the O©eti §aúowiñ men and women
expected to act differently and have different demeanours.
This expectation of behavioural differences extended to
almost every aspect of life. Men were expected to be aggressive
while women were expected to be passive. It was considered
acceptable for men to boast about their deeds but immodest
for women to do so. Men were expected to talk and laugh
boisterously. Women could talk freely among themselves
but it was not considered acceptable for women to become
boisterous like the men. For a women to laugh loudly was
considered immodest and could be interpreted to mean that
she was sexually promiscuous. Women were expected to speak
in quiet tones and to limit their talking when in the
presence of men, although it was acceptable for them to
join in conversation with men. These restrictions did
not apply to the old women. When women spoke, men did
not look directly at them. Men avoided womanish subjects
in their conversations, to speak of such would be a threat
to their masculinity and was considered undignified.
women had differences in their speech patterns. They used
different greetings, different suffixes to give commands
and raise questions, different words for calling attention
to things, and different exclamations. The sex of the
speaker was always noted in what was said. For a man or
women to use a word or suffix commonly used by the opposite
sex was considered undignified and utterly embarrassing.
women had different ways of sitting. Men and children
sat with their legs crossed, while women after their first
menses would sit with their legs folded to the side. It
was considered immodest for women to sit with her legs
crossed. Within a tipi, sitting and sleeping arrangements
were differentiated by sex. As one entered the door of
the tipi, the left side was considered the male side and
the right side the female side.
and shame were expressed differently by men and women.
Men would leave the camp and go to war, sometimes with
the intention of loosing one's life in battle. Women seldom
left the camp. They might commit suicide by hanging or
pout (sit motionless, refusing to eat, sleep or speak).
the shamans and the doctors, the seeker of visions and
controllers of relations with the wakan or powers of the
universe. Men's visions gave them power to heal, to go
to war, and to hunt. Women were not directly involved
in these matters. Women were important and essential participants
in ceremonies but never the directors of them.
women did not actively seek visions like the men, some
none the less had visions. These might give them power
to use herbs to cure, be a midwife, or make charms to
protect growing children. Through visions they could also
gain the powers in quill and beadwork design. The power
to design and do colour coronations was considered to
be uniquely that of women.
who were expert in quill and beadwork formed a society
which met occasionally for feasts and public displays
of their work. The society was originally founded by a
double face woman dreamer and it was the double face women
who gave the women their power to do fine quill and beadwork.
The double face dreamers sometimes would enact their visions
publicly. When they would do this they would go through
the camp flashing mirrors which caused both the men and
women who peered at them directly to fall prostrate and
to spit up black earth or plant matter. Some Double omen
Dreamers also had the power to make shields and war medicines.
to the Double Woman Dreamers society (also known as the
porcupine quillers society) there were the Praiseworthy
Womens Society, a wakan society for young women (virgins),
the Owns Alone (a feasting society for older women who
had only been with one man), the Tanners (women who tanned
hides and made tipi covers), and the Womens Medicine Society
(these were women with animal visions who had the powers
to make war shields and medicines and could predict the
outcome of a war party)
power on the whole was associated with domestic matters,
while men’s dealt with the protection of the camp
circle and matters outside the circle. The Double Face
Dreamers and the Women’s Medicine Society represented
a unique female contribution to the sacred socieities.
controlled by the men. Only men were Chiefs and only men
attended the councils. Membership in warrior societies
was restricted to men, although some women were singers
for the societies. There was no developed tradition of
warrior women among the O©eti §aúowiñ
although on occasion there were circumstances that required
women to assume a warrior role as best they could. The
council lodge was a lively place with much coming and
going. Only men of mature judgement were members and they
would gather to deliberate, plan and philosophise. They
were men of proven hospitality and generosity whose good
deeds weighted their words and earned them the right to
be listened to whenever they spoke.
lodge was the central institution for the expression of
virtue and wisdom. It was a place where men gathered to
confer about the welfare of the people as a whole. To
honour the men, women brought the best food they had to
the council lodge. Then hurried away to let the men eat
and deliberate. It was considered unwomanly to push ones
self into a gathering of the opposite sex or unmanly for
a man to join a women’s gathering. Outsiders interpreted
this to mean that the women were considered inferior.
