Honor and Celebration wheel imageHonor and Celebration

Honor and Celebration wheel imageHonor and Celebration

The Honor and Celebration gallery addresses the ceremonial aspects of Plains life, both past and present. Exploring the gallery, you learn about the Sacred Arts of women’s quilling and beadwork societies. Warriors, Leaders, and Healers section explains how the men’s societies prepared their members for the various roles and challenges through their lives. Then glimpse into the most sacred Plains ceremony—the Sun Dance—a united prayer for the life of all things and peoples of this world.

A dance arbor lies in the center of the gallery where you can experience the Plains Indian Museum Powwow. While the dancers and drums perform, the visitor gets a better understanding of how music and dance are fundamental to Plains cultures.

The Plains Indian Museum's Honor and Celebration Gallery

The Plains Indian Museum’s Honor and Celebration Gallery.

Choose a time of life to explore Honor and Celebration

Child

Children learned their roles in life by watching, listening, and imitating adults. Girls played with miniature tipis and dolls. Boys made arrows and went on mock hunts. Many life lessons and tribal values were conveyed through storytelling.

Crow children on horseback, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.385

Crow children on horseback, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.385


Hills of Life

Child: Hills of Life

A man lived in a tent that stood alone. Something came toward him from the East. It was a young buffalo bull. The man went to head it off but it went around him. The fourth time he succeeded. Then the bull said, “I have come to give you the buffalo. I give you myself. I have come to tell you of the life you will have.” —Traditional Hinono’ei (Arapaho) story, 1903

Bison bull in snow, ca. 1970–1998. MS 301 Gabby Barrus Slide Collection. SL.301.08.326

Bison bull in snow, ca. 1970–1998. MS 301 Gabby Barrus Slide Collection. SL.301.08.326

For the Hinono’ei (Arapaho), and several other Plains groups, life was organized around ceremonial lodges, or societies, each with practical and ceremonial traditions. As they aged, men and women gained knowledge, skills, and honor through their membership in these lodges.

Lakota men in ceremonial regalia, ca. 1900–1910. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.452

Lakota men in ceremonial regalia, ca. 1900–1910. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.452

For the Hinono’ei (Arapaho), the four “hills of life”—childhood, youth, mature adulthood, and old age—correspond to the four sacred directions and four seasons. Each stage of life is a preparation for the next.

Cradle, ca. 1885. Hinono'ei (Arapaho). Cloth, hide, dew claws, porcupine quills. Gift of George T. Beck. NA.111.47

Cradle, ca. 1885. Hinono’ei (Arapaho). Cloth, hide, dew claws, porcupine quills. Gift of George T. Beck. NA.111.47


Naming

Child: Naming

The elder walks a few steps to the east, pausing to pray for the beginning life of the child. Then he moves a few steps to the south and he prays for the teen years of the child’s life. Turning toward the west, and then facing north, he prays for a blessing on the child’s old age…. —Joan Willow, Hinono’ei (Arapaho), 1984

Stella Yellow Shirt and child, Brule. MS 36 North American Indian Collection. P.35.143

Stella Yellow Shirt and child, Brule. MS 36 North American Indian Collection. P.35.143

Names traditionally give their owners something to live up to. They usually come from brave deeds or extraordinary events, or from good omens in vision quests. Successful leaders’ or elders’ names are often taken as tributes.

Unidentified woman with child, Nez Perce, ca. 1890–1900. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.365

Unidentified woman with child, Nez Perce, ca. 1890–1900. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.365

Today, English and Indian names are given to children at birth. Giving an Indian name forges links with family members who have passed on, and with the larger tribal community, both contemporary and historic.

First Powwow

Child: First Powwow

Children participate in powwows from the time they are babies. Recently, a “tiny tots” category has been added to the dance competitions, so agile toddlers can participate along with their brothers and sisters. Some kids are shy; others can’t wait to begin.

