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Plains Native Americans Beliefs and patterns of behaviour.

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Presentation on theme: "Plains Native Americans Beliefs and patterns of behaviour."— Presentation transcript:

1 Plains Native Americans Beliefs and patterns of behaviour

2 2 Last week We looked at housing, clothing, food and means of travel This week we are going to take a more general look at how they made their societies work –family life –religion and beliefs –war Among other things

3 3 Customs The Sioux had no laws just customs – things they thought it wrong to break. They had chiefs but they were just men who had respect but didn’t have to be obeyed. The family is very important So there are many customs associated with the way families run and behave towards one another

4 4 The family: polygamy Men often had more than one wife. This was called polygamy and was useful for a number of reasons: –firstly, there were usually more women than men in the tribe because men were often killed in battle or hunting. –Secondly, it was also useful having more than wife because the women used to tan the hides (turn them from animal skin into leather) and so their husband would have more to trade with. One Native American hunter could kill enough buffalo to feed a number of women and children so he would take more wives and provide for them. In return the women prepared the buffalo skins. The more wives that a man had then the more skins he could prepare and the skins could be traded for valuable things like guns.

5 5 How a man got a wife When the Sioux tribe was in marrying season, the men would ask about five women to marry them. Two or three would say yes. When they married, they made a new home. The men would find a buffalo and kill it. They would take the hide to the women, and the women would sew the tepee.

6 6 The family: the old The old were always looked up to and listened to But because they were always on the move, Plains Native Americans couldn’t afford to have hold ups. Therefore when an Native American grew old and feeble and they were unable to travel with the band they were left to die. They called this exposure.

7 7 The family: their children They were very fond of their children, whom they spoilt, and never punished, except in extreme cases, when they would throw a bucket of cold water over them. The adults never hit the children. Punishment would be to embarrass them in front of the tribe, be scolded or be given stern looks. Many white people slap their children, snatch them by the ears, or beat them with straps and sticks, but not the Sioux Native Americans. When boys needed discipline they were denied the right to play war games and go hunting. Girls were denied the privileges of playing with their dolls, or helping their mothers. The Native American children weren't given names when they were born. They were given nicknames. Some won their names by doing a brave act (see how a boy becomes a man)

8 8 The family: divorce The wife was highly honoured because she did all the work except hunting, fishing and fighting. However, if the marriage did not work, divorce was easy for either partner. To be divorced a man would simply announce publicly that he had ‘ thrown away his woman’. This was usually done by banging a drum. The woman could divorce by moving all her belongings back to her parent’s tepee

9 9 Dividing the jobs The women took care of the camp. They would cook the food, find wood, collect vegetables, and make the clothes. Not all men were warriors. Each man had a special job in the tribe. One man could be a hunter, another one could be a camp comedian and he told funny stories, another could be a recorder of history by painting on buffalo hides.

10 10 Becoming adults Young Sioux became adults at about 13 years of age For young boys, this was particularly important and they went on a Vision Quest When a boy became a man he would seek a spirit that would protect him for the rest of his life. First the boy went into the sweat lodge. Inside the lodge stones were heated and then water was poured over the stones to produce steam. The boy prayed as the hot steam purified his body. This is a hot stone sweat house. Many groups of Native Americans used them They were partly as a way of keeping clean But also they were looked on as a spiritual cleansing too

11 11 Becoming adults After the sweat lodge the boy jumped into cold water. Next he was taken to a remote place and left without food and water. The boy wore only his breech clout and moccasins. For the next three or four days the boy prayed for a special vision. The men of the tribe came to help the boy back to the camp. After cleaning up and eating the boy was taken to the shaman who interpreted his vision. Sometimes the boy was given an adult name taken from the vision. After the shaman interpreted the dream the village had a feast to celebrate the boy becoming a man.

12 12 The Sioux Council As already said, the Sioux Native Americans did not have written laws, they had customs which told them what they should do They had a Council which ruled on particular problems. The Sioux Native Americans would select from among the tribe people who were quiet and honest to be councilmen or leaders. These councilmen would sit on the Council and discuss things that were important to the Sioux tribe. This could be anything from murder to war with another tribe. These leaders would often dress in ceremonial clothes when making decisions.

13 13 Belief was important too The Plains Native Americans believed strongly in spirits. Religion was part of everyday life for the Sioux. For the Sioux, it was Wakan Tanka who was the creator and controller of the universe, but other tribes had their own tales about how the world had come into being. According to Crow myth, for example, the whole world had originally been covered with a sheet of water. There had been nothing at all until Old Man Coyote sent down birds into the depths to fetch mud from which he formed the earth. The Pawnee believed that Tirawa, the spirit who dwelled in the highest part of the heavens, had created all things by sending his messengers, Wind, Cloud, Thunder and Lightning, to shape the world, sow seeds and make rivers.

14 14 All my relatives – especially the buffalo The Lakota people feel that they share the Earth as equal partners with their animal relatives, especially the buffalo. As the once- central provider for nearly all of life's needs, the buffalo is philosophically connected with the creation of life. The Lakota end their ceremonies with the words "all my relatives," an expression of the belief that all life is connected.

