By Victor Ochieng
It was such a memorable moment for Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving when he was honored by his mother’s Sioux Tribe. The basketball star was presented with sacred glasses, traditional quilts and adorned with eagle feathers.
Besides the presents, which boast of great significance in the tribe, Irving also received a Lakota name that means “Little Mountain,” all happening at the event in which he was welcomed officially to his mother’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Thursday.
The All-Star and his model sister Asia Irving had visited the tribe’s reservation located on the border of North and South Dakota, where there was a daylong celebration in recognition of the tribe’s incessant fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Both Kyrie and his sister were celebrated and given Lakota names in a ritual steered by the tribe’s leadership. Danielle Finn, the tribal spokeswoman, described the event as “a very special rite of passage for a Lakota person.”
Kyrie got the name “Hela,” pronounced as “Hay-law,” meaning “Little Mountain.” On the other hand, his sister Asia got the name “Tatanka Winyan,” pronounced as “tuh-TONG’-kuh WEE’-yun” meaning “Buffalo Woman.” Both names are associated with the siblings’ White Mountain family.
Their mother, Elizabeth Ann Larson, was a member of Standing Rock Irving Sioux tribe. During her childhood, Larson lived in the reservation until she was later adopted at a young age. Both the Irving’s late grandmother and great-grandparents have links with the reservation, showing clearly why they have great reverence for the tribe.
At their arrival, the siblings were welcomed with great joy, with many of the fans donning green T-shirts bearing the Standing Rock Sioux seal, Kyrie Irving’s basketball uniform number, 11, and the beautiful words “Welcome Home Kyrie Irving.”
“It truly is a good day for Standing Rock,” tribal Chairman Mike Faith said, addressing the Irvings. “For you two, welcome home.”
Many people in attendance, including Char White Mountain, consider the Irvings as part of their family.
“We want him to know who his relatives are,” she said. “We definitely don’t want him to think we’re people using him for his money. He’s family.”
Jewel Felix, who was also at the event and who considers Kylie Irving her nephew, said she got emotional at the news that the basketball superstar was gracing the occasion.
“I started crying,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s happening.”
Interestingly, the feeling was mutual.
“This is finally meeting my mom’s family in their home. … This is family for me now,” Kyrie Irving said, calling it “a very special day.”