+SPOTLIGHT | Torrie Eagle Staff

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Name: Torrie Eagle Staff

Tribal Affiliation: Oglala & Miniconjou Lakota, Northern Arapaho, & Northern Cheyenne

Indigenous Name: Zintkala Zi Win or Yellow Bird Woman

What’s your age: 20
What are the first 3 words that come to mind when you hear the word healing?




Can you tell us what you do and a bit about how you came to it?

I am Zintkala Zi Win and I am a messenger. I come from two lines of strong medicine, warriors, and leaders. My name comes from one of my ancestors just like everything else that makes me who I am. When I was in my Inas (mothers) belly, a yellowbird landed on her at one of our most sacred ceremonies, the Sundance and brought me to her. We almost didn’t make it, the western doctors told my Ina we would both die while she gave birth to me and she was having visions of death. My tiospaye (family) immediately put a ceremony on for her and in this ceremony the spirits told her we would both live and that I am a messenger, I have a purpose in this world, and I will a long healthy life.

I strive to walk on the Canku Luta (Red Road) and lead by example. I am a Sundancer meaning I’m not only in prayer and living that healthy lifestyle during the ceremony, but year-round for the rest of my life. I grew up poor and in different environments, but no matter where we would go or what our situation would be my Ate (father) showed me that I will always have my culture, family, and education. He showed me that no matter where I was I could learn, and I should always take full advantage.

Right now, my journey takes me to Stanford University with a full ride scholarship. I am living my purpose, it is tough, but I have the strength of my Oyate. I hope to make a career in health policy to make sure all people have a right to walk the Canku Luta and be healthy in spirit, emotion, physically, and mentally.

How do you heal?

I heal with personal genuine conversations with trusted people. I heal by learning and understanding. I heal with prayer. I heal by helping others. I heal by traveling. I heal with laugher. I heal by hearing the Lakota language. I heal with positive experiences.

What’s calling you right now?

Right now, my calling is to learn. I want to learn in school, from the elders, the youth, and many of the people I encounter in my journey. I want to learn my Native language and ceremonial ways. I want to learn how our political system works and how to make policies that are fair and just. 

Do your ancestors affect what you do, how you live?

Just like my Lakota name coming from my ancestors, many other aspects of what makes me who I am comes from them. I gain so much empowerment hearing stories of how my ancestors fought to keep our ceremonial practices, language, and tradition despite all odds. My favorite one was when all of my tribes came together to beat Custer and the 7th Calvary. I am a descendent of Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Lakota; all of which united in this battle. I think of the strength and will power and the solidarity. I love solidarity today and joining all tribes together to fight against intergenerational trauma. I strive to be a strong humble leader who knows their language and culture like them. I respect all of their actions because without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.  

Who are your mentors, role models?

My Ate always tells me that it takes a tribe to raise a child and he took it upon himself to make sure that his children were raised by everyone on top of being a great father and having a great mother. My older siblings often tell me I was my dads sidekick when I was younger asking him all kinds of questions and he answered every one of them. The biggest teachings were through action and experience. I was raised in an environment where I was disciplined, taught, and loved by not only my parents but relatives, family friends, strangers. I learn a lot from everyone who comes into my life intentionally and non-intentionally. I was raised by a tribe of people and I look up to each one of them.

What drives/inspires you to keep going?

I once read this quote that said we are simply borrowing this land from our children. This quote struck me because when you borrow something you give it back in better condition than it was before. That is what this Indigenous 20 something project is doing and as well as the youth. This is what drives me and keeps me going, the young indigenous people. We are making a change, together.

If you could relay a mantra, message, wisdom, ism, food for thought to Indigenous 20 somethings from the US and abroad what would you say?

Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related), so love one another and have each other’s backs.