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Dr. Longie

Dakota Values (and Leadership)

Dr. Erich Longie, President

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.

Most individuals who are familiar with Native Americans know it is difficult to talk about Native American Leadership traits and contribute those traits exclusively to one tribe.  In addition, Native Leadership traits cannot be separated from the culture; they go hand-in-hand. While American society measures success by the material accrued over their life time with emphasis placed on individual competition, Dakota values are distinctly different. But, before I go into an in-depth discussion of the Dakotas values I will touch briefly on the history of the Dakota.

The Dakota were a woodland people who lived in Minnesota who thrived on hunting, fishing and subsistence farming. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Anishinaabe/Chippewa with rifles supplied by the French and English pushed the Dakota further into Minnesota and west and southward.  This land became to be known as “Dakota Territory" encompassing most of North and South Dakota. The Dakota were eventually forced onto reservations becoming dependent upon annual federal payments guaranteed by treaty.

As with most tribes, the customs and values were passed from the older generation to the younger generation.  At meetings, in the home, or one at tribal gathering one would often hear the elders exhorting the young to do the right things, which means that one should respect the rights of others, and not arouse antagonism, live quietly, observe the sacrifices required to maintain good relations with the sources of one's powers, and be modest, even-tempered, and guard against undue pride.

Seven Traditional Dakota Values

According to Dakota elders there are seven values that the Dakota people follow:

1.         Waohoda – Respect: Central to the Dakota value system is respect - respect for the sacred Takuwakan (the Creator) and respect for all his Creation; respect for Mother Earth (Ina Maka), who provides everything that we need to survive; and respect for the families, elders and community.

One custom of showing respect is to address each other using kinship terms; i.e. aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother, and cousin. Dakotas believe if a person respects the Creator, Mother Earth, the elders, family and community, then the other values and their associated behaviors will follow.

In many modern American institutions, some people are 'important' and treated with respect and others, for example, older women with low incomes, are disregarded as unimportant and their opinions ignored. Anyone hoping to be a leader in Dakota society will accord genuine respect to elders and to the community. The person who does not show respect will have great difficulty getting anyone to follow his or her policies, regardless of how much experience, education or other credentials that person may bring to the position.

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