Teton Sioux Music and Culture

By Frances Densmore | Go to book overview

THE BUFFALO HUNT (WANÁSAPI)

The buffalo may be said to have been the essential element in the life of the Plains Indians, as it supplied them with material for their tents, clothing, and moccasins; with food and containers for food, and household articles; with tools for their handicraft, and even with fuel for their fires. Every part of the animal was utilized. Among the less familiar articles made from parts of the buffalo were handles for small tools. These were fashioned from a certain heavy sinew of the neck, sharp needles of bone or metal, and knife blades, being inserted in pieces of the "green" sinew. When dry the sinew served as a firm and servicable handle for the tool. It is said also that a heavy sinew of the buffalo's hind leg was dried and cut into arrowpoints.

The tribal life of the Sioux passed away with the herds of buffalo. The last great buffalo hunt on the Standing Rock Reservation took place in 1882, under the supervision of Maj. James McLaughlin, then Indian agent on that reservation. During this hunt 5,000 buffalo were killed, the hunting party comprising about 600 mounted Sioux.2 Major McLaughlin became agent at Standing Rock in 1881, that year being designated in the Sioux picture calendar Vablé za Tataŋ́ ka-iyó take waná napé yuza waní yetu, "Winter in which Major McLaughlin shook hands with Sitting Bull." The following year is called wablé za Lakó ta ob waná sa ipí waní yetu, "Winter in which Major McLaughlin with the Sioux went on a buffalo hunt." The drawing which marks this year is shown in figure 36.

A graphic account of buffalo hunting is given by Catlin, who took part in the buffalo hunts of the Indians in the same part of the country, many years ago.3

In studying the customs of the buffalo hunt among the Teton Sioux the writer interviewed many old men, later reading the unfinished narrative to them so they might discuss it and make corrections or additions. The completed material comprises an account of the making of buffalo bows and arrows, and the cutting up of the buffalo, by White Hawk, a narrative of the searching party by Śiyá ka, and an account of the hunt consisting chiefly of information given by Swift Dog and Gray Hawk.

____________________
1
This word means "hunt," the name of the animal to be hunted being understood. (Cf. use of the word itaŋ́ ćan, footnote, p. 70.)
2
McLaughlin, James, My Friend the Indian, pp. 97-116, Boston and New York, 1910.
3
Catlin, George, The Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, vol. 1, pp. 251-261, London, 1841. Cf. also a description of the hunting customs of the Omaha in The Omaha Tribe, Fletcher and La Flesche, op. cit., p. 275.

-436-

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Teton Sioux Music and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations - Black and White Plates ix
  • List of Songs xiii
  • Names of Singers xxvi
  • Phonetic Key xxviii
  • Teton Sioux Music 1
  • Introduction 1
  • Analysis of Sioux and Chippewa Songs 40
  • Ceremonies 63
  • Old Songs 152
  • Dreams and Their Obligations 157
  • Societies (okoălakiā06iye) 284
  • Comparatively Modern Songs 428
  • The Buffalo Hunt (wanásapi) 436
  • Council and Chief Songs 448
  • Songs Connected with Dances and Games 468
  • Miscellaneous Songs 492
  • Rhythimc Units 528
  • Bibliography 551
  • I N D E X 555
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