Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The Sioux philosophy
This program was produced by our national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation and was compiled through the facilities of the radio at the University of South Dakota. This is the story of father's Lakota Sioux in transition. This is the sixth in a series of programs dealing with the Dakota or Sioux Indians in South Dakota. In previous programs we've discussed the legendary and recorded history of the Dakotas. Their art forms their music and dance and their religious practices. This program deals with a topic that is intricate and comes to the heart of the conflict between the Dakota culture and the culture that surrounds it. This program is concerned with the philosophy of the Dakota the attitude of the Dakota to the world around him and the forces that shape those attitudes. Every society must have a basis for a peaceful existence
within that society. The Dakota people found a successful basis according to Ella de Loria herself a Dakota and an anthropologist. That basis was kinship the relationship to those others in the band. The small bands of Dakotas were composed of relatives the Dakotas were then very close knit. However it was important to keep track of all one's relatives no matter how distant any Dakota belonged wherever he wandered into Kota country. Because somewhere back in his ancestry he was a related to just about anyone he might happen to chance across. Even today the Dakota people take great care in establishing their family lines out to the most distant relatives. The truly amazing aspect of this expanded family tree that once created the information is rarely written down but determined remembered and passed on by word of mouth. The traditional Dakota method of communication during the year the Dakota lived in his smaller family grouping or Kulish by. The
BY A was generally a small band of from ten to twenty families related to each other either as actual blood relatives or through marriage. The POS by a operated as an independent unit it was self-supporting. The men acted as the providers of food for the group while the women did the camp work. The group was not communistic However even though everyone worked together for the good of the group. Each family or person own his individual belongings. However he was coerced by social custom to share what he had with his companions. We'll explore the area of sharing to a greater extent a little later in the program. Marriage was always outside the gate. Thus the society was a drag among. The newly married as a general rule came to live with the band of the father and thus the structure was paid really neo in nature. The post by AA or local band proved to be a very secure place for an infant to grow up.
He received his every wish as an infant whenever he cried. He received food from whoever happened to be near. A woman to not have to feel guilty about leaving her child because she knew one of her sisters would take care of the child just as she would watch after someone else's child while that person were away. The decoder social structure was carefully contrived and is found to be very well constructed in light of contemporary social psychological knowledge. The child would have of course it's natural father and mother and brothers and sisters or siblings. However all the fathers brothers were also called Father and all the mother's sisters were also called Mother. In addition father's cousins were called father and mother's cousins were called Mother. Thus in addition to the real father and mother a travelled had an almost unlimited supply of other fathers and mothers. This made it possible for a child to have a large number of brothers and sisters outside the immediate family. As the relationship became more distant a male could also have a number of male cousins and the same was true for a female and
her cousins. Many of these relatives live within the camp circle and through them the individual has actual or potential relatives just about anywhere he could go. An added source of relatives came from marriage. When one of your family are Theo's by a married all the relatives of the person he married also became your relatives. That is as L. a DeLorean puts it at birth one could find himself with every kind of relative imaginable. Parents in lost sons and daughters nieces and nephews and in some cases a grandchild or two in addition to daughters in-laws and son in laws. But as you can see that it would be a rare meeting where two persons of the coat of blood could not establish some sort of relationship. Within the POS by a. There was not a centralized authority other than that of the older men. However within the media family they were very careful relationships father was respected and the father however was not the one who punished the son.
Usually it would be the mother's brother someone who was a relative but someone who was not immediately in the family. Now these Indians had not read Freud but they understood the basic Freud and principle clearly that the person who exercises authority is a person who may be respected and he may also in some senses be loved but he is also resented. And since the basic responsibility for making kids behave is set with a relative. The Indians had the good sense not to impose this on dad but to shift it over to mother's brother or sometimes it might be some other specific relative. So the relationship was one in which there was a certain amount of distance between the boy and the girl and the father but the father was a kind of stern model
but not the one who if punishment had to be imposed would impose it. Thus the father had a definite position with regard to how his children acted toward him. He did not fill the role that we associate with the father of today not of being a power to his son taking him hiking and hunting or teaching him to ride a horse. The father was respected very much. Many Indian men have told me that they would never have dreamed of approaching their fathers the way their children do them today. This is not to say that there was not affection within the Dakota family. Fathers love their children but the affectionate relationship was carried out in other ways. The affectionate relationship was to the grandparents and to a certain extent also it could be and some drive to the mother's brother or to father's sister. But the relationship between father and son that is I want to emphasize the father didn't direct descend very much. The main thing of the father's
responsibility was to lead a good life and be a brave man and then the son would be exhorted to be like his father. Or if the father wasn't living up to it to be like his father's brother that would be with the grandfather and the grandmother that you'd have this close and intimate relationship the grandparents often cared for the child for long periods of time and in some manner helped with the education of the child. Even today among Dakota families one finds the grandchildren staying with their grandparents although there has been a change in the motivation for leaving the children in the past few decades. Too often the grandparent grandchild relationship was brought about because the family does not want the responsibility of taking care of the child and the grandparents are practically bound by social custom to take care of the children. Dakota family I visited recently consisted of the grandparents in a number of their daughter's children who were staying there and tending the nearby school. In this case however the parents lived too far back in the reservation foothills to adequately provide their children with schooling So the grandparents were assuming this responsibility.
