The Siouan Indians
A Preliminary Sketch - Fifteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1893-1894, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1897, pages 153-204
by W. J. McGee
Edition 1, (October 23, 2006)
THE SIOUAN STOCK DEFINITION EXTENT OF THE STOCK TRIBAL NOMENCLATURE PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS PHONETIC AND GRAPHIC ARTS INDUSTRIAL AND ESTHETIC ARTS INSTITUTIONS BELIEFS THE DEVELOPMENT OF MYTHOLOGY THE SIOUAN MYTHOLOGY SOMATOLOGY HABITAT ORGANIZATION HISTORY DAKOTA-ASINIBOIN cEGIHA ʇOIWE'RE WINNEBAGO MANDAN HIDATSA THE EASTERN AND SOUTHERN TRIBES GENERAL MOVEMENTS SOME FEATURES OF INDIAN SOCIOLOGY
THE SIOUAN INDIANS
A PRELIMINARY SKETCH(1)
BY W.J. McGEE
THE SIOUAN STOCK
EXTENT OF THE STOCK
Out of some sixty aboriginal stocks or families found in North America above the Tropic of Cancer, about five-sixths were confined to the tenth of the territory bordering Pacific ocean; the remaining nine-tenths of the land was occupied by a few strong stocks, comprising the Algonquian, Athapascan, Iroquoian, Shoshonean, Siouan, and others of more limited extent.
The Indians of the Siouan stock occupied the central portion of the continent. They were preeminently plains Indians, ranging from Lake Michigan to the Rocky mountains, and from the Arkansas to the Saskatchewan, while an outlying body stretched to the shores of the Atlantic. They were typical American barbarians, headed by hunters and warriors and grouped in shifting tribes led by the chase or driven by battle from place to place over their vast and naturally rich domain, though a crude agriculture sprang up whenever a tribe tarried long in one spot. No native stock is more interesting than the great Siouan group, and none save the Algonquian and Iroquoian approach it in wealth of literary and historical records; for since the advent of white men the Siouan Indians have played striking roles on the stage of human development, and have caught the eye of every thoughtful observer.
The term Siouan is the adjective denoting the "Sioux" Indians and cognate tribes. The word "Sioux" has been variously and vaguely used. Originally it was a corruption of a term expressing enmity or contempt, applied to a part of the plains tribes by the forest-dwelling Algonquian Indians. According to Trumbull, it was the popular appellation of those tribes which call themselves Dakota, Lakota, or Nakota ("Friendly," implying confederated or allied), and was an abbreviation of Nadowessioux, a Canadian-French corruption of Nadowe-ssi-wag ("the snake-like ones" or "enemies"), a term rooted in the Algonquian nadowe ("a snake"); and some writers have applied the designation to different portions of the stock, while others have rejected it because of the offensive implication or for other reasons. So long ago as 1836, however, Gallatin employed the term "Sioux" to designate collectively "the nations which speak the Sioux language,"(2) and used an alternative term to designate the subordinate confederacy—i.e., he used the term in a systematic way for the first time to denote an ethnic unit which experience has shown to be well defined. Gallatin's terminology was soon after adopted by Prichard and others, and has been followed by most careful writers on the American Indians. Accordingly the name must be regarded as established through priority and prescription, and has been used in the original sense in various standard publications.(3)
In colloquial usage and in the usage of the ephemeral press, the term "Sioux" was applied sometimes to one but oftener to several of the allied tribes embraced in the first of the principal groups of which the stock is composed, i.e., the group or confederacy styling themselves Dakota. Sometimes the term was employed in its simple form, but as explorers and pioneers gained an inkling of the organization of the group, it was often compounded with the tribal name as "Santee-Sioux," "Yanktonnai-Sioux," "Sisseton-Sioux," etc. As acquaintance between white men and red increased, the stock name was gradually displaced by tribe names until the colloquial appellation "Sioux" became but a memory or tradition throughout much of the territory formerly dominated by the great Siouan stock. One of the reasons for the abandonment of the name was undoubtedly its inappropriateness as a designation for the confederacy occupying the plains of the upper Missouri, since it was an alien and opprobrious designation for a people bearing a euphonious appellation of their own. Moreover, colloquial usage was gradually influenced by the usage of scholars, who accepted the native name for the Dakota (spelled Dahcota by Gallatin) confederacy, as well as the tribal names adopted by Gallatin, Prichard, and others. Thus the ill-defined term "Sioux" has dropped out of use in the substantive form, and is retained, in the adjective form only, to designate a great stock to which no other collective name, either intern or alien, has ever been definitely and justly applied.
The earlier students of the Siouan Indians recognized the plains tribes alone as belonging to that stock, and it has only recently been shown that certain of the native forest-dwellers long ago encountered by English colonists on the Atlantic coast were closely akin to the plains Indians in language, institutions, and beliefs. In 1872 Hale noted a resemblance between the Tutelo and Dakota languages, and this resemblance was discussed orally and in correspondence with several students of Indian languages, but the probability of direct connection seemed so remote that the affinity was not generally accepted. Even in 1880, after extended comparison with Dakota material (including that collected by the newly instituted Bureau of Ethnology), this distinguished investigator was able to detect only certain general similarities between the Tutelo tongue and the dialects of the Dakota tribes.(4) In 1881 Gatschet made a collection of linguistic material among the Catawba Indians of South Carolina, and was struck with the resemblance of many of the vocables to Siouan terms of like meaning, and began the preparation of a comparative Catawba-Dakota vocabulary. To this the Tutelo, cegiha, ʇɔiwere, and Hotcangara (Winnebago) were added by Dorsey, who made a critical examination of all Catawba material extant and compared it with several Dakota dialects, with which he was specially conversant. These examinations and comparisons demonstrated the affinity between the Dakota and Catawba tongues and showed them to be of common descent; and the establishment of this relation made easy the acceptance of the affinity suggested by Hale between the Dakota and Tutelo.
Up to this time it was supposed that the eastern tribes "were merely offshoots of the Dakota;" but in 1883 Hale observed that "while the language of these eastern tribes is closely allied to that of the western Dakota, it bears evidence of being older in form,"(5) and consequently that the Siouan tribes of the interior seem to have migrated westward from a common fatherland with their eastern brethren bordering the Atlantic. Subsequently Gatschet discovered that the Biloxi Indians of the Gulf coast used many terms common to the Siouan tongues; and in 1891 Dorsey visited these Indians and procured a rich collection of words, phrases, and myths, whereby the Siouan affinity of these Indians was established. Meantime Mooney began researches among the Cherokee and cognate tribes of the southern Atlantic slope and found fresh evidence that their ancient neighbors were related in tongue and belief with the buffalo hunters of the plains; and he has recently set forth the relations of the several Atlantic slope tribes of Siouan affinity in full detail.(6) Through the addition of these eastern tribes the great Siouan stock is augmented in extent and range and enhanced in interest; for the records of a group of cognate tribes are thereby increased so fully as to afford historical perspective and to indicate, if not clearly to display, the course of tribal differentiation.
According to Dorsey, whose acquaintance with the Siouan Indians was especially close, the main portion of the Siouan stock, occupying the continental interior, comprised seven principal divisions (including the Biloxi and not distinguishing the Asiniboin), each composed of one or more tribes or confederacies, all defined and classified by linguistic, social, and mythologic relations; and he and Mooney recognize several additional groups, denned by linguistic affinity or historical evidence of intimate relations, in the eastern part of the country. So far as made out through the latest researches, the grand divisions, confederacies, and tribes of the stock,(7) with their present condition, are as follows:
Dakota ("Friendly") or Ot-ce-ti ca-ko-win ("Seven council-fires") confederacy, comprising—
A. Santee, including Mde-wa-kan-ton-wan ("Spirit Lake village") and Wa-qpe-ku-te ("Shoot among deciduous trees"), mostly located in Knox county, Nebraska, on the former Santee reservation, with some oa Fort Peck reservation, Montana. B. Sisseton or Si-si-ton-wan ("Fish-scale village"), mostly on Sisseton reservation, South Dakota, partly on Devils Lake reservation, North Dakota. C. Wahpetou or Wa-qpe-ton-wan ("Dwellers among deciduous trees"), mostly on Devils Lake reservation, North Dakota. D. Yankton or I-hank-ton-wan ("End village"), in Yankton village, South Dakota. E. Yanktonai or I-hank-ton-wan-na ("Little End village"), comprising—
a. Upper Yanktonai, on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota, with the Pa-ba-kse ("Cut head") gens on Devils Lake reservation, North Dakota. b. Lower Yanktonai, or Hunkpatina ("Campers at the horn [or end of the camping circle]"), mostly on Crow Creek reservation, South Dakota, with some on Standing Bock reservation, North Dakota, and others on Fort Peck reservation, Montana.
F. Teton or Ti-ton-wan ("Prairie dwellers"), comprising—
a. Brule or Si-tcan-xu ("Burnt thighs "), including Upper Brule, mostly on Rosebud reservation, South Dakota, and Lower Brule, on Lower Brule reservation, in the same state, with some of both on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota, and others on Fort Peck reservation, Montana. b. Sans Arcs or I-ta-zip-tco ("Without bows"), largely on Cheyenne reservation, South Dakota, with others on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota. c. Blackfeet or Si-ha-sa-pa ("Black-feet"), mostly on Cheyenne reservation, South Dakota, with some on Standing Eock reservation, North Dakota. d. Minneconjou or Mi-ni-ko-o-ju ("Plant beside the stream"), mostly on Cheyenne reservation, South Dakota, partly on Rosebud reservation, South Dakota, with some on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota. e. Two Kettles or O-o-he non-pa ("Two boilings"), on Cheyenne reservation, South Dakota. f. Ogalala or O-gla-la ("She poured out her own"), mostly on Pine Ridge reservation, South Dakota, with some on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota, including the Wa-ja-ja ("Fringed") gens on Pine Ridge reservation, South Dakota, and Loafers or Wa-glu-xe ("Inbreeders"), mostly on Pine Ridge reservation, with some on Rosebud reservation, South Dakota. g. Hunkpapa ("At the entrance"), on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota.
