Nothing is more real than the woman’s superiority.
It is they who really maintain the tribe, the nobility of blood, the geological
tree, the order of generations and conservation of families.
In them resides all the real authority: the lands, the fields and all their harvest
belong to them; they are the soul of the councils, the arbiters of peace and war,
they hold all the taxes and public treasure; it is to them that the slaves are entrusted;
they arrange the marriages; the children are under their authority; and the order of succession is founded on THEIR blood….
The Council of Elders which transacts all the business does not work for itself.
It seems that they serve only to represent and aid the women in the matters in which decorum does not permit the latter to appear or act….
The women choose their chiefs among their maternal brothers or their own children.
Father Joseph-Francois Lafitau
Customs of the American Indians
compared with the Customs of Primitive Times (1712)(blog)
“women are now realizing their role and responsibility as women. Bringing that back gradually has been like a culture shock, because they have been so used to the dominant way of life.”
“How a person walks and talks is very important to the old elders because they watch to see if you have arrogance and they will say: ‘You appreciate nothing because of the way you walk and talk, you take things for granted’. They have to make sure that all is respected and honored. Whether you agree with it or not, is not the question, you need to be humble and you need to say ‘Yes’, otherwise you are not a good leader. Everything we do as a chief or as a headwoman is based on our deeds, not what we accumulate, not money, or anything like that.”
…”this has to be a gradual process, step by step, and we are starting with the young kids and then the kinship falls into place.”
Back in the old times we had matriarchal societies. Those prestigious societies were our governments …We also had an overall government, which in English was called ‘The Seven Campfire’…
Every tribe in The Seven Campfires of the government had a woman leader. She was either a warrior or a headwoman of a society, or she was a spiritual leader or a medicine woman. The final decision-making, whether to do or not to do something, even whether to go to war or not, was a woman’s decision. But this government disappeared when the white military started destroying our natural boundaries and confining us to the forts.
In the early 19th century, when they started making treaties with us, our women chiefs were not recognized and we had to appoint male representatives from our families. So they gathered at one of our sacred places called ‘Two Kettles’ to discuss the future of our people, but they were all massacred by the military. Later when the treaty process was fully applied to our territories with the cooperation of the men chiefs, there were no longer any women’s societies. Everything started going underground. The women’s roles were kept secret, because we believe that things always happen twice, and they will repeat themselves if you do not take care. So only selected families kept the knowledge and the wisdom and the principles of life and the practice of the ceremonies.
The rituals and the initiations continued, but it was never done publicly and you were afraid to talk about it…
We navigate with our star cosmology, and follow certain migration patterns. But we also have to know the place where we originated from, when we first came on top of this earth. Before, we were inside Mother Earth. If you can identify where these places are, then you are worthy of being within the society and of having this information.
So I had to travel from my region to the point we came from which is called ‘Wind Cave’, a very sacred cave. Going there you have to discover something about yourself. What I discovered was that we were known as a ‘star people’ but we were also known as a ‘common people’. This means that we were one people from one mother and one father, and that it was a privilege, an honor to stand upright. Therefore you must not abuse that power by arrogance, but have humility.
“One of devastations of my people has been alcohol, particularly among women. So many of the women who came were sick – into alcohol or drugs, or some other form of destruction. Through the teachings they started to change their lives. And they started looking at their background, their identity realizing that they were someone, and they became society women. Many women who had formerly been matriarchal headwomen, came out now and said: ‘I am a descendent of so and so; this is my genealogy; this is who I am. Do I have the right to be a member of the society?’ But one has to earn that right, and so the women had to undergo a one-year initiation period. After that, for the next four years they had to keep themselves worthy of maintaining the teachings and the principles of the society. And there are many things that are required of them.”
“In 1970… our elder women got together and said: ‘We need to send someone out from the society’. So from their knowledge of the families, they picked a family of women, young girls, who have the teachings within their family. And the elders said: ‘You will wear a red coat, which symbolizes this red blanket that we wear [which used to be a buffalo robe]. And you will be sent out to tell the world what is happening to our people …Germain Trummel
A Lakota woman fights to build a strong nation – transcript follows photo of article below…
“The People’s Tribune asked Tremmel to describe the plight of the Lakota people and the effect that the cuts in social programs will have. Below we print excerpts from her comments.
“Right now, there is a 99 percent unemployment rate on the reservation. The only income is welfare, General Assistance and food stamps. There are current proposals that will get only four percent of this in block grants to the tribes. There is already a lot of starvation on the reservation and a high crime rate because of the poverty.
“Our young women are angry and bitter and our men have taken on the colonizers’ thoughts. We have a high rate of divorce, drug use, gangs. Although the casinos have created some job opportunities, some are not giving back to the communities.
