The Siouan words in this paper are of the Teton dialect as it is spoken by the Oglala, the letters in them having the same values as in English, except that those in the following table represent only the sounds indicated therein:--
a as a in far
e as a in fate
i as e in me
o as o in no
u as u in move
c as ch in chin
g as gu in gull
n as n in no, when it begins a syllable
n as n in ink, when it does not begin a syllable
s as sh in she
h as h in he, when it begins a word
The capitalization, other than that required by English, is to indicate that the things capitalized were considered sacred by the Oglala.
During many years, the vocation of the author brought him into intimate relation with the Oglala, and during that time, for his personal gratification, he gathered all the information he could get, relative to the aboriginal state of the Lakota, receiving it from many persons, at times and places far apart. He cultivated the friendship of the shamans, and became a shaman, thus receiving information that it was impossible to get otherwise. The notes taken at these times are largely fragmentary and contain much repetition and irrelevant matter, but their substantial agreement indicates the authenticity of the information and that the subjects had been formalized for a sufficient length of time to eliminate incongruities. In this paper the author has tried to arrange the information he secured relative to the Sun Dance and other special ceremonies, as conducted according to the point of view of an Oglala Shaman, giving the reasons why and the manner in which the successive steps in the ceremonies should be performed, as well as expressing the concepts of the informants as the author understood them. The chief aim is to present a full account of the Oglala Sun Dance, giving the information as it was received, as nearly as may be, when irrelevant matter is eliminated and it is systematized. The principal informants were old Oglala who professed to have participated in the ceremony, some of
whom were Shamans who claimed to have conducted the Sun dance ceremony in its fullest form. These informants are now all dead.
The Shamans were the custodians of the mythological and ceremonial lore of the Lakota and they hid much of this in an esoteric language, revealing it only to one who was to become a Shaman. Consequently, the people now know but little of this lore and have abandoned the Shamans and their doctrines. The remaining Shamans are all old men, so that there are now but few who know the ancient mythology and ceremonials. Even many of the names of their ancient deities have been forgotten by the people. These names, as given in this paper, are those used in the ceremonial language of the Shamans.
While the Shamans recognized a scheme in their mythology and a system in their ceremonials, they had never formulated them into a single whole. No one Shaman was found who could give them in a comprehensive or sequential manner. Aided by the Shamans, the scheme of their mythology was formulated and this was approved by every informant to whom it was submitted. In the same manner, the system of the ceremonials was formulated and approved. In former times, the Oglala had ceremonies that pertained to almost every act of their lives. The simplest was the passing of the pipe and the most complex, the Sun Dance. In performing these ceremonies every word or movement is a formal rite that has reference to the in Mythology. Therefore, to understand the ceremonies, one must know the rites and something of the mythology. The Oglala did not worship their deities and their ceremonials were not devotional. They considered their Gods as merely superhuman, whose aid could be invoked, or who could be pleased so that they would grant favors, or who could be displeased so that they would punish.
The professional story-tellers were of material assistance in getting information. They were important constituents of the social organization of the Lakota winter camp, for they were the custodians of the legendary lore and told the legends, both for entertainment and instruction. Usually these story-tellers were Shamans. A few of these legends that deal with the mythology are appended to this paper.
The greatest difficulty encountered in gathering information was due to the misinterpretation of the concepts expressed by the informants. This difficulty is apt to occur to anyone who attempts to get information from the old Lakota, because, owing to the paucity of the old Lakota vocabulary, it is often necessary to express widely varying concepts by the same word or phrase, the comprehension of the concept depending oil the association of correct ideas with the expression. The phrases were conventional, but not fixed, for they could be modified by the addition, subtraction, or interjection
of words. When the white people heard these phrases they assumed that they were words and wrote them as such. In translating English into Lakota, there was often no Lakota word equivalent to the English word and in such cases a Lakota word was used to express a concept that was foreign to it. Thus, in written Lakota, the phrases became fixed as words and insusceptible to modification so that many words were given new meanings. Thus was brought about a marked transition of the language, both in structure and meaning, so that there are now both old and modern forms of speech. Thus, influenced by education received from white people, the younger generation of the Oglala adopted the modern form of the language, and abandoned the Shamans and their ceremonials, and nearly all the customs of the old Lakota. Yet, the old people when speaking in a formal manner, or of formal things, still use the old forms of speech. Naturally, the interpreters, who are of the younger generation, do not understand all of the modified phrases peculiar to the old forms of speech and are apt to give erroneous and misleading interpretations. The Lakota term Wakan Tanka, and the English term Great Spirit illustrate these difficulties. In modern Lakota Wakantanka is one word, correctly interpreted as the Great Spirit, for, as now used, it designates Jehova, the God of Christians. In old Lakota Wakan Tanka, is two words, and designates a class of Gods, and through them all the Gods. It is never used to designate a single God; but the interpreters invariably interpret the term Wakan Tanka as the Great Spirit.
