Tiyospaye—Celebrating Native Fathers

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 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

Boyd Gorneau, tribal chairman of the Kul Wicasa Oyate [Lower Brule Sioux Tribe], speaks about the importance of fatherhood and being a Native American father: 
"I'd say being a Native father is special in the way you instill your heritage and history, but when it comes down to it—of all the titles a person may have nothing, [none] mean more to me than being called 'Dad.' With that title [Dad] there is a lot of responsibility. One is to be a positive role model because children learn more by observation; [this includes] being a good provider and protector."
Boyd continues, "Watching your children grow is such an honor, and I've been so blessed having a son who is a Marine, a son who is a senior in college, and a daughter who is a program director [for the LBST]. I am very proud and look forward to seeing my grandchildren grow up as well." 

These words hold true for fathers of all walks of life. Lyle Miller, artist and educator of the Ihanktonwan Oyate [Yankton Sioux Tribe], shares his perspective on fatherhood and the importance of love. 

103982161_316185002718452_5787309763554622820_n"I think it [the best aspect of fatherhood] is a great deal about the human bond and the spiritual bond that helps the father/child relationship to grow to new heights everyday. There is also the fact that the father is looked to as the provider and the protector....which is secondary only to a Mother’s love. This all strengthens and nourishes the strength of family."
"I was very young when my mother and father divorced," Lyle admits. "It was the very first real wound to the heart that I had suffered. The pain of not having a father around when I was young really weighed heavy on my day to day thinking and my own psychological development. I came to the conclusion that if I was ever blessed with a child...I would never subject them to the pain of life without a father. I still believe this truth today. I love my children and still stand by them, no matter what we go through in this life. It is a commitment to love."
Lyle painted this—Honor the Old Ones— Remember the wisdom of our elders: fathers, uncles, grandfathers. They are keepers of all that is sacred. 

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."

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Topics: Cultural Awareness and Revitalization