1 Plains Indians – Traditions, Customs, Spirituality TABLE OF CONTENTSOverviewBeliefsValues / MoresRitualsRolesChildrenMenWomenEldersHealth & the DisabledReferences
2 OverviewAmerican Indian life is centered on the four seasons and the natural world.Traditional spirituality is not a ‘religion’ so much as it is an integral seamless part of the very being of Indian society.Native spirituality and beliefs are sacred. To use them in any way other than the way they were intended would be sacrilegious.Learning to live in the traditional ways is not easy.Everything he’s [The Great Spirit has] given you, you have to walk through, you have to experience it. You can’t always walk in the grass, sometimes you have to walk through the sagebrush.Anonymous
3 Beliefs Common to Most Plains Tribes There is a Supreme Being, a Creator, a Great Spirit, God.Everything the Great Spirit has created is good.Many lesser spirits wander the earth, some control weather, some interact with humans, some inhabit the underworld.Plants and animals, as well as humans, are part of a spirit world.This spirit world exists side-by-side with the physical world and often intermingles with this physical world.Before you were conceived, before you were born, you had a spirit.When your body dies, your spirit will live on.Take care of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth will take care of you.
4 Values of Most Plains Tribes Courage LeadershipDuty LoveFortitude RespectGenerosity ResponsibilityHonesty ReverenceHonor WisdomIndustry
5 Rituals of Most Plains Tribes Naming Ceremony – To give person a nameStorytelling / Listening – Method of teachingVision Quest – Passage from boyhood to manhoodPow-Wow – Place to socialize with other tribesRenewal CelebrationsSun Dance – a replay of creationSweat Lodge – for spiritual renewal and healingGrand Medicine Lodge – Good place to learn traditionsHunting Ceremonies – to appease spirits of animals killed
6 Rituals of Most Plains Tribes Daily PracticesDwellings – oriented with the doorway on the east so a person awakened to the rising sun. The understanding was the Creator was sending daylight, warmth, growth and enlightenment to each person to begin a new day.Morning Prayers – After awakening, the individual would pray, thanking the Creator for blessings and new opportunities. A confession of responsibility was made to other people. Sacrifices were given.Sacred Path – Day began with man walking reverently along a sacred path, among all living things on earth and under the supernatural powers dwelling in heaven.
7 Traditional Roles – Children ResponsibilitiesSeek Knowledge from EldersLearn to be Quiet and ListenLearn by ExampleRespect the EldersLearn, through play, by practicing what they see
8 Traditional Roles – Men Protectors (Warriors) – Keep tribe safeHunters – Provided for tribePlannersConducted CeremoniesMade items for Rituals/CeremoniesTeach older children
9 Traditional Roles – Women Process foodCookMake garmentsSet up camp or take down campTake care of young childrenPlannersFamily ties handed down through women
10 Traditional Roles – Elders Mediators – Traditionally, an elder would hear both sides to a story and mediate to solve the conflict.Disciplinarians – Grown children often lived with parents in an extended family situation. The grandparents would discipline the children, not the parents.Teachers – Grandparents were admired for their knowledge and wisdom which they often conveyed through stories.Leaders – Because of their knowledge and wisdom, elders often make decisions effecting the tribe.
11 Traditional Roles – Elders One Elder relates:One thing I liked about the old people is that they had Indian thinking. For example, my mother and I were driving down the highway and saw a stand of dying birch trees. She asked me if I knew why they were dying. I probably would have explained it as pollution or some other technical explanation. She said the birch trees are dying because no one is using them anymore. They are sad because they no longer have a use. Now that, I think about it, this is kind of like the elders – no one is using them anymore. That’s what I call Indian thinking. They would relate themselves with the connection in nature. (Becker, Poupart, & Martinez, 2002, The Way it Was, p. 2)Anonymous
12 Health and the Disabled Traditionally being healthy and a whole person were essential to living a good life.Some tribes visualized health as a medicine wheel with four parts – spiritual, mental, physical, & emotional.In order to be healthy, all aspects of the medicine wheel had to be in balance.Another concept is that man is three-fold – mind, body, & spirit.Wellness is harmony in body, mind, & spirit.Wellness (or unwellness) was (and is) often a choice.
