Reading from his new book "The Lakota Way: Lessons for Living" Thursday night, Joseph Marshall III did not introduce his chapter on perseverance --Wowacintanka -- as a timely lesson in the aftermath of Sept. 11. He didn't have to.
The story tells of a hideous giant named Iya "with the strength of a thousand men, the blackest of hearts, and a bottomless hunger that drove him to terrible deeds." One stormy night on the prairie where Running Calf's people are camped, Iya appears and gorges himself on wives and daughters and sisters plucked from lodges, then disappears into the blackness.
The men pursue Iya, though the chase seems hopeless. "One of his strides was 20 of theirs." The men refuse to give up and finally use his weakness -- hunger -- to trap Iya and rescue their loved ones.
About 175 people sat in Glenn Auditorium on the Southeast campus Thursday night listening to Marshall read from "The Lakota Way." The book contains 12 stories, each illustrating a virtue such as love or patience.
Marshall is a Sicangu Sioux and former Marine officer who commanded a rifle platoon in Vietnam and co-founded a Native American college in Rosebud, S.D. These are stories his grandparents and their friends and relatives told as he was growing up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
Today the Wyoming writer ends a weeklong residency at the university in which he has spoken to various classes and has conducted readings both on and off the campus. This is his third visit to Southeast.
Man of two names
During a question-answer session after his reading, Marshall was both humorous and serious. He said he has two Indian names. One means "We Have Heard of His Courage," a name given to him and not earned, he insisted. He claimed to deserve his other Indian name: "One Who Has Ugly Brothers-in-law."
Marshall said Native people have reacted to Sept. 11 as all people whose lives are based on spirituality have.
"We rely on lessons our ancestors taught us in how to deal with difficult situations and difficult times," he said.
According to legend, the long ridge covered with cactus and grass that now juts above the flatlands in Tripp County, S.D., was formed by Iya's body.
"We know that ridge is his grave," Marshall writes. "But in our hearts we think of it more as something built by love, courage, and perseverance, and by giants."
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