March 30, 2010

Guardian Angels = Sioux tradition

Charles Trimble:  Guardian Angels come to Indian CountryWhen I read the article that the first Guardian Angels chapter in Indian Country is starting on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, my reaction was, “How appropriate; a traditional Akicita approach to the problem of policing Indian country.”

In Sioux camps in olden times, the police that kept order were the Akicita (pronounced ah-KEE-chee-tah). These were men who were selected for their generosity, leadership, and most of all, their bravery. These men were of the warrior societies, the elite among the men.

Life in the camps on the Plains required much discipline on the part of individuals and families. There was no place for troublemakers who disturbed the peace by their behavior and by their disrespect for laws and authority. With families that were troublemakers, we are told, akicita warriors might call out the male head of the tiospaye, and humiliate him, sometimes whipping him from their horses with their quirts. A family that persisted making trouble, or trashing the campsite, would be ostracized to live away from the camp, and sometimes even to be expelled from the camp completely. This would doom that family because other camps would know that they were forced to wander because they were troublemakers, and nobody wanted troublemakers.

As with much of our traditional cultures, that discipline has been lost. There is little respect, even for elders. Neighbors’ yards and gardens regularly are trashed. In one village on the Pine Ridge Reservation, gangs are mounted and do their mischief on horseback, causing much damage to property. Gangs and drugs are a growing problem on reservations all across the Northern Plains.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Guardian Angels on the Rez.

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