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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.