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The Siouan Mythology
The Mdewakantonwan
Tribal Nomenclature
The Sisitonwan Or Sisseton
The Siha-sapa Or Blackfeet
The Oohe-nonpa Or Two Kettles
Phonetic And Graphic Arts
Designation And Mode Of Camping

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The Waqpe-kute
3 _{~latin Small Letter Turned T~}{~latin Small Letter Open O~}iweīre_ (_people Of This Place_)
9 _catawba Or Ni-ya (people)_
The Osage
The Ni-u'-t'a-tci Or Missouri
2 _cegiha_ (_people Dwelling Here_)(9)
The Eastern And Southern Tribes
General Features Of Organization

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The Siouan Mythology
The Waqpe-tonwan Or Wahpeton
The Ihanktonwan Or Yankton
The Itaziptco
Extent Of The Stock
The Mandan
The Development Of Mythology
The Waqpe-kute
The Omaha
11 _? Pedee (extinct)_

Industrial And Esthetic Arts

Since the arts of primitive people reflect environmental conditions with
close fidelity, and since the Siouan Indians were distributed over a vast
territory varying in climate, hydrography, geology, fauna, and flora,
their industrial and esthetic arts can hardly be regarded as distinctive,
and were indeed shared by other tribes of all neighboring stocks.

The best developed industries were hunting and warfare, though all of the
tribes subsisted in part on fruits, nuts, berries, tubers, grains, and
other vegetal products, largely wild, though sometimes planted and even
cultivated in rude fashion. The southwestern tribes, and to some extent
all of the prairie denizens and probably the eastern remnant, grew maize,
beans, pumpkins, melons, squashes, sunflowers, and tobacco, though their
agriculture seems always to have been subordinated to the chase.
Aboriginally, they appear to have had no domestic animals except dogs,
which, according to Carver--one of the first white men seen by the prairie
tribes,--were kept for their flesh, which was eaten ceremonially,(23) and
for use in the chase.(24) According to Lewis and Clark (1804-1806), they
were used for burden and draft;(25) according to the naturalists
accompanying Long's expedition (1819-20), for flesh (eaten ceremonially
and on ordinary occasions), draft, burden, and the chase,(26) and
according to Prince Maximilian, for food and draft,(27) all these
functions indicating long familiarity with the canines. Catlin, too, found
dog's meat ... the most honorable food that can be presented to a
stranger; it was eaten ceremonially and on important occasions.(28)
Moreover, the terms used for the dog and his harness are ancient and even
archaic, and some of the most important ceremonials were connected with
this animal,(29) implying long-continued association. Casual references
indicate that some of the tribes lived in mutual tolerance with several
birds(30) and mammals not yet domesticated (indeed the buffalo may be said
to have been in this condition), so that the people were at the threshold
of zooculture.

The chief implements and weapons were of stone, wood, bone, horn, and
antler. According to Carver, the Nadowessie were skillful bowmen, using
also the casse-tete(31) or warclub, and a flint scalping-knife. Catlin
was impressed with the shortness of the bows used by the prairie tribes,
though among the southwestern tribes they were longer. Many of the Siouan
Indians used the lance, javelin, or spear. The domestic utensils were
scant and simple, as became wanderers and fighters, wood being the common
material, though crude pottery and basketry were manufactured, together
with bags and bottles of skins or animal intestines. Ceremonial objects
were common, the most conspicuous being the calumet, carved out of the
sacred pipestone or catlinite quarried for many generations in the midst
of the Siouan territory. Frequently the pipes were fashioned in the form
of tomahawks, when they carried a double symbolic significance, standing
alike for peace and war, and thus expressing well the dominant idea of the
Siouan mind. Tobacco and kinnikinic (a mixture of tobacco with shredded
bark, leaves, etc(32)) were smoked.

Aboriginally the Siouan apparel was scanty, commonly comprising
breechclout, moccasins, leggings, and robe, and consisted chiefly of
dressed skins, though several of the tribes made simple fabrics of bast,
rushes, and other vegetal substances. Fur robes and rush mats commonly
served for bedding, some of the tribes using rude bedsteads. The
buffalo-hunting prairie tribes depended largely for apparel, bedding, and
habitations, as well as for food, on the great beast to whose comings and
goings their movements were adjusted. Like other Indians, the Siouan
hunters and their consorts quickly availed themselves of the white man's
stuffs, as well as his metal implements, and the primitive dress was soon

