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Article: Hohe Leadership

As described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 17-20 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

One Chief did not rule over the whole tribe. Each band its own chief. If the band was large, there were as many as three chiefs and many headmen. The headmen with the chief, or chiefs, formed the council.

A chief's son was not always the next chief. A person who had made a name for himself in warfare, hunting, and kindness to the poor was often made the next chief. Sometimes a person known throughout the band as a medicine man, skilled in herb and magic and feared by the ruling class as well as the people, was made a chief.

A chief of that kind was not always chosen by the headmen of their own will, but through fear of the man. He may have expressed his desire for that position to one or more members who were in his power, and they, because of their rank, executed his wishes.

Oftentimes a medicine-man chief was a bad ruler. He obtained the position because of his reputation as a person who could charm and throw different objects, such as the claws of animals and birds, into a person's body to cause sickness and possible death; or because he was able to perform visible magic before the people. At his wish, it was believed, he could call back the objects with which he charmed or afflicted others.

At a council of the chiefs and headmen the subject of selecting another chief was brought to the attention of the members by one who had observed some likely person for a long time. He pointed out to the group the war and hunting record, also the family life of the man.

The requirements were that a chief-to-be must have a good war record, be a successful hunter, and possess many horses for domestic use and fast horses for use as buffalo runners. He must also, at least on one occasion, have brought back an enemy's scalp and presented it to his mother-in-law. On his hunting trips he must have killed more game than his household required, so that he might distribute the surplus to the poor.

When a new chief was suggested, the council talked the matter over. If they arrived at a favorable decision, the group went in a body, singing, to the prospective chief's lodge and the spokesman delivered the message.

Not all the ones chosen accepted the position offered them. Sometimes one, not willing to be chief, if aware of the plan be-forehand, departed on a hunting trip or visited another band until the matter was dropped because of his absence. But if the offer was accepted, the man was called outside. The group spread a tanned robe on the ground and the man was asked to take a seat in the middle of it. He was carried in that fashion to a new lodge that was pitched beside the guest lodge.

When the party arrived, they seated their guest in the back part of the new lodge, and the ceremony began. They dressed him in new buckskin clothing and placed on his head the sacred headgear, which was a wide band cut from the tanned hide of a rare white buffalo and trimmed with small white beads. Then his face was painted with a narrow red stripe, starting at the right temple and extending upward along the hairline and across the brow to the left temple, similar to the shape of a horseshoe. A short bar was painted on each end of the stripe.

A man whose whole body was painted red and who wore only a clout and moccasins was seated at the front of the lodge near the doorway. Before him were laid two black stone pipes, one with a plain wooden stem painted red, the other wrapped with quills in decorative colors from the mouthpiece halfway to the bowl. The mouth piece of the latter was also wrapped with green-feathered skin, taken from the neck of a mallard drake. A small cluster of horse mane, dyed red, was attached to the lower end of the stem. A string of eagle tail feathers, spaced about two inches apart, was fastened halfway down under the stem and extended to the end, near the bowl.

The singers started a song to which the pipeman danced, with he feathered pipe in his right hand. He danced forward and, when in front of the guest, he waved the pipe gently back and forth four times over the head of the future chief. Then the song stopped suddenly and the dancer walked back to his place, where he stood until the song was started again. The same pro-cedure was repeated four times.

After that the old chief took the headgear off the guest, and, with the two pipes, a bundle was made and presented to the new chief as his sacred bundle. He was also given the new lodge and many horses. He was expected to present gifts, in return, to each of the chiefs and headmen at some future time.