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Cultural Overview - Mandan Culture - Ceremonial Life

Mandan Culture | Hidatsa Culture | Sahnish Culture

Intro & Origin by Foolish Woman | Origin by Wolf Chief |
Lifeways | Ceremonial Life

Ceremonial Life

medicine men

Mandan ceremonial life was involved with medicine bundles. Each bundle was owned by a small group of individuals within a clan, and was inherited or transferred within the clan. When a bundle was transferred, a feast was given in its honor, and feasts were also given to the bundles at other times to increase their power. The bundle ceremonies were prayers to the particular Supreme Being involved in the bundle, for those favors over which they had control. Individual Mandan men also owned bundles based on visions, and these could be transferred, but never became established as to tribal importance. (Schulenberg, 1956:51)

In 1832, Catlin was privileged to witness the four-day Mandan ceremony called Okipa, which included fasting and self-piercing. The Okipa was a reenactment of events from the tribe’s past. It took place in the Okipa lodge and in the open space in front of the lodge. The Okipa was given in fulfillment of a vow based on a dream. Clan membership and bundle rights determined the role of the main participants. The purpose of the ceremony was to secure plenty of buffalo and well being for the village.

Their sacred bundles fall into two categories. They are the hereditary tribal bundles, and personal bundles. Great value is placed on those bundles and ceremonies that were instituted in very early times. These included the Okipa, founded by Lone Man and Hoita, and Corn ceremonies, founded by Good Furred Robe. (Bowers)

The Mandan system of bundle inheritance shows evidence of change. Certain bundles and ceremonial rights, traditionally inherited through the clan and more specifically from the mother’s brother, such as the Okipa belonging to the WaxikEna clan and the Shell Robe Bundle of the Prairie Chicken clan, showed a tendency to change to a father-son inheritance of the Hidatsa pattern. The eagle-trapping lodges were still inherited through the clan as late as 1929, but the associated bundles had changed from clan inheritance to father-son inheritance after 1875. The system of inheritance was more flexible than for the Hidatsa, with whom they were intimately associated. The Mandan parents often selected their daughters’ husbands and gave them preliminary assistance in ceremonial matters. The sons and daughters of a household usually purchased the parents bundles collectively and designated one, generally the oldest son, to be the custodian. A family having only daughters sold to the son-in-law provided he had been successful in warfare and had removed the mother-in-law taboo.

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