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Sicangu Community Histories Fall 2012-Pt 2

December 7, 2012

Due to the influx of non-Natives into the Lakota territory the necessity arose for the creation of treaties by the United States government. This was because of overland trails [with wagon trains] that stretched through Lakota territory. These overland trails often made a swathe up to forty miles wide.

Oregon Trail, Platte River

Oregon Trail, Platte River

In 1841 few emigrants came along the trail on the Platte River.  Yet, when the fever for land in Oregon arose, over 900 more emigrants took this route (Ostler, 2010: 34). At first the trains were a mere curiousity to the Lakota…something of a concern, but not a problem. Yet as time passed, the Lakota became concerned due to the sheer number of non-native people and the destruction left in the wake of the overland trail settlers  where  “their animals [had] consumed grasses that otherwise would have been available for Buffalo and Indian horses (Ostler, 2010: 35)”.

Along with the affects of the overlanders trek through Lakota lands, were the diseases  they carried with them, such as: Cholera, measles and small pox.  “These diseases hit the Brule’s especially hard, killing around five hundred of their thirty-five hundred people (Ostler, 2010: 37)”.  The Lakota thought these diseases were brought by the wasicus to anniliate them.

When the government of the United States began to ask for concessions in regards the land, the Lakota leadership could not consent to relinquishing “ownership” of the land to them. The Lakota had fought with and made their own treaties (of a sort) with indigenous nations for the land in which they lived.

The viewpoint of the Lakota nation regarding  the territory in which they hunted, gathered medicine, raised their families, and also certain portions of the area they utilized  was deemed as sacred, was that it was a gift given to them by creator, Wak̇an Ṫanka. The land belonged to the Lakota people as a whole (not individually) and thus could not be owned (in the non-native concept of ownership) nor sold.

The Lakota people learned very quickly the thinking of the non-native people in regards to the land they held.  The Lakota saw their place in the world, upon the land in which they held sacred, as diametrically opposed to the viewpoint held by United States government and the people that government represented.  This is especially true of the place now known as the Black Hills.

The Black Hills and the Lakota nation had a special relationship of symbiosis. This relationship was due to the belief that the stars and the land mirrored each other and spoke a special “language” from spiritual beings.  The place where important ceremonies were mirrored in the night-time skies.

Through oral stories, the Lakota knew that when the movement of the sun was in certain constellations and “the people understood this as a sacred speech (Goodman, 1992: 1)” that was directing them to conduct certain sacred ceremonies.  Every aspect of life was affected by the knowledge of how the stellar movement was directing the people.

Star Map

Star Map

It is said that the “stars were the visible ‘scriptures’ of the Lakota (Goodman, Lakota Star Knowledge and the Black Hills, 1985)”.  The link between these constellations or stars and the sites upon the earth were embedded within the Lakota Oral traditions.  These stories were kept from one generation to the next.  “Traditional Lakota believed that ceremonies done by them on earth were also being performed simultaneously in the spirit world (Goodman, 1992: 1)”

Certain ceremonies were conducted in the Black Hills, based upon the location of the sun as it moves through star constellations.  In the winter the sun was in the Caƞṡaṡa Ip̄usye (Dried Willow), at this time the people would gather the plant material necessary in order to conduct the upcoming ceremony. The positioning of the sun when it was within Caƞṡaṡa Ip̄usye was directing the people, to conduct a pipe ceremony at the Spring Equinox.

The camps move to Hinhan K̄aga P̄aha, the rain-making mountain (Anonomous, 2012). When the sun had entered the Wiċinċila Ṡak̄owin (Seven Little Girls) constellation. The people were then directed by the constellation to conduct the Welcoming Back of the Wak̄iƞyaƞ, orliterally, “They are dancing for the thunders that are theirs”  (Yat̄e Iwak̄iċip̄i).

Next, the camps move to Ṗe Ṡla for the Welcoming Back of All Life in Peace Ceremony  or “Peace at a bare spot” (Ok̄iṡlat̄aya Wowaḣwala) around mid-May. It is conducted when the sun had entered Ki Iyaƞk̄a Oċaƞk̄a (Race Track) or Ċaƞ Gleṡk̄a Wak̇aƞ (The Sacred Hoop) constellation and Ṫayamni.

This ceremony “included feeding the plants by pouring water into the earth; scattering seeds for the birds; and an offering of tongues for the meat eaters (Goodman, Lakota Star Knowledge: Studies in Lakota Stellar Knowledge, 1992: 13)”.  It also was the time when Sun Dancers prepared themselves.

Finally, when the sun had entered Maṫo Tip̄ila (The Bear’s Lodge) the camps move to Maṫo Tip̄ila P̄aha (Bear Lodge Butte) for the Summer Solstice, Wiwaƞg Waċip̄i (Sun Dance Ceremony).  Stones that were collected at Iƞyaƞ K̄aga and then transported to this location were used in the purification ceremony.  Just previous to the Sun Dance the name of those  three hills change to Pt̄e He Ġi (Devil’s Tower to the Grey Buffalo Horn); Pt̄e He Sap̄a (Iƞyaƞ K̄aġa to The Black Buffalo Horn) and Bear Butte to Pt̄e Put̄e Ya (The Buffalo’s Nose).

It was believed that “being at the right places at the right times and doing the appropriate ceremonies, the  People hoped to receive spiritual power from the Wak̇aƞ Waṡte the cosmic powers of good (Goodman, Lakota Star Knowledge: Studies in Lakota Stellar Knowledge, 1992)”. The Lakota people realized that the relationship they had with these cosmic powers as integral to their way of life.

Along with the spiritual language of the stellar world, hence spiritual world was the Lakota relationship with the Buffalo nation.  Lakota oral stories on creation states that the Buffalo had exited the opening of the Wind Cave[1] “as tiny beings” [the size of ants], then become full-sized buffalo afterwards.  Along with the Buffalo coming from the Wind Cave[2], is the first man, Tokahe.

It is for this reason that the Lakota people fought so tenaciously for the territory in which they lived.  Each new encroachment upon their land warranted that the Lakota fight to keep back the onslaught of destruction to their way of life, especially when the Black Hills had become the center of focus by the United States government.


[1] See: Appendix A: “The Black Hills”

[2] The Wind Caves [are in the southern portion of the Black Hills]

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