Manataka American Indian Council


Proudly Presents






An Interview with

Lakota Medicine Man

Pete V. Catches




Sacred Fireplace - The Life and Teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man By
Pete S. Catches Sr. (Petaga Yuha Mani) and his son, Peter V Catches (Zintkala Oyate)



JL In the introduction of your fathers book, The Sacred Fireplace; you mention "this in-between world of worlds", this tangible reality of our known life's and the limits of our comprehension. Were you referring to reincarnation, of past and future existence, or some other realities? 

Zintkala Oyate: We are beyond this material world that we live in. Within our heart is a place where we can go beyond in the truth of our spirit.  This is the world I'm talking about.

JL: What did you mean about people who do not understand the Red Road of Life, because they crave intellectual knowledge?

Zintkala Oyate: The symbolism of the sacred tree, the tree of life, on there is a whirlwind of the blood that flows thru you from the beginning of time. And it's essence is the red road.

JL: How important is generosity in terms of ones physical and spiritual well-being?

Zintkala Oyate:  Generosity is a stepping stone to the spirituality which we must eventually attain.

JL: In Sacred Fireplace, your father also talks about how the world for your people has changed; like the sense of value, honesty and truthfulness and how much of your ways have been lost. What do you believe are some of the reasons behind the change and loss and do you see signs of improvement?

Zintkala Oyate: This Act in 1889 outlawed everything that was Lakota. Although it had to go underground during all those years, the essence of Lakota has remained and it is getting stronger year by year.

JL: Do you also believe, like your father, that religion of whatever denomination was used by the government and churches to divide the Lakota people?  If this is still the case, what is the solution to this problem?

Zintkala Oyate:  In that particular area in time, it had to be that way. We saw that in our prophesy that this was coming. That's why we had that sacred rite, throwing of the sacred ball. And the change is in your spirit is how we want to be in the presence of the Great Mystery and that is imminent in all of us.

JL. Do you think it is impossible for the Lakota to live a traditional life, when they have to wear white men's clothes, eat white men's food and speak their language and live by their rules?

Zintkala Oyate:  Transition is a way of life. Being Lakota is always being Lakota. Those are material aspects that you speak of. Because we know of and love the Great Mystery being that we are the people of peace nothing can ever change that.

JL: Does Wakan Tanka and the Lakota spirits recognize and understand English or other languages, or are they limited and only recognize and understand Lakota?  In other words, if you pray to them in English, or Spanish for example, would it be a waste of time and energy?

intkala Oyate:  All cultures from the beginning have a way to pray to the Great Mystery. The Great Mystery gave each culture a way to commune that love the Great Mystery has given that culture. The power that culture holds is how ones spirit approaches the Great Mystery. Being Lakota as I am, I can only recognize it in that way.

JL:  What would you say is Hollywood's biggest misconception of a medicine man and what is the difference between a medicine man and a witch doctor?

Zintkala Oyate:  That is a world that I don't belong in. If someone wishes to know this way, they will find it in their spiritual heart to find the real thing.

Why doesn't a medicine man fight, raise his voice in anger, or own a rifle?

Zintkala Oyate: That is an untruth.

JL:  You said earlier in the interview that anyone can go on a pipe quest. Does that mean anyone can also carry a pipe? Or do you have to be a certain kind of person to be able to do this?

Zintkala Oyate: That is very personal and it belongs to that individual.

JL: When your father said  - what you put out is what you get in return - was he talking about cause and effect, reap what you sow, karma etc.?

Zintkala Oyate:  Apparently that is the case.

How important is faith for someone who asks for a healing and is it possible to be healed without faith?

Zintkala Oyate:  For instance, my grandfather loved me so much that he would give his whole world away, as a child I laid there dying. Does a child have faith? That love of the grandfather will heal you.

JL: What about blood quantum; do you think a full blood is superior or as equal in Wakan Tanka's eyes as, say a mixed blood?

Zintkala Oyate:
There is no such thing as blood quantum. What you believe is what you are.

JL:  How should a Lakota pray?

Zintkala Oyate: As anyone prays.

  Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota
JL:  Does the great spirit only dwell in sacred places like the Black Hills and why are the Black Hills sacred?