There were also definite social restrictions between brother and sister in the Dakota family among the Dakota and other plains Indians. Brothers and Sisters had to avoid each other as soon as a boy reached 12 years of age among the Comanche For instance he would go out and live in his own little teepee. He couldn't sleep in the same teepee with his sister. And this meant that the boy and the girl. Had a respect relationship but also a distant relationship. Psychologically again it is a good thing because it also marks the severance of the boy from the mother growing up in any society as a process of the boy being able to detach himself from his family and seeking an adult mate from outside his own
kinship group and the same of course goes true for the girl. Now with the case of the girl she usually doesn't have quite as much choice because among Plains Indians usually the brother would choose her husband for her. But as the Cheyennes used to say to me a good hearted brother would always take his sister's feelings into account of the social structure acted as a training ground for the children as well as a preventive measure to do away with any friction that could possibly arise between various members of the family. A carefully conceived relationship was that between the son in law and mother in law Dr Hobel explains the relationship. Hi Aly structure and the customs vary depending on relationships now a man and his mother in law can not talk to each other. And to a lesser degree a woman and her father in law cannot talk to each other. This is what we anthropologists call avoidance and actually in some respects a pretty sensible sort of thing. It's not unique to Indians alone and I think we can understand it if we just take a
look at ourselves. The simple point is that when two people marry they bring together two different families. Now the one thing that's hard for us to understand is that married among Indians and primitive peoples around the world is more an alliance between two families than it is just two people getting together. This is much more important. To emphasize the family relationship now it's an alliance but there's always a certain amount of tension between allies and consequently a man would in order to reduce this tension simply be required by custom not to talk to his mother in law directly. He couldn't be in the room with her alone among the Dakota Indians commonly let us say if a man did want to say something to his mother in law and it was necessary to get a message to her. If there was a little baby there who couldn't talk he
would tell the baby what it was he had in mind. And the mother in law could overhear it and get the message but he couldn't talk to her directly with Ross. We don't have any rules that forbidden is from talking to our mothers in law or being in the same room with her but we take out the tension in mother in law jokes and just in passing I got quite interested in this because of this kind of avoidance between son in law and mother in law among Plains Indians and one time I collected a hundred mother in-law jokes at random. And the thing is interesting as that. All but four of these mother in-law jokes are directed toward the wife's mother. Now this means either that many of the fellows of the ones who make up jokes in this society of ours or are it means that for a number of social reasons the tension between a man and as my wife's mother is greater than the tension between a woman and her husband's mother. The next thing was that. Two thirds of the jokes wish the death of the mother in law. They all are centered around her being buried or in some way
eliminated so they indicate a lot of underlying hostility. That is released in what you might call these killing jokes. And finally on this point I'm trying to make is that with us the tensions are taken out and mother in law jokes with tribes like the Dakota the tensions were avoided simply by putting a barrier to communication between the parent in-law and the son in law or daughter in law. The Dakotas then did through avoidance in the creation of barriers what we generally do is through humor that is prevent to some degree the boiling over of latent hostilities between the mother in law and her son in law. Even though much of the traditional Lakota culture is gone by the wayside a trip into a modern Dakota home will sometimes still find the avoidance barrier tempered with what we would call social courtesy. In the traditional culture of the Dakota was duty bound to observe the correct behavior and to give the
proper respect to those to whom it was due. This too is being tempered by the Times. Dakota's also had a joking relationship similar to our mother in law situation. The relationship between brothers in law was a prime example. This tended to control the conflict which might arise between a man who was supposed to show respect and avoidance of his sister while her husband remains on the most intimate terms with her. Should the situation arise where friction progressed to the point that members of the buy were split into sides the band merely split up permanently and began to function as two separate bands. As was noted earlier in the program children are not being brought up under the same circumstances and social conditions that they were earlier in the Dakota culture. Because of this the children are not developing with the same traits as their parents even if their parents do attempt to raise them by the old standards. There is a reason for this. That the children do not respond but simply a realisation on the part of the younger
generation that most of the old way of life just doesn't fit the facts of living in the 20th century in the United States of America. Now this is happening all over the world as modernization takes place modernization or the development of underdeveloped areas means literally the destruction of the old ways of life of thousands of different societies and youngsters than who go let us say to public schools or who go to or who have gone to Indian schools already and in schools where they still exist and have got they are an entirely different set of ways of looking at the world. And this knowledge of their grandparents or even the old Indian ways of belief of their parents. They either have to accept or reject. But it's kind of hard to do both of them.
