Archives for posts with tag: plains culture

Fifth in the series on original Plains culture (matriarchy)

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Birds

I had stated I would be giving away ‘medicine secrets’ in this series initial essay. Here is something almost no one knows or understands anymore.

The bird you have affinity with is the one that ‘talks to you.’ You can make a small experiment to determine this. When you walk in nature, allow your thoughts to be free, to roam where they will with no concentration to control. A little bit like daydream but no specified subject. If it happens there is a bird calls at that very moment a point is made, seen or discovered in your wandering thoughts, a sort of conclusion, this bird has just spoken to you (in the mind, not only the ear.)

The birds are the messengers who can pass understanding of events to you, to (among other things) know if a thought is correct.

If you can learn to do this in such a competence as to become ‘easy’ or ‘natural’ with the experience, it is the bird most often speaks to you, is your affinity. There you have it, how people were integrated to nature in times past. This is example of what had been ‘normal.’

To learn to accomplish this in practical reality would be difficult for many within the modern mindset. Men, particularly, would experience difficulty with this exercise in ‘female intelligence.’ The reason is, Judeo-Christian cultural shaping, mental stricture and taboo on the exercise of a feminine understanding of reality in Western Civilization (which has taken over the world.) In order for there to be a ‘rise’ of civilization, people had to come under the control of male dominated thinking or ‘hierarchy.’

Mosaic law is one example, where there is prohibition of sorcerers and necromancers, a crude demonizing of female intelligence to preserve the male hierarchy. Examples related to this sort of control would be (about equally) Saudi Arabia executing women as witches and western science panning any understanding of female intelligence that cannot be achieved via the constricted logic of empirical method; both science and religion are firmly rooted in a cultural system that fears and condemns or persecutes anything which threatens the ascendancy of male thought (and hence male hierarchy.) Civilization and ‘civilized man’ are both determined this understanding of the female ‘Nature’ is not to be acknowledged because it is a threat to male dominance. In the greater male hierarchy’s endeavor to suppress the feminine, the gynophobic Plato and the God of Abraham are peers, little different to the misogynist Confucius who serves this same purpose.

So, to understand the birds is tricky, it is important not to fool oneself, with how this works. The most common mistake (in the modern mentality) is when the bird makes its call, this can evoke another thought instantly from the self (not the bird) and you miss what the bird said, the thought the bird has brought has already been pushed aside by your thought and the real information is missed. This mistake is consequence of male oriented culture shaping the modern mind (regardless of skin color, we’re nearly all ‘apple indians’ these days.) Simply put, the alien (to original native thought process) ego won’t shut up and will be in your way. Why thank you, Jesuits and the boarding schools, for making the males, nearly all of us Native males, into modern whore-boys who, when we’re not busy chasing skirts while trying to get our dicks wet, only know how to run our mouths and cannot know how to listen. The consequence likely will be males who think they actually get this, are only hearing what their subliminal ego entity wishes them to hear. Those women with less male shaped mentalities, particularly those women less educated in science and least indoctrinated in religion, will have better outcome in overcoming the modern mentality obstruction, and more likely achieve understanding of this natural phenomena.

It cannot hurt to recall here, the modern ego construct mentality, considered normal in western culture,  is a construct which had been diagnosed and treated as a mental disorder in the ancient Plains culture. Modern Indians who most suffer from the modern mentality are least aware they suffer the problem and this is ultimate irony because it is those Indians who most loudly strut the proposed idea they are ‘traditional’ are those who most suffer from the modern mental disorder (and you can forget about the western anthropology program euphemistically named ‘native studies’ altogether.)

Another mistake is to expect you can discover something you wish to know with this. This second one is a mistake because it is not about what we think is important to know, but rather what nature (the spirit) thinks is important for us to know. This is again, the western culture’s male ego issue, unknown in the native past. This is why the point is made to NOT control the direction of thinking, for the process to actually work.

As for broadcasting versus receiving (the modern mind is stuck in broadcast mode and mostly cannot receive) et cetera, there is much, much more to know, but I expect this is challenge enough and will end it here, renamed ‘Birds 101’

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Essay 1 ‘Tobacco’

Essay 2 ‘War

Essay 3 ‘Women

Essay 4 ‘Conflict

Essay 5 ‘Birds

Related:

Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories

Third article in the series on Plains culture (matriarchy)

The Women Warriors

“Always when there is a woman in the charge, it causes the warriors to vie with one another in displaying their valor” -Rain in the Face, Lakota

Moving Robe was a Lakota woman who was a leader of the initial counter-attack against Custer’s surprise of the Sioux and Cheyenne camps at Little Big Horn. Consistent with the statement of Rain in the Face, it is clear this was not a unique event but had been repeated throughout Lakota history; because a woman’s leadership in war is long known in the Plains tradition of warfare:

“Moving Robe: One of the best-known battles in the annals of Indian-American warfare is the 1876 Battle of the Greasy Grass in Montana where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was defeated. One of those who lead the counterattack against the cavalry was the woman Tashenamani (Moving Robe)”

Next, note the Crow chief and warrior Fallen Leaf, a person of great recognition, was married to two women and this is not in any sense considered unusual:

“Fallen Leaf: While Fallen Leaf was a Crow warrior, she was actually born to the Gros Ventre nation and was captured by the Crow when she was 12. After she had counted coup four times in the prescribed Crow tradition, she was considered a chief and sat in the council of chiefs. In addition to being a war leader, she was also a good hunter and had two wives”

And we have two Cheyenne woman warriors, absolute peers to any male. The first, Buffalo Calf Robe is accorded recognition for high valor in combat, equal to any man:

“Buffalo Calf Robe: In the 1876 battle of the Rosebud in Montana, American troops under the leadership of General Crook along with their Crow and Shoshone allies fought against the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux. The Shoshone and Crow shot the horse of Cheyenne Chief Comes in Sight out from under him. As the warriors were closing in to finish him off, Buffalo Calf Robe (aka Calf Trail Woman), the sister of Comes in Sight, rode into the middle of the warriors and saved the life of her brother. This was considered to be one of the greatest acts of valor in the battle”

When I move on to Pita-makan, our famous Blackfoot war chief, there is a special noteworthiness in the Cheyenne warrior Yellow Haired Woman, per the notation of her membership in a closed (to men) women’s society:

“Ehyophsta (Yellow-Haired Woman) was a Cheyenne woman. She was the daughter of Stands-in-the-Timber. She fought in the Battle of Beecher Island in 1868, and also fought the Shoshone that same year, where she counted coup against one enemy and killed another. She fought the Shoshone again in 1869. She was also a member of a secret society composed exclusively of Cheyenne women”

With its many differing superficial details between tribes, original Plains culture (matriarchy) is remarkably consistent nevertheless:

Pita-makan was the last great awau-katsik-saki (Blackfoot woman war chief).  Her story as commonly known in the literature is difficult to accept for the fact of male reporting on her history, particularly the reporting of James Willard Shulz. Shulz was a self aggrandizing liar who romanticized his life among a Christianized band of Pikuni (southern Blackfoot.) His reports were from an European male perspective, for articles he sold to eastern publications. Another complication would be any native narrative solely from the man perspective, there were distinct oral histories, the woman’s and the men’s. These histories would not differ so much in metadata content, but in the nuance of the telling and the men refraining from telling women’s aspect of the history, which is the province of women. Nearly the entirety of history reported from the Blackfeet nation has been from western cultural perspective, essentially male oriented anthropological reporting and almost all of this reporting is unreliable.

What we can reliably know is, Peta-makan was a war chief of many years. She was successful in war leadership against the Crow and Salish on multiple occasions. When she was killed during a raid, she was a war leader of the ‘Braves Society.’ Her authority as a war chief was never questioned by anyone. She never married and when at war, was considered in the eyes of the Nitsiitapi (Blackfoot law of citizenship or the wider Blackfoot community) as equal to any man. Pita-makan was highly respected by male Blackfoot society as the absolute equal of, and even superior to, many competent male warriors in combat.

What has been unknown in the literature to now but we can also reliably know is, Peta-makan would have been determined as suitable for leadership in war by the women who educated all Blackfoot children to puberty. This would have happened when the ‘Notokis’ leadership of the Pikuni tribe, made this determination. The Notokis were the Blackfoot nation’s sole (and secret) women’s society that all Blackfeet women (and only women) belonged to.

Consequently Pita-maken would have been sent with the young Blackfoot males about her age to become a ‘Moskito’ when she entered higher education at early puberty. Pita-makan’s  peer group, when entering the male Moskitos society, would have averaged 9 to 12 years age and they would be a band of ‘brothers’ kept intact by tribal custom, throughout their lives. Blackfoot law would determine Peta-makan advance through subsequent Blackfoot age-determined male warrior societies, together with her peers throughout her war career. Subsequently we can know as a member of the ‘Braves’ society, she had advanced as a war leader to about age 40-44, when she had been killed in combat by the Salish.

In her personal life, Peta-makan would have had a choice of whether to live as a man or woman (she chose to be a woman and accordingly did not take a wife or wives but also did not marry any man.)

It is worth mentioning here, the women had their own warrior tradition altogether distinct from that of the men, as defenders of the camp. When the men were largely absent on the hunt or at war, the women were organized as a military force and would engage any attempted predations by enemy tribes.

The Plains women were absolutely entitled to exercise male rights and authority. When I’d initially asked Floyd HeavyRunner about a Blackfoot woman’s chief authority, whether their rank put them a par with men, his answer was the women chiefs were “a little bit higher”

WomanChief

Blackfoot Wild Gun’s wife in Chief Bonnet (left)

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Essay 1 ‘Tobacco’

Essay 2 ‘War

Essay 3 ‘Women

Essay 4 ‘Conflict

Essay 5 ‘Birds

Related:

Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories

Second essay in the series on original Plains culture (matriarchy)

War

The sa-ar-si (Sarsi, Sarcee) people don’t like their Blackfoot name. It means something like ‘doesn’t listen’ or ‘stubborn’ in a sense a native grandmother would be irritated with an out of control child. It never bodes well to irritate the women.