Asiuiboin ("Cook-with-stones people" in Algonquian), commonly called Nakota among themselves, and called Hohe ("Rebels") by the Dakota; an offshoot from the Yanktonnai; not studied in detail during recent years; partly on Fort Peck reservation, Montana, mostly in Canada; comprising in 1833 (according to Prince Maximilian)(8)—
A. Itscheabine ("Les gens des filles"Girl people?). B. Jatonabine ("Les gens des roches"Stone people); apparently the leading band. C. Otopachguato ("Les gens du large"Roamers?). D. Otaopabine ("Les gens des canots"Canoe people?). E. Tschantoga ("Les gens des bois"Forest people). F. Watopachnato ("Les gens de l'age"Ancient people?). G. Tanintauei ("Les gens des osayes"Bone people). H. Chabin ("Les gens des montagnes"Mountain people).
2. cegiha ("People Dwelling here")(9)
A. Omaha or U-man-han ("Upstream people"), located on Omaha reservation, Nebraska, comprising in 1819 (according to James)(10)—
a. Honga-sha-no tribe, including—
1. Wase-ish-ta band. 2. Enk-ka-sa-ba band. 3. Wa-sa-ba-eta-je ("Those who do not touch bears") band. 4. Ka-e-ta-je ("Those who do not touch turtles") band. 5. Wa-jinga-e-ta-je band. 6. Hun-guh band. 7. Kon-za band. 8. Ta-pa-taj-je band.
b. Ish-ta-sun-da ("Gray eyes") tribe, including—
1. Ta-pa-eta-je band. 2. Mon-eka-goh-ha ("Earth makers") band. 3. Ta-sin-da ("Bison tail") band. 4. Ing-gera-je-da ("Red dung") band. 5. Wash-a-tung band.
B. Ponka ("Medicine"?), mostly on Ponca reservation, Indian Territory, partly at Santee agency, Nebraska. C. Kwapa, Quapaw, or U-ʞa-qpa ("Downstream people," a correlative of U-man-han), the "Arkansa" of early writers, mostly on Osage reservation, Oklahoma, partly on Quapaw reservation, Indian Territory. D. (D) Osage or Wa-ca-ce ("People"), comprising—
a. Big Osage or Pa-he-tsi ("Campers on the mountain"), on Osage reservation, Indian Territory. b. Little Osage or U-ʇseɥ-ta ("Campers on the lowland,") on Osage reservation, Indian Territory. c. San-ʇsu-ʞcin(11) ("Campers in the highland grove") or "Arkansa band," chiefly on Osage reservation, Indian Territory.
E. Kansa or Kan-ze (refers to winds, though precise significance is unknown; frequently called Kaw), on Kansas reservation, Indian Territory.
3. ʇɔiwere ("People of this place")
A. Iowa or Pa-qo-tce ("Dusty-heads"), chiefly on Great Nemaha reservation, Kansas and Nebraska, partly on Sac and Fox reservation, Indian Territory. B. Oto or Wa-to-ta ("Aphrodisian"), on Otoe reservation, Indian Territory. C. Missouri or Ni-u-t'a-tci (exact meaning uncertain; said to refer to drowning of people in a stream; possibly a corruption of Ni-shu-dje, "Smoky water," the name of Missouri river); on Otoe reservation, Indian Territory.
Winnebago (Algonquian designation, meaning "Turbid water people"?) or Ho-tcan-ga-ra ("People of the parent speech"), mostly on Winnebago reservation in Nebraska, some in Wisconsin, and a few in Michigan; composition never definitely ascertained; comprised in 1850 (according to Schoolcraft(12)) twenty-one bands, all west of the Mississippi, viz.:
a. Little Mills' band. b. Little Dekonie's band. c. Maw-kuh-soonch-kaw's band. d. Ho-pee-kaw's band. e. Waw-kon-haw-kaw's band. f. Baptiste's band. g. Wee-noo-shik's band. h. Con-a-ha-ta-kaw's band. i. Paw-sed-ech-kaw's band. j. Taw-nu-nuk's band. k. Ah-hoo-zeeb-kaw's band. l. Is-chaw-go-baw-kaw's band. m. Watch-ha-ta-kaw's band. n. Waw-maw-noo-kaw-kaw's band. o. Waw-kon-chaw-zu-kaw's band. p. Good Thunder's band. q. Koog-ay-ray-kaw's band. r. Black Hawk's band. s. Little Thunder's band. t. Naw-key-ku-kaw's band. u. O-chin-chin-nu-kaw's band.
Mandan (their own name is questionable; Catlin says they called themselves See-pohs-kah-nu-mah-kah-kee, "People of the pheasants;"(13) Prince Maximilian says they called themselves Numangkake, "Men," adding usually the name of their village, and that another name is Mahna-Narra, "The Sulky [Ones]," applied because they separated from the rest of their nation;(14) of the latter name their common appellation seems to be a corruption); on Fort Berthold reservation, North Dakota, comprising in 1804 (according to Lewis and Clark(15)) three villages—
a. Matootonha. b. Rooptahee. c. (Eapanopa's village).
A. Hidatsa (their own name, the meaning of which is uncertain, but appears to refer to a traditional buffalo pannch connected with the division of the group, though supposed by some to refer to "willows"); formerly called Minitari ("Cross the water," or, objectionally, Gros Ventres); on Fort Berthold reservation, North Dakota, comprising in 1796 (according to information gained by Matthews(16)) three villages—
a. Hidatsa. b. Amatilia ("Earth-lodge [village]"?). c. Amaliami ("Mountain-country [people]"?).
B. Crow or Ab-sa-ru-ke, on the Crow reservation, Montana.
A. Biloxi ("Trifling" or "Worthless" in Choctaw) or Ta-neks Han-ya-di ("Original people" in their own language); partly in Rapides parish, Louisiana; partly in Indian Territory, with the Choctaw and Caddo. B. Paskagula ("Bread people" in Choctaw), probably extinct. C. ?Moctobi (meaning unknown), extinct. D. ?Chozetta (meaning unknown), extinct.
A. Monakan ("Country [people of?]"), ? extinct. B. Meipontsky (meaning unknown), extinct. C. ?Mahoc (meaning unknown), extinct. D. Nuntaneuck or Nuntaly (meaning unknown), extinct. E. Mohetan ("People of the earth"?), extinct.
A. Tutelo or Ye-san (meaning unknown), probably extinct. B. Saponi (meaning unknown), probably extinct. (According to Mooney, the Tutelo and Saponi tribes were intimately connected or identical, and the names were used interchangeably, the former becoming more prominent after the removal of the tribal remnant from the Carolinas to New York.(17)) C. Occanichi (meaning unknown), probably extinct.
?Manahoac confederacy, extinct.
A. Manahoac (meaning unknown). B. Stegarake (meaning unknown). C. Shackakoni (meaning unknown). D. Tauxitania (meaning unknown). E. Ontponi (meaning unknown). F. Tegniati (meaning unknown). G. Whonkenti (meaning unknown). H. Hasinninga (meaning unknown).
9. Catawba or Ni-ya ("People")
A. Catawba (meaning unknown; they called themselves Ni-ya, "Men" in the comprehensive sense), nearly extinct. B. Woccon (meaning unknown), extinct. C. ? Sissipahaw (meaning unknown), extinct. D. ? Cape Fear (proper name unknown), extinct. E. ? Warrennuncock (meaning unknown), extinct. F. ? Adshusheer (meaning unknown), extinct. G. ? Eno (meaning unknown), extinct. H. ? Shocco (meaning unknown), extinct. I. ? Waxhaw (meaning unknown), extinct. J. ? Sugeri (meaning unknown), extinct. K. Santee (meaning unknown). L. Wateree (derived from the Catawba word wateran, "to float in the water"). M. Sewee (meaning unknown). N. Congaree (meaning unknown).
10. Sara (extinct)
A. Sara ("Tall grass"). B. Keyauwi (meaning unknown).
11. ? Pedee (extinct)
A. Pedee (meaning unknown). B. Waccamaw (meaning unknown). C. Winyaw (meaning unknown). D. "Hooks" and "Backhooks"(?).
The definition of the first six of these divisions is based on extended researches among the tribes and in the literature representing the work of earlier observers, and may be regarded as satisfactory. In some cases, notably the Dakota confederacy, the constitution of the divisions is also satisfactory, though in others, including the Asiniboin, Mandan, and Winnebago, the tabulation represents little more than superficial enumeration of villages and bands, generally by observers possessing little knowledge of Indian sociology or language. So far as the survivors of the Biloxi are concerned the classification is satisfactory; but there is doubt concerning the former limits of the division, and also concerning the relations of the extinct tribes referred to on slender, yet the best available, evidence. The classification of the extinct and nearly extinct Siouan Indians of the east is much less satisfactory. In several cases languages are utterly lost, and in others a few doubtful terms alone remain. In these cases affinity is inferred in part from geographic relation, but chiefly from the recorded federation of tribes and union of remnants as the aboriginal population faded under the light of brighter intelligence; and in all such instances it has been assumed that federation and union grew out of that conformity in mode of thought which is characteristic of peoples speaking identical or closely related tongues. Accordingly, while the grouping of eastern tribes rests in part on meager testimony and is open to question at many points, it is perhaps the best that can be devised, and suffices for convenience of statement if not as a final classification. So far as practicable the names adopted for the tribes, confederacies, and other groups are those in common use, the aboriginal designations, when distinct, being added in those cases in which they are known.
