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The Sioux represents a Native American ethnic and linguistic group from central and southeastern North America. The Lakota and Dakota are indigenous tribes belonging to this ethnic group. Lakota means calling for help, praying, and claiming a relationship. The word Dakota means friend and ally.  

The pre-eminent symbol of the Sioux religion is the sacred hoop (see at the bottom of the page), which materializes the concept that everything in the universe is interlaced. They think that when someone dies, his soul begins its journey to the land of spirits (a land composed of many lodges) and then merges into the Great Spirit. 

The Great Spirit (or the Great Mystery) represents an omnipotent and omnipresent god, an impersonal essence, the non-personified force of the universe. The Great Spirit is the architect of the universe, the creator of everything that exists.

The human souls represent its manifestation, the world is the result of the Great Spirit’s work. He lives in everything: trees, grasses, rivers, mountains, the four-legged animals and winged creatures. He exists above and beyond all these visible and material objects and peoples. They all are connected, the human beings should interact in the best possible way with other humans, the natural world, the spiritual world, and the cosmos.

The Sioux live in communion with nature.
Everything has a spirit that reflects a different form of life. There are spirits in trees, in plants, in flowers. They are not real but the physical manifestation of these internal forces. When they feel this thought deep in their hearts, then they fear, love, and deeply understand the Great Spirit. And from that moment on, they know to act and live according to his will.

Sioux who prays the Great Mystery
Sioux village

At birth, each person receives three essences:

– the guardian spirit, which protects him from evil entities
– the spirit, which comes from the stars
– the soul, which represents the immaterial and immortal reflection of the body

When someone dies, the guardian spirit and the soul accompany him to the world beyond the Milky Way. They return later to the place where they had lived before birth. Mortal remains decompose until they dissolve into nothingness.

The souls are present in the world of the living and serve them as a guide.

Dreams can also be a way to establish relationships with spirits and are highly important. Some people can even acquire supernatural powers through dreams.

Prayer symbolise the act of invoking relationships with the ancestors or the spiritual world.

Sioux Dakota Camp

The spirit of the deceased travels to the afterlife. To cross over to the land of the Spirits, the Sioux wear tattooed marks on their wrists, like a passport. The owl’s spirit examines all souls, and only those wearing these tattoos can pass across. The Sioux without these specific tattoos are pushed back to earth by the owl’s spirit, or they become wandering spirits.

To better accompany the spirit to its resting place, the funeral, which lasts roughly four days, is accompanied by laughter, joy, and good humor. The spiritual journey begins at the end of this period because the soul needs that time before reaching the spirit world.

The body is placed in a tree or on a wooden platform like a scaffolding, high enough to protect the body against animals, and then abandoned, left to decomposition. The body is securely wrapped in hides, blankets, and cloths, with many personal effects, and placed with the head facing south.

The individuals murdered are buried in the ground just after death, with their heads facing south, face down, and a lump of fat in their mouths.

They believe that when someone dies, the family and those close to him are in grave danger. It explains why the most distant relatives take care of the body and distribute his earthly possessions.

Burial in the tree
Chief Sitting Bull

They sacrifice the favorite horse of the defunct because he will need his horse in the afterlife. Part of his personal belongings are spread at the bottom of the grave others are placed directly on the body. They make a new opening in the tent to pass the body through it. After its passage, they seal that space carefully.

Those in charge of body handling are cautious to avoid offending the soul. When all duties towards the deceased are achieved they purify themselves.

To avoid his return and manifestation in the places where he lived, the Sioux do not pronounce his name anymore. They keep his properties for one year. Later, all his possessions are distributed to the needy.

The Sioux do not cry because they see the phenomenon of death as being part of life. They do not say goodbye to their death because the word does not exist in their vocabulary.

The Sioux say: “I will see you again. Because we were born to find ourselves again, one day, in the spirits’ world. « 

Sources

Les peuples Amérindiens (http://amerindien.e-monsite.com)

Rites et légendes Lakotas (https://stjosephdudakota.fr)

Les rites funéraires chez les Lakota (https://hokewin.skyrock.com)

Sioux (https://stringfixer.com/fr/Sioux)

La Pointe Ernie, Sitting Bull, sa vie, son héritage

Wikipédia Lakotas (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki)

Religion Lakota  (http://cocomagnanville.over-blog)

Legends of America Photo Prints (https://photos.legendsofamerica)

The Sacred Circle

The hoop is the symbol of « the eternal cycle of life, of the universe, the perfect form, the beginning and the end, the universal existence. » 

W. Black Elk (1863-1950), Oglala Sioux medicine man and spiritual leader said: 

“Once upon a time, when we were a strong and happy people, we drew all our power from the sacred ring, which guaranteed us prosperity as long as it remained intact. In its center, the flowering tree nourished the four-quadrant circle. 

The east brought peace and light, the south the heat, the west the rain and the north, with the cold and the high winds, strength and endurance. This knowledge has been passed on to us from the outside world through our religion. 

The forces of the world always act in a circle. The sky is rounded and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are the stars The wind, when it blows with force, swirls. The birds build their nests in circles, because they practice a religion identical to ours. 

The sun describes a circle above us. The moon does the same and the two stars are round. Even the seasons form a great circle by following each other in an immutable order. 

The human life is also a circle leading from the childhood to the childhood, and that’s how with everything which is animated. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds and arranged in a circle, the ring of the nation, the nest of the nests where, according to the will of the Great Spirit, we raised our children. »

The medicine wheel is a symbolic representation of the world, the path of personal awakening and growth.

The medicine wheel is similar to a diagram, the entire universe is organized around, like the life of each of us. It embodies the four paths we are invited to experience in our lives, the four stages of all psycho-spiritual development.

Traditionally the medicine wheel is drawn on the ground with stones. Its values are defined through the cardinal points, each having its characteristics in specific areas.

The medicine wheel (the sacred hoop) is built from a particular pattern consisting of a stone in the center and multiple stones around it with rocks or lines radiating from the center.

This wheel aims to give advice to be applied in everyone’s life and can help on all levels: physical, psychic, emotional, and spiritual, and increase or regain personal balance.

The sacred hoop can also teach everyone their real abilities, help them to find their life’s purpose, and achieve inner peace.

Sources :

Culture Sioux Lakota (https://itancansioux.wordpress.com)

Pays du Zabulon, Un cerceau, un cercle et un arbre (http://www.paysdezabulon)

La médecine amérindienne (http://ekladata.com)

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