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I. Am. This program was produced by the national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation and was compiled through the facilities OK you asked me radio at the University of South Dakota. This is a story of ruffled feathers Lakota Sioux in transition. I am. This is the fifth in a series of programmes about the Dakota or Sioux Indians and South Dakota. This program deals primarily with the religion of the Dakota and the transitions it has undergone in the past one hundred and fifty years. The Dakotas had a word for the invisible Creator of All powerful force they worshipped. He was called Walk On. The Dakotas often referred to him as walking or
great holy or Great Spirit as a white man called him according to a local anthropologist and scholar. The translation great holy is most correct. It is a common mistake to label that a code as polytheistic although they appeared to worship the sun the whens the buffalo the grass and rocks. They were really paying respect to the giver and creator of all things to the little prince and he got out when he prayed would have peace and I told him he was a lot like and I think I can hear more from these people. Some of us said that the Dakota's religion was a pagan religion in comparison to Christianity but there exists the belief that the ethnic Dakota religion was merely a forerunner of Christianity. They all then internally that they've been a great guy and now I don't want anything wrong the fact that they would not get a peace
pipe and everything that gives me the moon but it pealed to them because I really do know that they would know that something worthwhile you know. Yet I accept it. Yet they never give it up but you take that to the truth of the old way and know they have a similar And that point it naturally but and want in life that have proved to me that we are no where. Do you think they have any further evidence in support of the same contention came from Frank Poole's grow one of the last of the old medicine men on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. If you want to stand firm in your elbows because there is a holy house and he said from that holy I can change the religion so you understand that the he said danger is part of that that was predicted by the Lord's own medicine to this day the
thing that he predicted the vaccine existed and the thing that he said. How did that only know to the Dakota religion was a part of everyday life just as any religion should be. There were of course certain sacred rituals and ceremonies inherent in the practice of the Dakota religion. The Sundance discussed on the program dealing with the code of music and dance was the high point of religious worship among the Dakota. Each year the location of the Sundance was changed but no matter where it was held all the bands of the tribe were notified and all arrived bringing their belongings across the prairie and erecting their tepees around the camp circle. The elements of the ceremony have been carefully preserved since that point in time an eon ago when the white buffalo maiden came to the Dakota people bringing the peace pipe and instructions about how to give thanks to walk and Tonka. Long in advance of the actual Sunday and the medicine man began praying for good weather and undertaking other ceremonial responsibilities to insure that all would be in good order when the day arrived.
An important part of the pre sundown ceremony was the selection of those men who would scout out the Sundowns pole and cut it down. Although the procedure varied from tribe to tribe generally poor men were sent out to find a train. It was explained to me that as a general rule the cottonwood tree was used because in a cross section it contained a nearly perfect star shape. Once the tree was selected it was cut down either by the Warriors or by virgins selected to do the cutting. In either instance each ball of the axe was preceded by a recounting of coups starting with the outstanding wire of the tribe. Great care was taken in constructing the dance area a spot of ground about 50 feet in diameter with the Sundance pole set in the middle and decorated with religious symbols. Prior to participating in the Sundance those men who had taken a vow to dance the Sundance did the humble HFA or ceremony of knowledge seeking then the sweat lodge ritual which also held religious significance not only sinking the sweat bath and then
thrown together for the simple reason that they form and if you have come to a belief in it and that think nothing cares to game in case of war. I thumbed through that he had that great spirit. And then when a great period that can lead to peace. Preparing to tell when a friend of mine doing the reborn of the pure play will and do penance and pray. Praying that a lot of men who get out and seek knowledge and ask for a guiding with the peace by point peace plan that morning in the morning with a group order. Then who the dreaded group found that a man might take part in the Sunday ends and one of six ways. First by simply dancing second by lacerating the flesh and the remaining four ways by piercing the flesh with skewers and attaching leather thongs to them the other end of which were attached to either the Sundance ball or to Buffalo skulls in the piercing the flesh over the chest was used most often.