The woodland habitations were chiefly tent-shape structures of saplings
covered with bark, rush mats, skins, or bushes; the prairie habitations
were mainly earth lodges for winter and buffalo-skin tipis for summer.
Among many of the tribes these domiciles, simple as they were, were
constructed in accordance with an elaborate plan controlled by ritual.
According to Morgan, the framework of the aboriginal Dakota house
consisted of 13 poles;(33) and Dorsey describes the systematic grouping of
the tipis belonging to different gentes and tribes. Sudatories were
characteristic in most of the tribes, menstrual lodges were common, and
most of the more sedentary tribes had council houses or other communal
structures. The Siouan domiciles were thus adapted with remarkable
closeness to the daily habits and environment of the tribesmen, while at
the same time they reflected the complex social organization growing out
of their prescriptorial status and militant disposition.

Most of the Siouan men, women, and children were fine swimmers, though
they did not compare well with neighboring tribes as makers and managers
of water craft. The Dakota women made coracles of buffalo hides, in which
they transported themselves and their householdry, but the use of these
and other craft seems to have been regarded as little better than a
feminine weakness. Other tribes were better boatmen; for the Siouan Indian
generally preferred land travel to journeying by water, and avoided the
burden of vehicles by which his ever-varying movements in pursuit of game
or in waylaying and evading enemies would have been limited and

There are many indications and some suggestive evidences that the chief
arts and certain institutions and beliefs, as well as the geographic
distribution, of the principal Siouan tribes were determined by a single
conspicuous feature in their environment--the buffalo. As Riggs, Hale, and
Dorsey have demonstrated, the original home of the Siouan stock lay on the
eastern slope of the Appalachian mountains, stretching down over the
Piedmont and Coastplain provinces to the shores of the Atlantic between
the Potomac and the Savannah. As shown by Allen, the buffalo, prior to
the year 1800, spread eastward across the Appalachians(34) and into the
priscan territory of the Siouan tribes. As suggested by Shaler, the
presence of this ponderous and peaceful animal materially affected the
vocations of the Indians, tending to discourage agriculture and encourage
the chase; and it can hardly be doubted that the bison was the bridge that
carried the ancestors of the western tribes from the crest of the
Alleghenies to the Coteau des Prairies and enabled them to disperse so
widely over the plains beyond. Certainly the toothsome flesh and useful
skins must have attracted the valiant huntsmen among the Appalachians;
certainly the feral herds must have become constantly larger and more
numerous westward, thus tempting the pursuers down the waterways toward
the great river; certainly the vast herds beyond the Mississippi gave
stronger incentives and richer rewards than the hunters of big game found
elsewhere; and certainly when the prairie tribes were discovered, the men
and animals lived in constant interaction, and many of the hunters acted
and thought only as they were moved by their easy prey. As the Spanish
horse spread northward over the Llano Estacado and overflowed across the
mountains from the plains of the Cayuse, the Dakota and other tribes found
a new means of conquest over the herds, and entered on a career so facile
that they increased and multiplied despite strife and imported disease.

The horse was acquired by the prairie tribes toward the end of the last
century. Carver (1766-1768) describes the methods of hunting among the
Naudowessie without referring to the horse,(35) though he gives their
name for the animal in his vocabulary,(36) and describes their mode of
warfare with Indians that inhabit still farther to the westward a country
which extends to the South Sea, having great plenty of horses.(37)
Lewis and Clark (1804-1806) mention that the Sioux of the Teton tribe ...
frequently make excursions to steal horses from the Mandan,(38) and make
other references indicating that the horse was in fairly common use among
some of the Siouan tribes, though the animal was confined principally to
the nations inhabiting the great plains of the Columbia,(39) and dogs
were still used for burden and draft.(40) Grinnell learned from an aged
Indian that horses came into the hands of the neighboring Piegan
(Algonquian) about 1804-1806.(41) Long's naturalists found the horse, ass,
and mule in use among the Kansa and other tribes,(42) and described the
mode of capture of wild horses by the Osage;(43) yet when, two-thirds of a
century after Carver, Catlin (1832-1839) and Prince Maximilian (1833-34)
visited the Siouan territory, they found the horse established and in
common use in the chase and in war.(44) It is significant that the Dakota
word for horse (suk-tan'-ka or sun-ka'-wa-kan) is composed of the word for
dog (sun'-ka), with an affix indicating greatness, sacredness, or mystery,
so that the horse is literally great mysterious dog, or ancient sacred
dog, and that several terms for harness and other appurtenances
correspond with those used for the gear of the dog when used as a draft
animal.(45) This terminology corroborates the direct evidence that the dog
was domesticated by the Siouan aborigines long before the advent of the

