Recently, satellites at the Eros Data Center, near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, photographed Paha Sapa from above. When the pictures were developed, scientists were shocked to learn that the Black Hills were the exact shape of the human heart. You could even see the chambers, veins, and arteries.
This finding gives new meaning to the statements of Lakota elders, the former guardians of Paha Sapa, who said all along that Paha Sapa was the heart of all there is. One might wonder how the ancients knew what the land looked like from above before the advent of airplanes. Ben First Eagle, who lives in the center of Paha Sapa, says that mystics had ways of seeing that are in the realm of the unbelievable. But, for the average person, this scientific data confirms the stories they were told.
Over 65 million years in age, the Black Hills are the oldest mountainous region in the nation, with an important spiritual meaning. Ben First Eagle reminds us that just as every biological being has a heart, every land has a heart too, a region that keeps the movement within it flowing. Paha Sapa is sacred for this reason, and the Lakotas often come here to pray.
The land also has important physical lessons to teach all people, as Natives and non-Natives alike are faced with a desperate environmental crisis. All suffer the consequences of polluted air, water, and land. We need to understand that Mother Earth is our home, and that we must take care of her, rather than cause her harm. In the past, settlers would abuse land until it was no longer usable, and then move westward. Today, Native peoples watch other nations travel to the stars or into the depths of the oceans, and wonder why people still aren't satisfied with their home. Rather than seek an escape from our problems, we need to see that by taking care of the planet, we will have good food, water, air, and shelter here on earth. We will have everything that we need.
Ben First Eagle offers this analogy to help raise the consciousness of modern man: "What would happen if you were to go into your mother's home, walk across the living room floor, and throw down a can of pop? Your mother would be all over you. She would tell you to pick it up, and take care of your home. Well, it's the same here.
"I'm also making a prayer for humankind and the land all around. I make a prayer for all life. I look at what's happening all over, and I will notice that people are having a hard time in Florida with floods and hurricanes. I will make a prayer to help those people and animals, and the land that's affected. I will ask for pity from this place. I'm not a rich man so I can't send a lot of money to help them, but I can send a prayer."
Black Hills - Paha Sapa