The present population of the Siouan stock is probably between 40,000 and 45,000, including 2,000 or more (mainly Asiniboin) in Canada.
In the Siouan stock, as among the American Indians generally, the accepted appellations for tribes and other groups are variously derived. Many of the Siouan tribal names were, like the name of the stock, given by alien peoples, including white men, though most are founded on the descriptive or other designations used in the groups to which they pertain. At first glance, the names seem to be loosely applied and perhaps vaguely defined, and this laxity in application and definition does not disappear, but rather increases, with closer examination.
There are special reasons for the indefiniteness of Indian nomenclature: The aborigines were at the time of discovery, and indeed most of them remain today, in the prescriptorial stage of culture, i.e., the stage in which ideas are crystallized, not by means of arbitrary symbols, but by means of arbitrary associations,(18) and in this stage names are connotive or descriptive, rather than denotive as in the scriptorial stage. Moreover, among the Indians, as among all other prescriptorial peoples, the ego is paramount, and all things are described, much more largely than among cultured peoples, with reference to the describer and the position which he occupies—Self and Here, and, if need be, Now and Thus, are the fundamental elements of primitive conception and description, and these elements are implied and exemplified, rather than expressed, in thought and utterance. Accordingly there is a notable paucity in names, especially for themselves, among the Indian tribes, while the descriptive designations applied to a given group by neighboring tribes are often diverse.
The principles controlling nomenclature in its inchoate stages are illustrated among the Siouan peoples. So far as their own tongues were concerned, the stock was nameless, and could not be designated save through integral parts. Even the great Dakota confederacy, one of the most extensive and powerful aboriginal organizations, bore no better designation than a term probably applied originally to associated tribes in a descriptive way and perhaps used as a greeting or countersign, although there was an alternative proper descriptive term.—"Seven Council-fires"—apparently of considerable antiquity, since it seems to have been originally applied before the separation of the Asiniboin.(19) In like manner the cegiha, ʇɔiwe're, and Hotcangara groups, and perhaps the Niya, were without denotive designations for themselves, merely styling themselves "Local People," "Men," "Inhabitants," or, still more ambitiously, "People of the Parent Speech," in terms which are variously rendered by different interpreters; they were lords in their own domain, and felt no need for special title. Different Dakota tribes went so far as to claim that their respective habitats marked the middle of the world, so that each insisted on precedence as the leading tribe,(20) and it was the boast of the Mandan that they were the original people of the earth.(21) In the more carefully studied confederacies the constituent groups generally bore designations apparently used for convenient distinction in the confederation; sometimes they were purely descriptive, as in the case of the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Sans Arcs, Blackfeet, Oto, and several others; again they referred to the federate organization (probably, possibly to relative position of habitat), as in the Yankton, Yanktonai, and Hunkpapa; more frequently they referred to geographic or topographic position, e.g., Teton, Omaha, Pahe'tsi, Kwapa, etc; while some appear to have had a figurative or symbolic connotation, as Brule, Ogalala, and Ponka. Usually the designations employed by alien peoples were more definite than those used in the group designated, as illustrated by the stock name, Asiniboin, and Iowa. Commonly the alien appellations were terms of reproach; thus Sioux, Biloxi, and Hohe (the Dakota designation for the Asiniboin) are clearly opprobrious, while Paskagula might easily be opprobrious among hunters and warriors, and Iowa and Oto appear to be derogatory or contemptuous expressions. The names applied by the whites were sometimes taken from geographic positions, as in the case of Upper Yanktonai and Cape Fear—the geographic names themselves being frequently of Indian origin. Some of the current names represent translations of the aboriginal terms either into English ("Blackfeet," "Two Kettles," "Crow,") or into French ("Sans Arcs," "Brule"," "Gros Ventres"); yet most of the names, at least of the prairie tribes, are simply corruptions of the aboriginal terms, though frequently the modification is so complete as to render identification and interpretation difficult—it is not easy to find Waca'ce in "Osage" (so spelled by the French, whose orthography was adopted and mispronounced by English-speaking pioneers), or Pa'qotce in "Iowa."
The meanings of most of the eastern names are lost; yet so far as they are preserved they are of a kind with those of the interior. So, too, are the subtribal names enumerated by Dorsey.
PHONETIC AND GRAPHIC ARTS
The Siouan stock is defined by linguistic characters. The several tribes and larger and smaller groups speak dialects so closely related as to imply occasional or habitual association, and hence to indicate community in interests and affinity in development; and while the arts (reflecting as they did the varying environment of a wide territorial range) were diversified, the similarity in language was, as is usual, accompanied by similarity in institutions and beliefs. Nearly all of the known dialects are eminently vocalic, and the tongues of the plains, which have been most extensively studied, are notably melodious; thus the leading languages of the group display moderately high phonetic development. In grammatic structure the better-known dialects are not so well developed; the structure is complex, chiefly through the large use of inflection, though agglutination sometimes occurs. In some cases the germ of organization is found in fairly definite juxtaposition or placement. The vocabulary is moderately rich, and of course represents the daily needs of a primitive people, their surroundings, their avocations, and their thoughts, while expressing little of the richer ideation of cultured cosmopolites. On the whole, the speech of the Siouan stock may be said to have been fairly developed, and may, with the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Shoshonean, be regarded as typical for the portion of North America lying north of Mexico. Fortunately it has been extensively studied by Riggs, Hale, Dorsey, and several others, including distinguished representatives of some of the tribes, and is thus accessible to students. The high phonetic development of the Siouan tongues reflects the needs and records the history of the hunter and warrior tribes, whose phonetic symbols were necessarily so differentiated as to be intelligible in whisper, oratory, and war cry, as well as in ordinary converse, while the complex structure is in harmony with the elaborate social organization and ritual of the Siouan people.
Many of the Siouan Indians were adepts in the sign language; indeed, this mode of conveying intelligence attained perhaps its highest development among some of the tribes of this stock, who, with other plains Indians, developed pantomime and gesture into a surprisingly perfect art of expression adapted to the needs of huntsmen and warriors.
Most of the tribes were fairly proficient in pictography; totemic and other designs were inscribed on bark and wood, painted on skins, wrought into domestic wares, and sometimes carved on rocks. Jonathan Carver gives an example of picture-writing on a tree, in charcoal mixed with bear's grease, designed to convey information from the "Chipe'ways" (Algonquian) to the "Naudowessies,"(22) and other instances of intertribal communication by means of pictography are on record. Personal decoration was common, and was largely symbolic; the face and body were painted in distinctive ways when going on the warpath, in organizing the hunt, in mourning the dead, in celebrating the victory, and in performing various ceremonials. Scarification and maiming were practiced by some of the tribes, always in a symbolic way. Among the Mandan and Hidatsa scars were produced in cruel ceremonials originally connected with war and hunting, and served as enduring witnesses of courage and fortitude. Symbolic tattooing was fairly common among the westernmost tribes. Eagle and other feathers were worn as insignia of rank and for other symbolic purposes, while bear claws and the scalps of enemies were worn as symbols of the chase and battle. Some of the tribes recorded current history by means of "winter counts" or calendaric inscriptions, though their arithmetic was meager and crude, and their calendar proper was limited to recognition of the year, lunation, and day—or, as among so many primitive people, the "snow," "dead moon," and "night,"—with no definite system of fitting lunations to the annual seasons. Most of the graphic records were perishable, and have long ago disappeared; but during recent decades several untutored tribesmen have executed vigorous drawings representing hunting scenes and conflicts with white soldiery, which have been preserved or reproduced. These crude essays in graphic art were the germ of writing, and indicate that, at the time of discovery, several Siouan tribes were near the gateway opening into the broader field of scriptorial culture. So far as it extends, the crude graphic symbolism betokens warlike habit and militant organization, which were doubtless measurably inimical to further progress.
It would appear that, in connection with their proficiency in gesture speech and their meager graphic art, the Siouan Indians had become masters in a vaguely understood system of dramaturgy or symbolized conduct. Among them the use of the peace-pipe was general; among several and perhaps all of the tribes the definite use of insignia was common; among them the customary hierarchic organization of the aborigines was remarkably developed and was maintained by an elaborate and strict code of etiquette whose observance was exacted and yielded by every tribesman. Thus the warriors, habituated to expressing and recognizing tribal affiliation and status in address and deportment, were notably observant of social minutiae, and this habit extended into every activity of their lives. They were ceremonious among themselves and crafty toward enemies, tactful diplomatists as well as brave soldiers, shrewd strategists as well as fierce fighters; ever they were skillful readers of human nature, even when ruthless takers of human life. Among some of the tribes every movement and gesture and expression of the male adult seems to have been affected or controlled with the view of impressing spectators and auditors, and through constant schooling the warriors became most consummate actors. To the casual observer, they were stoics or stupids according to the conditions of observation; to many observers, they were cheats or charlatans; to scientific students, their eccentrically developed volition and the thaumaturgy by which it was normally accompanied suggests early stages in that curious development which, in the Orient, culminates in necromancy and occultism. Unfortunately this phase of the Indian character (which was shared by various tribes) was little appreciated by the early travelers, and little record of it remains; yet there is enough to indicate the importance of constantly studied ceremony, or symbolic conduct, among them. The development of affectation and self-control among the Siouan tribesmen was undoubtedly shaped by warlike disposition, and their stoicism was displayed largely in war—as when the captured warrior went exultingly to the torture, taunting and tempting his captors to multiply their atrocities even until his tongue was torn from its roots, in order that his fortitude might be proved; but the habit was firmly fixed and found constant expression in commonplace as well as in more dramatic actions.
