Native Village Youth and Education News
October, 2009


Dakota and Ojibwe renew vows of peace

By Rick St. Germaine
Condensed by Native Village


MILLE LACS, MN: Last spring, Santee Dakota spiritual leaders presented a horse to Mille Lacs Ojibwe spiritual leaders at the end a lengthy Ojibwe drum ceremony. The ceremony honored an armistice arranged between the them  more than 130 years earlier.


The historic meeting was the first gathering between the old warring tribes since the 19th century.  Arvol Looking Horse and Chris Leith, (Lakota and Dakota Oyate leaders,) sang an honor song while leading the young pony to the Mille Lacs ceremonial center. They explained in eloquent Dakota how the gift is the highest honor given by their tribe.


“It is the custom of our people that we bless this occasion with this pipe and that we look upon this time as one in which we bring our people back together,” Looking Horse said.

 Leith offered the pipe to the four directions and then to Ojibwe drum keepers.


Amik Smallwood, drum keeper and spokesman for the Ojibwe ceremonial drum societies, said, “This is a most important day for us; a day that we have long awaited. We welcome our relatives from the West, who came to us over 100 years ago with a sacred drum. We must honor the forgotten woman, the one who brought (this drum) over here.

Smallwood and Looking Horse spoke glowingly of a young, forgotten Dakota woman – Tail Feather Woman. In the mid-1870s, Tail Feather woman created a spiritual drum from a vision she had when her hunting camp was attacked by U.S. soldiers. Her relatives later delivered the spiritual drum to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe with instructions for its ceremonial use as an instrument of peace and friendship.


 In 1878, the Mille Lacs Ojibwe passed duplicate drums to Ojibwe relatives at other reservations with instructions for ceremonial use. Before long, the ceremonial drum society was established throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe villages, and among the Wisconsin Menominee and Potowatomi villages.


Those ceremonial drum services have grown into multi-day gatherings of tribal societies. Each is devoted to spiritual ritual, sermons and celebration. They are conducted in the Ojibwe language with a focus on the example set by Tail Feather Woman. Today, more than three dozen Anishinaabe ceremonial drum societies conduct regular ritual services across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas.


Paula Horne, Dakota, said not many Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota know the story of Tail Feather Woman, who is known as Wiyaka Sinte Win. Today, Horne, Leith, and Looking-Horse are leading a South Dakota effort to honor Wiyaka Sinte Win's memory near the site where soldiers attacked her camp.


The Mille Lacs Ojibwe are heartened by the possibilities of strengthening the spiritual link between the old foes.

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