanding the meaning of father. To me, being a father is the highest honor we can have as men. As a Lakota/Dakota father, I not only am a father to my own children, I have a responsibility to serve as a role model to other young people in my community. My most important duty is to lead by example.
It’s the smallest things that make the biggest impact on our children, and as a Lakota Father I challenge other men to stand up and be fathers. Just tell your children that you love them, let them know you got them, and I can promise you the cycle will change.
Taking on an active parenting role as a father means being willing to take the time to express love to your children. Being able to stand up and say, “As a father, I will make it my mission to set an example and be the type of father my children deserve. I will give them the best of myself and show that my love for them is unconditional and without limits.” Fathers, I only ask that you do not overlook or sneer at expressions of love.
For it is these small expressions that make all the difference in the lives of your children and of yourselves."
Let's Show Our Gratitude to All Fathers
This weekend, let's celebrate and honor the memory of men who have been good fathers and father figures in our life.
Here at Native Hope, we are grateful for tiyospaye, for fathers, and for our whole community of friends. Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ el lechangleska wichoni–"We are all related in this circle of life."