13 Health and the Disabled (Continued) A physical disability is irrelevant to a person’s state of wellness.Wellness can be accomplished in a wheelchair or without a leg. If the body is healthy, if the mind is sharp, if the individual is following their beliefs and choosing to be in harmony with their environment, then a physical disability is irrelevant to wellness.How to deal with a physical disability is not something an Indian would think about. Instead, an Indian would probably look at how to enhance an individual’s ability to fulfill his or her role within the community.
14 Health and the Disabled (Continued) We are all responsible for our state of wellness; with the way we promote harmony between ourselves and the people we meet.It is not the events that happen to him [man] that create his harmony, but his response to those happenings. Every human chooses the responses he makes, and thus in this way, he chooses whether or not to be in harmony. Being able to stand firm in his harmony is a priceless accomplishment for the Indian, for it means the disruptions of the world cannot affect him. (Locust, 1985, p. 11)
15 Health and the Disabled (Continued) This state of harmony is like a protective shield keeping us from dangers inherent in negative or disharmonious situations.In the Indian belief, it is each person’s responsibility tokeep this protective shield strong and beautiful, not onlyfor his own well-being, but for the well-being of the tribe.(Locust, 1985, p. 17)When looking for ways to help disabled people on a reservation ask, “What can we do to help our people fulfill their roles within the community?”
16 Traditional LeadersThey cared about people, not just family, but the whole tribe.They respected the people around them.They served the people. The leaders often would not eat until everyone else in the tribe had eaten.They were honest. They did not lie.They were courageous. They dared to do what needed to be done.They were not afraid to face reality and define problems.
17 SummaryThis presentation summarizes some of the ideals, beliefs, and values of traditional Indian ways (ways before the Europeans colonized America).These are the values we need to hold on to if we wish to remain Indian people.These are the values we must build upon if we wish to grow as Indian people.These are the values we must spread to our non-Indian brothers and sisters if America is going to grow as a country.
18 Overview of Methods & Sources NOTES:One of the references used to prepare this presentation consisted of a research project (Becker, Poupart, & Martinez, 2002).The purpose of the project was to reflect on traditional American Indian ways.To achieve this objective, several elders were interviewed.Elders represented Ojibwe, Lakota, Dakota, and Ho-Chunk nations.Both men and women, born during World War II, participated.Participants chose to remain anonymous.When a quote from one of these elders is used in this presentation, the quote will be marked “Anonymous.” Thank You!
19 ReferencesBecker, T., Poupart, J., & Martinez, C. (2002). Reflections on Traditional American Indian Ways. St. Paul, MN: American Indian Policy Center. Retrieved February 27, 2007 from American Indian Policy Center Web site,Clay, J. A. (1992). Native American Independent Living. Rural Special Educatin Quarterly, 11(1), Retrieved March 14, 2007 from
20 References (Continued) Danielson, R. & Fassinger, P. (2007, January). A Focus on American Indian Children. Inform 5(1). Retrieved March 14, 2007 from North Dakota Kids Count Web site at:Giannetta, J. (2002, June). The Plains Indians – Family Life, The Children, Duties. Retrieved March 31, 2007 from SaskSchools.ca website:
21 References (Continued) Locust, C. C. (1985). American Indian beliefs concerning health and unwellness. Tucson, AZ: Native American Research and Training Center, University of Arizona. U. S. Congress (1989). A report of the special committee on investigatins of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs of the United States Senate. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Mails, T. E. (1998). Dog Soldier Societies of the Plains. New York, NY: Marlowe & Company, Chapter 1.Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (Electronic Version). (1995). Dallas, TX: Zane Publishing, Inc. in cooperation with Merriam-Webster, Inc.
22 References (Continued) Robinson, B. A. (2006, December 19). Native American Spirituality. Retrieved January 31, 2007 from RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE.ORG, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Web site:Williams, R. (2003, November 20). Pride in Indian Culture, Heritage Resurging, Says Old Elk. Retrieved January 31, 2007 from United States Department of Defense, American Forces Information Service, News Articles, Web site: news/Nov2003/n _ html