# 7 What’s in a Name?

“Where is he?”

The smell of morning coffee answers me as I crawl out of bed. Wanbdi sits in his favorite chair reading his newspaper as usual, a large cup beside him.

“Good morning. It looks like you’ve been up for a while.” I say. “Why so early?”

“Good morning Masoni.”  He answers all smiles.“Come sit with me. I have something to tell you.”

“I snuck out of bed, didn’t I? You didn’t even know.” He teases proudly. “The Spirits woke me up at 4:30 this morning.  Once I was awake, I really wanted some coffee so I got up.”

His answer is all too familiar.

“What did the Spirits say?” I ask as I lean in closer to hear.

“A name came. Canska Duta Hoksida – Red Hawk Boy.”

“Oh how nice. Who is it for?” I ask him.

Shaking his head he turns back to his paper. “I don’t know yet. I’ll have to wait and see.”

Soon bacon sizzles in the pan. I rotate each piece in turn.

“Turn your phone on.” I shout from the kitchen. “Someone is going to call you.”

Carefully I sit plates of food down on the table – well done bacon, fried eggs over easy, hash browns and toast.  The phone rings loudly beside us, Wanbdi looks up and smiles.

“You always know, don’t you Masoni?”

On the other end is someone with a new baby boy asking for a name.

Receiving a name in such a sacred manner is a great gift. I know because this is how my name came all those years ago.

I remember my heart was heavy that day and I couldn’t stop crying. Ralph had taken his own life the day before and I was distraught. Inside the darkness of the Inipi lodge I cried.

“Creator, give me strength. Help me to understand.”

Afterwards I sat on a tree stump, my skin red and steaming. I felt tired, dead tired. White Buffalo Winged Women, the ceremonial leader, came to sit beside me.

“The Spirits have brought a name for you even though you have not asked.” She said. “They say it will help you in the days ahead. Your name is Pahan Pte San Win – Grey Swan Buffalo Woman.”


At first I thought she must be mistaken. Surely this was not my name. Me, a swan? It was such a beautiful and powerful name. Could this really be me? Yet over time, once I learned more about myself, I understood what this name meant and why they gave it to me. Eventually I realized that it fit me just right.

Wanbdi received his name in a sacred way at the perfect time for him.

He was back in Sioux Valley after six months of training in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Thirty days of leave counted down while Wanbdi made the best of his time visiting family and friends. Soon he would be heading to Germany as a peace keeper. Once he left he didn’t know how long it would be until he set foot in his community again.

The sunshine warmed his back as he stood to watch dancers and listen to his favorite singers. For the moment he was quiet inside, even happy. He observed the activities with new eyes as if he could burn these memories into his mind to pull out later when he was homesick and far away.

A gentle touch to his arm brought him back from his thoughts. Ina, his mother, stood beside him smiling. He looked down at that tiny woman who had given him so much love all his life and his heart soared.

“Before you leave I want you to have a man name.” she said.

Behind her Leo Menard, an old timer from South Dakota, sat on the grass with Wanbdi’s father. Ina motioned for Wanbdi to follow her and he obeyed. Once they joined the men on the grass, Leo took out his pipe and made some prayers.

When he finished he turned to Wanbdi and said, “Your name is Wanbdi Wakita, Looking Eagle. The reason the Spirits have brought you this name is that you will look around and make sure everything is okay with the people. If it isn’t, you will go and help them.”

Wanbdi thought to himself, “How am I supposed to do that? I don’t even know anything.”

Later, at the pow wow, he stood at the edge of the dance arena with a parent on each side, waiting. When the singers hit the drum and began an honor song the crowd stood up. Wanbdi looked over at his mother, who smiled and nodded her head, encouraging him to take that first step and begin the dance.

Yet, before he could begin, the on-lookers left their spots and walked across the dance arena towards him. One by one, they shook his hand and wished him well. It went on for a long time. When the people stopped coming, he began to dance.

The singers sang, “Wanbdi Wakita, energize yourself. The slow ones are depending on you.”

Wanbdi looked back and saw a long line of people dancing behind him.

“Look at how many people are supporting me?” he thought to himself. “I didn’t know. “

As he danced his mind drifted back to all those times he had been angry, the events where he had hurt people in the community.

In this perfect moment when honor shone on him so brightly, he felt unworthy.

Join us next week for Blog post #8 In the Army Now