Sorry for the delay in posting my latest blog. Today i wanted to share the daily life of the Lakota in a time when the buffalo was plenty and the elders would tell the men, women and children of the camp all about the spirits, the Lakota way and exploits of days gone by. It was during this time that a man was expected to join a Society, that would govern the way of life, not only in battle, but also in peace times.
Most people today see the Native American of the past as a “warrior” society. However, the daily life of the Oglala Lakota, and other Plains Tribes, were more detailed and complex as just the symbol of war and battle. The Lakota, for instance, had numerous men’s societies; ranging from the Bare Lance owners (Sotka Yunha), White Marked (Wicin Ska), Omaha, Kit Fox, Bone Keeper, and Silent Eaters, to name just a few. Each Society had their own rituals and rules for daily life, as well as guidelines for battle and facing the enemy.
So strict were these Societies, that a warrior was expected to follow the rules to a tee, or suffer bad luck and even death. One such Society that was well known to be a very ancient order, was the Brave Hearts Society. This Society was not only a part of the Oglala Lakota’s life, but the Lakota Nation as a whole. Some of their most recognizable members were Sitting Bull (Tatanka Yotanka) and Rain in the Face.
The warrior of this ancient Society usually wore a headdress with buffalo horns and eagle feathers running down the back and a horse hair whip in the hand. The obligations of the Society’s members was to defend and come to the rescue of the weak, elderly, women and children of the camp.
In battle the Brave Hearts Society, a Warrior would sometimes carried a sash and a spear. He would be expected to attach the sash to himself and with the spear, anchor the other side to the ground. From this position, he would fight, and by law (bestowed upon him by the Brave Hearts Society), was not allowed to run from the enemy till the battle was completed. Other members would combine their personal insignia’s with their Brave Hearts regalia.
The image to the right, “War Insignia” no 13, gives the variety of regalia a man from the Brave Hearts or Brave Society would carry in battle. The lance in his hand with the crooked end indicates that the warrior is a Lancer Bearer of the Brave Hearts Society. The spots on the horse protect him from receiving any wounds, and the strips on the horses flank show that a noble deed was done. The hair is unbraided, showing that the man is ready to do desperate deeds. The shield is a part of the warrior’s personal vision, given to him by the spirits. The circle on the horse tells others that the spots were made through sacred ceremony, therefore enabling the warrior’s medicine to be effective (Thunder Bear – 1912).
So, not only were Lakota men’s Societies essential in war time, but also governed the social structure within the camp during peace time. Each member of the various societies were expected, by Society law, to uphold their role within the broader community.
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