INDUSTRIAL AND ESTHETIC ARTS
Since the arts of primitive people reflect environmental conditions with close fidelity, and since the Siouan Indians were distributed over a vast territory varying in climate, hydrography, geology, fauna, and flora, their industrial and esthetic arts can hardly be regarded as distinctive, and were indeed shared by other tribes of all neighboring stocks.
The best developed industries were hunting and warfare, though all of the tribes subsisted in part on fruits, nuts, berries, tubers, grains, and other vegetal products, largely wild, though sometimes planted and even cultivated in rude fashion. The southwestern tribes, and to some extent all of the prairie denizens and probably the eastern remnant, grew maize, beans, pumpkins, melons, squashes, sunflowers, and tobacco, though their agriculture seems always to have been subordinated to the chase. Aboriginally, they appear to have had no domestic animals except dogs, which, according to Carver—one of the first white men seen by the prairie tribes,—were kept for their flesh, which was eaten ceremonially,(23) and for use in the chase.(24) According to Lewis and Clark (1804-1806), they were used for burden and draft;(25) according to the naturalists accompanying Long's expedition (1819-20), for flesh (eaten ceremonially and on ordinary occasions), draft, burden, and the chase,(26) and according to Prince Maximilian, for food and draft,(27) all these functions indicating long familiarity with the canines. Catlin, too, found "dog's meat ... the most honorable food that can be presented to a stranger;" it was eaten ceremonially and on important occasions.(28) Moreover, the terms used for the dog and his harness are ancient and even archaic, and some of the most important ceremonials were connected with this animal,(29) implying long-continued association. Casual references indicate that some of the tribes lived in mutual tolerance with several birds(30) and mammals not yet domesticated (indeed the buffalo may be said to have been in this condition), so that the people were at the threshold of zooculture.
The chief implements and weapons were of stone, wood, bone, horn, and antler. According to Carver, the "Nadowessie" were skillful bowmen, using also the "casse-tete"(31) or warclub, and a flint scalping-knife. Catlin was impressed with the shortness of the bows used by the prairie tribes, though among the southwestern tribes they were longer. Many of the Siouan Indians used the lance, javelin, or spear. The domestic utensils were scant and simple, as became wanderers and fighters, wood being the common material, though crude pottery and basketry were manufactured, together with bags and bottles of skins or animal intestines. Ceremonial objects were common, the most conspicuous being the calumet, carved out of the sacred pipestone or catlinite quarried for many generations in the midst of the Siouan territory. Frequently the pipes were fashioned in the form of tomahawks, when they carried a double symbolic significance, standing alike for peace and war, and thus expressing well the dominant idea of the Siouan mind. Tobacco and kinnikinic (a mixture of tobacco with shredded bark, leaves, etc(32)) were smoked.
Aboriginally the Siouan apparel was scanty, commonly comprising breechclout, moccasins, leggings, and robe, and consisted chiefly of dressed skins, though several of the tribes made simple fabrics of bast, rushes, and other vegetal substances. Fur robes and rush mats commonly served for bedding, some of the tribes using rude bedsteads. The buffalo-hunting prairie tribes depended largely for apparel, bedding, and habitations, as well as for food, on the great beast to whose comings and goings their movements were adjusted. Like other Indians, the Siouan hunters and their consorts quickly availed themselves of the white man's stuffs, as well as his metal implements, and the primitive dress was soon modified.
The woodland habitations were chiefly tent-shape structures of saplings covered with bark, rush mats, skins, or bushes; the prairie habitations were mainly earth lodges for winter and buffalo-skin tipis for summer. Among many of the tribes these domiciles, simple as they were, were constructed in accordance with an elaborate plan controlled by ritual. According to Morgan, the framework of the aboriginal Dakota house consisted of 13 poles;(33) and Dorsey describes the systematic grouping of the tipis belonging to different gentes and tribes. Sudatories were characteristic in most of the tribes, menstrual lodges were common, and most of the more sedentary tribes had council houses or other communal structures. The Siouan domiciles were thus adapted with remarkable closeness to the daily habits and environment of the tribesmen, while at the same time they reflected the complex social organization growing out of their prescriptorial status and militant disposition.
Most of the Siouan men, women, and children were fine swimmers, though they did not compare well with neighboring tribes as makers and managers of water craft. The Dakota women made coracles of buffalo hides, in which they transported themselves and their householdry, but the use of these and other craft seems to have been regarded as little better than a feminine weakness. Other tribes were better boatmen; for the Siouan Indian generally preferred land travel to journeying by water, and avoided the burden of vehicles by which his ever-varying movements in pursuit of game or in waylaying and evading enemies would have been limited and handicapped.
There are many indications and some suggestive evidences that the chief arts and certain institutions and beliefs, as well as the geographic distribution, of the principal Siouan tribes were determined by a single conspicuous feature in their environment—the buffalo. As Riggs, Hale, and Dorsey have demonstrated, the original home of the Siouan stock lay on the eastern slope of the Appalachian mountains, stretching down over the Piedmont and Coastplain provinces to the shores of the Atlantic between the Potomac and the Savannah. As shown by Allen, the buffalo, "prior to the year 1800," spread eastward across the Appalachians(34) and into the priscan territory of the Siouan tribes. As suggested by Shaler, the presence of this ponderous and peaceful animal materially affected the vocations of the Indians, tending to discourage agriculture and encourage the chase; and it can hardly be doubted that the bison was the bridge that carried the ancestors of the western tribes from the crest of the Alleghenies to the Coteau des Prairies and enabled them to disperse so widely over the plains beyond. Certainly the toothsome flesh and useful skins must have attracted the valiant huntsmen among the Appalachians; certainly the feral herds must have become constantly larger and more numerous westward, thus tempting the pursuers down the waterways toward the great river; certainly the vast herds beyond the Mississippi gave stronger incentives and richer rewards than the hunters of big game found elsewhere; and certainly when the prairie tribes were discovered, the men and animals lived in constant interaction, and many of the hunters acted and thought only as they were moved by their easy prey. As the Spanish horse spread northward over the Llano Estacado and overflowed across the mountains from the plains of the Cayuse, the Dakota and other tribes found a new means of conquest over the herds, and entered on a career so facile that they increased and multiplied despite strife and imported disease.
The horse was acquired by the prairie tribes toward the end of the last century. Carver (1766-1768) describes the methods of hunting among the "Naudowessie" without referring to the horse,(35) though he gives their name for the animal in his vocabulary,(36) and describes their mode of warfare with "Indians that inhabit still farther to the westward a country which extends to the South Sea," having "great plenty of horses."(37) Lewis and Clark (1804-1806) mention that the "Sioux of the Teton tribe ... frequently make excursions to steal horses" from the Mandan,(38) and make other references indicating that the horse was in fairly common use among some of the Siouan tribes, though the animal was "confined principally to the nations inhabiting the great plains of the Columbia,"(39) and dogs were still used for burden and draft.(40) Grinnell learned from an aged Indian that horses came into the hands of the neighboring Piegan (Algonquian) about 1804-1806.(41) Long's naturalists found the horse, ass, and mule in use among the Kansa and other tribes,(42) and described the mode of capture of wild horses by the Osage;(43) yet when, two-thirds of a century after Carver, Catlin (1832-1839) and Prince Maximilian (1833-34) visited the Siouan territory, they found the horse established and in common use in the chase and in war.(44) It is significant that the Dakota word for horse (suk-tan'-ka or sun-ka'-wa-kan) is composed of the word for dog (sun'-ka), with an affix indicating greatness, sacredness, or mystery, so that the horse is literally "great mysterious dog," or "ancient sacred dog," and that several terms for harness and other appurtenances correspond with those used for the gear of the dog when used as a draft animal.(45) This terminology corroborates the direct evidence that the dog was domesticated by the Siouan aborigines long before the advent of the horse.
Among the Siouan tribes, as among other Indians, amusements absorbed a considerable part of the time and energy of the old and young of both sexes. Among the young, the gambols, races, and other sports were chiefly or wholly diversional, and commonly mimicked the avocations of the adults. The girls played at the building and care of houses and were absorbed in dolls, while the boys played at archery, foot racing, and mimic hunting, which soon grew into the actual chase of small birds and animals. Some of the sports of the elders were unorganized diversions, leaping, racing, wrestling, and other spontaneous expressions of exuberance. Certain diversions were controlled by more persistent motive, as when the idle warrior occupied his leisure in meaningless ornamentation of his garment or tipi, or spent hours of leisure in esthetic modification of his weapon or ceremonial badge, and to this purposeless activity, which engendered design with its own progress, the incipient graphic art of the tribes was largely due. The more important and characteristic sports were organized and interwoven with social organization and belief so as commonly to take the form of elaborate ceremonial, in which dancing, feasting, fasting, symbolic painting, song, and sacrifice played important parts, and these organized sports were largely fiducial. To many of the early observers the observances were nothing more than meaningless mummeries; to some they were sacrilegious, to others sortilegious; to the more careful students, like Carver, whose notes are of especial value by reason of the author's clear insight into the Indian character, they were invocations, expiations, propitiations, expressing profound and overpowering devotion. Carver says of the "Naudowessie," "They usually dance either before or after every meal; and by this cheerfulness, probably, render the Great Spirit, to whom they consider themselves as indebted for every good, a more acceptable sacrifice than a formal and unanimated thanksgiving;"(46) and he proceeds to describe the informal dances as well as the more formal ceremonials preparatory to joining in the chase or setting out on the warpath. The ceremonial observances of the Siouan tribes were not different in kind from those of neighboring contemporaries, yet some of them were developed in remarkable degree—for example, the bloody rites by which youths were raised to the rank of warriors in some of the prairie tribes were without parallel in severity among the aborigines of America, or even among the known primitive peoples of the world. So the sports of the Siouan Indians were both diversional and divinatory, and the latter were highly organized in a manner reflecting the environment of the tribes, their culture-status, their belief, and especially their disposition toward bloodshed; for their most characteristic ceremonials were connected, genetically if not immediately, with warfare and the chase.
