Friday, June 27, 2014

Chiwere (Otoe and Missouria) Worldview

North of the Big Nemaha was the territory of the Otoe tribe, sister-brother tribe of the Ioway and the Missouria (who were across the Missouri River, in Missouri). All spoke Chiwere and had the same basic worldview.

“Fundamental to the Otoe and Missouri world view was Wakanda (wakhánda ‘sacred power’), which permeated all nature and was manifested through dreams, visions, and supernatural encounters. This power was symbolized by the circle with its center and the four directions. East was associated with birth, sunrise, the east wind, and the source of life for people, plants, and animals. South was associated with adolescence, summer, and the south wind. After death the body was laid with the head to the north, enabling the individual to see both the sunrise and sunset. South was also linked to the seven stars of the Pleiades, which represented each of the seven clan chiefs. West was associated with middle age, autumn, danger, storms, the west wind, and the spirit world of the dead. North had associations with old age, winter, good, pleasure, cold, and the snow and moisture brought by the north wind. Associated with the center of the circle was the cottonwood tree and water. The sacred circle in the four directions were expressed in the culture through a grouping of the seasons into spring-summer and fall-winter and the association of each division with different clans. The significance of the number four was expressed in other ways such as in “the four stages of life,” the four subdivisions of each clan, performing tasks four times, and praying to the four directions.” –Marjorie Schweitzer, “Otoe and Missouria,” p. 450, Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13: Plains, Part I, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2001.

1 comment:

  1. "A description of heaven--by Wampasha, an Iowa Indian--was found in the diary of the Reverend S. M. Irvin, a devoted missionary among the Iowas and Sacs. It reads: 'The Big Village (heaven) is situated near the great water, toward the sunrise, and not far from the heads of the Mississippi River. None go there until after they die. A swift person can make the journey in three or four days; if, however, his heart be not right at death, the journey will be prolonged and attended with difficulties and stormy weather till he reaches the land of rest. Infants, dying, are carried by messengers sent for them; the old or infirm are borne upon horses- they have horses, plenty, and fine grass, and infirmities will all be healed in that village. The blind will receive new eyes; they have plenty of good eyes and ears there. Good people will never die again, but the bad may die three or four times and then turn into some bird.' " Devoe, "Legends of the Kaw"