And if you try to be an Indian and a white man at the same time you're likely to end up a schizophrenia. Herein lies the danger to the Indian children today they're being exposed in many instances to two cultures and two value systems. They must make a choice and the choice is not easy to make. They choose the non-Indian values they are not fully accepted by their family and friends if they choose the Indian values. They are then not accepted by the non Indians as a result the Indian child cannot do the right thing. And this is a very self-defeating position to be in. McGregor and his associates in a 1943 through 1945 study of children on the reservations in western South Dakota found among them many children who were distressed anxious or apathetic. These children are today the adults on those reservations and their children today are being faced with many of the same problems. There continues to be a gap between the younger and the older generation. The problem of the gap between the young generation and the older
generation is the same problem that immigrants faced. Here in the United States and us with every immigrant group that's come into the United States the native born foreign parents was always a conflicted generation always had high delinquency and crime rates because it means the authority of their parents way of life is gone. They haven't really become absorbed into the American way of life and they don't know what standards they should guide themselves by. Generally the third generation of immigrants have made the transition. Now people often say why don't the Indians assimilate. They say the immigrants dead. The major reason is that the immigrants came here with the idea of becoming Americans and the Indians were here with their
own adjustment to their environment their own way of life. They weren't seeking to become Europeans but the Europeans coming in have made it necessary for them for the most part not entirely but for the most part to readjust their lives to the dominant terms set by Europeans. Now we might also note that there's a lot of interest in the present time in the adaptability of the American negro as we move ahead in integration and in the effort to try to realize the basic principles of equality and equality of opportunity that underlie the American way of life. There's one thing is quite different about the background situation of the American Negro. When the American Negro was brought over from Africa his tribal groupings were completely broken up. And the American Negro has
had little chance to retain much of the background of the original African cultures. The American Indian on the other hand has never been broken up as a community. The community can lose its faith and its way of life. But they car of the family is still there and the core of the community is still there and consequently for most or many many American Indians there is still a vital residue of the old way of living and believing in this vital residue of the old way keeps alive the values that are inherent in the Dakota culture values than non-Indians too often don't understand and don't take time to understand. That a COTA value system was drastically different from the American value system of yesterday or today. In the Dakota camp the men did little of what we would term productive work. The man was charged with the responsibility of getting food on hunts and with protecting the camp from enemies.
These two responsibilities were the most vital of any in the camp. To the Dakota the sharing of one's possessions was the thing to do. It was not good to refuse to another that which you had and he did not. It is interesting to note that the possessive word my or mine does not exist in the Dakota language. The closest one can come to it is to say that which I prefer. What was yours belong to your friends and what was theirs was yours on request. It was bad not to share. It was a virtue among the Dakota to attain proficiency without showing malice toward your peers. One was not to attempt to consciously rise above those knees band proficiency in hunting and fighting with respected and honored but any attempt to be better than anybody else was severely criticized. The Dakotas lived in a small well structured social system. They did not prefer to live in large groups and in fact became very anxious when in large groups even during the annual encampments which lasted for only a week or two the Dakotas were
Realty and police regulations were tight. It has been stated by critics of the Dakotas that they lack motivation. You could say they lack motivation based upon on existing values. They didn't lack any motivation to go out and be a good hunter. You know didn't lack motivation to go out and gain a reputation as a good warrior a defender of their society. It's sad when the Indian male. And large part and again we're talkin out about all Indians. But a large. Part of the man has lost social significance. That he had doesn't have a significant role to play. In. Mother. Still has the same jobs that she had under the old sad. OPINION male. In so far. As he has no job to perform in their speech. Not in Puritan terms of work. And that. In terms that they would
understand in their own society there was a job to be done there. There was food to be secured. Here that there isn't something to substitute. For this. Then the Indian male is. A very sad person. Dr. Sterling pointed out one instance where the conflict in value systems has caused a tremendous impact on the Dakota male. You no longer serve the role that he used to in a way he's being asked to do camp work which in the old culture was the job of women. This creates a difficult sociological position for the Dakota male and one that has not been solved today. The concept of individual ownership. Materialistic values in the ways meant that if you had anything you divided this and gave it to your friends and relatives. It's very difficult to pick up this cultural baggage let's say and live the white man's ways. Today the concept of sharing is still somewhat prevalent on the reservation although today without the clear restraints of the old culture the concept is being taken advantage of by those who do