Among many of the Siouan tribes, games of chance were played habitually and with great avidity, both men and women becoming so absorbed as to forget avocations and food, mothers even neglecting their children; for, as among other primitive peoples, the charm of hazard was greater than among the enlightened. The games were not specially distinctive, and were less widely differentiated than in certain other Indian stocks. The sport or game of chungke stood high in favor among the young men in many of the tribes, and was played as a game partly of chance, partly of skill; but dice games (played with plum stones among the southwestern prairie tribes) were generally preferred, especially by the women, children, and older men. The games were partly, sometimes wholly, diversional, but generally they were in large part divinatory, and thus reflected the hazardous occupations and low culture-status of the people. One of the evils resulting from the advent of the whites was the introduction of new games of chance which tended further to pervert the simple Siouan mind; but in time the evil brought its own remedy, for association with white gamblers taught the ingenuous sortilegers that there is nothing divine or sacred about the gaming table or the conduct of its votaries.
The primitive Siouan music was limited to the chant and rather simple vocal melody, accompanied by rattle, drum, and flute, the drum among the northwestern tribes being a skin bottle or bag of water. The music of the Omaha and some other tribes has been most appreciatively studied by Miss Fletcher, and her memoir ranks among the Indian classics.(47) In general the Siouan music was typical for the aboriginal stocks of the northern interior. Its dominant feature was rhythm, by which the dance was controlled, though melody was inchoate, while harmony was not yet developed.
The germ of painting was revealed in the calendars and the seed of sculpture in the carvings of the Sionan Indians. The pictographic paintings comprised not only recognizable but even vigorous representations of men and animals, depicted in form and color though without perspective, while the calumet of catlinite was sometimes chiseled into striking verisimilitude of human and animal forms in miniature. To the collector these representations suggest fairly developed art, though to the Indian they were mainly, if not wholly, symbolic; for everything indicates that the primitive artisan had not yet broken the shackles of fetichistic symbolism, and had little conception of artistic portrayal for its own sake.
Among civilized peoples, institutions are crystallized in statutes about nuclei of common law or custom; among peoples in the prescriptorial culture-stage statutes are unborn, and various mnemonic devices are employed for fixing and perpetuating institutions; and, as is usual in this stage, the devices involve associations which appear to be essentially arbitrary at the outset, though they tend to become natural through the survival of the fittest. A favorite device for perpetuating institutions among the primitive peoples of many districts on different continents is the taboo, or prohibition, which is commonly fiducial but is often of general application. This device finds its best development in the earlier stages in the development of belief, and is normally connected with totemism. Another device, which is remarkably widespread, as shown by Morgan, is kinship nomenclature. This device rests on a natural and easily ascertained basis, though its applications are arbitrary and vary widely from tribe to tribe and from culture-status to culture-status. A third device, which found much favor among the American aborigines and among some other primitive peoples, may be called ordination, or the arrangement of individuals and groups classified from the prescriptorial point of view of Self, Here, and Now, with respect to each other or to some dominant personage or group. This device seems to have grown out of the kin-name system, in which the Ego is the basis from which relation is reckoned. It tends to develop into federate organization on the one hand or into caste on the other hand, according to the attendant conditions.(48) There are various other devices for fixing and perpetuating institutions or for expressing the laws embodied therein. Some of these are connected with thaumaturgy and shamanism, some are connected with the powers of nature, and the several devices overlap and interlace in puzzling fashion.
Among the Siouan Indians the devices of taboo, kin-names, and ordination are found in such relation as to throw some light on the growth of primitive institutions. While they blend and are measurably involved with thaumaturgic devices, there are indications that in a general way the three devices stand for stages in the development of law. Among the best-known tribes the taboo pertained to the clan, and was used (in a much more limited way than among some other peoples) to commemorate and perpetuate the clan organization; kin-names, which were partly natural and thus normal to the clan organization, and at the same time partly artificial and thus characteristic of gentile organization, served to commemorate and perpetuate not only the family relations but the relations of the constituent elements of the tribe; while the ordination, expressed in the camping circle, in the phratries, in the ceremonials, and in many other ways, served to commemorate intertribal as well as intergentile relations, and thus to promote peace and harmonious action. It is significant that the taboo was less potent among the Siouan Indians than among some other stocks, and that among some tribes it has not been found; and it is especially significant that in some instances the taboo was apparently inversely related to kin-naming and ordination, as among the Biloxi, where the taboo is exceptionally weak and kin-naming exceptionally strong, and among the Dakota, where the system of ordination attained perhaps its highest American development in domiciliary arrangement, while the taboo was limited in function; for the relations indicate that the taboo was archaic or even vestigial. It is noteworthy also that among most of the Siouan tribes the kin-name system was less elaborate than in many other stocks, while the system of ordination is so elaborate as to constitute one of the leading characteristics of the stock.
At the time of the discovery, most of the Siouan tribes had apparently passed into gentile organization, though vestiges of clan organization were found—e.g., among the best-known tribes the man was the head of the family, though the tipi usually belonged to the woman. Thus, as defined by institutions, the stock was just above savagery and just within the lower stages of barbarism. Accordingly the governmental functions were hereditary in the male line, yet the law of heredity was subject to modification or suspension at the will of the group, commonly at the instance of rebels or usurpers of marked prowess or shrewdness. The property regulations were definite and strictly observed; as among other barbarous peoples, the land was common to the tribe or other group occupying it, yet was defended against alien invasion; the ownership of movable property was a combination of communalism and individualism delicately adjusted to the needs and habits of the several tribes— in general, evanescent property, such as food and fuel, was shared in common (subject to carefully regulated individual claims), while permanent property, such as tipis, dogs, apparel, weapons, etc, was held by individuals. As among other tribes, the more strictly personal property was usually destroyed on the death of the owner, though the real reason for the custom—the prevention of dispute—was shrouded in a mantle of mysticism.
Although of primary importance in shaping the career of the Siouan tribes, the marital institutions of the stock were not specially distinctive. Marriage was usually effected by negotiation through parents or elders; among some of the tribes the bride was purchased, while among others there was an interchange of presents. Polygyny was common; in several of the tribes the bride's sisters became subordinate wives of the husband. The regulations concerning divorce and the punishment of infidelity were somewhat variable among the different tribes, some of whom furnished temporary wives to distinguished visitors. Generally there were sanctions for marriage by elopement or individual choice. In every tribe, so far as known, gentile exogamy prevailed—i.e., marriage in the gens was forbidden, under pain of ostracism or still heavier penalty, while the gentes intermarried among one another; in some cases intermarriage between certain tribes was regarded with special favor. There seems to have been no system of marriage by capture, though captive women were usually espoused by the successful tribesmen, and girls were sometimes abducted. In general it would appear that intergentile and intertribal marriage was practiced and sanctioned by the sages, and that it tended toward harmony and federation, and thus contributed much toward the increase and diffusion of the great Siouan stock.
As set forth in some detail by Dorsey, the ordination of the Siouan tribes extended beyond the hierarchic organization into families, subgentes, gentes, tribes, and confederacies; there were also phratries, sometimes (perhaps typically) arranged in pairs; there were societies or associations established on social or fiducial bases; there was a general arrangement or classification of each group on a military basis, as into soldiers and two or more classes of noncombatants, etc. Among the Siouan peoples, too, the individual brotherhood of the David-Jonathan or Damon-Pythias type was characteristically developed. Thus the corporate institutions were interwoven and superimposed in a manner nearly as complex as that found in the national, state, municipal, and minor institutions of civilization; yet the ordination preserved by means of the camping circle, the kinship system, the simple series of taboos, and the elaborate symbolism was apparently so complete as to meet every social and governmental demand.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MYTHOLOGY
As explained by Powell, philosophies and beliefs may be seriated in four stages: The first stage is hecastotheism; in this stage extranatural or mysterious potencies are imputed to objects both animate and inanimate. The second stage is zootheism; within it the powers of animate forms are exaggerated and amplified into the realm of the supernal, and certain animals are deified. The third stage is that of physitheism, in which the agencies of nature are personified and exalted unto omnipotence. The fourth stage is that of psychotheism, which includes the domain of spiritual concept. In general the development of belief coincides with the growth of abstraction; yet it is to be remembered that this growth represents increase in definiteness of the abstract concepts rather than augmentation in numbers and kinds of subjective impressions, i.e., the advance is in quality rather than in quantity; indeed, it would almost appear that the vague and indefinite abstraction of hecastotheism is more pervasive and prevalent than the clearer abstraction of higher stages. Appreciation of the fundamental characteristics of belief is essential to even the most general understanding of the Indian mythology and philosophy, and even after careful study it is difficult for thinkers trained in the higher methods of thought to understand the crude and confused ideation of the primitive thinker.
