SSB-06 Miwatani Society Warrior, Sioux



Warrior Societies were an important aspect of the Plains life, which divided a tribe’s fighting men into distinct units which provided their members with a social club, and an organization in which they could progress through ranks of officer-ship to bring great prestige.
Among the Lakota there existed several Warrior societies. The main function of these societies was for the training and development of fighting skills and the warrior ethos. Moral character was also cultivated and taught.

The Sioux Miwatani Society was an important military society among the Sioux. It is believed its origin comes from a man who dreamed of an owl, and the society is sometimes known as the Owl Society. It was known as one of the most difficult and exacting society. Each member pledged himself to sacrifice his own life in defense of a wounded member, if such a sacrifice became necessary on the warpath.
Any member of the tribe could apply for membership, and if the application was accepted he would be notified by the crier. Before initiation the candidates as well as other members of the society were required to fast partially for four days. They assembled in their lodge, and once each day the leader brought in a pail of water, and after dipping into this a bunch of sweet grass, handed the latter to each member, with a very small piece of buffalo meat. This was all the nourishment they were allowed, hence at the end of the four days they were greatly weakened. On the day of the ceremony the officers of the society, wearing headdresses of owl feathers, took their position in the place of honor, opposite the entrance of the lodge. In their hands they held the owl-feather headdresses which the new members were to receive. All the members of the tribe were gathered to witness the installation of the new members.
It was required that the newly elected men should show that they were qualified for the honor which had been conferred on them. Back of the fire was a “mellowed-earth space,” and the men were required to carry live coals in their hands and put them on the earth. Each man, rising from his seat, took coals in the palm of his hand, and turning to the left, walked slowly around the lodge. After the first round of the lodge, pausing at the mellowed-earth space, he pretended that he would place the coals upon it. After the fourth round of the lodge, slowly lowering his hand, he gently rolled the coals to the softened earth. If he did this without being burned he was considered qualified to be a member of the society.