Chiefs were elected at a general council of the men, led by the Short Hair Lodge and similar organizations. Disability by reason of age, or such serious loss of wealth as to make it impossible for a chief to give many feasts or to provide for the poor, were causes for retirement. In the old days the chiefship never descended from father to son, and no man could be elected a chief who had not counted the necessary coups. The ouncil was consulted on questions of public moment, such as laws governing the camp and, particularly, affecting the hunt. Small war-parties were made up without regard to the chiefs or the council, for any individual who could gain a following was free to go against the enemy. General rules were often suggested to the chiefs by the different societies.
Some of the young men, perhaps half of them, were organized into the Soldier Band. When the chiefs met, the Soldiers gathered at the council-place and took their position in front of the tipi, first having gone about the village gathering food for the councilors. If a man was asked to give a dog for the feast and refused, the Soldiers would kill the dog and take it away, and if resentment was shown they would punish the offender by destroying some of his property or by beating him. The Soldiers, in a way, were the servants of the chiefs, and consequently were supposed to carry out their instructions. If the chiefs decided to move camp on the following day, the Soldiers were so informed, and when morning came they mounted their horses, rode about the camp and made everybody pull down his tipi, and saw that all promptly took the trail. If one should refuse to obey the command, the Soldiers cut his tipi to pieces and killed a horse or two, and if the man gave vent to anger his life might be forfeited. Orders to move camp sometimes originated in the Soldier Lodge, but heir action was only in the form of a suggestion to the chiefs, who agreed or not as they deemed fit.
The Soldiers of each village had two leaders, Soldier Chiefs, through whom all commands of the tribal chiefs were communicated to the lodge. When young men were sent out to look for buffalo, Soldiers kept guard so that only those authorized to go could leave the village; and on the return of the scouts with report of where the buffalo were, they assumed charge of the preparations for the hunt, and saw that all started together. Some of the Soldiers remained at home, guarding the village, while others accompanies the huntsmen and kept them together until they had neared the herd. Any man who began to shoot before the signal was given was severely beaten, sometimes to insensibility, his horse probably killed, his clothing cut to pieces, and his gun or bow and arrows broken. If he showed the slightest resentment, he was quite likely to be killed. The same treatment was accorded one who should steal away from the party on the march and kill a lone buffalo even without alarming the herd. At times in the autumn several bands formed a single buffalo hunting party; on such occasions the Soldiers kept the entire party together, not permitting one band to leave the others until the hunting-grounds were reached, after which the scouts were sent out. When the buffalo were found, the bands hunted together until every one had been supplied with enough meat for the winter. After the general hunt the chiefs gave the command to disband in order that the horses might have sufficient forage, as well as to avoid the sickness which experience taught them followed the practice of camping together in large numbers. This dispersion brought a partial disintegration of the Soldier Band, since each member accompanies his own patriarchal group.
The Soldiers had their headquarters in the large ti yo-tipi, pitched near the tipi of the head-chief, and it became a general rendezvous and lounging place for the members. If there was dearth of food in the lodge, a member was sent out to distribute through the camp a hundred red sticks, each a sign, not to be disregarded, that the recipient must quickly furnish meat to the tiyo-tipi. If a member of the body should keep the others waiting after a meeting had been called, he was treated rather roughly on his arrival; the injuries inflicted were not serious, consisting principally in the cutting up of his robe and other clothing.
Soldiers were appointed by the Soldier Chiefs, who donned their war-bonnets and rode from tipi to tipi, shaking the hand of each man chosen. To be selected a Soldier was a distinct honor, to which only men of tried courage and strength, who had counted at least one undisputed coup, could aspire. Red Cloud, before he became a chief, was always chosen Soldier Chief, for, being a man of indomitable courage, he carried out the chief's orders with reckless disregard of consequences.
In addition to the Soldier Lodge their where several other societies, or lodges, one of the most important being that of the Brave Hearts, Cha'te-ti-za. All plains tribes had similar orders, the function of which in all cases was practically the same. The paraphernalia of the organization among the Ogalala were two buffalo head-dresses, four lances, a drum, and two quirts, and its purpose was to inspire its members to acts of bravery and the succor of those in danger or in need. From the membership of the society were selected four men with brave hearts to carry the lances, and two others to act as attendants in the lodge. It was occasionally necessary to obtain recruits. In selecting them, members would go to the tipis and lead forth the young men who were thought worthy. Sometimes a man would object to becoming a member, and even after being taken to the society's tipi might make his escape. Such action was regarded as a great and lasting disgrace. If, on the other hand, the candidate remained, he was lauded by the people, for he thus avowed himself ready at any time to give up his life to the enemy. The men who bore the lances in battle were exposed to the gravest danger, however, since when their comrades were hard pressed, one of them was in duty bound to plant his staff in the ground and remain by it until all of his party had passed that point. He was then called I gulas'hka, He Ties Himself, and, like the color-bearer a member was chosen to take his place. Owing to the great danger involved, the position was necessarily regarded as one of the high honor, and to refuse it when proffered would subject a warrior to ineffaceable disgrace. An expression of the utmost derision was, "He would not take the lance!"
Another society was the Short Hair, Pehi-ptechela. This is a modern designation, used only within the last fifty years, the old name being Tataka-wapahoa, Wear Buffalo Head-dresses. The short buffalo-hair of the head-dress gave rise to the modern name. Only warriors of renown were eligible, men who had gained undisputed honors, and they were appointed, rather than elected, by the four chiefs of the tribe. When a warrior was deemed worthy of membership, the Soldier Chiefs were sent for, and he was brought to the tipi, placed before the chiefs, and told of the honor conferred on him. An address of advice was made to him, and his relatives distributed such gifts as were expected of those to whom distinction had come. The members of this society are said to have had the elective power of new chiefs.
EDWARD S. CURTIS
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