In hecastotheism the believer finds mysterious properties and potencies everywhere. To his mind every object is endued with occult power, moved by a vague volition, actuated by shadowy motive ranging capriciously from malevolence to benevolence; in his lax estimation some objects are more potent or more mysterious than others, the strong, the sharp, the hard, and the swift-moving rising superior to the feeble, the dull, the soft, and the slow. Commonly he singles out some special object as his personal, family, or tribal mystery-symbol or fetich, the object usually representing that which is most feared or worst hated among his surroundings. Vaguely realizing from the memory of accidents or unforeseen events that he is dependent on his surroundings, he invests every feature of his environment with a capricious humor reflecting his own disposition, and gives to each and all a subtlety and inscrutability corresponding to his exalted estimation of his own craft in the chase and war; and, conceiving himself to live and move only at the mercy of his multitudinous associates, he becomes a fatalist—kismet is his watchword, and he meets defeat and death with resignation, just as he goes to victory with complacence; for so it was ordained.
Zootheism is the offspring of hecastotheism. As the primitive believer assigns special potency or mystery to the strong and the swift, he gradually comes to give exceptional rank to self-moving animals; as his experience of the strength, alertness, swiftness, and courage of his animate enemy or prey increases, these animals are invested with successively higher and higher attributes, each reflecting the mental operations of the mystical huntsman, and in time the animals with which the primitive believers are most intimately associated come to be regarded as tutelary daimons of supernatural power and intelligence. At first the animals, like the undifferentiated things of hecastotheism, are regarded in fear or awe by reason of their strength and ferocity, and this regard grows into an incipient worship in the form of sacrifice or other ceremonial; meanwhile, inanimate things, and in due season rare and unimportant animals, are neglected, and a half dozen, a dozen, or a score of the well-known animals are exalted into a hierarchy of petty gods, headed by the strongest like the bear, the swiftest like the deer, the most majestic like the eagle, the most cunning like the fox or coyote, or the most deadly like the rattlesnake. Commonly the arts and the skill of the mystical huntsman improve from youth to adolescence and from generation to generation, so that the later animals appear to be easier snared or slain than the earlier; moreover, the accounts of conflicts between men and animals grow by repetition and are gilded by imagination as memory grows dim; and for these and other reasons the notion grows up that the ancient animals were stronger, swifter, slier, statelier, deadlier than their modern representatives, and the hierarchy of petty gods is exalted into an omnipotent thearchy. Eventually, in the most highly developed zootheistic systems, the leading beast-god is regarded as the creator of the lesser deities of the earth, sun, and sky, of the mythic under-world and its real counterpart the ground or mid-world, as well as the visionary upper-world, of men, and of the ignoble animals; sometimes the most exalted beast-god is worshiped especially by the great man or leading class and incidentally by all, while other men and groups choose the lesser beast-gods, according to their rank, for special worship. In hecastotheism the potencies revered or worshiped are polymorphic, while their attributes reflect the mental operations of the believers; in zootheism the deities worshiped are zoomorphic, and their attributes continue to reflect the human mind.
Physitheism, in its turn, springs from zootheism. Through contemplation of the strong the idea of strength arises, and a means is found for bringing the bear into analogy with thunder, with the sun, or with the avalanche-bearing mountain; through contemplation of the swift the concept of swiftness is engendered, and comparison of the deer with the wind or rushing river is made easy; through contemplation of the deadly stroke of the rattlesnake the notion of death-dealing power assumes shape, and comparison of the snake bite and the lightning stroke is made possible; and in every case it is inevitably perceived that the agency is stronger, swifter, deadlier than the animal. At first the agency is not abstracted or dissociated from the parent zootheistic concept, and the sun is the mightiest animal as among many peoples, the thunder is the voice of the bear as among different woodland tribes or the flapping of the wings of the great ancient eagle as among the Dakota and cegiha, while lightning is the great serpent of the sky as among the Zuni. Subsequently the zoic concept fades, and the constant association of human intellectual qualities engenders an anthropic concept, when the sun becomes an anthropomorphic deity (perhaps bearing a dazzling mask, as among the Zuni), and thunder is the rumbling of quoits pitched by the shades of old-time giants, as among different American tribes. Eventually all the leading agencies of nature are personified in anthropic form, and retain the human attributes of caprice, love, and hate which are found in the minds of the believers.
Psychotheism is born of physitheism as the anthropomorphic element in the concept of natural agency gradually fades; but since none of the aborigines of the United States had passed into the higher stage, the mode of transition does not require consideration.
It is to be borne in mind that throughout the course of development of belief, from the beginning of hecastotheism into the borderland of psychotheism, the dominant characteristic is the vague notion of mystery. At first the mystery pervades all things and extends in all directions, representing an indefinite ideal world, which is the counterpart of the real world with the addition of human qualities. Gradually the mystery segregates, deepening with respect to animals and disappearing with respect to inanimate things; and at length the slowly changing mysteries shape themselves into semiabstractions having a strong anthropic cast, while the remainder of the earth and the things thereof gradually become real, though they remain under the spell and dominion of the mysterious. Thus at every stage the primitive believer is a mystic—a fatalist in one stage, a beast worshiper in another, a thaumaturgist in a third, yet ever and first of all a mystic. It is also to be borne in mind (and the more firmly because of a widespread misapprehension) that the primitive believer, up to the highest stage attained by the North American Indian, is not a psychotheist, much less a monotheist. His "Great Spirit" is simply a great mystery, perhaps vaguely anthropomorphic, oftener zoomorphic, yet not a spirit, which he is unable to conceive save by reflection of the white man's concept and inquiry; and his departed spirit is but a shade, much like that of the ancient Greeks, the associate and often the inferior of animal shades.
While the four stages in development of belief are fundamentally distinct, they nevertheless overlap in such manner as apparently, and in a measure really, to coexist and blend. Culture progress is slow. In biotic development the effect of beneficial modification is felt immediately, and the modified organs or organisms are stimulated and strengthened cumulatively, while the unmodified are enfeebled and paralyzed cumulatively through inactivity and quickly pass toward atrophy and extinction. Conversely in demotic development, which is characterized by the persistence of the organisms and by the elimination of the bad and the preservation of the good among qualities only, there is a constant tendency toward retardation of progress; for in savagery and barbarism as in civilization, age commonly produces conservatism, and at the same time brings responsibility for the conduct of old and young, so that modification, howsoever beneficial, is measurably held in check, and so that the progress of each generation buds in the springtime of youth yet is not permitted to fruit until the winter of old age approaches. Accordingly the mean of demotic progress tends to lag far behind its foremost advances, and modes of action and especially of thought change slowly. This is especially true of beliefs, which, during each generation, are largely vestigial. So the stages in the evolution of mythologic philosophy overlap widely; there is probably no tribe now living among whom zootheism has not yet taken root, though hecastotheism has been found dominant among different tribes; there is probably no people in the zootheistic stage who are completely divested of hecastotheistic vestiges; and one of the curious features of even the most advanced psychotheism is the occasional outcropping of features inherited from all of the earlier stages. Yet it is none the less important to discriminate the stages.
THE SIOUAN MYTHOLOGY
It was partly through pioneer study of the Siouan Indians that the popular fallacy concerning the aboriginal "Great Spirit" gained currency; and it was partly through the work of Dorsey among the cegiha and Dakota tribes, first as a missionary and afterward as a linguist, that the early error was corrected. Among these tribes the creation and control of the world and the things thereof are ascribed to "wa-kan-da" (the term varying somewhat from tribe to tribe), just as among the Algonquian tribes omnipotence was assigned to "ma-ni-do" ("Manito the Mighty" of "Hiawatha"); yet inquiry shows that wakanda assumes various forms, and is rather a quality than a definite entity. Thus, among many of the tribes the sun is wakanda—not the wakanda or a wakanda, but simply wakanda; and among the same tribes the moon is wakanda, and so is thunder, lightning, the stars, the winds, the cedar, and various other things; even a man, especially a shaman, might be wakanda or a wakanda. In addition the term was applied to mythic monsters of the earth, air, and waters; according to some of the sages the ground or earth, the mythic under-world, the ideal upper-world, darkness, etc, were wakanda or wakandas. So, too, the fetiches and the ceremonial objects and decorations were wakanda among different tribes. Among some of the groups various animals and other trees besides the specially wakanda cedar were regarded as wakandas; as already noted, the horse, among the prairie tribes, was the wakanda dog. In like manner many natural objects and places of striking character were considered wakanda. Thus the term was applied to all sorts of entities and ideas, and was used (with or without inflectional variations) indiscriminately as substantive and adjective, and with slight modification as verb and adverb. Manifestly a term so protean is not susceptible of translation into the more highly differentiated language of civilization. Manifestly, too, the idea expressed by the term is indefinite, and can not justly be rendered into "spirit," much less into "Great Spirit;" though it is easy to understand stand how the superficial inquirer, dominated by definite spiritual concept, handicapped by unfamiliarity with the Indian tongue, misled by ignorance of the vague prescriptorial ideation, and perhaps deceived by crafty native informants or mischievous interpreters, came to adopt and perpetuate the erroneous interpretation. The term may be translated into "mystery" perhaps more satisfactorily than into any other single English word, yet this rendering is at the same time much too limited and much too definite. As used by the Siouan Indian, wakanda vaguely connotes also "power," "sacred," "ancient," "grandeur," "animate," "immortal," and other words, yet does not express with any degree of fullness and clearness the ideas conveyed by these terms singly or collectively—indeed, no English sentence of reasonable length can do justice to the aboriginal idea expressed by the term wakanda.