There is one clan of ‘Sa-ar-si’ that claims no Blackfoot descent (due to their pure luck of absence from the area during a particular incident) in the history of the tribes the outsiders never hear about because “Us Indians don’t air our dirty laundry in public” as one Blackfoot had put it to me. So these people stereotyped as ‘noble red savages’ are burdened with more typical human frailties despite the romantic view. Maybe certain Indians are not proud of everything that has happened in the case of the Sa-ar-si, and perhaps they just don’t care to share history the outsiders would not understand, in the case of the Blackfoot.

Related to this ‘suppressed’ history and attending underlying behaviors, there is an incident of a grandmother’s discipline of a male Pikuni (southern Blackfeet or Piegan) child that stands out in my memory. Indians allow children to learn from making mistakes, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make, is to piss off the women. This little kid (by his own admission, when relating the story to me as an adult) was a real terror who simply would not listen. After the ‘fourth’ warning from an old lady (his grandmother), she suddenly grabbed this four year old by his ear and pulling him to his toes with iron grip, she shoved her large buckskin stitching needle through his outstretched ear and kept him like that for a long moment while she explained to him the practical function of learning to listen.

Sort of like the Cheyenne women who guarded and refused to allow Custer’s body to be mutilated, but put their buckskin sewing awls through Custer’s ears, so he would ‘learn to listen in the afterworld’ (to his own words, Custer was related to these women by a child he’d had with a woman of the Cheyenne southern branch and had promised he would never make war on his relations, the Cheyenne.)

When the Sa-ar-si people encroached on Blackfoot territory, they not only refused to listen, they were misbehaved. The record of this is sketchy but a few things are known. The Sa-ar-si broke away from their main group in the north because they had no choice in the matter. A small tribe cast adrift in hostile territory which does not belong to them, is invariably a group of miscreant exiles. They had been expelled.

Reinforcing this is, when they necessarily entered into a hostile relationship with the Blackfeet subsequently, the main group in the north did not come to their aid. The Blackfeet finally, after the ‘fourth’ warning, killed every Sa-ar-si male from puberty and up, every one of them (except for an extended family group that happened to be absent.) After, the Sa-ar-si women were given Blackfoot husbands, Blackfoot Sundance (Okan) and were told ‘now you can stay.’

When the one small group of Sa-ar-si who’d been absent showed up and discovered what had happened, they had no choice but to adopt the Blackfoot cosmos, with a decision taken ‘I guess we had better behave, we see what happens to people who don’t listen.’ For whatever reason, this  entire event had been engineered at the insistence of (ordered by) the Blackfeet women, the Sa-ar-si must have done something that really made the Blackfeet women angry.

Pointing to the practical aspect of matriarchy, the Sa-ar-si, although now entered into the Blackfoot cosmos via Okan and Blackfoot tipi designs reflecting this, a requirement of residing in Blackfoot territory, they did not adopt Blackfoot language because it is the women educate all the children to the age of puberty, at which time the male children are exiled to male society. Thus, the Sa-ar-si kept their distinct identity but now as a related people and hybrid cultural entity.

Previous to this, there was a near identical reverse circumstance relating to the Blackfeet and Crow. The ‘Small Robes’ were an expatriate Blackfoot speaking band, belonging to the Crow tribe. They had no choice but to adopt the Crow cosmos to occupy Crow territory, excepting language. Because they had been rehabilitated as Crow Indians and because of the indisputable rights of women in matriarchy determining they would keep Blackfeet language, the relationship to the greater Crow tribe in relation to the greater Blackfeet tribe, was one of circumspect enemies with a great deal of respect. They recognized they were related. It was the women of both tribes, determined this relationship. In the present day, if you go to a meeting of the Crow council, it is yet clear who runs the show and it’s not the men. These people had been allowed to keep a more traditional form of government (likely their reward for being ‘army scouts’)

If it was the women who sent the plains nations to war, and it certainly at times was, no Blackfoot man wished to endure the public shaming they would receive from the women if they did not do so, so far as the women would, in extreme case of male reluctance, sometimes threaten to make up their own war parties and the men knew this would be followed through. It was also the women made these men humble themselves in a case of a (senseless) war gone wrong, such as when the Amskapi Pikuni (South Piegan branch of the Blackfeet) became embroiled in a hard hitting war with the Atsina (Gros Ventres, Arapaho speaking former allies.)

This war had begun with a patent male stupidity, some members of the old Mutsaix (previous incarnation of the Crazy Dogs, the old Brave Dogs warrior society) had made fun of an Atsina warrior ritual and this caused a war of male pride. When the Blackfeet women had become utterly exasperated with it, as a war that simply went on and did not wind down, they intervened and the Blackfoot males were forced to adopt the ritual they’d made fun of, as an honorable gesture to bring peace with the Atsina. This is the ritual dance you see to this day, at the Blackfeet Crazy Dogs society events.

Raven

The ‘mythical woman’ who humbles the Blackfoot male

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Essay 1 ‘Tobacco’

Essay 2 ‘War

Essay 3 ‘Women

Essay 4 ‘Conflict

Essay 5 ‘Birds

Related:

Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories

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