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The Lincoln Journal Star


Cal Thunder Hawk


A 'brutiful' melding of cultures: Lakota and Klingon

Community Columnist

Saturday June 26, 1999


"May you have a brutiful day!" is a greeting that is a synthesis of terms inspired by Klingon and Lakhota cultures.

My brutiful wife, Gina, an Assiniboine-Cree Metis who grew up in New York city, was the original Star Trek trekkie in the Thunder Hawk household. When she first arrived on the Rosebud Sioux Indian reservation from Brooklyn, NY, -- via Oklahoma -- I was impressed with her trekkie expertise. But survival on the rez determined one’s priorities and Star Trek had to be shuffled way down on our list. Star Trek was not available on the local cable service then anyway, so she used to suggest that it would be worthwhile to watch old Star Trek television and movie reruns whenever we had to go off of the reservation to take care of business because, as she observed, some of the customs of my Lakhota tribe were much like some of those in the Klingon culture. However, it wasn’t until after we had moved here to Lincoln, NE, that we finally had regular access to cable television. I watched old Star Trek reruns to see if her perceptions of the Lakhota as being somehow related to Klingon were true.

In order to understand the relationship between Klingon and Lakhota culture, it is helpful to think of war and love. War is organized around a specific purpose and males usually carry it out -- although Klingon females engage in it, too. Because love is a goal that can only be achieved through triumph in war, the role of the warrior is a powerful one in both cultures. The warrior thrives on hardship and deprivation. The occasion of personal suffering is a blessing because the endurance it requires is a virtue. The best of all possible lives is the one that is unbearable. Life is worth living only if it is intolerable and beauty is worthwhile only if it is terrifying.

There are also similarities in the rituals associated with love, too. In the movie “Star Trek: Generations” the evil Dr. Tolian Soran was beamed aboard a Klingon bird of prey spaceship where he confronted the two nefarious Klingon divas – Lursa and B’Etor – the Duras sisters. They were co-conspirators in his scheme to hold a planet hostage. Soran immediately slapped one of them – Lursa – and as she dabbed blood from her lips she defiantly sneered to Soran, “I hope for your sake that you were initiating a Klingon mating ritual.

Traditional Lakhota romance was a highly ritualized and mutually antagonistic battle of wills between a courting couple. While it lacked the Klingon element of physical assault to initiate the process, the Lakhota female nevertheless relied on psychological intimidation to achieve her goals. Because Lakhota customs were rigidly structured, public displays of affection between sweethearts was prohibited but romance was expected to be discreetly conducted in the open. It was a ghastly public spectacle for a warrior. Lakhota warriors became rivals who constantly competed in highly stylized rituals with each other over a treacherous terrain of psychological war: a warrior either won or lost a girl’s affection, and there was no acceptable synthesis of these two possible outcomes. The issue – control – was clearly out of a warrior’s hands and the females knew this. Nevertheless, the powerful romantic passions of Lakhota warriors appeared to flourish, apparently inspired by the perpetual state of war produced by the extremes of this situation.

But nothing clearly illustrates the symbolic relationship that exists between the two cultures than the symbol of my tribal band – known as the “Rosebud Sioux.” It is a tiny prairie flower that can survive the extremes of scathing summers and freezing winters on the plains and it not only tenaciously clings onto life in those most desolate areas but it actually thrives and flourishes under those hostile conditions. It is a little rose endowed with a delicate aroma and a deceptive beauty that will wound you if you dare to touch it. Pure Klingon, if you ask me.

However, I was still unconvinced about the Klingon-Lakhota connection until I heard Klingon Chancellor Gorkon recite Shakespear in the Klingon tongue in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It was stunning. Gorkon’s Klingon sounded like my beautiful Lakhota language. Gorkon could’ve been Wind In His Hair – from the movie “Dances With Wolves” – quoting the Bard in Lakhota. Lakhota and Klingon not only sound alike but they share some similar syntactical structures. One of the major differences isn’t linguistic at all but lies in the fact that one can find more Klingon language resources on the internet than Lakhota.

After we had been online for a while, I used to chat with other Native Americans at an Internet site and I explored the parallels between the females of the Klingon and Native American culture. One day, during a chat, I observed that Klingon women were brutal and Native American women are beautiful but I concluded that Lakhota women, in particular, are a synthesis of the two adjectives. Thus, Lakota women are Klingonesque in a way that could only be described as brutiful (a fusion of the term "brutally beautiful"). Indeed, Lakhota men on the internet -- safely out of the earshot of their women -- described them as brutiful babes.

Whether creatively projected into futuristic deep space or analyzed here on Earth as ancient customs, diverse cultural traditions have more in common when synthesized and understood within the heart.

Cal Thunder Hawk, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is awaiting assignment to an Imperial Klingon vessel and can be contacted at

© 1999 Lincoln Journal Star