By Rick St. Germaine
Condensed by Native Village
MILLE LACS, MN:
Last spring, Santee Dakota spiritual leaders presented a horse
to Mille Lacs Ojibwe spiritual leaders at the end a lengthy
Ojibwe drum ceremony. The ceremony honored an armistice arranged
between the them more than 130 years earlier.
The historic meeting was the first
gathering between the old warring tribes since the 19th century. Arvol Looking Horse and Chris Leith,
(Lakota and Dakota Oyate
leaders,) sang an honor song while leading the young pony to the Mille Lacs ceremonial center. They explained in eloquent
Dakota how the gift is the highest honor given by their
“It is the custom of our people that
we bless this occasion with this pipe and that we look upon this
time as one in which we bring our people back together,” Looking
Leith offered the pipe to the four
directions and then to Ojibwe drum keepers.
Amik Smallwood, drum keeper and spokesman for
the Ojibwe ceremonial drum societies, said, “This is a most important day for
us; a day that we have long awaited. We welcome our relatives
from the West, who came to us over 100 years ago with a sacred
drum. We must honor the forgotten woman, the one who brought
(this drum) over here.
Smallwood and Looking Horse spoke
glowingly of a young, forgotten Dakota woman – Tail Feather Woman. In the mid-1870s, Tail Feather woman created a spiritual drum from a
vision she had when her hunting camp was attacked
by U.S. soldiers. Her relatives later delivered the spiritual drum to
the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe with instructions for its
ceremonial use as an instrument of peace and friendship.
In 1878, the Mille Lacs Ojibwe
passed duplicate drums to Ojibwe relatives at other reservations
with instructions for ceremonial use. Before long, the
ceremonial drum society was established throughout Minnesota and
Wisconsin Ojibwe villages, and among the Wisconsin Menominee and
Those ceremonial drum services have
grown into multi-day gatherings of tribal societies. Each is devoted to
spiritual ritual, sermons and celebration. They are conducted in the Ojibwe language with a focus on the example set by Tail Feather
than three dozen Anishinaabe ceremonial drum societies conduct
services across Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Iowa and Kansas.
Paula Horne, Dakota, said not many
Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota know the story of Tail Feather Woman,
who is known as Wiyaka Sinte Win. Today, Horne, Leith, and
are leading a South Dakota effort to honor Wiyaka Sinte Win's
memory near the site where soldiers attacked her camp.
The Mille Lacs Ojibwe are heartened
by the possibilities of strengthening the spiritual link between
the old foes.