James Bama (b. 1926). Photograph, Native girl at the Plains Indian Museum Powwow, 1989. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.02831

James Bama (b. 1926). Photograph, Native girl at the Plains Indian Museum Powwow, 1989. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.02831

Tiny tots at the 2010 Plains Indian Museum Powwow. Photo by Nancy McClure.

Tiny tots at the 2010 Plains Indian Museum Powwow. Photo by Nancy McClure.


Continuity

Child: Continuity

…Sometimes we don’t know who we are…. I’d like to come back and teach the kids…. As soon as I learn to bring back my culture, come back and teach the culture back to the kids again. —Maria Lawson, Hinono’ei (Northern Arapaho), 1995

Multi-generational drum group at the 2010 Plains Indian Museum Powwow.

Multi-generational drum group at the 2010 Plains Indian Museum Powwow.

New and old skills develop side by side. In many communities, kids who play on championship basketball teams also play traditional stick and football games.

Game sticks, ca. 1875–1899. Wood, pigment. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.503.44

Game sticks, ca. 1875–1899. Wood, pigment. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.503.44


Youth

When they were about 12, boys began formal training to become hunters and warriors. Girls continued to develop skills they would need in maintaining their own households. Vision quests and special ceremonies often marked the entrance into adulthood.

Playing hochtsim in Spotted Horse's camp, 1902. Southern Cheyenne. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.14

Playing hochtsim in Spotted Horse’s camp, 1902. Southern Cheyenne. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.14


Boys' and Girls' Lodges

Youth: Boys' and Girls' Lodges

Boys belonged to the Fox and then to the Stars. They joined them voluntarily…. There were no secrets attached to these two lodges. The other lodges—the men’s lodges—all had secrets. —Arnold Woolworth, (Southern Arapaho), ca. 1903

Nez Perce man and boys, ca. 1900–1910. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.380

Nez Perce man and boys, ca. 1900–1910. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.380

Young men went on their first vision quests, fasting and praying alone in a beautiful, often sacred, place, in search of guidance from a guardian spirit. An elder would serve as a confidant and interpreter for the spirit’s advice.

The Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming is an ancient stone structure. The site is held sacred by many Plains people.

Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.498

Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.498

At the same time, teen-aged girls joined the lower ranks of the Buffalo Woman Society. Several young women were chosen to be part of the annual Buffalo Woman Society dance.

Moccasins, ca. 1890. Northern Plains, Hinono'ei (Arapaho). Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Walter Hunt in honor of Margo Grant. NA.202.862

Moccasins, ca. 1890. Northern Plains, Hinono’ei (Arapaho). Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Walter Hunt in honor of Margo Grant. NA.202.862


First Hunt

Youth: First Hunt

I could sing a little boy song. It’s a song about sending this little boy hunting. And the song says ‘Have you seen our little boy? We sent him hunting.’ And kind of an answer, they said, ‘He’s at the crossroads—at the path where the roads cross each other. He’s sitting there cutting on the hindquarter of an animal….’ —Louella Johnson, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000

Elder sitting with boy, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.47

Elder sitting with boy, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.47

Hunting was a man’s main economic duty, so boys began their training with bow and arrows and throwing sticks early. A first success—usually a bird, gopher, or rabbit—was celebrated with a giveaway and feast, often with the catch as the main dish.

Shield cover depicting man with spear and a buffalo, ca. 1850. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.108.141

Shield cover depicting man with spear and a buffalo, ca. 1850. The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe. NA.108.141

Young Arapaho men weren’t allowed to join buffalo-hunting expeditions until their twenties. They were instructed in the ways of the hunt by several male elders, who also custom-made their arrows. The first kill was given to an elder who in turn offered prayers for good hunting and a good life.

First Hide

Youth: First Hide

She’d have us girls in a circle in front of her and take that wet hide, and we’d all have the edge of it and we’d pull, one way or the other. We’d just pull and go in a circle with this skin until it stretched enough, it dried soft. —Alma Snell, Apsáalooke (Crow), 2000, talking about her grandmother, Pretty Shield

Throughout adolescence, girls continued to learn practical skills like cooking, sewing, decorating with porcupine quills, and the task of preparing hides, and sewing them together to make tipis. Her first hide was an important milestone in a girl’s passage into womanhood.