not understand it or who choose to ignore its real meaning because the culture is no longer strong enough to enforce it. There are cases of people moving in with relatives who may have come into some money and staying until the money is gone then leaving. Letting the host struggle along on his own until he acquires more money. This is common among the Dakota people today. It was imposed upon to give to his friends and relatives until he himself has nothing left but inferred that the Goto was also a born killer. Let's look at the Dakota's response to the concept of the born killer the pleasure killer that the Sioux has been labeled long term. Meaning that he rode a horse. I mean no more. You're back here you know it. Had darn worn away on any nation had that exact accounting. Same thing you know that apply to wacky. Pete Earley never run into Can
anyone like your feet high over. That other thing you know that thinking that maybe meadow did it over many years now that they had a new meaning. Get that like any other people. Maybe he'll do it at night if not all of the banning of life. And we have that same problem. But it's not large enough. To create violence. Sorry I mean you know. The problem is caused by the conflict of cultures are many fold and not easily solved. So a lot of Indian communities can be maintained as communities. Then there will be a group of Indians that will still be able to hold to the old Indian values and will not go all the way. And assimilation to the White American values and way of life. Now of course when we
look at the situation we lose sight of the thousands of American Indians who have been absorbed into the American way of life and much more visible of course are those Indians who remain as an community entity on a reservation area. There is a continuous draining off from the reservations of people who assimilate. But then there is always the continuing community that retains a good deal of Indian ism. We're in the answer lies to the conflict of cultures no one really knows has been going on for a number of decades now and will probably continue into the future for a period of time. There's been a movement to aid in the solution of the problems of the Indian generally as Dr Breggin explains. There has been a movement called pan indian ism a sort of
bond of unity between all Indian people in the United States and to deal with some of these problems as practice should have been dealt with regionally pan-Indian is in force the common bond and then. Of the Navajo certainly have a different problem of problems than the Sioux or the eastern tribes. Many of them have assimilated them along for example. So that. 10 unionism attempts first perhaps to make these people proud there. Have a cage. But still to deal with a specific problem by regions it might be a misstatement to say that the goal of pan indian ism is to make the Indian proud of his heritage for the Dakotas very proud of his heritage. He needs most to have his self-pride rebuilt so that he can face his family and society feeling that he has a definite and important role to assume in society. Few of the government programs to date have had much of a result on the Dakotas far as changing a
rating his value system or helping him to adapt to a new society. Whether or not he becomes a unit of that society in South Dakota the mismatch of cultures gives rise to what is commonly turned an Indian problem. If you go back in American history the programme's talked about an Indian problem. Where the Indians had a problem too they had a white man problem. We've been talking in terms of an Indian problem. Perhaps this really is the white man's problem and. That this is something that. We have. Created by pushing in upon the Indians. And that. This. Is a misnomer to call it an Indian problem. Certainly we wouldn't want to suggest. That. These are people that are different than we are. And that. They are. A sort of problem children. There's no connotation of that sorry. Here is a human problem. And here are humans just as we are. Here is
something that our society. Must face and to and so if there is some way to get a neutral name for it in that cause and problem but here is a societal problem. Here I would be a bit happier where then does the key lie. This societal problem has raged for a number of decades now. The conflict between conqueror and the conquered Does the answer lie in job training education the war on poverty future programs will examine these and other areas of the Dakota conflict with society as the series moves into the more contemporary problems of the Dakotas. There was certainly an understanding gap between the general public and the Dakota people. Value conflicts have gone on in Iraq. The conflicts will stop whenever people either do away with the cultural differences or accept them at face value. The Indian must learn to adapt in the white man must learn that most Indians want to retain their identity. They do not themselves want to become white men too. I'd like to thank
- The Sioux philosophy
- Producing Organization
- University of South Dakota
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The carefully structured relationships within the tribe give the Sioux a much different set of values from those found in the society into which they assimilate.
- Other Description
- A documentary series about the history, culture and contemporary problems of the Sioux, a Native American tribe.
- Media type
Producing Organization: University of South Dakota
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-10-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The Sioux philosophy,” 1967-03-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-8911sp5f.
- MLA: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The Sioux philosophy.” 1967-03-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-8911sp5f>.
- APA: Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The Sioux philosophy. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-8911sp5f