View Full Version : Native American questions

12-24-2008, 06:41 PM
Hello, I need some information about Plains Indian culture, tepee village layout in particular. I know that not all plains people lived in tepees so itís not necessary to discuss earthen lodges since the tepee lodge is what Iím interested in.
Time frame: roughly 1800.

Village layout: If a river flowed near a village and say the river ran east / west or north / south, was one side preferred to the other? Would a large village be bisected by a river or shallow stream?

Village layout: Were villages divided or segregated? For example did bachelor males live apart from their families?
Did the male or female tribal shaman or Wise One live in a lodge apart from the rest of the village? Did they marry of were they typically bachelors?

Did the ďtribal eldersĒ live in groups with their families apart from the main village?
When I say apart I mean near by but clearly separate in recognition of their status.

Was the tribal chief accorded a particular place in the village layout; say in the center or off in a compound with his immediate and extended family?

How were widows housed? Did they live alone with their children (if any) or did they return to their parents lodge, assuming their parents still lived?

Did older, unmarried women live in communities within the village or did they remain with their parents? What became of them when their parents died?
At the moment Iím only interested in how these groups were house not their duties.

Well I think thatís enough for now.
Thanks in advance for your time and knowledge.

12-24-2008, 08:26 PM
Are you aware of "The Cultures of Native North Americans" edited by Christian F. Feest Published by Konemann oF Cologne, Germany, 2000. I have an English translation: ISBN 3-8290-2985-3.

This is a big book 11inches x 13inches 480 pages fully illustrated, and with an extensive bibliography.

As far as I can tell, from reading this book, the occupation of tipis was organised on a clan/family basis. Upon first menstruation girls would be taken to a special tipi to be instructed in matters pertaining to child-bearing etc. Otherwise, I can see no evidence of segregation of sexes etc. Couples would start their married life in their own tipi (which the woman owned). Widows would remarry (probably quite quickly). Poligamy was not uncommon. Men with several wives would become wealthy, as the women could process more (buffalo) hides. Where a man took several wives, he would often chose sisters, to reduce jealousy. A woman could divorce her husband simply by packing his personal possessions and placing them outside the tipi. The organisation of the tipis was sometimes in a great circle, with spaces allocated in the circle on a clan by clan basis. The centre of the circle had a ceremonial or council tipi There is an interesting piece in the book about the men and their dreams. "If a young Lakota man dreamed of wapiti medicine, no woman would be able to withstand his amorous advances*; if lightning featured in his vision, it was a sign that he was to become a sacred clown and had to behave contrary to every rule or even had to change his social gender." (p207)

Of course, the history of the nations of the Prairie and Plains was tied to the fate of the bison, and the introduction of the horse (called "Mysterious Dog" sunkawakan)

*(probably explains my own mysterious power over women) :)

12-24-2008, 08:41 PM
Thanks Euclid. I was pretty sure I had down the society just as you said. Still, as with anything there are always variations. It is these that I want to make sure I mesh.

Thanks again for you input.