Two classes of societies existed among the Sioux--dream societies and military societies. Both classes are mentioned by Hayden, one of the earliest writers on the Indians of the upper plains. Hayden enumerates the Sioux societies as the "Bull Head, Elk, and Bear" (the first being properly translated "buffalo" and all being dream societies); also the "Scalp, Strong Heart, Fox, Big Owl, and Soldier."1 In every instance the Sioux equivalent is given, identifying the societies with organizations of comparatively recent times.
Societies based on dreams (known as "dream societies") were composed of men who, in their fasting visions, had seen the same animal. The common experience of the vision bound the men together and societies were thus formed. These societies had their meetings, to which were admitted only those who had dreamed of the animal for which the society was named. Concerning these societies Miss Fletcher writes:
Among the Siouan family of Indians there are societies, religious in character, which are distinguished by the name of some animal. Membership in these societies is not confined to any particular gens, or grouping of gens, but depends upon supernatural indications over which the individual has no control. The animal which appears to a man in a vision during his religious fasting determines to which society he must belong.2
Among the Teton Sioux there are some societies which belong unmistakably to one of these groups and others which, according to the writer's informants, probably had their origin in a dream of the name-animal, but are now open to men who have distinguished themselves in war. Thus the Elk and the Buffalo are distinctly dream societies, and the Strong Heart, Miwátani, and White Horse Riders are distinctly military in character, while the great military society of the Kaŋġíyuha is said to have originated in a dream of an owl. The writer secured an account of a dream of a wolf, but the terms "Wolf society" and "Fox society" seem to some extent interchangeable at the present time. Mention was made of a Horse society, but no dream of a horse was recorded; it was, however, a dream society, and is included by Wissler in his list of "dream cults"____________________