Home | Introduction | Links |  Message Boards | Tribal Circles | Photographers | Questions? | Search
Tribes of the Great Plains: Arapaho | Arikara | Cheyenne | Crow | Dakota | Lakota | Nakota | Osage | Ponca
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs:
Wasco | Tenino | Paiute
Brule Bands and Political Organization

I have written a paper about early Brule bands and political organization, to appear in a forthcoming volume of tributes to Colin Taylor. It covers this stuff in some detail, but briefly at the beginning of the 19th century the Brules were rated by both Tabeau and Lewis & Clark as comprising the following bands:

1. Isanyati, or Isanyati Ektapa, Toward the Santee. Largest band in 1804, chief Black Bull. Still rated a band in the Upper Brule tribal circle at Rosebud ca. 1880, settled in Okreek Community, leading families still included the Black Bulls. Part of the Loafer-Corn band division of the tribe by this period.

2. Choka-tunwan, Middle Village or Sichangu proper. The parent-band of the tribe, from which bands offshooted or to which outside bands joined. Chief Medicine Bull in 1804, descendant of same name was second chief at Lower Brule Agency after 1870. Part of the band also at Rosebud, name rendered Chokatowela, settled between Rosebud village and Parmelee.

3. Wacheunpa or Meat Roaster. Chief Partisan in 1804. Offshoot bands of this band at both Lower Brule and Rosebud. Little Thunder family was connected to this band in early times. Rosebud Wacheunpa groups settled at Grass Mountain.

4. Minisha, Red Water. Band broke up in 1840s, part joining the Oglalas and part the Sans Arcs. Undoubtedly some families joined other Brule bands. A man with the personal name Red Water crops up in some Lower Brule censuses. The band name was borne by a Sans Arc band associated with the keepers of the Calf Pipe Bundle, and I think the band originated there. Part joined the emerging Brule tribe in period 1750-75.

5. Wazhazha, Osage. Smallest band in 1804, chief Mazomani. Later associated with the Upper Brules and Oglalas, with bands settled at both Rosebud (Black Pipe District) and Pine Ridge (Porcupine District). I think the 'cut into strips' translation is a folk etymology, used to explain a term no longer understood. Nicollet (in 1839) obtained the story that this band grew out of intermarriage between Lakotas and the Wazhazha clan of the Ponca tribe. My feeling is that this also happened in the 1750-75 frame.

As for the Upper/Lower Brule division, this is best understood as a process rather than a single event, taking place during the frame 1825-50. Key to understanding it is the geographical distribution of trading posts. Branch posts serving Brule communities between the Missouri and White Clay Creek were outfitted from Ft Pierre, and served the Lower Brules. After 1835 branch posts were located on upper White River from Ft Laramie and the North Platte. The bands served by these several posts (e.g. at Bordeau Creek, Chadron Creek) became the Upper Brule tribal division. That indicates a basic wintering division, although I think that the Brules continued to offer a single Sun Dance (summer operations) until the 1850s. Then, with the move of the Southern Men band into southwest Nebraska and certain Northern Brule bands (Wazhazhas, Orphans) into Wyoming, separate Sun Dance complexes crystalised. — Kingsley Bray

I forgot to address [two] other bands, Wagmeza-yuha or Corn-owner, and Wablenicha or Orphan (also rendered Hunku-wanicha, No Mothers). These are examples of groups in-marrying into the Brule tribe during the early 19th century. Both seem to have included strong elements of Miniconjou people. The first band, then known as Red-Top Tipis, was identified with the tiwahe of Swift Bear (via his father Lone Dog and grandfather Red Warbonnet). I think it became part of the Isanyati band we discussed above, and by the 1850s was the leading group within that band. Because they practiced a little corn planting the name changed to Wagmeza-yuha. Contemporary accounts and reports simply call them "the Corn Band". Settled Ponca Creek, or Milk, District at Rosebud.

The Orphans I think joined the Brule circle during the frame 1805-20. There were significant numbers of Northern Teton people who joined the Brules in this period (my hunch is because of US trade advantages). This band was associated with the tiwahe of Iron Shell (and his father Shot in the Heel and grandfather Bone Bracelet) and thence his descendants (Hollow Horn Bear, et al.) Settled in Upper Cut Meat Dist., Rosebud.

The Orphans band story is one that George Hyde got wrong. The story of the killing of Male Crow and his war party by Crows and Snakes, fall 1844, is the origin of the Orphan band among the Oglalas. Survivors' families formed a band which ultimately (after 1880) settled on Pine Ridge at the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. In the period 1845-75 it was a small sub-band of the Southern or Kiyaksa Oglala division, hunting south of the Platte River.

The Orphans among the Brules were a different group, although I'm sure there must be family connections that linked all these groups. Big Partisan (Blotahunka Tanka, born about 1809) was associated with the Corn band, not the Orphans. He was chosen as one of four Brule Wichasha Yatapika in 1850. In the 1860s he led a more conservative sub-band of the Corn band than Swift Bear's tiwahe - and probably 'ran with' the Orphans and other so-called Northern Brules in the Powder River Country. Big Partisan settled at Butte Creek community on the Rosebud. This community or at least part of it corresponds to the band Oglala-ichaga (Makes Himself an Oglala) listed in the ca. 1880 camp-circle published by Dorsey.

The Loafer band: formed about Fort Laramie and the North Platte trading posts in the 1850s. Most were Oglalas and Brules in-married with trading and army personnel, but a Loafer speaker in council in 1867 said the band included "grandmothers from all the bands" - rather a neat formulation I thought. The band went went to Whetstone Agency on the Missouri in the period 1868-70. Ultimately some rejoined the Oglalas at Red Cloud Agency, but a significant number remained at the Brule agency as it moved up and down White River in the 1870s. It formed a single band organization with the Corn band, hence references to the "Corn band and Loafers" etc.

Off the top of my head the following are additional Brule winter counts:

Iron Shell (in Hassrick's THE SIOUX).
Swift Bear
Big Missouri (valuable because it is a Lower Brule count, all others are Upper Brule)
High Hawk - the son of Battiste Good, produced several variants of his father's count
Short Bull

There are more in the Buechel Collection at St. Francis (Rosebud Res.). Their website has very valuable papers by Linea Sundstrom which includes transcripts of the counts, e.g. the Ring Bull count, which is a variant of Iron Shell's.
— Kingsley Bray

www.American-Tribes.com
©2008-2015 Diane Merkel & Dietmar Schulte-Möhring
All contributors retain the rights to their work.
Reproduction in whole or in part without prior written consent is prohibited.