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Art in Ritual Final Project
Transcript of Art in Ritual Final Project
Plains Indians are comprised of the indigenous people who inhabit North America’s Great Plains region. An area of clear-cut borders, the Great Plains extend northward into the Boreal Forest of Canada, southward into Texas and span westward from the Rocky Mountains to its eastern border, the Mississippi River. The Plains Indians are subdivided into two classifications. 1) The semi-sedentary Plains Indians who hunt buffalo, but also settle in villages and cultivate crops. 2) The fully nomadic Plains Indians who rely predominantly on buffalo for sustenance and therefore trail and hunt them. And while the cultures of the two groups overlap, the objects presented in this exhibition are more closely related to the nomadic Indians. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo during their seasonal grazing and migration. Life for the nomadic Plains Indians rest in the hoofs of the buffalo. In this exhibit viewers will learn the ways in which buffalo provide for the Plains Indians. The people depend on the buffalo for sustenance, shelter and other necessities. However, buffalo are powerful creatures which also fulfill the spiritual needs of the people. This power manifests itself in the practices of medicine men. Not only is the buffalo’s power used in medical practices, but several of their body parts are used to create tools and instruments. Through this exhibit, viewers will understand the significance of the buffalo in medical practices of the nomadic Plains Indians. Movie Practical Use of Buffalo
Buffalo is the mainstay for Plains Indians. It provides almost every essential element for survival. Every fiber of its being was used in some way. Here are several examples of the way in which the Plains Indians made use of specific parts of the buffalo.
Hair- ropes and pads
Horns and hoofs- tools and utensils
Bones- making soup, objects in games
Sinews- sewing thread, cords
Hides- shelter, clothing, blankets, instruments (drums)
Berlo, Janet Catherine. Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 2000.
Carlson, Paul H. The Plains Indians. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998.
Denig, Edwin Thompson. The Assiniboine. Edited by J.N.B. Hewitt. Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina, 2000.
Kopper, Philip. The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1986.
Smithsonian Institute. Lakota Winter Counts: An Online Exhibition. “What are Winter Counts?” http://wintercounts.si.edu/html_version/html/ (accessed 5/3/11) Instruments in Medical Practices Instruments in Medical Practices
In the Assiniboin culture, each camp has several doctors (male and female), who are referred to by the people as divining men. They received this name because of their dual status as both physician and shaman. Edwin Thompson Denig describes a doctor as “generally some old wretch who is very ugly, of great experience, and who has art enough to induce others to believe in his knowledge, and can drum, sing, and act his part well.” (Denig 28) Doctors perform their duties mostly naked except for a breech cloth. A doctor’s instruments are a drum, a rattle made from a dried gourd (or buffalo) known as a chi-chi-quoin and often a horn-cupping tool. The doctor has a few assistants who are also equipped with drums, bells, rattles and other instruments. While the doctor is diagnosing and treating the patient, those accompanying him loudly sing and play the instruments mentioned above. This could continue for a few hours. On occasion, the assistants would leave and the doctor would beat on the drum throughout an entire night. Wakan
Medicine men or shaman in Lakota were Wakan meaning “blessed.” People become Wakan when the Great Spirit responds to their prayers or they receive a sign from him. The Great Spirit vests power in the Wakan and therefore, they possess great power. Wakan are synonymous with medicine men because they are responsible for healing people. Another responsibility of the Wakan is to determine when the hunting period commences. Winter Counts
Winter counts or waniyetu wowapi as the Lakota people call them are physical documentations used in combination with a more detailed oral history. Most often found on hide, winter years are systematically organized so that people could consult it like a timeline. One event is attributed to each year. Pictures of the winter count represent these events and thus the specific year. People knew the year in which other significant events took place and then consulted the winter count to situate these events in time. Almost all parts of the buffalo were mentioned earlier in the exhibit as being used practically, but one feature (not previously mentioned) of the buffalo is an important component of spirituality. The skull. Buffalo skulls are used in ceremonies and on personal alters.
“The skull, as it was believed to be a place of abode of the spirit of the animal (which was intimately related to the supernatural being who presided over the chase and domestic affairs and which remained about the skull until it was swallowed by the earth) was regarded as wakan and was used to retain the spirit near at hand that it might act as intermediary in invoking the aid of the supernatural being it was related to.” -James Walker Buffalo are significant anthropomorphic images in shamanic transformations. Dressing oneself in the head and the hide of the buffalo signifies the beginning of the process of transformation into a buffalo spirit. One would become a member of the medicine society if one dreamt of a buffalo, which were thought to be powerful. In the four drawings above, Black Hawk (of the Lakota) illustrates buffalo transformation ceremonies. The first two illustrations show buffalo masqueraders with painted bodies, wearing a loincloth and a headdress made from buffalo hide. Clenched in the hands of the dancers are hoops, which symbolize a porthole into the spirit world. It is evident that the process of transformation has begun because the majority of human feet are now buffalo hoofs. The second two drawings shows the continuation of the transformation process. The dancers are now donned in full buffalo pelts. Undulating rays of power radiate from their hands and feet. And while the dancers appear to have human feet, buffalo hoof prints are left behind. As part of the perfomance, a hunter casts an arrow at the buffalo/man. The man would then totter, spew blood and spit out the arrow. The rest of the arrow is removed later by another medicine man and the wound heals instantly. The two women garbed in red are attendants to the buffalo shaman. However, their red painted cheeks signify that they themselves have participated in the transformation ceremony and are honorable women. Back: Both drums contain a speckled pattern, which is reminiscent of the imagery used on winter counts to represent years of measles and small pox outbreaks.
