UOT Culture and Family

"Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations." Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux 1868-1937

The three sections of the Sioux tribes, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota names all have the same meaning, "an alliance of friends." All three groups were considered one nation, and were found living in the forests in the Great Lakes area in the late 1600s. (Minnesota area) They lived on small game, deer, and wild rice. They were an aggressive people renowned for their fearlessness and often at war with other tribes of Indians.

The Ojibway tribe had formed an economic relationship with the French and were supplied with firearms, and proceeded to drive the Sioux nation to the west. The French shortened the Ojibway word "Naddewasioux" (meaning "treacherous snakes") for this group of people to "Sioux" and this is the name this tribe is known by today.

The Lakota have seven subgroups (7). The Lakota people moved west across the Missouri River and on into the open prairies to live a nomadic hunting lifestyle. Their territory stretched west from the Missouri River to the Bighorn Mountains and north from the North Platte River to the Yellowstone River.

1. Oglala - to scatter; Pine Ridge Sioux.
2. Sicangu - Burnt Thigh; Rosebud Sioux, lower Brulé Sioux
3. Hunkpapa - those who camp on the end; Standing Rock Sioux.
4. Mniconju - those who plants by the water; Cheyenne River Sioux.
5. Oohenunpa - two boilings or two kettles
6. Itazipacola - without bows
7. Sihasapa - Black feet, black soles

Dakota subgroups (4) - these people settled in the area of southwestern Minnesota, northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota.
Nakota subgroups (2) - this group settled in southeastern South Dakota, and a small area of northeastern Nebraska.

"Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Every one might act different from what was considered right did he choose to do so, but such acts would bring upon him the censure of the Nation.... This fear of the Nation's censure acted as a mighty band, binding all in one social, honorable compact." George Copway (Kah-ge-ga-bowh) Ojibwa Chief 1818-1863

Culture. (Family and kinship - everything is of the earth) 

The family is the foundation of the Sioux tribes culture, while kinship goes beyond the family and is the connection they feel to the world at large and everything in it. The important phrase, "mitakuye oyasin" meaning "all my relatives" is used in each and every ceremony.

"While the Sioux were known to be great warriors, the family was considered the key unit of Sioux life. Children, called "Wakanisha" (Waka meaning sacredness) were of primary importance to the Sioux family and were therefore the center of attention."

Shunning was used as an effective tool to bring miscreants in line. Children got hungry and when it became time to eat, they did not exist therefore no place was set for them. The same held true at bedtime. The child soon learned to conform or become very lonely. Usually the whole band shunned the individual so they had no one to turn to. Children were rarely, if ever, spanked.

"The basic social unit of the Sioux was the tiyospe, (band), an extended family group that traveled together in search of game. The Sioux nature leaned toward extremes. For example, infidelity in marriage was punished by disfigurement; an infraction of hunting regulations led to destruction of tepee and property; mourners inflicted slashes on themselves during burial ceremonies. The Sioux believed in one all-pervasive omnipotent god, Wakan Tanka, or the Great Mystery. Religious visions were cultivated, as in the frenzied ceremony of the ghost dance."

"To the Lakota, the family group was all-important. Membership changed, but the family remained intact through the years. They camped together in circular camps. The family hunting unit, tiyospe was the building block of Lakota society. A "good family" was judged by wealth in horses, success in hunting, membership in fraternal societies and the sponsorship of multiple religious ceremonies. Supernatural power, obtained through dreams and visions, was also important. A man was expected to adhere to the four cardinal virtues: bravery, fortitude, wisdom and generosity. A woman was expected to adhere to these four cardinal virtues: bravery, truthfulness, childbearing and generosity."

Most traditional Native Americans are not capitalistic or materialistic in nature and are more than willing to give anything in excess of what they need to others in need. They feel that anything they have extra should be given away and this trait is shown in the many ways and events that are held at the drop of a hat. They are givers, not takers, when possible. When their time of need comes, they are provided for in return.

These include events like graduation, a naming ceremony, a death, a sacred ritual, an honoring event, pow-wows, etc. Almost anything can be a reason for a celebration or honoring event and everyone that can attend does so. All of these celebrations, ceremonies, or funerals include a "give-away" and enough food is prepared to be carried away by all participants is the general rule. Star Quilts, clothing, personal items are made or collected until the family has enough to call for a give-away and the guests are notified. Many times these give-aways take a year or more to prepare for. Relatives and friends help out to the degree the person putting the event on allows them. The traditional Native American generally feel that if they have more than enough to meet their own needs, they are very rich, and need to share.

Gender - Acceptance of all

"As in many indigenous cultures around the world, homosexual and transgender individuals (and animals) are considered routine and expected. Many Native American tribes formally recognize these homosexual and transgendered individuals in the role of the "two-spirit" person (previously labeled by Europeans as "berdache", a term now considered obsolete). Two-spirit transvestite and homosexual roles are known to have been recognized and honored, at the present time or historically, in more than 150 different tribes.

The two-spirit is a man or woman who mixes gender roles by wearing clothes of the opposite or both sexes, doing both male and female (or primarily "opposite-gender") work, and often engaging in same-sex relations with other members of the tribe. Two-spirit people often are shamans, performing religious and/or mediating functions. Their special status is thought to invest them with exceptional spiritual power, as a result of which they are both feared and respected."

We are all related.

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