Among the Siouan tribes, as among other Indians, amusements absorbed a
considerable part of the time and energy of the old and young of both
sexes. Among the young, the gambols, races, and other sports were chiefly
or wholly diversional, and commonly mimicked the avocations of the adults.
The girls played at the building and care of houses and were absorbed in
dolls, while the boys played at archery, foot racing, and mimic hunting,
which soon grew into the actual chase of small birds and animals. Some of
the sports of the elders were unorganized diversions, leaping, racing,
wrestling, and other spontaneous expressions of exuberance. Certain
diversions were controlled by more persistent motive, as when the idle
warrior occupied his leisure in meaningless ornamentation of his garment
or tipi, or spent hours of leisure in esthetic modification of his weapon
or ceremonial badge, and to this purposeless activity, which engendered
design with its own progress, the incipient graphic art of the tribes was
largely due. The more important and characteristic sports were organized
and interwoven with social organization and belief so as commonly to take
the form of elaborate ceremonial, in which dancing, feasting, fasting,
symbolic painting, song, and sacrifice played important parts, and these
organized sports were largely fiducial. To many of the early observers the
observances were nothing more than meaningless mummeries; to some they
were sacrilegious, to others sortilegious; to the more careful students,
like Carver, whose notes are of especial value by reason of the author's
clear insight into the Indian character, they were invocations,
expiations, propitiations, expressing profound and overpowering devotion.
Carver says of the Naudowessie, They usually dance either before or
after every meal; and by this cheerfulness, probably, render the Great
Spirit, to whom they consider themselves as indebted for every good, a
more acceptable sacrifice than a formal and unanimated thanksgiving;(46)
and he proceeds to describe the informal dances as well as the more formal
ceremonials preparatory to joining in the chase or setting out on the
warpath. The ceremonial observances of the Siouan tribes were not
different in kind from those of neighboring contemporaries, yet some of
them were developed in remarkable degree--for example, the bloody rites by
which youths were raised to the rank of warriors in some of the prairie
tribes were without parallel in severity among the aborigines of America,
or even among the known primitive peoples of the world. So the sports of
the Siouan Indians were both diversional and divinatory, and the latter
were highly organized in a manner reflecting the environment of the
tribes, their culture-status, their belief, and especially their
disposition toward bloodshed; for their most characteristic ceremonials
were connected, genetically if not immediately, with warfare and the

Among many of the Siouan tribes, games of chance were played habitually
and with great avidity, both men and women becoming so absorbed as to
forget avocations and food, mothers even neglecting their children; for,
as among other primitive peoples, the charm of hazard was greater than
among the enlightened. The games were not specially distinctive, and were
less widely differentiated than in certain other Indian stocks. The sport
or game of chungke stood high in favor among the young men in many of the
tribes, and was played as a game partly of chance, partly of skill; but
dice games (played with plum stones among the southwestern prairie tribes)
were generally preferred, especially by the women, children, and older
men. The games were partly, sometimes wholly, diversional, but generally
they were in large part divinatory, and thus reflected the hazardous
occupations and low culture-status of the people. One of the evils
resulting from the advent of the whites was the introduction of new games
of chance which tended further to pervert the simple Siouan mind; but in
time the evil brought its own remedy, for association with white gamblers
taught the ingenuous sortilegers that there is nothing divine or sacred
about the gaming table or the conduct of its votaries.

The primitive Siouan music was limited to the chant and rather simple
vocal melody, accompanied by rattle, drum, and flute, the drum among the
northwestern tribes being a skin bottle or bag of water. The music of the
Omaha and some other tribes has been most appreciatively studied by Miss
Fletcher, and her memoir ranks among the Indian classics.(47) In general
the Siouan music was typical for the aboriginal stocks of the northern
interior. Its dominant feature was rhythm, by which the dance was
controlled, though melody was inchoate, while harmony was not yet

The germ of painting was revealed in the calendars and the seed of
sculpture in the carvings of the Sionan Indians. The pictographic
paintings comprised not only recognizable but even vigorous
representations of men and animals, depicted in form and color though
without perspective, while the calumet of catlinite was sometimes chiseled
into striking verisimilitude of human and animal forms in miniature. To
the collector these representations suggest fairly developed art, though
to the Indian they were mainly, if not wholly, symbolic; for everything
indicates that the primitive artisan had not yet broken the shackles of
fetichistic symbolism, and had little conception of artistic portrayal for
its own sake.

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