Loosing a Hair, Loosing a Culture Or, the Lakota Boy who Lost his Hair

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

29. May, 2017.

This is a true story about a young Oglala Lakota Native American boy I became acquainted with in a grill party on Memorial Day. I met the 12 year old boy by the pool in the back garden. His parents had no reason to celebrate this day, seeking a new economic life from the hardships at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. So he had spent the day with his best friend, swimming and playing like other kids do. He sat there by the pool when I came out, eating his hamburger in the company of grown ups and other kids his age. It came out in the conversation that he had recently cut his hair short, a hair that had once reached down his entire back. When asked why he had done so, he replied that he had been picked on many times because of his long hair. He also stated that he missed his long hair. He sat there with a mixture of sadness and pride in his beautiful face. I encouraged him to grow his hair again and he said he would. His story had effected the people around him who encouraged him on. In my case, his story affected me deeply.

For the Lakota people a long hair is a connection to their identity and culture. Loosing the hair is the same as loosing the connection to traditions and customs of their forebears. Growing it back however is a confirmation of an identity to a proud culture that vigorously resisted white encroachment but were defeated and locked up in arid lands, surrounded by hostile white neighbours till this day. With little hope of jobs for survival and ridiculed for their culture by the white society at large, they were oppressed and forcibly assimilated by all means. Their cultural distinctiveness was looked down upon because of it’s non-European origin. It was alien and therefore had to be eradicated.

Me, my wife and kids have been traveling the world for the past couple of months, living a life that is unusual. We had a dream and we had an opportunity. We took the chance and do not regret it. Although it costs a bunch of money, it has nevertheless been worth it. Of course we could have saved the money and lived a life of security in a box that we knew that gave us the comfort of habit. But that is not what we are. We all are unique individuals and should embrace it. I myself am a member of a religious decentralized association, Asatru, of like minded people who dignify mother earth and the old gods. I am proud of this association who was the first in the religion business in Iceland to embrace and invite homosexual people into their midst. The same invitation was extended to all those who feel different from the mainstream society. Asatru strongly condemned all bigotry in all it’s forms and refused all ties with foreign associations that were suspected of harbouring extreme and hateful views. It encourages tolerance in all manners and respect for all life.

That made me glad and proud. My personal distinctiveness is also a cultural one. Like that young Lakota boy missing his long hair and vowing to grow it back, we both longed for a continued connection to a cultural distinctiveness in our own way. Being unique is good. Whether it is cultural, personal, sexual orientation, living an unusual life or just by having different views of the world, it makes life good and colourful. Colourful life is a happy life in my humble eyes. It makes the world richer and more tolerant of different world views. Let’s dream and hope that the young Lakota boy finds his hair again. Prejudice is rooted in fear of the other. It manifests itself in picking on others, those who live a life different from the mainstream society. Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s live long and prosper. All of us and in our own way.