Arthur, Ontario, Canada
May 22
I'm an old, short, fat, unsightly, grouchy, reformed troll with a bad attitude and a cricket bat. ---------------------------------------------------- I need to state clearly that English is not my first language. There are upwards of 600,000 words in the English language. In my native language there are a mere 11,000 and most of those are entire concepts (kind of like the theory of relativity) rather than words which translate individually. ----------------------------------------------------- Free advice: Don't.

MrsRaptor's Links
JANUARY 21, 2010 9:28PM

"Wasicun" as a descriptive and an expletive...

Rate: 7 Flag

Wasicun is a term that I use fairly frequently.  I had it pointed out to me today that people don't know why I use the term in question.  I will explain why I use it after I explain what the word in question, and its close relative "Wasichu" mean.  

Wasicun is a Lakota word that loosely translates to "white people". It is typically used as a descriptive for people with pale skin who are of European ancestry.  It can also be used to describe people, regardless of color, who are espousing ideas which *originate* in white culture.   

Wasicun is also used as a curse.   When used as a curse it indicates something which is detrimental, regardless of the person espousing the idea in question. 

Wasichu is a Lakota word meaning "White Chief" and is typically used when referring to politicians, regardless of the color of their skin.

The word "ska"  also means white but is used as a descriptor for animals, rocks, etc...   "Hanyewi" *also* loosely means "white" but it also can mean "moon" and "spirit" so it is typically not used to indicate the color.  

(As an aside...  the word "sapa" means black.   The word "Paha" means "sacred mountains"  so when I refer to the "Paha Sapa" what I am saying is "Sacred Black Mountains"... which most people refer to as "the Black Hills".  )

Because there are two meanings for the word Wasicun when I use it as an expletive, I specify that I am using it as an expletive. 

Now that we have the language lesson under control... 

One of the most racist and ignorant things that can be said to someone who is Lakota is "Sioux".   "Sioux" is a French rendering of the Ojibwa word for "treacherous snakes."   "Indians" is the mistaken identity Christopher Columbus gave us when he journeyed to America in 1492 and believed that he had "found" India.  I am not an "Indian", I am not a "Sioux".   I am Lakota.   "Lakota" means "Alliance of friends." 

There is a 517 year history that tells me that the likelihood that something which originates with the majority of America is going to be harmful is extremely high.    There are very few non-indigenous Americans that I trust as far as I can throw them.    My lack of trust is not based on any type of racism but rather on the history involved.  

I trust neither Wasicun nor Wasichu.  History tells me that the only outcome possible if I trust is death. 

99% of the time I use the term Wasicun to remind myself that it is not beneficial to trust the "average American".   The other 1% of the time I specify that I am using it as a curse/expletive.  What I have never explained is that *for me* using it as an expletive is worse than calling a woman a "c*nt" or calling someone a "mother f*cker".  

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My horizons expand each time I read your posts. Very interesting and informative piece.
Given history, who could blame you.
Donna... One of those things that is very important to me is dispelling the ingrained idea that Indigenous Americans are (a) lazy, (b) stupid, (c) drunk, (d) filthy and (e) worthless.

Many are helpless to change their circumstances and hopeless that their circumstances will ever change... but none that I have ever known qualify as lazy, stupid, drunk, filthy or worthless.

One of the biggest ironies with regards to the perception that Indigenous Americans are drunks is that until the arrival of Europeans alcohol wasn't part of our culture at all. Oh Pemican (which is actually pretty good stuff if properly made) occasionally fermented if it got wet or if the berries in it weren't properly dried... but as a drink it simply wasn't around.
Owl... all manner of people not only "can" but do. Normally, they are people who only know "history" through John Wayne movies.
I love your language. Thanks for sharing these words -- would it be Wasicun of me to borrow "Wasichu" next time I'm talking about the US Government?

I wish I could hear you pronounce them.
you're not alone in your thought about the generality but suitibility of the use of the word.

it does sort of sound like washington.

Skeletn... I don't have a problem with it. I typically refer to the US Government as "Wasichu" or "Wasicun".

Spelling the words properly requires about 15 more letters than a US keyboard has...English only has 26 letters... Lakota has 42. On the other hand pronouncing them is interesting.

Wasicun: Wa (like the wa in "water") si (like "sea") cun (this one is tricky because the c is pronounced like a K and the ending un is pronounced as "nj" like "Orange")

Wasichu: Was (like the was in "wash") i (like "it") chu (like "choo")

Paha: Like "papa" only with a soft h instead of a p

Sapa: Sa (sahh) pa (like "pa" in English)

Hanyewi: Han (like "han solo") yewi (like a small child who can' t pronounce the letter L would say "Ellie"...the y is very soft) Because this is part of my name many people call me "Ely" due to the fact that it is difficult for most children learning to speak to say more than the last syllable.
Columbus was a stone-cold fuck nut; he was a slave trader. Even worse, when he died he did not know where he was.

Very informative post, MrsRaptor.
chaz... Oddly enough neither the word Wasicun nor Wasichu *existed* in the Lakota language before about 1790. They were *created* specifically to refer to the people in question.
Thoth... Thanks... You are correct about Columbus. I have long found celebrating Columbus Day to be more than a little amusing.

I must admit that I never thought that I would be giving Lakota Language lessons on OS.
I wish I could hear this, too, instead of only being able to read it.
My wife tells me the Lakota people she knew in Nebraska preferred to be called Indians - at least when not called Lakota. They preferred "Indian" to "native American," she says.
Sophie... One of these days I will figure out how to put my voice saying some of the words online.

Clark.. It varies amongst various groups within the tribes. *I* will likely take your head off for calling me a "Sioux"... I also prefer "Indigenous American" or "Lakota" to "Indian" but the preference isn't universal.