Native family in camp with meat hanging to dry, cal 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.399

Native family in camp with meat hanging to dry, cal 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.399

While they worked, mothers, grandmothers, and other female relatives passed on important skills and knowledge about women’s responsibilities. When they reached marriageable age, girls were often given their mother’s or grandmother’s awl case, scraper, or other useful tools.

Crow women hanging meat to dry and staking out green hides, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.83

Crow women hanging meat to dry and staking out green hides, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.83

 

Graduation

Youth: Graduation

My culture is more than dancing and beading. It’s something I’ll take with me forever, in whatever I do…. And when I go away to college, I’ll take everything I learned with me… —Leann Brown, Hinono’ei (Arapaho), 1998

For graduations from Wyoming Indian High School, boys wear traditional ribbon shirts and girls wear beaded dresses.

James Bama (b. 1926). Photograph, Clayton Small wearing a ribbon shirt, November 1981. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.00344

James Bama (b. 1926). Photograph, Clayton Small wearing a ribbon shirt, November 1981. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.00344

Women displaying detailed beadwork on her shawl. Ken Blackbird photograph. MS 426 Ken Blackbird Collection. KB.034

Women displaying detailed beadwork on her shawl. Ken Blackbird photograph. MS 426 Ken Blackbird Collection. KB.034

…My family and my friends always support me. My culture helps me too. My mother taught me about the sacredness of sage. When I play basketball she always taught me to but it in my sock. She said it will protect me and help me whenever I thought I needed it. —Leann Brown, Hinono’ei (Arapaho), 1998

Adult

On the Plains, people depended on one another for survival. Everyone in the group had a responsibility. Men were trained to be hunters and warriors and women ran the households. Besides cooking, sewing, and taking care of the children, women pitched the tipis, butchered the meat from hunts, and prepared hides.

Curly, ca. 1895–1905. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.212a

Curly, ca. 1895–1905. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.212a


Buffalo Woman Society

Adult: Buffalo Woman Society

Many Plains tribes had buffalo women’s societies. According to tradition, White Buffalo Woman brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Lakota. She instructed women in cooking and other important skills of life and told them of their importance in Lakota society.

Pipe bag, ca. 1885. Lakota, Northern Plains. Deer hide, beads, porcupine quills, tin, horsehair. Adolf Spohr Collection, Gift of Larry Sheerin. NA.504.131

Pipe bag, ca. 1885. Lakota, Northern Plains. Deer hide, beads, porcupine quills, tin, horsehair. Adolf Spohr Collection, Gift of Larry Sheerin. NA.504.131

The Arapaho Buffalo Lodge included all the women in the tribe and was the equivalent to the men’s age-graded societies. Girls could join at age 15. As they grew older and gained skill and honor, they proceeded through degrees of rank, each with special regalia and songs.

Buffalo Society headdress, ca. 1880. Buffalo skin, buffalo horn, feathers, sinew, porcupine quills. Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Mr. William D. Weiss. NA.203.358

Buffalo Society headdress, ca. 1880. Buffalo skin, buffalo horn, feathers, sinew, porcupine quills. Chandler-Pohrt Collection, Gift of Mr. William D. Weiss. NA.203.358


Men's Society

Adult: Men's Society

The two sides of the Tomahawk Lodge opposed each other in songs and telling war stories…. The paraphernalia needed for this lodge were the war club, white crane feathers, a calf tail, white and black paint. —Jessie Rowledge, Hinono’ei (Southern Arapaho)

Crow man carrying lance, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.377

Crow man carrying lance, ca. 1903–1925. MS 95 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.377

Men gained respect, honor, and responsibility through membership in warrior societies. In Arapaho and other “age-graded” societies, members moved through the men’s societies in successive steps at prescribed ages.

