Lakota Begin Annual Hunt: Camp Readies for the Chase
Near the Missouri River, 1800
The camp council has just decided that the time for the camp buffalo hunt has come and it has appointed the four akcita who will organize and lead the hunt. All at once the camp is buzzing with activity. The men are packing away their way equipment and are preparing their hunting weapons, the bows and arrows, and are overhauling their riding gear. The women are busy repairing tipis and wardrobes and are planning everything for packing and conveyance. The spiritual leaders are making medicines and performing ceremonies to assure a successful hunt.
The decision to begin the annual hunt has taken several days. The hunt must be planned for a time when grazing is good and the buffalo are likely to be fat. Four days ago a spiritual leader experienced a vision that was favorable to the hunt. The camp council then deliberated upon the questions of when to start, what route to go, what territory to hunt, and who should be appointed akcitas, the four men who have complete control over the hunt.
Camp will break tomorrow morning after breakfast. The akcita hope to travel ten to twenty miles each day. Each night tipis will be raised near water. The hunting may take place as far away as 200 miles. When scouts notify the akcita that they are near a buffalo herd, the men will ride out for the hunt and the women will ready themselves for preparation of the meat and skins.
The buffalo hunt must be successful for the Lakota to survive the winter. The buffalo is their main food supply. Everyone must work together. When the meat is dried, the council decides whether there is sufficient food supply for the year. If not, the Lakota will repeat the hunt. If so, the council will announce where winter camp will be. Although most people will stay with the camp, some may choose to leave until winter camp times.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.