While the beliefs of many of the Siouan tribes are lost through the extinction of the tribesmen or transformed through acculturation, it is fortunate that a large body of information concerning the myths and ceremonials of several prairie tribes has been collected. The records of Carver, Lewis and Clark, Say, Catlin, and Prince Maximilian are of great value when interpreted in the light of modern knowledge. More recent researches by Miss Fletcher(49) and by Dorsey(50) are of especial value, not only as direct sources of information but as a means of interpreting the earlier writings. From these records it appears that, in so far as they grasped the theistic concept, the Siouan Indians were polytheists; that their mysteries or deities varied in rank and power; that some were good but more were bad, while others combined bad and good attributes; that they assumed various forms, actual and imaginary; and that their dispositions and motives resembled those found among mankind.
The organization of the vague Siouan thearchy appears to have varied from group to group. Among all of the tribes whose beliefs are known, the sun was an important wakanda, perhaps the leading one potentially, though usually of less immediate consideration than certain others, such as thunder, lightning, and the cedar tree; among the Osage the sun was invoked as "grandfather," and among various tribes there were sun ceremonials, some of which are still maintained; among the Omaha and Ponka, according to Miss Fletcher, the mythic thunder-bird plays a prominent, perhaps dominant role, and the cedar tree or pole is deified as its tangible representative. The moon was wakanda among the Osage and the stars among the Omaha and Ponka, yet they seem to have occupied subordinate positions; the winds and the four quarters were apparently given higher rank; and, in individual cases, the mythic water-monsters or earth-deities seem to have occupied leading positions. On the whole, it may be safe to consider the sun as the Siouan arch-mystery, with the mythic thunder-bird or family of thunder-birds as a sort of mediate link between the mysteries and men, possessing less power but displaying more activity in human affairs than the remoter wakanda of the heavens. Under these controlling wakandas, other members of the series were vaguely and variably arranged. Somewhere in the lower ranks, sacred animals—especially sports, such as the white buffalo cow—were placed, and still lower came totems and shamans, which, according to Dorsey, were reverenced rather than worshiped. It is noteworthy that this thearchic arrangement corresponded in many respects with the hierarchic social organization of the stock.
The Siouan thearchy was invoked and adored by means of forms and ceremonies, as well as through orisons. The set observances were highly elaborate; they comprised dancing and chanting, feasting and fasting, and in some cases sacrifice and torture, the shocking atrocities of the Mandan and Minitari rites being especially impressive. From these great collective devotions the ceremonials graded down through war-dance and hunting-feast to the terpsichorean grace extolled by Carver, and to individual fetich worship. In general the adoration expressed fear of the evil rather than love of the good—but this can hardly be regarded as a distinctive feature, much less a peculiar one.
Some of the mystery places were especially distinctive and noteworthy. Foremost among them was the sacred pipestone quarry near Big Sioux river, whence the material for the wakanda calumet was obtained; another was the far-famed Minne-wakan of North Dakota, not inaptly translated "Devil's lake;" a third was the mystery-rock or medicine-rock of the Mandan and Hidatsa near Yellowstone river; and there were many others of less importance. About all of these places picturesque legends and myths clustered.
The Siouan mythology is especially instructive, partly because so well recorded, partly because it so clearly reflects the habits and customs of the tribesmen and thus gives an indirect reflection of a well-marked environment. As among so many peoples, the sun is a prominent element; the ice-monsters of the north and the rain-myths of the arid region are lacking, and are replaced by the frequent thunder and the trees shaken by the storm-winds; the mythic creatures are shaped in the image of the indigenous animals and birds; the myths center in the local rocks and waters; the mysterious thearchy corresponds with the tribal hierarchy, and the attributes ascribed to the deities are those characteristic of warriors and hunters.
Considering the mythology in relation to the stages in development of mythologic philosophy, it appears that the dominant beliefs, such as those pertaining to the sun and the winds, represent a crude physitheism, while vestiges of hecastotheism crop out in the object-worship and place-worship of the leading tribes and in other features. At the same time well-marked zootheistic features are found in the mythic thunder-birds and in the more or less complete deification of various animals, in the exaltation of the horse into the rank of the mythic dog father, and in the animal forms of the water-monsters and earth-beings; and the living application of zootheism is found in the animal fetiches and totems. On the whole, it seems just to assign the Siouan mythology to the upper strata of zootheism, just verging on physitheism, with vestigial traces of hecastotheism.
The vigorous avocations of the chase and war were reflected in fine stature, broad and deep chests, strong and clean limbs, and sound constitution among the Siouan tribesmen and their consorts. The skin was of the usual coppery cast characteristic of the native American; the teeth were strong, indicating and befitting a largely carnivorous diet, little worn by sandy foods, and seldom mutilated; the hands and feet were commonly large and sinewy. The Siouan Indians were among those who impressed white pioneers by the parallel placing of the feet; for, as among other walkers and runners, who rest sitting and lying, the feet assumed the pedestrian attitude of approximate parallelism rather than the standing attitude of divergence forward. The hair was luxuriant, stiff, straight, and more uniformly jet black than that of the southerly stocks; it was worn long by the women and most of the men, though partly clipped or shaved in some tribes by the warriors as well as the worthless dandies, who, according to Catlin, spent more time over their toilets than ever did the grande dame of Paris. The women were beardless and the men more or less nearly so; commonly the men plucked out by the roots the scanty hair springing on their faces, as did both sexes that on other parts of the body. The crania were seldom deformed artificially save through cradle accident, and while varying considerably in capacity and in the ratio of length to width were usually mesocephalic. The facial features were strong, yet in no way distinctly unlike those found among neighboring peoples.
Since the advent of white men the characteristics of the Siouan Indians, like those of other tribes, have been somewhat modified, partly through infusion of Caucasian blood but chiefly through acculturation. With the abandonment of hunting and war and the tardy adoption of a slothful, semidependent agriculture, the frame has lost something of its stalwart vigor; with the adaptation of the white man's costume and the incomplete assimilation of his hygiene, various weaknesses and disorders have been developed; and through imitation the erstwhile luxuriant hair is cropped, and the beard, made scanty through generations of extirpation, is commonly cultivated. Although the accultural condition of the Siouan survivors ranges from the essentially primitive status of the Asiniboin to the practical civilization of the representatives of several tribes, it is fair to consider the stock in a state of transition from barbarism to civilization; and many of the tribesmen are losing the characteristics of activity and somatic development normal to primitive life, while they have not yet assimilated the activities and acquired the somatic characteristics normal to peaceful sedentary life.
Briefly, certain somatic features of the Siouan Indians, past and present, may be traced to their causes in custom and exercise of function; yet by far the greater number of the features are common to the American people or to all mankind, and are of ill-understood significance. The few features of known cause indicate that special somatic characteristics are determined largely or wholly by industrial and other arts, which are primarily shaped by environment.
Excepting the Asiniboin, who are chiefly in Canada, nearly all of the Siouan Indians are now gathered on the reservations indicated on earlier pages, most of these reservations lying within the aboriginal territory of the stock.
At the advent of white men, the Siouan territory was vaguely defined, and its limits were found to vary somewhat from exploration to exploration. This vagueness and variability of habitat grew out of the characteristics of the tribesmen. Of all the great stocks south of the Arctic, the Siouan was perhaps least given to agriculture, most influenced by hunting, and most addicted to warfare; thus most of the tribes were but feebly attached to the soil, and freely followed the movements of the feral fauna as it shifted with climatic vicissitudes or was driven from place to place by excessive hunting or by fires set to destroy the undergrowth in the interests of the chase; at the same time, the borderward tribes were alternately driven and led back and forth through strife against the tribes of neighboring stocks. Accordingly the Siouan habitat can be outlined only in approximate and somewhat arbitrary fashion.
The difficulty in defining the priscan home of the Siouan tribes is increased by its vast extent and scant peopling, by the length of the period intervening between discovery in the east and complete exploration in the west, and by the internal changes and migrations which occurred during this period. The task of collating the records of exploration and pioneer observation concerning the Siouan and other stocks was undertaken by Powell a few years ago, and was found to be of great magnitude. It was at length successfully accomplished, and the respective areas occupied by the several stocks were approximately mapped.(51)
As shown on Powell's map, the chief part of the Siouan area comprised a single body covering most of the region of the Great plains, stretching from the Rocky mountains to the Mississippi and from the Arkansas-Red river divide nearly to the Saskatchewan, with an arm crossing the Mississippi and extending to Lake Michigan. In addition there were a few outlying bodies, the largest and easternmost bordering the Atlantic from Santee river nearly to Capes Lookout and Hatteras, and skirting the Appalachian range northward to the Potomac; the next considerable area lay on the Gulf coast about Pascagoula river and bay, stretching nearly from the Pearl to the Mobile; and there were one or two unimportant areas on Ohio river, which were temporarily occupied by small groups of Siouan Indians during recent times.
There is little probability that the Siouan habitat, as thus outlined, ran far into the prehistoric age. As already noted, the Siouan Indians of the plains were undoubtedly descended from the Siouan tribes of the east (indeed the Mandan had a tradition to that effect); and reason has been given for supposing that the ancestors of the prairie hunters followed the straggling buffalo through the cis-Mississippi forests into his normal trans-Mississippi habitat and spread over his domain save as they were held in check by alien huntsmen, chiefly of the warlike Caddoan and Kiowan tribes; and the buffalo itself was a geologically recent—indeed essentially post-glacial—animal. Little if any definite trace of Siouan occupancy has been found in the more ancient prehistoric works of the Mississippi valley. On the whole it appears probable that the prehistoric development of the Siouan stock and habitat was exceptionally rapid, that the Siouan Indians were a vigorous and virile people that arose quickly under the stimulus of strong vitality (the acquisition of which need not here be considered), coupled with exceptionally favorable opportunity, to a power and glory culminating about the time of discovery.