Disease was rampant. In 1780 smallpox struck and killed off much of the Assiniboin population. The Assiniboin people suffered a great loss. Out of the 1,000 lodges that existed before the outbreak, only 400 lodges or less remained after the outbreak. No treatments were successful, and people continued to die until the disease ran its course and eventually came to an end. Disease struck many more times, but this most extreme example shows the severity of devastation.
Plains Indian (Assiniboin?) Drums
c. 19th c. Buffalo Skull/Buffalo Shaman Fig. 1
Lakota Parfleche Case
Used for holding food Fig. 3
Photograph of Assiniboin Indians gathered around a medicine dance tent
ca. 1904 Fig. 2 Fig. 5 (above)
Fig. 6 (below) Fig. 7 (above)
Fig. 8 (below) Fig. 9 Fig. 10
gourd and bison rattles
Used in medical practice Fig. 11
Photograph of Old Nosey, an Assiniboin medicine man
The shaman is pictured here holding sweetgrass and a pipe. They often kept sweetgrass in a medicine bag with other medicinal roots and herbs. Fig. 12
Northern Plains Indian Ceremonial Buffalo Skull Fig. 13 Fig. 14 Fig. 15 Fig. 16 Image Bibliography
Fig. 1 Unknown. American Bison. From Google Images. JPG.
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3251/2770900614_6d737219e6.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.flickr.com/photos/ogil/2770900614/&usg=__4NevnYFic98J2JbXeJ6HAQK07P8=&h=333&w=500&sz=129&hl=en&start=42&sig2=jazVxj_9DuCGRKRF9osjbQ&zoom=1&tbnid=b7UXIJdBRseoEM:&tbnh=156&tbnw=213&ei=pending&prev=/search%3Fq%3Damerican%2Bbison%2Bmuseum%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1259%26bih%3D815%26tbm%3Disch0%2C1711&um=1&itbs=1&biw=1259&bih=815&iact=rc&dur=620&page=3&ndsp=21&ved=1t:429,r:12,s:42&tx=127&ty=53 (accessed May 3, 2011)
Fig. 2 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Distribution of North American Plains Indians. From Google Images. JPG.
http://raywyatt.net/custom2_2.html (accessed May 2, 2011)
Fig. 3 Jones, J.E. Assiniboin Indians [Assiniboine Indian medicine dance tent with American flags]. From Google Images. JPG.
http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/research/cms/Exhibits/JEJonesPhotographicCollection/tabid/423/Default.aspx (accessed May 3, 2011)
Fig. 4 Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Hunkpapa Lakota Parfleche Case. From Google Images. JPG.
http://www.nmai.si.edu/searchcollections/item.aspx?objtype=containers+and+vessels&objid=parfleche+case&irn=248139 (accessed May 3, 2011)
Fig. 5 Laubach, Aimee. Front of Rectangular Plains Indian Drum. May 2, 2011.
Fig. 6 Laubach, Aimee. Back of Rectangular Plains Indian Drum. May 2, 2011.
Fig. 7 Laubach, Aimee. Front of Bell-Shaped Plains Indian Drum. May 2, 2011.
Fig. 8 Laubach, Aimee. Back of Bell-Shaped Plains Indian Drum. May 2, 2011.
Fig. 9 Smithsonian Institute. Lone Dog Winter Count. From Google Images. JPG.
http://wintercounts.si.edu/html_version/html/ (accessed May 2, 2011)
Fig. 10 Brown, Frantz. Plains Indian Ceremonial Rattles. From Google Images. JPG.
http://www.franzbrown.com/plains-indian/lewisandclark-teacher/artifact_pages/15_ceremonial_rattles.htm (accessed May 3, 2011)
Fig. 11 Unknown. Old Nosey, the Assiniboine medicine man, with braided sweet grass and sacred pipe. From Google Images. JPG.
http://www.mpm.edu/collections/artifacts/photography/matteson/browse/?c=0&k=&t=1&p=36 (accessed May 2, 2011)
Fig. 12 Unknown. Cheyenne Northern Plains Indian Ceremonial Buffalo Skull. From Google Images. JPG.
http://historical.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=680&Lot_No=74492 (accessed May 3, 2011)
Fig. 13 Hawk, Black. 2000. Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World. New York. George Braziller. Plate 10
Fig. 14 Hawk, Black. 2000. Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World. New York. George Braziller. Plate 11
Fig. 15 Hawk, Black. 2000. Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World. New York. George Braziller. Plate 12
Fig. 16 Hawk, Black. 2000. Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World. New York. George Braziller. Plate 13
Front: The circular-headed figures with horns represent the buffalo skull. The importance of the buffalo skull to medicine suggests that the horned figures could be medicine men or the spirits associated with them.
Buffalo play a key role in shamanic transformation processes. During this process, shaman or buffalo dancers perform rituals which emphasize the power of the buffalo. For this reason, the thundering of the drum when played could allude to the thundering of the hoofs when the medicine men are dancing.