Big Horse on horseback, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.485

Big Horse on horseback, ca. 1915–1925. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.485


Warriors

Adult: Warriors

The Northern Arapaho had a strong warrior society…. I earned my eagle feathers while I was there and I’m very proud to have served there…. I’ve come home to my people. And like I went over to fight for the United States…now I’m back home fighting for my people. —Eugene Goggles, Hinono’ei (Arapaho), 1990

Rattle, Crow. Tradecloth, leather, metal, feathers. Purchased from funds from the Stanley Landgren estate. NA.502.214

Rattle, Crow. Tradecloth, leather, metal, feathers. Purchased from funds from the Stanley Landgren estate. NA.502.214


Leadership

Adult: Leadership

…I told my grandchildren, I said, ‘Now one of you has to be leaders,’ I said, ‘Your grandfather was one of them…he was a leader, Chief Black Coal… So one of you have to live up to that…tradition. —Cleone Thunder, Hinono’ei (Arapaho), 1998

Black Coal, Hinono’ei (Northern Arapaho) resisted federal government attempts to remove his people to Oklahoma. In 1878, as the tribe was settled on the Wind River Reservation, he became one of the early council chiefs and a spokesman for the tribe.

Richard Wooden Leg wearing headdress, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.56

Richard Wooden Leg wearing headdress, ca. 1922–1935. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Collection. PN.165.1.56

I thought long and hard about it for a number of years before I got on a council. It was a willingness to serve. A willingness to try to make a difference, to contribute…. You’re there for other people. —Ivan Posey, So-soreh (Eastern Shoshone), 1998

When you want to teach tradition, values, and all this other stuff, there’s this umbrella. And I think respect is the umbrella, because all these other things will out from it. If you’ve got respect for yourself; respect for others; respect for Mother Earth; respect for tradition, culture, religion, whatever, I think you’re going to do good in life. If you just have that basic respect…the umbrella of respect.

Elder

Plains people consider age a blessing. Elders provide a vital link with the past. They pass on knowledge to the next generations. They are the authorities in religion, culture, and social values.

Joe Medicine Crow, Crow tribal elder, at the Plains Indian Museum Powwow, June 1987. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.2

Joe Medicine Crow, Crow tribal elder, at the Plains Indian Museum Powwow, June 1987. MS 243 James Bama Collection. P.243.2


Sacred Knowledge

Elder: Sacred Knowledge

The buffalo sang to us so that we would grow strong. And the Old People would gather together many words to make prayers to the creator. They would gather words as they walked the sacred path across the Earth, leaving nothing behind but prayers and offerings. —Debra Calling Thunder, Hinono’ei (Northern Arapaho), 1993

Red Bead smoking pipe, 1902. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.11

Red Bead smoking pipe, 1902. MS 37 Elizabeth C. Grinnell Collection. P.37.1.11

Elders are guardians of sacred knowledge, objects, and ceremonial traditions, serving as intermediaries between the Creator and the people.

Among the Arapaho, seven old men, known as the Water Pourers, protected the sacred bundles. They fasted and prayed together in a sweat lodge, pouring water over the hot rocks to make steam.

Sweat Lodge, 1917. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.500

Sweat Lodge, 1917. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.500

Women elders also were keepers of sacred knowledge and objects. They supervised arts that women undertook—tipi ornaments, buffalo robes, and cradles. Today, men and women elders continue to advise in sacred and other matters and are respected in their roles.

Tipi ornament, Northern Cheyenne. Leather, beads, dew claws. NA.302.105

Tipi ornament, Northern Cheyenne. Leather, beads, dew claws. NA.302.105

Pretty Enemy demonstrating stomach stick used for physical ailments, ca. 1930–1925. LS.95.341 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.341

Pretty Enemy demonstrating stomach stick used for physical ailments, ca. 1930–1925. LS.95.341 William A. Petzoldt Lantern Slide Collection. LS.95.341


Age is a Blessing

Elder: Age is a Blessing

For most people of the Plains, aging is seen as a supernatural blessing and a sign of social accomplishment, to be welcomed, not feared. Special ceremonies and celebrations mark milestones along the path of life from birth to death, and into the afterlife.

