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Cultural Overview - Sahnish Culture - Culture Today

Mandan Culture | Hidatsa Culture | Sahnish Culture

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The Culture Today

When driving through the Sahnish homeland, one will find fields and remnants of the prairie that once consumed the entire area. Sixty percent of the land is white owned or leased, and has been turned into fields leaving little space for the wild prairie rose or tiger lily.

The once powerful Sahnish, who numbered well over 50,000 people in the early 800 A.D., now number approximately 627. All the old enemies of the Sahnish have been quieted but they face new enemies—the environment and new diseases. Today, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, tuberculosis, and alcoholism plague the Sahnish. Diabetes is one of the most debilitating diseases for the people because historically their diets consisted of naturally healthy, life-prolonging food which was changed to high fat and sugar foods.

A strong community organizes the Sahnish/Arikara Celebration (pow wow) in the summer and several small traditional dances during the remainder of the year. The Dead Grass Society hosts the annual celebration.

The communal lifestyle among the people is still evident. The school and a few small organizations provide the only job opportunities, yet many of the Sahnish people cling to their homeland. In the homes of some of the Sahnish the ceremonies are still practiced even though some of the protocols of the ceremonies have been lost. Of the 13 Sacred Bundles only seven remain, and the people are tenacious about “keeping” the bundles.

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