Making of Relatives Ritual

Hunkapi - a strong blood bond with someone else, promotes peace and reflects the spiritual relationship between humanity and Wankan Tanka.

The Adoption Ceremony

This is one of the sacred rituals brought to the Sioux people by White Buffalo Calf / Cow Woman.

It is said that this ceremony was first used to make peace between the Lakota Sioux tribe and the Ree (Arikara, Arikaree) tribe. It made the other people relatives so they would not war against the Lakota in the future. In this case it was the adoption of former adversaries and the ceremony lasted several days.

The women's faces were painted red. The men's faces were painted red with a blue circle around the face and blue lines on the chin, forehead and cheeks. The face painting symbolizes change. The person has been reborn into a new family and takes responsibility in getting along in the new relationship. All past grievances between the new relatives were forgotten and a lasting bond of community was forged.

One of the contributions of the Ree people to the Sioux was their tobacco and continues to be used in making the sacred tobacco to be smoked during spiritual ceremonies.

The Sioux are divided into bands and then into smaller, extended family groups known as tiyospaye. New relatives are added to the Lakota's immediate and extended families by birth, marriage or adoption.

"Family is the measure of your wealth. They will support you in good times and in bad times. For a Lakota, you belong to a tiyospaye through birth, marriage or adoption. Your family even extends out to your band and the whole Lakota nation. Whenever you travel somewhere, you can expect to be welcomed and supported as if you were in your own immediate family." "In the Lakota kinship system, all relatives can be trusted but strangers could turn out to be the incarnation of Iktomi, the legendary spider spirit of deceit."

"When a Lakota adopts someone through the Hunka ceremony it means that person is adopted as a member of the family, it doesn't mean that person is Lakota." Looking Horse


Being adopted into a Native American family is a great honor and is done only when a person shows they can be trusted and have gained respect.

"According to Ella Deloria, the single most important activity of Lakota life is the making and maintaining of relatives.   One of the seven central Lakota ceremonies is makes relatives of those who are not.  Deloria says, "the ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple: One must obey kinship rules; one must be a good relative....  every other consideration was secondary: property, personal ambition, glory, good times, life itself." [Deloria, Speaking of Indians, 17]

"Through prayer to Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit), the exchange of sacramental food and smoking from the sacred pipe, an enduring bond of community is formed between people."

"Kinship is central to the Lakota way of life. Courage, fortitude, wisdom and generosity are among the most celebrated virtues. The Lakota learn these traits from their elders and prove them in their daily lives. Every act and judgment is considered in terms of its duty and benefit to the extended family, which often includes hundreds of people. The worst insult a Lakota can give is to say "you live as if you had no relatives.' "

"Upon suffering beyond suffering: the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom. I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one." - Chief Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux

Good story on a man who was taken into the tribe

And another version of the ceremony

2002 International Brotherhood Days description

Newest site of the International Brotherhood Days

This site has a nice Indian Art depicting the Making of Relatives on a Winter Count.

"THE SACRED PIPE, BLACK ELK'S Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux" By Joseph Epes Brown

Lakota Kinship