"Old Tom" wearing capote, ca. 1930–1940. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.89

“Old Tom” wearing capote, ca. 1930–1940. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.89

Generosity is a way to gain honor. Giveaways accompany important rituals throughout life, from a baby’s first steps to a loved one’s memorial. During giveaways, family members publicly distribute property—a horse, food, blankets, or handmade quilts—in honor of a relative, to express appreciation, or to acknowledge acceptance of a responsibility.

Star quilt made by Freda Goodsell (Oglala Lakota), 2000. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Pilot Foundation. NA.320.144

Star quilt made by Freda Goodsell (Oglala Lakota), 2000. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Pilot Foundation. NA.320.144

Honor dances are held during powwows and other public gatherings. Memorials honor the memory and celebrate the life of a respected tribal member.

Dancing at a fall festival, Taos, New Mexico. MS 438 Forrest Fenn Indian Photographs Collection. P.438.69

Dancing at a fall festival, Taos, New Mexico. MS 438 Forrest Fenn Indian Photographs Collection. P.438.69


Sun Dance

Elder: Sun Dance

He was sitting on a hill when he saw a buffalo coming up way down from the bottom of that hill. That buffalo seemed strange to him because he had yellow paint on…. And he’d walk so far and he’d take up dirt and he’d throw it up like this, like he’s mad. Throw it on himself and he’d walk, and he knew where that man was too; probably sent by the Great Spirit…. So the buffalo talked to him and told him about the Sun Dance—and told him about everything, how to put up the dance hollow, and songs, and all that, told him all about it…. He told him to go back and put up a Sun Dance for the people. So he did. —Starr Weed, So-soreh (Shoshone), 1998

The annual Sun Dance, the most important ceremony in the religious life of many Plains tribes, brings together “all the lodges” or ceremonial divisions of society. Elders serve as guardians of objects and ceremonies which are so sacred that now one speaks of them outside the specially-built Sun Dance lodge.

Sun Dance Lodge, Lame Deer, Montana, 1927. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.1.6

Sun Dance Lodge, Lame Deer, Montana, 1927. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.1.6

Today, the Sun Dance is observed by many Plains tribes—the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and Shoshone. The three or four day gathering, traditionally about purification and renewal, also serves as a reunion for tribal and family members.

Three Sioux Sun Dance participates with eagle whistles, ca. 1894–1904. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.447

Three Sioux Sun Dance participates with eagle whistles, ca. 1894–1904. MS 320 Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection. P.320.447


Grandparents

Elder: Grandparents

Sometimes I get up in the morning and sing to my great grandson, he’s just a little baby, about six months old. I sing these warrior songs to him, and round dance, powwow dance songs. And some family songs I sing to him…. That’s how I want that little boy to maybe bank it up in his mind, maybe some day that he’s going to sing it, maybe he’s going to sing it to some younger people too as he’s growing up. That’s where I learned those songs. So anyway, I’d like for my great grandson to learn all these old songs. —Tony Engavo, So-soreh (Shoshone), 1998

Northern Cheyenne family, ca. 1922–1935. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.2.47

Northern Cheyenne family, ca. 1922–1935. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.2.47

If a young person wants to know something, go up to ask some elder a question. There’s no shame of asking, because if this person knows, they’re going to tell them how it is. And if he don’t, why, he’s going to send him to another one. That’s how they learn. They go to elders like that and find out things, and that’s how they learn. —Tony Engavo, So-soreh (Shoshone), 1998

Sarah Harris with young child, 1925. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.1.81

Sarah Harris with young child, 1925. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.1.81

More than just grandparents, the elderly are the strength and foundation of Indian cultures. They are our password to a meaningful life and to the wisdom and beauty of old age. —Abraham Spotted Elk, Tsistsistas (Northern Cheyenne), 1994

Four generations of the Iron Shirt family, ca. 1922–1935. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.3.38

Four generations of the Iron Shirt family, ca. 1922–1935. Northern Cheyenne. MS 165 Thomas B. Marquis Native American Nitrate Negative Collection. PN.165.3.38