Storyteller shares Lakota culture

SYCAMORE – Aho.

According to Jon Jordan, that is a popular Lakota Sioux expression meaning “it is so.” It’s also a way of signifying that a Lakota story, which are often quite long, is finished.

Jordan shared a number of stories from his Lakota ancestors in a program at the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore on Thursday, Oct. 18. The program was part of the DeKalb Public Library’s month-long Big Read Program.

“Stories are echoes from the past,” library community relations manager Edith Craig said in a news release.

Jordan founded Spirit of the Eagle Presentations 15 years ago to share the history and culture of Native American plains people.

“We didn’t have a written language,” said Jordan.

“Our stories were spoken. They explain why things are the way they are. The stories were meant to entertain, but also to teach.”

After graduating from Western Illinois University, Jordan became a teacher, but quit after a couple of years.

“I loved teaching, but it wasn’t what I wanted to teach,” he said. “I wanted to teach about my tradition.”

Now a substitute  teacher in the Plainfield School District, the Joliet man is primarily a professional storyteller, visiting schools, libraries and other groups throughout the Midwest, telling stories and using artifacts to show how the Lakota people lived on the Great Plains.

Among the stories he told last week were tales of how a young boy’s faith was rewarded with the horse, which made tracking buffalo easier; how the Butterfly Chief defeated the North Wind to create the changing of the leaves every fall; and why wolves howl at the stars – mainly in revenge for one star carrying a love-sick wolf into the heavens and then letting him fall to earth.

Mainly, he spoke about the buffalo and its importance to the Lakota.

After explaining how the Lakota often tricked the buffalo, which didn’t have great eyesight, Jordan said the Lakota used virtually every part of the animal. Besides food, clothing and shelter, there were a number of other uses for its body parts. The tail, for instance, could be hung in a tepee for decoration or to determine which direction the wind was blowing. Depending on their size, bones could be used for brushes, beads and even toys for children. The horns could be used for drinking cups or boiled down and twisted into spoons.

“It showed respect (to  the buffalo), using every part of it,” Jordan said. “They gave us everything. We felt if we didn’t appreciate it, the buffalo would disappear and we would cease to exist.”

Jordan noted that the Lakota didn’t think of themselves as better than any of the animals they hunted.

“We called them the Buffalo Nation, or the Wolf Nation,” he said.