Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Indian women's game. Photograph made at Miller, Hand County, South Dakota, ca. 1910. The women are probably from Ft. Thompson, Crow Creek Reservation, and are probably largely eastern Dakota groups. Vintage Prints of Indians, Inv. 10081400, Neg. 45,480

 

 

 

Spotted Tail's house.

 

 

 

Omaha dance at Spotted Tail's camp.

October 14, 1881

Friday, A.M. - We returned at 9 A.M., and supposing we were to go to White Thunder found we were to go to see Spotted Tail, Jr. We went over, found he had been called to a feast. A young man began to call him from one height to another. This place is all split up into hills and ravines and barren as a waste. Meanwhile, we went to a tent where Spotted Tail’s, Sr., mother lived. We entered in on the left near the door. Irregularity among the young men and women, said by Mr. Shaw, to be rare on the whole. The child is sometimes cared for by the father, sometimes by the mother. Generally separation takes place solely for adultery. If men and women part for other cause they are in a sort of social disgrace. The white officers make terrible havoc. The half breeds thus born are never fully recognized in Indian society. "The child of a dog" is their title. Among the Santees to call a person "a blue-eyed Indian", is the deepest disgrace.

When a man wants to marry a woman he takes several horses if he can afford it and ties them to the teepee or lodge of the father of the girl or wherever she lives. If he is acceptable, some one, as a brother or father takes the horses and puts them in the herd. Then, after a day or two, the girl is dressed gaily and with gifts put on a horse and taken to the place where the young man lived. A medicine man comes, smokes, asks the blessing - sometimes, a feast and then all is done and over.

When the girl comes to maturity the parents invite the women’s societies, and the principal men and the medicine man. The girl is dressed and sits in the center and the medicine man comes, with a pipe prepared for the occasion, decorated. Several kinds of sweet scented herbs are ground up and then the pipe is filled and lighted. It is turned to the right and left, and skillfully turned upside down and then smoked. Every puff must be sent toward the girl. Then it is passed to the men and every one must puff the smoke toward the girl. After this there is a feast and the father gives away presents. It is proclaimed that the girl is mature and marriageable.

Out Door Games of Young Girls.

Pah-slo-hom-ba - Tip of a buffalo horn, about three inches long - A reed about five or six feet long, thrust into the horn. Each player has two reeds with the horn tip attached. Any number can play. Played on the hard snow. Each player slides the horn tip over the snow in turn. When all have played once, then they slide or throw the second horn tip and after every one has played, then they go to them to look which one has thrown her horn tip and reed furthest.

Game 10 - The one whose horn tip is furthest counts one.

Girls play ball but rarely - The ball and a crocked stick, try to throw it to base.

Girl’s Play.

Making tent - Make dolls out of stick and rag and throw away. Swing out of grapevines. Forked stick. Travois -Too-sho, (Wah-um-pa), and drag the dolls.

Was-ta-we, Asanpi’s wife.

Basket Game.

Basket - Tam-pah, four inches across bottom, 2 1/2 inches high and flaring. Plum-pits, Kah-one. 6 count 32.

Gamble Societies.

Woman’s Game.

One hundred sticks, 18 inches long, slender like straws - chu-e-snah, means, the lost number of sticks. Three play, one holds the sticks, one on each side who is to guess the number. Ten times of guessing the game. One who guesses the closest number, wins. The holder grasps them in both hands and then separates them, holding a number in each hand, crossing her hands at the wrist. The guessers guess the number in each hand.

A Women’s Game, Exclusively,
Tah-se-ha, Antelope Hoof.

Made of small bones of the antelope, five. Three holes drilled, a piece of buckskin threaded through, about ten or twelve inches long, fastened by a tassel of four or five loops of beads, at the bottom of the bones, and at the other end to a pin wheel, used to be made of the small bone of the deer’s leg, about five inches long. Game, ten counts. Sticks for counting.

The game is to throw the bone into the pin - to catch a loop is, two. Each bone caught on pin is, one. Largest number that could be caught is, five. It is ten to catch the pin in one of the holes. Any number can play - They use but one Tah-se-ha. Each player can try three times.

Fox Club.

Mainly for warriors - Are consulted by chiefs, and have a representative in the Council - have a voice in making and management of war. No women ever attend, except to look on outside, except as tribal singers, they are wives or sisters chosen for voices.

Some men members of both Fox and Omaha bands. This band used to be the prominent one, but now that war is so rare it has dwindled. Five officers, chiefs. Two carry lance, decorated with otter skin, crooked at the upper end. Two carry pipes.

Omaha.
Date for the Omaha 1859.

The men gave the Omaha dance. Chief does nothing, good character. The eagle and crow feathers, ribbons, device, carried by the master of ceremonies. When he is chosen he is selected for bravery, and must have been wounded.. When he dances, he ties it on behind. This device goes with the office.

The man with bunch of grass, an officer and companion to the first, and carry around the kettles and give out the food. Two pipe holders, are the floor managers.

Social Life.

Against lying and stealing, unchastity. Married and single, good standing. Give a horse as gift - punish quarrels with wife, if he beats her or quarrels with her - clip his hair. If he puts her away for any other cause than adultery - shave him - put him in center of lodge and ridiculed. If he gets angry he is expelled. If any man keeps an adulteress he is expelled.

Night Dance.

Young, and men dance in couples, sometimes men and sometimes women. Sometimes man will dance by himself, or a woman - hold hands or arms around the waist. Partners give each other presents, kissing at the end. Partners changed with songs. Drummers always men. Ten singers women. No moral object. Every club, male or female has its own drum.

Women’s Club.

In every band a woman’s society, Ka-ta-lab - composed of matrons. Mistress of ceremonies asks the blessing. The God of the Heaven and the Earth bless this food. The blessing of the Mistress of Ceremonies is given from the spoon. She carries the stick - E-chop-sin-ta. The chief does nothing, sits back in the center.

Asanpi - Drum has no stick. The drummers for their musical ability. The rattle, generally two.

Mistress of Ceremonies carried the whip.

When they are called from one tent to another while in session they dance along the road, the officers leading. The one who gives the feast furnishes everything. Must eat all if so called, if not can take away what is given.

Membership is gained by giving a horse to some member. Members solicited but must be of good character.

The husband’s position not taken into account, the character of the woman, the point. No matter how high her position, she can’t be a member if not of good character.

Songs composed, words and music, by the women and the songs sung only at the meetings, never outside. Sometimes the husband or brother of one of the officers cries the invitation, then he will be called in and given something to eat. While he is present nothing is done. After he goes out festivities resumed.

Affairs changed by a kind of general agreement. Members disciplined for wrong conduct, lying, stealing, slander and scandal.

Chief called her husband in and he "counted his coos", told how many enemies he had killed. Asanpi came in and shouted. Probably said, I went to so many Indians, so many times, brought away so many horses, killed so many, answered with shouts and tap of drum.

Different relationship, called, sister? All sisters respect age. Sister-in-law, &c. Good deal of sport, Dances peculiar. Gifts given and received. Voted for officers. Vote by voice, or plum seeds. When officers elected must give presents, one who gives most gains most honor.

The man who came and stopped the dance, his mother a member and had the drum not long since. Patting his hands on our heads, asked our prayers, and said, "Mourn with me for my mother is dead". The blanket was given for the mother in recognition of the band for a death of one of their members.

Owns its own drumsticks and rattle. Sets itself against polygamy, has no member of such a family. Put out a member who allowed a double marriage. Very, very old. No tradition of its beginning.


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