 Zintkala Oyate:
This whole world is the Mother of every sentient being and the Black Hills are sacred if you wish it so.

Lakota means peace. Have your people mostly always been a peaceful people?

:Zintkala Oyate:

JL:  Is it possible for the great spirit to dwell inside someone who is conceited, quarrelsome, angry, deceitful, unkind; or is that an indication of some other kind of spirit etc.?

Zintkala Oyate:
 There are levels and categories. That individual will have to go to a spiritual place to find that.
JL: Is it ok for the white person to participate in the Sundance?

Zintkala Oyate:  It depends on circumstances.

What are your thoughts on people that eat and drink during the Sundance?

Zintkala Oyate:  Not very good.

JL:  What is a real Sundance as opposed to a fake one?

Zintkala Oyate:  I wouldn't know. I haven't gone to other people's Sundance's.

JL: How important is the leader of the Sundance and why should there be a leader to begin with?

Zintkala Oyate: Would you ask Jesus that question? Or Muhammad that questions? Or the President of the United States that question?

JL: No I would not, but I would ask them this; does a Shepard follow his sheep? In other words - who is this leader for?  For people who can see, or for people that cant see?

Zintkala Oyate: For both, for people that see to become emissaries for those that can't see.

JL:  Do you believe in reincarnation and what is the 7th Generation that Crazy Horse spoke of?

Zintkala Oyate:  If you will go to my web site and get the Seven Sacred Rites from the Spotted Eagle Way you will find that answer.

JL:. How important is the buffalo to your people today?  Does it still hold the same significance as in the past?

Zintkala Oyate:  Very much so.

JL: Is it true that the Lakota language doesn't have curse words and why can't a medicine man curse, or be critical of others?

Zintkala Oyate:  To go into that endeavor pollutes the essence of the spirit.

JL: How does one cleanse a polluted spirit?

Zintkala Oyate:
  By the first sacred rite of the Inipi; the purification rite.

JL: Is it ok to buy a pipe?

Zintkala Oyate:

JL:  What is your interpretation of a fake medicine man?

Zintkala Oyate:  Let me say it this way. A medicine man has his own songs, he speaks his cultures' language.

JL: What does a medicine bundle usually consist of?

Zintkala Oyate:
The reality of one's people.

Where do you get your eagle feathers from?

Zintkala Oyate:  They will come to you.

JL: Is Good Lance the medicine man that could bring the eagles round and have you ever done that or split the clouds etc.?

Zintkala Oyate: That question is for others to answer who have seen my work.

JL: What is agito?

Zintkala Oyate:  Enlightenment.

JL: How would one attain this agito and if one did, would they speak of it?

Zintkala Oyate: You can be a doctorate in literature or any of the other areas of the profession and still not have agito. That agito comes with the wisdom of self. And no university can teach that. Some person may be living in poverty all of his life and may not speak in the English language or any language and yet through the experiential teachings of nature they have agito. No, they can't teach it.

JL: So, if agito cannot be taught, can someone point to the path or a direction to find this wisdom of self?

Zintkala Oyate: If someone is a true seeker, they will find it. 

JL: How important is food as medicine?

Zintkala Oyate:  John, you wouldn't even last one day without going to McDonalds.

JL: (Laughs) What does le yatkan yo a nicisni ktalo mean and how is this applied?

Zintkala Oyate: 'Drink this and you will get well.' It is the thought behind it, the resurrection from someone's illness.

JL: Do you think the throwing of the sacred ball ceremony will be used in the near future?

Zintkala Oyate: Personally yes I do.

JL: Is the Lakota society still matriarchal?

Zintkala Oyate:  In some cases.

JL: Do you think alcohol is the greatest evil of this time, or is it the love of money?

Zintkala Oyate:  In the greater society money is true. In our life here, on this reservation, alcohol is.

JL: Did your people ever have syphilis or any of the sexually transmitted diseases before the arrival of European colonialism,and can these diseases be cured with traditional medicine?

Zintkala Oyate:  To your first question no. To your second question yes.

JL: Can you please tell me about oceti wakan?

Zintkala Oyate: Visit our web site and I hope it will tell you all about Oceti Wakan.

It is

I remain in Wakan Tanka, Zintkala Oyate