“The Relocation Act of 1956 destroyed a lot of families. Many of our people got into urban poverty areas, stayed on welfare in cities or on subsistence , while the ones that stayed on reservations accepted G.A. or rations. Today, people don’t know how these cuts will impact them. The tribes are being deceived by the government. We are talking about 52,000 people.” (webmasters’ note: THIS was written in 1995 and the truth of these words and the numbers have increased substantially!)
Tremmel described the Genocide carried out against the Indian peoples:
“Many tribes were based on matriarchal societies. Women were chiefs and leaders and some were warriors. But the point of view of Christianity and the early colonizers, including the military, was to change the roles for women in order to break up the tribe. Women came to be considered less than men and to be treated as slaves for the household. Now women are ignored in the political process. Since we as women had no representation in the treaties, we consider ourselves non-signers of the Indian treaties and we declare the treaties invalid.
“The disempowerment of native women corresponded precisely with the extension of colonial domination over each indigenous nation. During the first half of the 20th century, federal authorities developed and perfected the mechanisms of control over Lakota land, lives and resources. Such legislation as the General Allotment Act, (ongoing through the 1920s), the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, the Indian reorganization Act of 1934, was done under the “trust” and “Plenary power” doctrines – for profits, at the expense of the Lakota people.
“These are unequal agreements in the eyes of the Lakota women. We were denied use of our lands and the benefits from even what land base we nominally retained. We were denied our traditional customs and religion. We were compelled to become absolutely dependent upon government subsidies: General Assistance, AFDC, food stamps or food rations. Our Lakota people were reduced to abject poverty or, to survive, joined the lowest paid sector of the U.S. work force.
“We as Lakota women and treaty non-signers have made a commitment to build a strong nation. We are laying the foundation, a spiritual one, that teaches our future generations of Lakota values.”
Lakota women will play a key role in the upcoming tribunal against Genocide called by the Lakota Nation Traditional Government which will be held June 23-29 (1995) in Fort Yates, North Dakota; in the United Nations conference which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from July 20-28, and in the United Nations’ fourth Global Conference on Women which will be held in Beijing, China this fall.
“One of the things we hope to bring out,” Tremmel said, “is that acts of Genocide have happened, not only to the Lakota women, but to the structures of the Lakota family and our communities.”
Tremmel says that although here society’s history has been suppressed, it has been passed on orally. “This history went underground. The language, heritage, customs had to be preserved. It was kept by certain families that were recognized leaders and passed down through the generations. Many women are finally coming out with a lot of information. They are remembering what their grandmothers or grand-grandmothers taught them. But there is still a lot of fear.”
The “Mending the Sacred Hoop Within” Project tries to pass these teachings on to young women and mothers. “We work on their anger and self-esteem and on overcoming the many abuses they face,” Tremmel told the People’s Tribune. “We give them tools to utilize in their lives.” In this way, “our traditional beliefs are utilized to make us strong,” she said.
Tremmel’s vision of the future is one where Lakota people control their own destinies.
“Many of our programs, like a youth shelter funded partially under federal monies, had to close two weeks ago. This hurt young people and is another form of Genocide. We need to create jobs where there is self worth and autonomy. We have to educate people to the fact that you have choices, your have resources.
“As Lakota women, we are keepers of the faith – land, minerals, families, community – but we need to talk about political power. Power is something we need to acquire, need to learn how to utilize, not something to run from or cower at because someone else is imposing it.”
The following video features a ride to honor and draw attention to the history of many of our Grandmothers in the not too distant past. The silver haired woman rider in this video is a highly honored Lakota woman, Germain Tremmel, who is pictured on the tab of this section as she worked closely with Richard Deo Grass as an International Lawyer representing us with him at the United Nations. She is also the lead singer of the song at the top of this page. Her Facebook page remains in her memory and honor at https://www.facebook.com/gtremmel
January 17, 2013 Germain Tremmel wrote:
“Today the spirit of the sun meets Mother Earth, (solar plasma). This day our indigenous minds must be clear in what we want for the future. PRAY relatives for the knowledge of our people to stand strong and unite, never feed the negative. We need to learn to move toward a positive. When we take all the titles and the power and authority away from the leaders who are they? What do they have? What is left only words with no meaning. Do not make a struggle personal, for you lose sight of your truth inside!
May your spirits be strong and able today! Stand in truth Native Women and send the love to all who will be there beside you. Remember your relatives no longer here with us, their words, their actions, their deeds, all sacred…”
Women of the White Buffalo Movie
Find out more about the film and a link to avialable ways to purchase it.