15 15 Belief was important too It was Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit that let them live on his land. Each tribe had one medicine man who could see into the future and heal wounds. Religious festivals took place through the whole year. They celebrated by dancing and chanting to a certain spirit. They also believed that dreams and visions was a way to talk with the spirits. The tribes who lived on the Great Plains of North America believed that supernatural power was to be found in everything around them. It was in the wind, rain, thunder and other forces of nature. It was in the sun, moon and stars, and in animals and birds. The Sioux Native Americans called this all-pervading power Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery.

16 16 Beliefs The buffalo is central to the traditional religion of the Lakota and neighbouring tribes. If buffalo were in short supply, the wise men instigated a buffalo dance, which continued until buffalo were found George Catlin Buffalo Dance - Mandan, 1861

17 17 More beliefs Medicine Bundles and Pipes The Plains Native Americans carried bags of such things as animal and bird skins, pipes, dried herbs, and tobacco. They believed these objects to have special powers. Two of the most important bundles were the pipe bundle and the beaver bundle. The beaver bundle always contained the skin of the beaver along with skins of other animals. Some had feathers of birds, rattles, and other objects. The bundles were used in healing and opened at certain times such as when the first thunder was heard in the spring.

18 18 More beliefs The pipe bundle contained tobacco to be used in pipes. Some of the ancient pipes were as long as a man’s arm. Many pipes were like a huge cigarette holder. Some of the pipes were made of wood and others were made of a special kind of stone. The pipes were decorated with carving. Two types of pipes were made. The peace pipe could be carried across enemy territory and would assure safe passage for the carrier. The war pipe had red feathers signifying blood and was passed around and smoked before a battle was to take place

19 19 The peace pipe This is one the best known Native American symbols. The Lakota name chanupa means 'reed' (calumet means reed in French, and was used as an insult to native Canadians). It is used in Native ceremonies as a blessing and an offering. The phrase 'peace pipe' originates with western settlers who observed its use during peace negotiations.

20 20 Peace pipe 1860 Because the Plains people believed that smoke carried their words to the Great Spirit, smoking was like saying a prayer. Implements associated with the use of tobacco, including pipes, are considered sacred. Before talking of holy things, we prepare ourselves by offerings... one will fill his pipe and hand it to the other who will light it and offer it to the sky and the earth... they will smoke together... then will they be ready to talk. - Chased-By-Bears, Santee Sioux

21 21 Rites and Rituals The Native Americans believed that the spirits not only controlled the natural world, but could also use their powers to benefit mankind. If men practiced the proper rituals to honour and please the spirits, they would gain power themselves and be able to perform great exploits in hunting and war. Gifts and prayers were offered to the spirits in order to obtain their good will and to bring happiness and prosperity to the tribe. All sorts of customs and ceremonies were claimed to have been received from the spirits in dreams and visions.

22 22 Rites and Rituals There were ceremonies to make a man invincible in battle, to help him steal horses or call buffalo. Many of these ceremonies were carried out by the warrior societies to which most of the men of the tribe belonged. The members of these societies protected their village against enemy attack and formed war parties to raid other villages. They organized communal buffalo hunts and sometimes acted as a police force to keep law and order in the camps. For their ceremonies they wore elaborate costumes and face paint and performed spectacular dances before the rest of the tribe.

23 23 Dancing facing the Sun For many of the Plains tribes, the most important ceremony was that held each year in spring or early summer when the tribe came together after the winter. The Sioux name for this ceremony was Dance Facing the Sun and, because of this, white men called it the Sun Dance. Despite this name, it was not held to worship the sun, but because someone who had been in trouble during the previous year had pledged to sponsor such a ceremony if the spirits came to his aid. It was a very complicated ritual in which every movement had a special meaning. First, a Sun Dance Lodge had to be built. Then a tall tree was felled and set up in the camp. A bundle of twigs, buffalo skin and offerings was placed in the forks at the top of the tree. This was said to represent the nest of an eagle or thunder bird.

24 24 Dancing facing the Sun The dance itself usually lasted several days. During that time, the dancers, neither eating nor drinking, circled the pole, gazing steadfastly at its top and praying for power. Some, in order to win the sympathy of the spirits, tortured themselves, piercing their skin with skewers or cutting off a finger. Often, through hunger, pain and exhaustion, they gained the vision which they sought. The Native Americans explained the origins of such ceremonies in their myths. The Sun Dance, it was said, was first brought to the plains by a poor Orphan boy, the offspring of a star and a human girl, who's travel led to the Star Country and was instructed in its mysteries by the great Sun himself painting by John White circa 1585

25 25 Customs of War The Plains Native Americans had lots of other customs. One was scalping. In battle they would cut off the top of their enemy’s head both as a trophy and because they believed it would stop their enemy going to the “great hunting ground” in the sky and being a nuisance in a future life. The Plains Native Americans believed that a dead enemy could harm you. His spirit could harm you in the afterlife. However, if you scalped him his spirit could not go on to the afterlife. He could not harm you. So scalps were prized as trophies – they showed how brave and successful a warrior was.