The simple fact was the women had their place and men
had their own. They were not the same and neither inferior
earliest childhood children were watched closely to be
certain that they would act in ways proper to their sex.
Children were corrected when they played games of the
opposite sex or when they used the language of the opposite
sex. Homosexual play between children was not tolerated.
Children suspected of such practises would earn a reputation
that would follow them their entire life. Most childhood
play was restricted to he same sex and when children reached
puberty strict segregation of the sexes was enforced.
Some girls were watched so closely that they were virtually
unknown to young men of the same camp. They never went
anywhere with out a chaperone and never mingled in crowds.
childhood boys were frequently lectured on the importance
of acting like men. Parent worried if their sons showed
an inclination toward girlish games and mannerisms. Such
boys were liable to grow up to be wiñkte (beredaches)
and would have to dress like women and assume a women’s
role. These individuals were considered to be very unfortunate,
the greatest tragedy that could befall a Lakota warrior
was to be come a wiñkte or would be women. They
however were not held personally responsible for their
status which was derived from dreams. The wiñkte
was believed to be very waíañ or sacred.
These boys had dreams that caused them to become wiñktes.
In many ways their status in life was like that of the
heyoúa, the thunder dreamers, who because of their
visions made people laugh by acting and speaking backwards.
Both men and women might be heyoúa.
to be emphasised is that to be come a wiñkte was
not an escape for boys who failed to acquire the rigors
of warfare and hunting. Wiñkte where given certain
abilities that made them waíañ or sacred
and gave them added responsibilities.
was a comparable status for women who behaved in masculine
ways. These women were believed to have dreamed of the
double women (winyan huñöaóiúa)
causing them to act with masculine demeanour and pursue
men’s work. Those who dream of the double women
are said to have to make a choice between good and evil.
The two women are of opposite character. One is very industrious,
neat, virtuous; the other is idle, extravagant and a prostitute.
In the dream, the pair seem to come from one lodge which
is at the centre of two roads. One road leads to virtue
and industry and the other to idleness and promiscuity.
The women speak as one saying: “Which way shall
I go?" If the dreamer guides the women down the road
to virtue the women is granted great skill in needlework
and becomes waíañ or sacred. If it is the
opposite, she will become promiscuous and live an unsettled
life. Those women who dreamed of the double woman may
elect a lifestyle of not marrying, behaving aggressively
and acting in the ways of men which is parallel to the
a boys fear of becoming a wiñkte was an ultimate
incentive to make him strive to be manly, likewise a women’s
fear of having to assume a manly demeanour or becoming
a witko wiñyañ (promiscuous women) made
them strive to be womanly.
played a significant role in inspiring men to bravery.
Mothers encouraged their sons to be brave and instructed
their daughters to respect their brothers and do favours
for them because they would have to go fight the enemy
and their lives were liable to be short and hard. Women’s
demands for revenge of loved one’s slain by the
enemy was a further stimulus bolstering the warrior ethos.
As a boy grew up he was constantly exhorted to be brave
and to look forward to the day that he could go on a war
party to seek honour. He was persistently told that it
was better for him to lie dead on the battle field than
to stay home with a woman.
to war was a prerequisite for marriage. It was proof of
manhood and could provide horses needed to offer a girls
family. Yet families attempted to prevent their young
men from courting prematurely for fear they would want
to stay home. The Lakota had a society known as the Wimnasni
whose members could have no dealings with women until
they won four feathers for their deeds in battle. The
Wimnasni would hold public feasts where the members would
give public testimony as to their virginity. Women had
a comparable society and would hold feats to declare their