Lakota
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Homeland of the Lakota
All My Relations
Camp Life & Seasonal Round
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Arts and Artists
Tribal Government
Language
Tribal Colleges
Self-Determination and Sovereignty
Recommended Web Sites and Bibliography

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Fur Trade
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

 
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Leonard Little Finger,
Oglala Sioux educator

“In the circle of life understanding of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, there are 4 seasons. Although there is daily prayer, this is a time for special prayers beginning when the day is equal to night, known to others as Spring Equinox and ends with the longest day or Summer Solstice. This is the belief of the People of the Seven Council Fires from the past when they lived in the old world. During this time, the He’ Sapa or Black Hills become the prayer sites. At those sites, from time immemorial, the people gather with their pipes to offer their prayers. Thus, the Black Hills are sacred to the people" (Leonard Little Finger: 2003).

 

There are many excellent websites created by Lakota people. We would like to provide you with these selected links to more stories. Enjoy!

http://www.angelfire.com/co
/MedicineWolf/stories.html

http://www.geocities.com/
Wellesley/Garden/3922/lak-st.html

 
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Image of Sam Kills Two (also known as Beads), a Sicangu Lakota,
painting his winter count,

Rosebud Reservation, S.D., ca. 1910. Nebraska State Historical Society, John Anderson Collection RG2969.PH

Pierre > Culture > Since Time Immemorial
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Road outside Rosebud
Courtesy Rosebud Sioux Tribe
 
Oral History
 

The following is an excerpt from Lakota Star Knowledge, a project of Sinte Gleska University, Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Rosebud, South Dakota. Used here with permission from Victor Douville.

"The stories of the Lakota Oral Tradition are sacred literature. Therefore, they must, like other scriptures, be understood on four levels of conciousness. These levels correspond, the Lakota say, to our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual natures, and these are related to the unfolding of the four stages of life: childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. The first three levels of understanding can come eventually to any earnest seeker, as he or she grows and matures. But the spirits alone can give us the last and highest comprehension. All four levels are true and those four truths are one truth. The medicine men say that how deeply each of us understands the stories tells us about the level we have attained in our own lives. The following are paraphrases of several Fallen Star Stories.

"Long, long ago, two young Lakota women were out one night looking at the stars. One young woman said "See that big beautiful star. I wish I could marry it." The other woman said the same about another star. Suddenly, they are transported into the star world, and there these two stars become their husbands. The wives become pregnant. They are told this star world is theirs, but also warned not to dig any wild turnips.

"Eventually one of them does, and as she pulls out the turnip, a hole opens in the star world. She is able to look down and see the earth. She braids more and more turnips to make a rope and lets herself down through the hole. But the braid doesn't reach earth and she falls. The crash kills her, but her baby is born. The baby is raised by a meadowlark. Since meadowlarks speak Lakota, the baby, now named "Fallen Star," grows up speaking it, too.

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Rosebud Sioux Tribe
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George Jameson photo courtesy of USGS
"Fallen Star matures rapidly - in days rather than years. He is taller than normal and a light emanates from him. The meadowlark grows old and takes him to a Lakota band where he settles for awhile.

"Fallen Star, the protector, the bringer of light and higher consciousness, travels from one Lakota band to another, and everywhere he is recognized, expected, and reverenced.

"At another time while a band is camped near the site of Devil's Tower, a brother and a sister are chased by some bears. A voice directs them to a knoll. The bears, however, surround the children and close in. Fallen Star (as a voice of power) commands the earth to rise up out of reach of the bears, who claw at the hill as it lifts. The clawed hill becomes Devil's Tower. Later a bird carries the children to safety, back on earth.
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National Park Service Photo

"Contemporary Lakota who told Fallen Star stories include: Mr. Noah Kills In Sight; Mr. Moses Big Crow; Ms. Dorothy Crane and Ms. Ollie Napesni" (Sinte Gleska University: n.d.).

 
Reckoning Time
 

"Most of us think of a calendar as a means of telling time. To the Sioux, a "waniyetu wowapi" - a winter count - is a means not only of counting the years, but of identifying them by name and symbol. It is a picture-book of history drawn by the succeeding generations of a family or band by a family "keeper" from events important in the history of that family or the tribe, or even in the world. In the earlier days the winter count would be shown to members of the tribe at certain times, and they would thus learn the history of their tribe. Even to this day, some winter counts are kept up" (Cohen: 1942).

Here two winter counts from separate bands of the Lakota Sioux tribe record the major events that occurred between the years 1800-1808. The winter count in the right column was made by Swift Bear. The left column is Big Missouri's. The comparison of these two historical recordings of different bands from the same tribe show that although they were both part of the Lakota tribe, the most important events recorded from a particular year were different most of the time. During the years that the bands recorded similar events (such as 1801 and 1808), they were probably both sharing the same camp. Other accounts of different events occuring in the same year show that the bands were separated.

 
Swift Bear's Winter Count
Big Missouri's Winter Count
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1800-01- "First-good-white-man-come Winter."
1801- First good white man visited the Indians, a missionary.
Good Man Return
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1801-02- "First-good-white-man-return-with-guns-to-trade Winter"
1802- Death of great Chief Wounded Hand
   
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1802-03- "Chief-Big-Elk-killed Winter"
1803- Crows and Sioux met while both were hunting buffalo.
   
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1803-04- "White-trader-come-built-house Winter."
1804- A Frenchman came among the Indians. Was known as "Little Beaver". made his home on an island in the Missouri River.
   
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1804-05- "Seven-Pawnees (Scili) came-to-Dakota-camp-all-killed Winter."
1805- An Omaha Indian, enemy of the Sioux, ventured into Sioux camp and was killed.
   
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1805-06- "Eight-white-traders-come Winter."
1806- Delegation of Indians and wives started to Washington to see the "Great Father".
   
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1806-07- "Dakotas-killed-three-Pawnees Winter."
1807- Crow Indian sneaked into Sioux camp and was killed.
   
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1807-08- "Many-flags-flying-for-medicine Winter."
1808- Indians expressed gratitude to Providence in a profuse manner by putting many red flags on hills, rocks, and other conspicuous places.
(Cohen: 1942)
 
 
Background: Sinte Gleska University, Lakota Star Knowledge,
Studies in Lakota Stellar Theology. Rosebud Sioux Reservation, n.d.