Lakota Body Care

December 2021

The shimmering midday sun hangs high over a Colorado forest. A cool wind sweeps off the Rockies and rustles the golden leaves, signaling the coming winter. I raise my camera to my face, and as I peer through the lens I see a picture perfect moment. My friend, an admirable Lakota warrior, traditional dancer and devoted father, Nick Ohitika Naijin, fixes the hair braid of his daughter, Haleakalā, and they both share a loving smile.

With all the much death, suffering, and misunderstandings that have been forced upon Native Americans over the last 500 years, you can't help but admire the perseverance that has been carried through their cultures to preserve moments like these. To have a Native man teaching his daughter everything he knows and to guiding her through life is a sacred gift that needs to be protected. 

Soon after taking the photo of Nick and Haleakalā, I asked him what he thought was the most important element of his culture to pass to down his daughter. He paused for small second, and in sincerity, said: "It's not just passing down my culture, but because she's a woman, I want her to feel empowered. That you don't need someone to tell you what to do all the time. You as a little Native American indigenous woman, I'm always here to help you and guide you as a father, but you can do whatever you want."

Those beautiful words say everything about their relationship, and it also stands as a mission statement for an endeavor they both took on together earlier this year. It was just back in June 2021, during the reign of homeschooling and COVID, that Haleakalā asked her dad if she could take gymnastics classes. Nick and his wife, Akalei, looked into the opportunity but quickly found out it was very expensive. 

Haleakalā, already wise well beyond her 9 years, didn't take offense when her parents said they couldn't afford it, and instead of giving up offered one more idea. She wanted to make candles, and she wanted to do it together as a family.