The Lakota clown tradition sheds new light on sustainability

Allison Mueller

Audience members at the Lakota Clown tradition event were invited to look inward and reflect on their own potential as planetary healers to make the world a better place. Photo credit: Jesus Cazares

Samantha Beck/ Winonan

On Oct. 29, Winona State University hosted an hourlong program featuring the Lakota Heyoka Clown tradition, which challenged student’s expectations on sustainability.

The presentation showed students another culture’s perspectives on earth sustainability through the Lakota culture.

Guests were given a post-it note upon walking in and were asked to write one action they could commit to help the earth and promote sustainability.

Three dancers, dressed in black and white, began their performance, dancing around an earth globe in the center of the room.  They represented the Lakota Heyoka, or the clown or trickster. The Heyokas are meant to shed light on a particular subject with a new point of view. They meant to help the audience reflect on life’s contradictions and uncertainty.

Dancers, Annika Gunderson, Sydney Swanson and Jacque-Markevitch Paulsen seek to distract, amuse and enlighten the audience at the Lakota Clown Tradition event that took place on Thursday October, 29th at the Memorial 300 Dance Hall. Photo credit: Jesus Cazares

The three Heyoka portrayed obsessive greed as they danced around the room, causing the statue of earth to fall. James Reidy, sharer of Lakota Nation’s songs and quotes narrated the performance.

Reidy shared a Lakota story which described a battle within humans.

“Two wolves fight each other,” he said. “One wolf is connected to the earth and the other is disconnected, is full of hubris.  The wolf that wins is the one you feed.”

Reidy brought Lakota Spiritual Leader Black Elk’s message of healing human relationships with nature to light.

Sustainability advisor Tex Hawkins talked about Aldo Leopold’s similar message of restoring “land ethic.”

Winona State elementary education junior Kourtney Badger sat in on the performance.

Badger said, “It was interesting, especially the part about finding balance within yourself and with others. It was more visual and entertaining than a lecture about sustainability.”

After the performance, co-host Gretchen Cohenor asked the audience to stand up and place their blue or green post-it on the mirror that ran across the room.

Badger said she wrote, “Be more happy with people and life,” on her green post-it.

Corin Blazing, a junior movement science major said she wrote, “I will respect everything and everyone,” on her note and placed it on the mirror.

“I think respecting the earth will start the sustainability to become more popular,” Blazing said.

Other audience members said they vowed to drive less, educate others about earth sustainability, eat local and walk more to places instead of driving.

During the performance Reidy narrated the motions of the dancers.

“There is not just one path to a sustainable earth.  The answers are within us,” he said.

The performance stressed the importance of relationships and connections, between people, animals and the earth.

“Everything is related, and it is our responsibility,” he said.

The Lakota Heyoka Clown tradition and Aldo Leopold’s messages offered a different way to look at sustainability.