The goal of the dancer was to break loose thus fulfilling his vow to walk and Tonka. By torturing himself he was giving to walk and the only thing he really own his body. In most cases the dancers could break loose in an hour or so but there are recorded cases of dancers going for up to 36 hours after having been pierced in four to six different spots on the body and suspended from the Sundance a pole or a series of poles. In the summer of 1966 I attended the annual Oglala Sioux Sundance powwow and found the dance to be somewhat tamer than its traditional counterpart. But the meaning was still there too many of the people and the ritual was followed now as it was then. Drink Hermann translates for Frank Poole's grow head Sundowns or pour the Oglala Sioux. You know the people that take part. The reason for that these people know that as a war zone and they have to go to war they're asking God to bring them back safely. That is
why most are taking part in that. They should instead of you know that and him that they're in there pretty soon where they didn't have a word to be played that created no hero no teacher or kick you out of here. Troublemakers don't owe you money apps and a lot sheep liking I don't want to stay with their thoughts that they just have their asking agree to guide his own life and so on it has a meaning although not as severe as a century ago the piercing did look like it would be quite painful. Yet the dancers do not seem to notice the pain to any significant degree. Asked how painful the piercing was to the dancers rank answer. Got some words in there that I can take it put in the person and become their peers. At the Sundance I noticed that many of the people excluding tourists did not seem to be very
involved in the dance or its meaning. This seemed unusual since the Sundance is perhaps the only dance of a religious nature that involves the whole tribe. I asked Frank if he took the Sundance seriously takes it seriously but I'm sorry to say some of these people don't understand. Lack of understanding is perhaps the reason why the Sundowns is no longer a closely knit tribal function. While there were a number of older men and women who were visibly moved by the dancing and its meaning there were also those who didn't seem to be too concerned with the whole affair. While one of the dancers grasped the Sundowns pole and held it to himself sobbing his prayer at the walk and Panka. Another stood watching contentedly munching on some popcorn purchased from a nearby concession stand. To most older Dakotas However there was still some significance to the dance if only ceremonial in nature. The religious leader of the community was the medicine man.
Like any other decoder The medicine man learned of his role through a vision experience of the Dakota Indians and all other Indians of the plains the way in which a man could come to count in life was to go out and seek a vision. The basic idea is that the human being is of himself helpless. He's born weak pitiful and without which you might say any personal resources. The notion is that a man has to achieve through his own actions but he can get special ability as a warrior as a killer. Whatever it may be as a leader of man only if some supernatural being takes pity on him. So for instance a Dakota Indian would go out normally at 12 or 14 years of age perhaps 16 alone usually to a isolated spot strip himself paint himself
usually with black and then starving himself. What each day prayed to the supernatural being saying oh spirits here I stand a helpless human being I have nothing. Take pity on me help me and then if he was lucky some spirit maybe an eagle maybe a bear. Maybe the Buffalo maybe a hawk or whatever it might be would come and appear to him not in a dream as he saw it. They made a distinction between dreams and true visions and then would say all human being I have heard your call here I am I am taking pity on you now I will give you my power and the hawk for instance would give power of immunity to bullets in battle. The bear could give power to cure bloody wounds. These powers are all specialized depending on the animal. The eagle could give power for extreme bravery in battle and then in the vision the animal spirit or the bird spirit would
proceed to describe the songs that one should saying they've given for song for as the magic number it would describe the way in which is shield should be painted and if he was to have a little medicine bundle it would describe how we should make the medicine bundle and watch it go in it and then he would tell him how to sing the songs how to prepare the bottle before I went in battle and he would have them the strength the bravery to be successful. Frank Fools grow is now over 70 years old. For a number of years he's been a medicine man just like his ancestors before him. Frank discovered the secrets of the medicine man through two different journals then burst through his ancestors and then through the Great Spirit when he had his vision that we can move. Yeah they do it quite fair. If Tony had got back to my living Doctor let me get it out when my next one afore I find a new much tacky. Got back to buying a home by locking them back to open them up
and the Shiney Ahuja like you are going to for I think you know one might think that we cannot walk we're not going to do it and I threw away. You know I think that's you. White shark in knee you with your own 15 you want a camera cheater. Oh Lord. Or do you think the impact of somebody's Chadron pneumonia or really not I care to mock him OK you got it all going to the market or your grandmother or young 16 ere for a date in a fortnight I can walk out of our nature my home or a dollar that you cannot lower that dark who don't know when you're going to come to a normal cat he said I had a serious case of all of that. He named Immokalee their place they told me that with a certain officer I could learn. I realize that that's what they told me
so I come back so that more people have more prayer to help me and I pledge to him that he could cure me. On June 16 I'll do the humble lecture that is a rarity for prayer is granted to me so they dug a hole in the ground for four days and four nights they had in their prey and to this day. And the knowledge from that what are the experience I had was again true the medicine the medicine man is the individual's path to the Great Spirit in almost every instance except during the sun dance where each dancer has a direct tie to walk and Tonka through his attachment to the sun dance pole. In addition to acting as a spiritual counselor the medicine man is able to cure physical ills through the wise usage of the herbs found in Mother Earth that the method that he uses. That's for sure that he could see that they don't.
