Wotanin Wowapi (Poplar, Mont.) 1975-2007, September 11, 1975, Image 12

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Wotaninwowapi Page 12 September 11, 1975 • ,''.• A CONTROLLED SOCIETY OF THE OLDEN DAYS \A society that has no locks can tol- erate no thief; Without paper or other easy record of man's word it can tol- erate no liars, and no trouble makers if there is no jail, no prison. When men are not brave the rains fail for all, and when the women lose their virtue,the buffalo do not return,\ (so goes an Ind- ian philosophy), Such a society, must orient its young very early, if, in addition, there is no established creed, no organized priest- hood, no one to say what must be be- lieved, or to offer a refuge. Then the member of that society must be given a strong sense of their inalienability from the things of the earth and the sky and all that lies between. This sense must not be that of the infant, to whom all things are joined, his to command, but that of the adult, upon whose con- duct all things are dependent, Without a written creed or an or- ganized priesthood the religion of any people adapts itself to new regions, new situations, new ways of life rather quickly. Some Indians, like the Pawnees, carried their sacred place, their center of the earth, with them to the plains, as the white man brought his altar with its cross and the symbols of the blood and the body of Christ into the farthest wilderness. The plains Sioux, however, had left the concrete symbols of their religion far behind, and carried along only a few remnants of an agrarian worship, such as sun dance and bits of the old corn dan- ces. So intellectualized had their re- ligion become for the more selfless leaders that they were sometimes called the Unitarian of the American Indian. The realization of death came early and naturally to the Sioux. There was no demonology left among these people, no evil beings or spirits to be appeased or circumvented, or blamed, if things did not go well it was not due to super- natural sprite or anger or temptation and because the individual or the people and their leaders were out of tune with the Great powers. To discover what must be done someone had to purify himself to the demands of the flesh, of the sel- fish, either by fasting on a high place in heat or cold, hoping ror guidance in a dreaming, or through the mortification of the clearer understanding to the Ind- ian's Universe, his great powers, a closer identification and attunement. When the puberty rites were over, the young Indian (Sioux) has certain duties to perform. With these fulfilled, and the gift of self-discipline, fostered ever since that first suppression of his birth cries, he was perhaps the world's freest man. His first obligation was. naturally, to the family ----to help pro- tect and defend the lodge and all its occupants, protect the hunting grounds, help with the meat and with the increase and care of the horses, and to bring no discredit upon the good name. He had similar duties toward his village and tribe. If he dispatched all these he was free to do with his life as he wished. And with no social or economic barriers to any calling, none but inclination and ability, energy, and wisdom and leader- ship could carry any Indian to the high- est council circles of the village and the tribe. The Indian considered the whites a brutal people who treated their children like enemies---playthings, too, coddling them like pampered pets or fragile toys, but underneath like enemies to be re- strained, bribed, spied on and punished, or as objects of competition between the parents, sometimes even to open quarrelings and worse over them. The In- dians believed that children so treated could only grow up dependent and imma- ture pets and toys, but with adult wills and appetites to be indulged---grow up designing, angered and dangerous enemies within the family circle, to be appeased and fought and be defeated by, perhaps even murdered. The Indians pointed to the increasing lawlessness and violence of the young people of the white man, a violence that was often turned against their elders, Such a thing was unknown ALL THN6S ARE ONE: THE ROCK, THE CLOUD, THE TREE, THE BUCCAL°, THE MAN.\ among the tribes in the old days and very rare up to the recent expropriating days, when so many thousands of Indians were driven off their small holdings on the reservation into any alien society, usually untrained perhaps, practically illiterate, they have drifted into hope- less tent and shack communities around the small towns and to the slums of cities like Chicago, with very few jobs open to them anywhere—nothing much but begging, thievery and prostitution their lawless and violent. The Sioux and two hundred years of contact with white men who carried the cross with them in one guise or another and on top of that, eighty-five years on reservation where churches, Caltholic, and Protestant, were pushed, with polit- ical favor for those who joined and a little coffee and perhaps doughnuts for all in the hungriest times. Still the Indians didn't take Satan and hell -fire very seriously, or the concept of an a- venging God. The idea of fear was too alien to their philosophy, to their ide- al of personal discipline and their whole idea of the good life and the e- ventual death that comes to all, bitter- ly resisted or embraced the grace. There was no fear of the dead among the Sioux, The body of a warrior who fell in enemy country was rescued immediately if poss- ible, or by a later party with the skin sack painted red for the honorable re- turn. Often relatives and friends went to sit at a death scaffold, later at the grace, as they would have gone to the fireside of the departed one. Children saw the sickness, the dying and the bur- ial, and sometimes went along to visit the place of the bones, to listen to the stories of what have been done, and the duties and responsibilities left for these behind. Sometimes there was a song or two or some grave little dance steps. The Indians have added much of their own religious concepts to their notion of Christian beliefs and symbols, and, with the peyote trances out of the Southwest, have formed the Native Amer- ican Church, which, judged good or bad, is their own. But even those who joined the churches of the white man have clung to sore of their basic beliefs, which were broad enough to encompass practi- cally and formalized creed. Among the Indians, as among any peo- ple, the depth and profundity of re- ligion varied, the varies. There were some who never rose above attempts to obtain help for selfish personal ends, but it seems that the average Sioux tried to accept responsibility for what happened to him and his band, his tribe, mystically as well as invisible ac- tuality. When misfortune struck there was no devil to blame. The individual or the group was out of tune with the Ind- ians' universe. Farseeing men went to fast and wait for the vision of what must be done to regain the harmony with all things encompassed by the Great Pow- ers. \In them all things are one: the rock, the cloud, the tree, the buffalo, the man.\ HEYOKA KIN (The Contrary) Heyoka, a Contrary. He was one of those who had dreamed of thunder in his puberty fasting and to avoid this threat of lightning for himself, and for those about him, he must do all things in an unexpected, backward and foolish way, like the walking upside down, with the false face behind_ The heyoka often dip- ped his supper out of the boiling kettle with his bare hands (perhaps coated with a secret preparation from resinous plants) and rode his horse facing the tail, his bow or gun drawn against him- self. And if a man aiving himself pom- pous airs around the camp or village should hear laughing behind him he could guess that a Contrary was there, imitat- ing him, but in reverse, turning all the sweetness of the man's self-importance to sand in the teeth. • The Contrary not only tried to pro- tect himself and those around him from lightning andotherstorm damage with his foolishness, he entertained the people as a clown entertains. With his antics he lifted the hearts that were on the ground, perhaps from some great dying brought by the white man's diseases or in the sorrow of another great loss, as when many were killed in a buffalo stam- pede or in warring, and when the homes of the people, their beloved hunting grounds, were taken away. This double purpose of the Contrary's dream seems typically Sioux. To them all the des- tructive aspects of nature were matched by the good, the wholesome, the crea- tive. Storms that scattered made the grasses grow, the buffalo fat, the peo- ple and the earth's creatures, or froze them, also lightning that might kill a whole war party or a dozen people from a traveling village on a high ridge somewhere could also reveal enemies skulking in the night and save the camp. Since the reservation days there was danger from lightning in the wagons with iron tires. But the Contraries worked hard and through their antics brought a feeling of safety, with a little laugh- ter and gaiety even in these defeated tires. And when the storm clouds broke away, there was sometimes a rainbow, and a cool, peaceful evening time, and songs and drumming around the night fires.# Submitted by Stanley HollowHorn Sr. •••

Wotanin Wowapi (Poplar, Mont.), 11 Sept. 1975, located at <http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/WotaninWowapi/1975-09-11/ed-1/seq-12/>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.