The Hunka ceremony is a Lakota ceremony in which two persons adopt the Hunka relationship toward each other and thereby both assume a more restricted relationship with all for whom the ceremony has been performed. The term, Hunka, 1 expresses the relationship of each of the two persons to the other, while the term, Hunkaya, expresses their relationship to all others for whom the ceremony has been performed. The term, Hunkayapi, designates the persons for whom the ceremony has been performed.
The relationship of Hunka is difficult to define, for it is neither of the nature of a brotherhood, nor of kindred. It binds each to his Hunka by ties of fidelity stronger than friendship, brotherhood, or family. The relationship of Hunkaya is similar to that which the members of a society bear toward each other, but the Hunkayapi have no organization as a society and recognize no distinction among themselves as Hunkaya. Hunka may be a relationship somewhat like that of parent and child, when one is much older or more experienced than the other. In such case, the older is Hunka Ate to the younger, while the younger is simply Hunka to the older. If a Hunka Ate has the confidence of the people, they, whether Hunkayapi or not, may title him Mihunka, which indicates reverential respect.
The practice of assuming the Hunka relationship has existed among the Lakota since ancient times. It is probable that at first there was little ceremony other than an agreement between two persons; but that when the practice became more common the Shamans assumed control, adding rites until the ceremony assumed its present form. The most common designation of the ceremony is, "They Waved Horse-tails over Each Other." This appears to fix the time when the ceremony was given its present form, for it alludes to a prominent rite of the ceremony. According to the Oglala calendar a certain year is designated as "When They Waved Horse-tails
over Each Other." The Lakota custom was to name each year according to some event that was peculiar to, or first noticeable, during that year. Therefore, it is probable that the year "When They Waved Horse-tails over Each Other" was the year when the Hunka ceremony was first performed with the rite of waving horse-tails over each other, or, at least, the year when this rite was first noticeable. This year corresponds to A.D. 1805. Perhaps at that time the horse was a rare animal to the Lakota and as its tail was the most noticeable feature, the Lakota considered it sacred, with the potency of sacred things, in the same manner as they considered sacred the tail of a buffalo. The old Lakota still so consider horse-tails and wave them over others to cause an amicable influence. 1
Any two persons may become Hunka, provided a Shaman will perform the ceremony. This proviso makes it difficult for a white man to become a Hunka, for the Shamans are reluctant to perform the ceremony in such cases. Any two Oglala may become Hunka, provided one who is entitled to paint his hands red will perform the ceremony, but the ceremony is most esteemed when it is performed by a Shaman. One who wishes to become Hunka should first consult with the one with whom he desires to form that relationship; or, if he wishes to become Hunka with a child, he should consult with the parent, or the one who controls the child. If the consultants do not agree the matter should be abandoned. If they agree, they may proceed, and, in case one of them represents a child, he should represent it during the ceremony, except in the rite of placing the mark or badge of a Hunka, which should be placed on the person of the child to become a Hunka. Having agreed to become Hunka they should agree as to who shall perform the ceremony. He must be either a Shaman, or one who is entitled to paint his hands red and should know the rites and how and when to perform them.
He should be notified in sufficient time to enable him to prepare for the ceremony, or if he should refuse, to choose another. When this is done, then suitable provision for the ceremony should be made. When two adults are to become Hunka it is expected that they will share alike in making the provision, but if an older person desires to become Hunka with a child, he should provide most for the occasion. The requirements are sufficient food
for the feasts, articles for presents, and the material and implements used in the rites. Those who are to provide should give as liberally as is within their power, even to the extent of impoverishing themselves. Their kindred and friends should aid them, for the degree of the ceremony and the notability of the occasion is in proportion to the feasts and presents expected.
122:1 According to the late Rev. W. J. Cleveland, the term hunka, while conforming to Dakota phonetics appears to be a foreign word. This opinion of Rev. Cleveland deserves serious consideration because of his perfect familiarity with the language. The Oglala conception of the term is a kind of relation like that of a brother, father, mother, sister, or child and parent. The relationship is not exactly such as we consider fraternal, but was looked upon by the Dakota as approximately the same as blood kin. In fact, the hunka relationship often takes precedence over blood relationship. Now, if it turns out that Rev. Cleveland's theory is correct, then we may suspect that there is some relation between this term and the Pawnee term, hako, which has been used by Miss Fletcher as the name for a similar ceremony. As just stated, there are historical reasons for believing that the Pawnee are chiefly responsible for the introduction of this ceremony to the other tribes of the Plains--Editor.
123:1 This ceremony is essentially the same as the Hako of the Pawnee of which we have a published account. It also appears to be a form of the ceremony known to early explorers as the "Waving the Calumet," though not necessarily identical with it. If 1805 is really the date for its introduction to the Oglala, then they can make no claims to its origination, except in so far as they may have modified the ritual to bring it into harmony with their own ceremonial concepts. Further, since an important part of the Hunka wand stick is the horse's tail and since the ceremony is sometimes spoken of as the ''waving of horses' tails over one," we must infer that the ceremony took its present form since the introduction of the horse.--Editor.