He didn't tell me what form nobody tell me but I go through what they call the week before and they walk me up a new rule and when that time I call on the Great Spirit to come back in the form of different things and medium the Spirit to come and tell me what is wrong with and and through thinking that tell me what. Tough for her to get away from the bark from the grass. I get that medicine I doctor with and he comes out and he's a lot of hate even in our modern society where hospitals are nearby and scientific skills available. Many illnesses perhaps psychosomatic in nature are cured by the medicine man. Think he's sad and he can't. Why not get an easy out. He said they help 67 people made him with ceremonial rights and in that it's good. Often times the curing centers around the use of a certain herb or plant that has medicinal
value. Out of the medicine man find the writer dead you can get used to one minute and thought that he came home again he said the very thought that comes in the form that descended from the same way we have in the way that with spiritual leaders like the medicine man in a religion directly linked to the all powerful creator force of the universe the Indians prospered for many years on the plains the Great Spirit had strong medicine. I started out with Adam along Come let us say our grandparents and the United States cavalry and in a period of less add to it along comes smallpox for instance the epidemic of epidemic of eight hundred thirty seven simply wiped out most of the village tribes the Mandan particularly that had ATS and a wrecker out. These were things that their supernatural or medicine powers themselves couldn't control.
They fought valiantly we know the Indian Wars went on. With great intensity for about 40 years and then finally ended after the last attempt at supernatural revivalism in the Battle of Wounded Knee with the total destruction of this pitiful remnant of the coat of the Shah I am in 1878 were crushed militarily and it meant to the plains Indian that their basic view of life was too weak from their point of view. If the white man had the gun if the white man had the military power to crush them it meant that the supernatural power of the white man was greater. Now this led to results or loss of faith in the old Indian way of living. And when you destroy people's faith or when they lose their faith in their own conception of life they lose their motivation and they
become apathetic. Oh are they try to learn what is the magic secret of the people who are more powerful than they. So you found many of the Indians in the 1880s and 1890s saying Alright now we have to go down the white man's road our way isn't good enough. And they've got the power. But the shift. A view of life that's been built up over several thousand years from the time of the ancient Hebrews with its particular conception of the universe modified by the development of modern science which has absolutely contradictory assumptions as to how the universe is organized to make that shift is not something you do just by saying well I'm going to do it. This requires a total change in the way children are trained and the attitudes that they get and achieving
a new outlook on life. The white man's ways were brought to the plains in increasing intensity during President Grant's administration as part of his peace policy where the various religious denominations were set among the Indians to civilize them. However the Army always stood by in the background prints in the states that under the peace policy the government approached the Indians of the mountains in the plains with a shark's Kamin in one hand in the Bible in the other. Also perhaps the impact of this peace policy the Catholic Church had been active in this region and they were left out of peace policy therefore there were exchanges on various reservations for example they were awarded tribes in Oregon and Washington. Yes they weren't entirely left out but they felt as though they had been left out that they felt that there had been as a part of the understanding that the Indians would be assigned on the basis of who had been working on Mon them earlier.
Al father just met have gone all the way on a specific coming from the north the French priest had worked among the dandy and saw that the Catholics. Tended to feel that on the basis of assigning Indians to those who had been working among them in the past that well over half of the Indians should have been assigned to Catholics. My own view of it is that even though this had been a part of the original understanding which I question. Even if this had been true. It was very impractical. That is this just is not going to be done. You couldn't have gotten away with assigning three quarters of them to the Quakers or to the Baptists you name any one group. And there is the other factor that. Part of the peace policy carloads for individual denominations to increase their mission where there's group work which cost money and those who made the most of it were the Quakers who were notably wealthy and didn't spend much in hiring
ministers anyway. And Episcopalians that was a wealthy church. Whereas those who are least successful were those that had the least money. And if you remember the Catholic Church at this time was an immigrant church that they had difficulty in getting a priest to service their own churches and we had and many immigrants do that credit to that there was a very great problem. Among the Catholics to take up this increased mission. Work given the position they were in. Methodist also incidentally because of the form of their organization through this early exposure to the white man's religion the movement among the Indians was started in that direction. Not many of the INS attempted to embrace Christianity as the means of identifying with this more successful way of life. And many Indians are today Christians.
