by Helen, Tommaso,
Hannah, and Tara
When a boy of the Plains Indian tribe was born, he would be named after an elder or ancestor of the tribe. As the boy grew up, unless he didn’t do anything important his name would change and would describe a brave act or famous battle they had been through. As the boy grew up, he was kept farther and farther away from the girls because the boys would have been training on their fighting skills for war and horsemanship. The most important goal for a male Plains Indian as they grew up was to be tough and brave, and to win the approval of the rest of the tribe. When the boy became good enough with his skills he trained on for most of his life, the boy would go on his first hunt. When the boy finally reaches manhood, at age seventeen, he would leave his village for a time to search for his guardian spirit. When the man came back he would be ready to join the warriors of the rest of the tribe in battle. If the man was not in battle he would be hunting for buffalo for the village. Hunting for buffalo was not an easy job, in fact it could take days or even weeks to find the herd. When they did find the buffalo herd, they wouldn’t kill them right away, but go back to the village to tell the chief the good news, and then the chief would send them to kill them or may not. When they did kill the buffalo, they would only kill the amount they needed, and feast on them
Life for the plains Indians was considered one big religious ceremony. The whole world was a mystery. The sky, sun, moon and earth were all called Wankan Tanka, the Great Spirit with no end. They were also considered individual gods. Thunder and wind were also gods. Sacred powers always worked in circles. The cycle of the sun and moon was a circle, the eagleís flight and the winds movement. Wankan Tankas symbol was a circle. It stood for the Earth, the Teepee and the Sacred Hoops. The tribes would flourish as long as the circle was unbroken. The plains Indians didn’t need a priest to see the gods face to face. They would communicate with the Great Spirit through dreams and visions.
They would do so privately, inventing their own ways to communicate. The only thing a man needed to have visions was his medicine bundle and his pipe. He would only open his bundle in private, for the things in it, pebbles, oddly shaped roots and animal bones and claws, were very sacred and had lives of their own. Not all religious ceremonies were private though. One of the best examples of this was the Sundance. It was a ritual of self-torture, where men would dance for four days without food or water until they would faint. To start the ritual, scouts would search for a cottonwood tree to ìkillî to become the sacred dance pole. They would treat it as a warrior, talking to it respectfully. Four women would chop down the tree, which was not aloud to touch the ground. The tree would be mounted in the center of camp, and the dance would begin. On the fourth day of the Sundance, warriors would run stakes through the top layer of their skin on their chests and backs. They would tie these stakes to thongs, which connected to the pole and were weighed down by buffalo skulls. They would dance around the pole in a circle, slowly moving backwards and trying to break free from the pole. Eventually, the weight of the skulls would break the thongs, and the men would be free. If any flesh was ripped off, it would be an offering to the gods. Since the dance lasted four days, many people would faint from exhaustion before the dance was over. While unconscious, they would have dreams and hallucinations that would tell them what to do and how to live their life for the rest of the year until the next Sundance.
Women of the Great Plains played a very important role in society. You might think that men did all the hard work and women had the easy jobs. However that is incorrect. Each woman would own a tipi; one significant and time-consuming job that women had to do was to pitch the tipi. The women would have to gather all there goods and their tipi, whenever the chief would decide to move to another area. Another tedious, however crucial job they had to do was to tan hides. Tanning hides included skinning a buffalo then putting it out to dry in the sun. After the skin was dry they would make clothing or a tipi cover. Buffalo were very key to the people of the plains, not only did they make their clothes out of them, they also cooked and used them for food. The main job that the men would have to do was to hunt buffalo. Women were the ones who were responsible for cooking the animal. The women would do all of the cooking, and gathering. In addition to cooking, they also had to raise the children. The women didn’t always work; they also had time for fun. Sometimes they would take a break from their work and play a game called “ Shinny”. Shinny is like field hockey. Back then they would use sticks and a buckskin ball. It was very important for a woman to keep her reputation as a good housekeeper, if not she would be considered useless. Women of the Great Plains had to do the most work. A tribe would not be able to survive without women.
The lives of Plains Native Americans varied depending on the tribe, but generally the life of Plains Native American children was not bad. Their parents were kind to them. They never hit their children, but they did emphasize strength. For example a baby in a Native American society was not supposed to cry. If the child had been cared for, and it still cried, then it’s mother would put its cradleboard somewhere away from camp. If the tribe’s enemies heard a bay crying that could alert them to the other tribe and give away their position. When children got a little older they learned about their culture. They were told stories, and attended ceremonies. The rituals taught them about there religion. To learn about the skills they would need for their life, they copied their parents and other adults. Boys would ride fake horses. The children also played a game called “shinny” to entertain themselves. The game shinny was like hockey; they would push a ball into a goal using wooden sticks. Girls would make small versions of tepees to imitate their parents. They also played with dolls made out of buckskin. As the children matured they started taking more roles in the tribe. When boys were fourteen, and close to being an adult, He would go on to search for his guardian spirit. The boy would wait on top of a hill for four days. During this time, he would watch for his guardian spirit, and some had visions of the spirits. They would also go on their first hunt around this age. Growing up as a Plains Native American was not bad and definitely prepared them for tribe lives.
The native Americans used quills elk teth and for a very few men eagle feathers and shells for decorations on their clothing they also used fringes which were both for decoration and to help keep water of the clothes native ameracan men wore breechcloths leggings and shirts the woman woreskirts or dresses made out of hide deer hide or buckskin hide imew thread or plantfibe were used to sew things to gether children aften went around naked moccasins were traditional foot wear either rabbit skin or buffalo hides were used to keep people warm headreses were called warbonnots the war chief usually had the longest hairrdresses a buffalo was often used to record history the dresses were made out of one buffallo skins or 5 dear skins because dear skins were smaller leggings were made 2 dearskins one for each legs mineral and plant dyes were used to die cloth
Native American clothing was simple for daily life. The men wore leggings, a breechcloth and a shirt. The women wore a dress or a shirt and a skirt and shorter leggings. Leggings were made out of deerskin one for each leg then bound with sinew, which is taken from the backbone of a buffalo. Skirts were made out of a dear skin and wrapped around the waste dresses were sewn at the shoulder and were made out of five dear skins or one or two buffalo skins. In the winter robes of buffalo or rabbit skins were used to keep warm
Erdoes, Richard. The Sundance People. New York: International and
Pan-American Copyright Conventions, 1972.
Waldberg, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Third Edition. New
York, 2006. American
Indian History Online. Facts On File. 11 Oct. 2007
Davis, Christopher. Plains Indians. New York: Gloucester, 1978.
Taylor, Colin. The Plains Indians? New York: Peter Bedrick, 1993.
Power, William K. Indians of the Northern Plains. New York: Putnam, 1969.
What the Native Americans Wore. Mason Crest, 2003.
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