Posts made in October, 2016

Arapaho Hair Traditions

In the early days, hair was part of an Arapaho’s identity. It was worn in such a way to signify who we were and our role in the tribe. For example, the Keeper of the Pipe was not allowed to comb his hair. In the old days, before the 1900’s, an Arapaho man parted his hair on each side in either a braid or tied together. Over his temples, the hair was cut into a zig zag edge and stood upright on his forehead. This style was down to make the wearer look fierce and resembled the ‘mohawk’. In the 1900’s, the style evolved so that the hair was worn in braids or masses tied together over the ear and scalp. The old men did not comb their hair and instead rolled it. When it was sticky and matted, they would gather in in a bunch over their forehead much like the dreadlocks of today. Hair styles also changed over the years for woman. Before the reservation, they would wear their hair loose with paint on it. The paint along the part of their hair was called “path of the sun”. They also painted streaks down their face, on their cheeks, forehead and nose, to signify war. Black paint symbolized victory and Red was the color most used which represented old age and happiness or a wish for happiness. When in mourning, women and men did not paint their face and the first painting after completion of mourning would be with red paint and is called “washing” or “cleansing”. The old women wore their hair loose and tangled. They painted a spot on each cheek bone and one on the forehead, the latter which signified a buffalo calf. A line from the mouth down to the chin represented a road. These symbols together signified peace. By the 1900s, women wore two braids tucked behind their ears. Their hair was parted from the forehead to the nape of their neck. The old woman continued to wear their hair loose. These traditions fell out of use after the boarding school era and the loss of the age grade society of the Arapaho. Hohou! The information for this article was found in “Arapaho People” by Kroeber, pages 25 – 27. Jackie Dorothy,...

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Signs of the Warpath

Signs of the Warpath

The warpath that our ancestors followed was not without rules or regulations. Prayers were sent to the Creator Above (Houu) and roles were assigned. All the warriors knew the sign language particular to their tribe and were on alert for any sign of danger. In September 1880, Little Raven and Left Hand of the Southern Arapaho and Bobtail and Big Horse of the Cheyenne were part of a delegation to Washington, D.C. on behalf of their tribes. During their visit, they shared some of the signals they used when on the warpath. They explained that when the Arapaho or Cheyenne warriors would leave their family camp to go on the warpath, there were certain rules and ceremonies that were observed to ensure the success of the raids. They would first announce their intentions and receive the blessings of the old men through ritual and ceremonies. They would then send runners so that neighboring friends could join them. The pipe-bearers were the first ones appointed a post, usually after already being on the warpath a few days. These men carried the sacred pipes and preceded the war party while on the move. The success of the expedition would be endangered if anyone crossed ahead of these pipe-bearers so warriors joining the war party would avoid riding up before the head of the column. All new arrivals would instead join the group from the rear or the side. When the war party approached a potential elevated lookout, they hid themselves in the surrounding areas. Just before dawn, scouts approached the area with caution to make sure that none of the enemy had reached the summit before them. The scouts would then watch the site for any objects in motion and would closely monitor the flight patterns of the birds. If any bird landed on the hill or butte, it would indicate that there was nothing to scare them off. However, if a large bird, such as a raven, crow or eagle, flew towards the hilltop and then made a sudden swerve to either side and disappeared, it would indicate that something or someone was there. If the scout suspected the enemy were near, he would signal “danger” to the rest of the war party watching him. He would do this by grasping the blanket he wore with his right hand and wave it downward from a shoulder position. If there was no enemy visible, the scout would ascend to the lookout slowly and undercover as much as possible. After scanning the horizon and finding no one, the scout would signal the all clear or “clear surface” by grasping his blanket and waving it horizontally from right to left and back again repeatedly. However, if the enemy was...

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