Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sioux Children #historical #western #American Indians

The following three major bands comprises the Great Sioux Nation:

Lakota - (Seven bands)

Dakota or Santee - (Four Bands)

Nakota or Yankton - (Three Bands)
Upper Yankton
Lower Yankton

I've long had a fascination for the Sioux, specially the Lakota, and I've enjoyed learning how ritualistic the tribes are/were. In today's post, I'm going to share some facts concerning their children.:

A time of celebration and showing thankfulness to the family.  Based upon the legend of the White Buffalo Woman, once a Sioux woman gave birth, she fulfilled her role to be fruitful and multiply.  At sometime during a woman's pregnancy, usually a grandmother or the mother, created twin turtle or lizard pouches, one to hold the baby's umbilical cord and the other to serve as a decoy.  Since both animals were considered "hardy, it stood to reason that using their image would serve to protect the child.  The true pouch was hidden in the child's cradleboard until the little one grew old enough to walk, and then worn around the neck.  At a certain point possession of the pouch reverted to the mother.

Four days after birth, everyone in the village was invited to a feast to celebrate naming of the baby.  Contrary to rumors I've heard (mainly in a joke), children were usually named after their oldest living grandparent or a deceased grandparent held in high esteem.  Additional children were usually named by the father to herald a specific deed he had accomplished or maybe a dream he'd had.  In the case of boys, they were usually two names, one which was never spoken aloud.  The "secret" name was acquired from a "winkte" which surprisingly to me, was a male Indian who dressed like and possessed all the quilling and sewing skills of a woman.  If Lesbianism existed, it was less obvious than the role the transvestite played, and being a "winkte" was considered God-Like and thusly a name offered by that person would protect the child from harm.

Modern-day babies benefit from the colostrum from their mother's breasts, but in the case of the Sioux, and old woman called, sucking woman, or a ten-year-old girl was summoned to remove the first milk for three or four days in order to prevent the infant from having diarrhea.  Instead, babies were fed berry juices and soups through a nipple fashioned from an animal bladder.

Sioux mother and child
A child's first year was mainly spent bundled in a cradleboard.  Cattail down or buffalo chips (depending upon the season) were packed in the bundle to absorb the urine.  Feces were removed, but the bundling not necessary changed each time.  The mother assumed the care of the child, often assisted by another female member of the tribe (grandmother, sister, older sibling), and if the infant as female, the old sibling assumed responsibility from the beginning.  If the child was a male, her participation was limited to feeding and watching over the baby.

Although children remained securely confined for the majority of their infant-time, from the ages of four to seven, they were naked most of the time.  By the age of seven, more modesty was required, but the children were asked, not told what to do and physical violence was never used.

Setting up Camp
As the child grew, he/she received instructions from many of the family oriented Sioux tribe and were rarely disciplined and the Sioux revered their children.  Games played by the boy children were extremely physical and geared toward preparing the child for battle, and when a boy was old enough to sit a horse, he was given his own colt and instructions on the care of the animal by his father.  Girls talents, on the other hand, were not fostered by the father-son type relationship, rather gathered  from rules of conduct demanded of female Sioux.  Cooking, washing clothing, gathering wood, berry picking and keeping the home straightened were primary tasks, but later, young women were taught the art of quilling, scraping and drying hides and learned how to construct and relocate tepees.

Women were required to show kindness to all men and animals, be loving, achieving, and eat apart from the men.   The left side of the lodge was designated as the female's side, and she was required to speak only in the female language which consisted of words not much unlike Spanish where ending letters signify gender.  (Example:  hermano/hermana = brother/sister).  Most importantly, female children were geared to behave modestly and care for themselves and their family.

Next month:  More on tribal behavior.

Facts presented here were garned from reading "the Sioux" by Royal B. Hassrick and America's Fascinating Indian Heritage by Reader's Digest.  All images were secured from

Destiny's Bride, my latest release from Books We Love, in which I show the heroine's experience at witnessing the birth of a child as directed by Rainwoman, the old medicine woman:
Here's an excerpt from

The area inside was large and spacious. Cecile stood riveted against the wall and watched with eyes wide. To see a group of women assisting in the birth made the experience impersonal…and a tad intimidating.  Maybe she hadn’t become as immodest as she thought.  Her thoughts were drawn to the expectant mother by a low moan.
Raven Wing squatted over a small trough lined with a square of deerskin and grasped a stick driven into the ground to help maintain her balance while she gave in to the bearing down pains. With each contraction, one of the women pushed on Raven Wing’s abdomen to hasten the baby’s arrival.
Cecile wondered how long the woman had been in labor. Raven Wing’s face contorted with pain yet she never yelled or cried out despite her apparent anguish.  Having never witnessed a child’s birth before, Cecile became frightened and inched toward the door.
Rain Woman noticed and waggled a winger at her. “You must stay and watch so when your time comes you know what to expect.”
“Okay, Old Mother,” Cecile relented. “I will stay.” But she thought of a thousand things she’d rather be doing.
Finally, after lots of pushing and straining, Raven Wing’s blood-covered baby slipped out into the trough. The new mother fell back onto a bed of buffalo robes, totally spent and panting for breath. Rain Woman stepped in and cut and tied the umbilical cord then cleared the baby’s nose and mouth. The newborn boy immediately cried, flailing tiny arms in the air.

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Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the blog, Ginger. I need to save it for future reference. Book looks great too.

Jacquie Rogers said...

It always made more sense to me to let gravity help out--but if a woman had a long labor, just imagine how tired her legs would be!

Ginger Simpson said...

Thanks for the comments, gals. I find the Sioux so interesting, and I can't wait to share more about them next month.

Jacquie, First off, I wouldn't be able to squat, let alone get up, so that birthing style would never work for me. Give me pain meds and a hospital and I'd be good to go....or I was good to go. At my age, giving birth would be a follow up to Mary and Joseph, plus, I'd have to carry the babe in my pocket since there isn't any room in the "innards." *lol*

Ellen O'Connell said...

It's interesting, but as a lifestyle for a woman it doesn't sound more than step up from what Muslim women endure.

Paty Jager said...

Ginger, interesting information about the Sioux. they had some of the same philosophies as the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce also did not physically punish the children but they were taught respect for their elders and I think the knowledge that they must follow the rules to keep the whole band safe is what helped to keep them from being brats. And they were given chores that helped the good of all which gave them a vested interest in their jobs and being respectful. I could go on with my theories all day. ;)

Great post!

Ginger Simpson said...

Ellen and Paty,

I barely touched on all the responsibilities the children were taught, boys by the fathers or other male relatives, and the girls by their female kin. They were definitely taught respect, and crying earned them nothing, so they learned early on it was a waste of time.

As for the women....I agree with you Ellen, they were the backbone of the tribe and responsible for everything except hunting and warring. Even after the buffalo hunts, they were the ones called upon to skin, preserve, and utilize every part of the animal...or make some parts useable for the men such as creating boy strings, etc. Yep...I wouldn't want to have been a "sioux wife", although this unnatural preoccupation with the tribe tells me I might have been.

Ciara Gold said...

Fascinating post as always. We're so pampered today that it's hard to imagine what these women endured. Yet, they were probably very happy.