26 26 Customs of War Another custom was counting coup. The life of the Plains Native American was very hard. A man had to prove himself tough which is why they called themselves “braves”. Counting coup was when he touched his enemy, dead or alive, with a coup stick. Each time he did this he would show it by wearing marked feathers in his headdress to show others how good he was.

27 27 War Life on the Plains after the arrival of the horse involved lots of wars. (before that we do not know) The Sioux had enemies like the Crow Native Americans. They fought for very specific reasons. They didn’t want land or even to conquer their enemies. What they wanted was to steal the horses of their enemy. This would make them look better in the eyes of their friends and neighbours. Horses were very important to the Native Americans. Horses made the lives of the Native Americans so much easier in all sorts of ways. Because they were so important, the chance to steal them off one’s enemies was highly prized. But rarely, until the arrival of the gun were warriors killed deliberately – hence the coup!

28 28 Symbols of war Shield with Cover Crow, collected 1904 A Plains man treasured his shield, which protected him both physically and spiritually in battle. When a warrior dreamed of an image such as this one, a man inside the sun, he painted it on the cover of his shield.

29 29 Symbols of war Drum Arapaho, collected 1903 To the plains people, the buffalo means more than a good meal or a warm coat. As the once-central provider for nearly all of life's needs, it is philosophically connected with the creation of life. Lakota artists depicted buffalo on their objects in homage to this important animal. This drum, which is not made from the buffalo itself, has painted images of two buffalo bulls and animal tracks on its cover.

30 30 A Symbol of Bravery Headdress and Trailer Lakota, collected 1888 Lakota elders told Dr. James Walker in 1912: Only those who have accomplished much are entitled to wear the buffalo horn. Sitting Bull, the renowned Lakota leader, may have owned this headdress.

31 31 Arts and Crafts: The Sioux were great artists. They could make beautiful things with wood. They would paint the wood. They also made art on their clothes. They would hang teeth on their clothes. They also put beads on the jackets they wore.

32 32 The Arts of Mothers, Sisters, and Wives Lakota women were partners with men in the work of raising children and supporting a family, although they had separate spheres of activity. One way Lakota women cared for their families was to make and decorate beautiful clothing for all members, including their brothers to whom they had a lifelong obligation. Fine apparel for their families was and still is a sign of affection and honour from wives, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. Lakota women, respected for their skill as artists, excelled in quillwork and beadwork. Artists ingeniously converted porcupine quills, readily found in nature, into elaborate surface decorations.

33 33 Parfleche Arapaho, collected 1903 Plains women were often inspired by the environment around them when creating their geometric paintings. Only each individual artist knew the meaning of her design.

34 34 Man's Moccasins Lakota, collected Women sometimes expressed affection for men and children by beading every surface of their moccasins, even the soles. These moccasins were worn for special events such as weddings, honouring ceremonies, and burials.

35 35 Pipe bag circa 1885 A Plains man carried both tobacco and a pipe in this pipe bag. A pipe bag was as important as a horse or a weapon for a man going into battle. The undecorated portion of hide at the top of the bag was tucked under and flapped over a belt. Glass beads strung on a thread and stitched on the bag form this design. Glass beads were introduced to Native Americans by European fur traders, and because they were easy to use and easy to find they gradually replaced quills as the most common form of decoration. The quills that adorn this bag came from a porcupine. The quills were flattened and dyed, then wrapped around strips of rawhide and stitched in place.

36 36 The Art of Daily Life There is no equivalent in the many Native American languages for the word art. Yet the objects here suggest that Native Americans are a highly spiritual people who create objects of extraordinary beauty. In Native American thought there is also no distinction between what is beautiful or functional, and what is sacred or secular. Design goes far beyond concerns of function, and beauty is much more than simple appearances. For many native peoples, beauty arises from living in harmony with the order of the universe. The concerns and aspirations of a vital contemporary American Indian population changes as the world changes. Today some Native American artists continue traditions of their ancestors, while others transform those traditions in new and innovative ways.

37 37 Visitor Etiquette in American Native American Communities In order to make your visit as enjoyable and respectful as possible, the following briefly outlines some general rules of thumb to follow when visiting Native American Country. American Native American communities contain a diversity of tribal members who practice varying degrees of tradition. Traditionalists expect tribal members and visitors alike to conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful of tribal religion and ceremonies. With this in mind, it must be recognized that a code of conduct practiced at one community or event may not be appropriate at another. Moral precepts in appropriate dress, speech and behaviour, and adherence to them, are highly regarded at ceremonial events. Behaviours that are frowned upon include excessive questioning regarding ceremonial events, excessive talking or laughing, demanding or sneaking photographs or sketches, demanding preferential seating or viewing of a ceremonial event. An unkempt appearance is very offensive at a ceremonial event, where many people wear their finest. Ragged jeans and especially high riding shorts are also offensive at ceremonial events, though they may be acceptable at other gatherings such as craft fairs and some powwows. Courtesy Scott Jones, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

38 38 Homework Explain 5 things that the Lakota did differently from the Europeans at the time Take one of these and explain why you think that probably they made a better job of it than the Europeans.


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