Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka can be interpreted as the power or the sacredness that resides in everything, resembling some animistic and pantheistic beliefs. This term describes every creature and object as wakȟáŋ ("holy") or having aspects that are wakȟáŋ. The element Tanka or Tȟáŋka corresponds to "Great" or "large".
Before colonists tried forcing them to convert to Christianity, the Lakota used Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka to refer to an organization or group of sacred entities whose ways were mysterious: thus, "The Great Mystery". Activist Russell Means also promoted the translation "Great Mystery" and the view that Lakota spirituality is not monotheistic.
Cognate terms in other languages
- The Indians' Book. Edited by Natalie Curtis Burlin. p38-40
- Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume 4. Smithsonian Institution, 1852. p302
- Rice, Julian (1998). Before the great spirit: the many faces of Sioux spirituality. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-1868-1.
- "Great". New Lakota Dictionary Online. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
- Helen Wheeler Bassett, Frederick Starr. The International Folk-lore Congress of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, July, 1893. Charles H. Sergel Company, 1898. p221-226
- The Holy Bible, in the language of the Dakotas: translated out of the original tongues. 1883.
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