Again, my informants used the term Nagi Tanka and it was also interpreted as the Great Spirit, the interpreters asserting that Wakan Tanka and Nagi Tanka were synonymous terms; but upon inquiry, it appeared that the informants had only asserted that Nagi Tanka was one of the Wakan Tanka. Then some informants used the terms Tokan, Skan, and Taku Skanskan to designate Gods. These were interpreted as the Sky, the Moving, and What Moves. The information given with these interpretations was confusing and often contradictory. Other informants used the terms Wikan, Makakan, and Inyankan to designate Gods, and they were interpreted as the Sun, the Earth, and the Rock. It developed that Wikan was the shamanistic term for Wakan Tanka Wi and this term was interpreted as the Great Spirit, the Sun. With these misinterpretations, the mythology and ceremonials of the Lakota appeared to be indefinite, vague, and puzzling. But after some years, it was found the Tokan, Skan, and Taku Skanskan were appellatives of Nagi Tanka, the Great Spirit, according to that God's attributes, and that Wakan Tanka designated the Gods, Wi Skan, Maka, and Inyan, considered as a whole, and through them including all other Benevolent Gods. The Shamans also used the term Tob-tob as if to designate a God. This term was interpreted as four-four, but it puzzled
us until it was learned that the term Tob-tob differs from the term Wakan Tanka only in that it considers all the Benevolent Gods, each of four classes and four in each class, as one whole. Now, when these basic conceptions were comprehended, investigation relative to ceremonials and mythology was easy.
The Oglala make a wide distinction between the ceremony of the Sun Dance and the sun dance itself, for the dance is but a culminating rite of the ceremony. 1 The ceremony is graduated according to the purposes of the dancers, each grade having all the rites of the grade below it and additional rites. The highest grade is performed for a dancer who dances for the purpose of becoming a Shaman. It is not necessary to dance in the Sun Dance to become a Shaman, but those who do so are most highly esteemed, and only they can possess a Fetish with the potency of Wakan Tanka. As should be expected of a people who had no literature, no ceremony was invariable, but it was required that in each ceremony each rite should be performed always in the same manner as nearly as the circumstances would permit. In any ceremony, a Shaman could perform additional rites according to his will. The ceremony of the Sun Dance was given for the benefit of both the dancer and the people and could not be carried out without the participation of the latter.
The author is indebted to many Oglala for information, especially to Little-wound, American-horse, Bad-wound, Short-bull, No-flesh, Ringing-shield, Tyon, and Sword. Little-wound was the first to agree to tell the secret lore of the Shamans, but be died before he could do so. American-horse gave much information relative to the war customs of the Lakota. Bad-wound, No-flesh, and Ringing-shield gave information relative to the doctrines of the Oglala. Short-bull gave information and painted two large pictures of the ceremonial camp for the Sun dance in which each detail is significant. Tyon spoke and wrote in English poorly, but he was the most valuable interpreter, for he knew of the old customs, ceremonials, and language
of the Lakota, and could comprehend most of the information given by the Shamans. For the benefit of the author, he wrote many Lakota texts upon which parts of this paper are based. He was a professional story-teller and had a large fund of Lakota legends.
Sword was a man of marked ability with a philosophical trend far beyond the average Oglala. He could neither write nor speak English, but wrote much in old Lakota and the translations of his texts have been used in the preparation of this paper. As but few Oglala can, he was able to talk interestingly of the former habits and conduct of his people, so as to give distinct ideas of their daily lives. He began an autobiography which promised to be of historical value, but died before completing it.
A few days before the author left the Oglala he interviewed Finger, an old Shaman, who at that time gave information which clearly indicates that the Shaman's concept of the God Skan, or the Great Spirit, is a vague concept of force, or energy. We had no opportunity for verifying this information. The notes taken at this interview are appended to this paper.
J. R. WALKER, M. D.
58:1 This account of the Sun Dance Is based exclusively upon original data and not in any way influenced by previous writers. The published accounts so far available are as follows:--
Alice C. Fletcher, The Sun Dance of the Ogalalla Sioux (Proceedings, American Association for the Advancement of Science, thirty-first meeting, pp. 580-584, Salem, 1883).
Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, vol. 3. Cambridge, 1908.
Gideon H. Pond, Dakota Superstitions (Collections, Minnesota Historical Society, vol. 2, pp. 215-255, St. Paul, 1889).
J. Owen Dorsey, A Study of Siouan Cults (Eleventh Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1894).
None of these present so complete an outline of the ceremony as is to be found in the succeeding pages. So far we have noted no important contradiction in the several accounts. For this reason, and since the presentation here is from the point of view of the native conductor of the ceremony rather then from that of an onlooker, all specific references to parallels in the earlier accounts will be omitted.--Editor.