The demotic organization of the Siouan peoples, so far as known, is set forth in considerable detail in Mr Dorsey's treatises(52) and in the foregoing enumeration of tribes, confederacies, and other linguistic groups.
Like the other aborigines north of Mexico, the Siouan Indians were organized on the basis of kinship, and were thus in the stage of tribal society. All of the best-known tribes had reached that plane in organization characterized by descent in the male line, though many vestiges and some relatively unimportant examples of descent in the female line have been discovered. Thus the clan system was obsolescent and the gentile system fairly developed; i. e., the people were practically out of the stage of savagery and well advanced in the stage of barbarism.
Confederation for defense and offense was fairly defined and was strengthened by intermarriage between tribes and gentes and the prohibition of marriage within the gens; yet the organization was such as to maintain tribal autonomy in considerable degree; i.e., the social structure was such as to facilitate union in time of war and division into small groups adapted to hunting in times of peace. No indication of feudalism has been found in the stock.
The government was autocratic, largely by military leaders sometimes (particularly in peace) advised by the elders and priests; the leadership was determined primarily by ability—prowess in war and the chase and wisdom in the council,—and was thus hereditary only a little further than characteristics were inherited; indeed, excepting slight recognition of the divinity that doth hedge about a king, the leaders were practically self-chosen, arising gradually to the level determined by their abilities. The germ of theocracy was fairly developed, and apparently burgeoned vigorously during each period of peace, only to be checked and withered during the ensuing war when the shamans and their craft were forced into the background.
During recent years, since the tribes began to yield to the domination of the peace-loving whites, the government and election are determined chiefly by kinship, as appears from Dorsey's researches; yet definite traces of the militant organization appear, and any man can win name and rank in his gens, tribe, or confederacy by bravery or generosity.
The institutional connection between the Siouan tribes of the plains and those of the Atlantic slope and the Gulf coast is completely lost, and it is doubtful whether the several branches have ever been united in a single confederation (or "nation," in the language of the pioneers), at least since the division in the Appalachian region perhaps five or ten centuries ago. Since this division the tribes have separated widely, and some of the bloodiest wars of the region in the historic period have been between Siouan tribes; the most extensive union possessing the slightest claim to federal organization was the great Dakota confederacy, which was grown into instability and partial disruption; and most of the tribal unions and coalitions were of temporary character.
Although highly elaborate (perhaps because of this character), the Siouan organization was highly unstable; with every shock of conflict, whether intestine or external, some autocrats were displaced or slain; and after each important event—great battle, epidemic, emigration, or destructive flood—new combinations were formed. The undoubtedly rapid development of the stock, especially after the passage of the Mississippi, indicates growth by conquest and assimilation as well as by direct propagation (it is known that the Dakota and perhaps other groups adopted aliens regularly); and, doubtless for this reason in part, there was a strong tendency toward differentiation and dichotomy in the demotic growth. In some groups the history is too vague to indicate this tendency with certainty; in others the tendency is clear. Perhaps the best example is found in the Cegiha, which divided into two great branches, the stronger of which threw off minor branches in the Osage and Kansa, and afterward separated into the Omaha and Ponka, while the feebler branch also ramified widely; and only less notable is the example of the Winnebago trunk, with its three great branches in the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri. This strong divergent tendency in itself suggests rapid, perhaps abnormally rapid, growth in the stock; for it outran and partially concealed the tendency toward convergence and ultimate coalescence which characterizes demotic phenomena.
The half-dozen eastern stocks occupying by far the greater part of North America contrast strongly with the half-hundred local stocks covering the Pacific coast; and none of the strong Atlantic stocks is more characteristic, more sharply contrasted with the limited groups of the western coast, or better understood as regards organization and development, than the great Siouan stock of the northern interior. There is promise that, as the demology of aboriginal America is pushed forward, the records relating to the Siouan Indians and especially to their structure and institutions will aid in explaining why some stocks are limited and others extensive, why large stocks in general characterize the interior and small stocks the coasts, and why the dominant peoples of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were successful in displacing the preexistent and probably more primitive peoples of the Mississippi valley. While the time is not yet ripe for making final answer to these inquiries, it is not premature to suggest a relation between a peculiar development of the aboriginal stocks and a peculiar geographic conformation: In general the coastward stocks are small, indicating a provincial shoreland habit, yet their population and area commonly increase toward those shores indented by deep bays, along which maritime and inland industries naturally blend; so (confining attention to eastern United States) the extensive Muskhogean stock stretches inland from the deep-bayed eastern Gulf coast; and so, too, three of the largest stocks on the continent (Algonquian, Iroquoian, Siouan) stretch far into the interior from the still more deeply indented Atlantic coast. In two of these cases (Iroquoian and Siouan) history and tradition indicate expansion and migration from the land of bays between Cape Lookout and Cape May, while in the third there are similar (though perhaps less definite) indications of an inland drift from the northern Atlantic bays and along the Laurentian river and lakes.
The Dakota are mentioned in the Jesuit Relations as early as 1639-40; the tradition is noted that the Ojibwa, on arriving at the Great Lakes in an early migration from the Atlantic coast, encountered representatives of the great confederacy of the plains. In 1641 the French voyageurs met the Potawatomi Indians flying from a nation called Nadawessi (enemies); and the Frenchmen adopted the alien name for the warlike prairie tribes. By 1658 the Jesuits had learned of the existence of thirty Dakota villages west-northwest from the Potawatomi mission St Michel; and in 1689 they recorded the presence of tribes apparently representing the Dakota confederacy on the upper Mississippi, near the mouth of the St Croix. According to Croghan's History of Western Pennsylvania, the "Sue" Indians occupied the country southwest of Lake Superior about 1759; and Dr T.S. Williamson, "the father of the Dakota mission," states that the Dakota must have resided about the confluence of the Mississippi and the Minnesota or St Peters for at least two hundred years prior to 1860.
According to traditions collected by Dorsey, the Teton took possession of the Black Hills region, which had previously been occupied by the Crow Indians, long before white men came; and the Yankton and Yanktonnai, which were found on the Missouri by Lewis and Clark, were not long removed from the region about Minnesota river. In 1862 the Santee and other Dakota tribes united in a formidable outbreak in which more than 1,000 whites were massacred or slain in battle. Through this outbreak and the consequent governmental action toward the control and settlement of the tribes, much was learned concerning the characteristics of the people, and various Indian leaders became known; Spotted Tail, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, American Horse, and Even-his-horse-is-feared (commonly miscalled Man-afraid-of-his-horses) were among the famous Dakota chiefs and warriors, notable representatives of a passing race, whose names are prominent in the history of the country. Other outbreaks occurred, the last of note resulting from the ghost-dance fantasy in 1890-91, which fortunately was quickly suppressed. Yet, with slight interruptions, the Dakota tribes in the United States were steadily gathered on reservations. Some 800 or more still roam the prairies north of the international boundary, but the great body of the confederacy, numbering nearly 28,000, are domiciled on reservations (already noted) in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The separation of the Asiniboin from the Wazi-kute gens of the Yanktonai apparently occurred before the middle of the seventeenth century, since the Jesuit relation of 1658 distinguishes between the Poualak or Guerriers (undoubtedly the Dakota proper) and the Assiuipoualak or Guerriers de pierre. The Asiniboin are undoubtedly the Essanape (Essanapi or Assinapi) who were next to the Makatapi (Dakota) in the Walam-Olum record of the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware. In 1680 Hennepin located the Asiniboin northeast of the Issati (Isanyati or Santee) who were on Knife lake (Minnesota); and the Jesuit map of 1681 placed them on Lake-of-the-Woods, then called "L. Assinepoualacs." La Hontan claimed to have visited the Eokoro (Arikara) in 1689-90, when the Essanape were sixty leagues above; and Perrot's Memoire refers to the Asiniboin as a Sioux tribe which, in the seventeenth century, seceded from their nation and took refuge among the rocks of Lake-of-the-Woods. Chauvignerie located some of the tribe south of Ounipigan (Winnipeg) lake in 1736, and they were near Lake-of-the-Woods as late as 1766, when they were said to have 1,500 warriors. It is well known that in 1829 they occupied a considerable territory west of the Dakota and north of Missouri river, with a population estimated at 8,000; and Drake estimated their number at 10,000 before the smallpox epidemic of 1838, which is said to have carried off 4,000. From this blow the tribe seems never to have fully recovered, and now numbers probably no more than 3,000, mostly in Canada, where they continue to roam the plains they have occupied for half a century.
According to tribal traditions collected by Dorsey, the ancestors of the Omaha, Ponka, Elwapa, Osage, and Kansa were originally one people dwelling on Ohio and Wabash rivers, but gradually working westward. The first separation took place at the mouth of the Ohio, when those who went down the Mississippi became the Kwapa or Downstream People, while those who ascended the great river became the Omaha or Up-stream People. This separation must have occurred at least as early as 1500, since it preceded De Soto's discovery of the Mississippi.
The Omaha group (from whom the Osage, Kansa, and Ponka were not yet separated) ascended the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri, where they remained for some time, though war and hunting parties explored the country northwestward, and the body of the tribe gradually followed these pioneers, though the Osage and Kansa were successively left behind. Some of the pioneer parties discovered the pipestone quarry, and many traditions cling about this landmark. Subsequently they were driven across the Big Sioux by the Yankton Indians, who then lived toward the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi. The group gradually differentiated and finally divided through the separation of the Ponka, probably about the middle of the seventeenth century. The Omaha gathered south of the Missouri, between the mouths of the Platte and Niobrara, while the Ponka pushed into the Black Hills country.