Many Christians don't understand what Christianity is and consequently you shouldn't be surprised if many Indians don't have a really very good understanding of what Christianity is. They found however that this in itself was not enough just by becoming a Christian doesn't make you successful in the competition of life may help. But it frequently does not want to answer to the religious problem lies in the adapting to the situation by utilizing elements of both Christian and Indian religions for the souse were engulfed by Christianity Oh no he said. Christ died over that the white civilised man brought the Bible to the sill but to sue all of us to Berman is a religion. So the way I do it he said it but I see there are certain things that is not good for the Christianity on our suicide. I led them to one side but my thoughts is now as he said I am a Catholic I combine the two together and then I can prove it to you because recently the Catholic Church priesthood here had he done a home later with
me and he's finding out things that the value of Christianity to the prime TV compared so he can sign them together. Actually he's a Catholic and he still is. Are you with the man he had in there. Another answer to the problem of religious orientation came to the Indians in the form of a cactus the P.O.D. cult as cites centers the eating of a peculiar cactus called local fought us while the MC and this cactus is not a narcotic. Definitely is not but it is a drug. So is aspirin a drug. But it's a very complex drug that's got a number of alkaloids in it and a small amount of strychnine. And the effect of the eating of this cactus is to get visions or you can say mild hallucinations. The visions then come not as a result of a one man
going out alone and making himself pitiful before the supernatural. But if they come in a meeting in which there's quite an elaborately developed ritual in a group setting in which members of the Pre-OT church which is called the Native American Church praying singing and eating the cactus as a kind of sacrament experience the vision or visions in a group setting. And so the Pre-OT worshipers see P.O.D. as given to them by God and it is the means in which they get. A kind of I would say a weaker version of the vision experience that was at the heart and core of the life of the old Plains Indian with overtones to the old culture the purity ceremony can then act as a stabilizer to the uncertain religious situation which many an
Indian finds himself in Bible and Christ and Christianity are very important parts of the Pre-OT cult. Now the purity cult is essentially an expression of the old way of life but it is fused with Christianity. The beauty calls may still be found on the Dakota reservations although they are looked upon as a danger to the Established Church by ministers in the area. Ranking trauma 20 23 years ago. I don't know what to think the software will mean you got some kind of a catch. I kind of hear it with a door from the home down to Nevada when it came on the town and they called it don't need it. Fools grow dismissed the Pre-OT issue by simply stating it won't work.
The movement today on the reservations by many far sighted Indians is to do just what Frank and Jake and many others have done. That is a movement toward unifying the traditional Dakota religion and the Christian religion. By utilizing the looking inward examining one's goals and abilities and loyalties. By giving thanks to the Great Spirit for God. By realizing that the Christian Church originated from the same God as the Indian religion and by utilizing the best elements of each religion there can evolve a religion among the Dakotas that is contemporary and meaningful to all Dakotas. I wish to thank Dr. Adams and the whole region is professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Robert Stirling and her old dragon of the University of South Dakota Department of History. Jake Herman and Frank Fools grow the Pine Ridge Reservation and L of the lower vermilion for information used on this program. This is Arlin dying and speaking.
Of ruffled feathers. The Dakota Sioux in transition was produced with the facilities of Q Westie radio at the University of South Dakota a grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of this program for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux
Patterns of Sioux religion
Producing Organization
University of South Dakota
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
From traditional culture has arisen a combination of old and new: Indian and Christian. The Native Church of America, which uses peyote, is also prominent.
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A documentary series about the history, culture and contemporary problems of the Sioux, a Native American tribe.
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Producing Organization: University of South Dakota
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-10-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:27:50
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Chicago: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Patterns of Sioux religion,” 1967-03-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Patterns of Sioux religion.” 1967-03-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Patterns of Sioux religion. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from