Dream Catchers

Dream Catchers

A Story by Jynx


Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams, while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the centre of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.


The dream catcher has been a part of Native American culture for generations. One element of Native American dream catcher relates to the tradition of the hoop. Some Native Americans of North America held the hoop in the highest esteem, because it symbolized strength and unity. Many symbols started around the hoop, and one of these symbols is the dream catcher.


Dream Catcher Lore:


Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher when hung over or near your bed swinging freely in the air, catches the dreams as they flow by. The good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming. The bad dreams not knowing the way get tangled in the dream catcher and perish with the first light of the new day.


How the Dream Catcher is made:


Using a hoop of willow, and decorating it with findings, bits and pieces of everyday life, (feathers, arrow heads, beads, etc) the dream catcher is believed to have the power to catch all of a person's dreams, trapping the bad ones, and letting only the good dreams pass through the dream catcher.


In Native American culture, a dreamcatcher is a handmade object based on a hoop (traditionally of willow), incorporating a loose net, and decorated with items unique to the particular dreamcatcher. There is a traditional belief that a dreamcatcher filters a person's dreams, the good in their dreams are captured in the web of life and carried with them...but the evil in their dreams escapes through the hole in the centre of the web and are no longer a part of them. It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.


Dream catchers are an authentic Native American tradition from the Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribe. The Ojibwa would tie sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame (in a way roughly similar to their method for making snowshoe webbing) and hang the resulting "dream-catcher" as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmare


Ojibwe Dreamcatcher Legend

 This is the way the old Ojibwe storytellers say Asi-bi-kaa-shi (Spider Woman) helped Wa-na-boz-hoo bring Grandfather Giizis (Sun) back to the people. To this day, Asibikaashi will build her special lodge before dawn. If you are awake at dawn, as you should be, look for her lodge and you will see how she captured the sunrise as the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there.


Asibikaashi took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so to this day. Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island. When the Ojibwe Nation dispersed to the four corners of North America, to fulfill a prophecy, Asibikaashi had a difficult time making journeys to all those baby cradle boards, so the mothers, sisters and Nokomis (grandmothers) weaved magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. The shape of a circle represents how Giizis travels across the sky.


The dream catcher filters out the bad ba-we-dji-ge-win (dreams) and allows only good thoughts to enter into our minds when we are abinooji (asleep). A small hole in the centre of the dream catcher is where the good bawadjige may come through. With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams will perish.


When we see little Asibikaashi, we should not fear her but instead respect and protect her. In honor of their origin, the number of points where the web connects to the hoop are 8 for Spider Woman's eight legs or 7 for the Seven Prophecies. It is traditional to place a feather in the centre of the dream catcher; it means breath, or air. It is essential for life. In the cradle board, a baby watched the air play with the feather and was happily entertained with the blowing feather.


Dream catchers used by adults do not use feathers in the centre. The feather of the owl, keeper of wisdom, was kept by the woman; the feather of the eagle, keeper of courage, was kept by the man.


An Ancient Chippewa Tradition


The dream net has been made for many generations where spirit dreams have played. Hung above the cradle board or in the lodge up high. The dream net catches bad dreams while good dreams slip on by. Bad dreams become entangled among the sinew thread. Good dreams slip through the centre hole while you dream upon your bed. This is an ancient legend, since dreams will never cease, hang this dream net above your bed. Dream on and be at peace







Dreamcatcher History

Dreamcatchers are thought to have originated with the Ojibway tribe of the plains, but many other tribes such as the Chippewa and Lakota have their own versions of the dreamcatcher legend. The first non-Native American documentation was by a scholar named Francis Densmore in 1929. Although there are many variations, a dreamcatcher is basically a small circle of wood that is tied with sinew or thread to resemble a web with a small hole in the middle. The strings or sinews are tied at several points on the circle, with the number of points on the dreamcatcher having different meanings:


*  13 points " the 13 phases of the moon

*  8 points " the number of legs on the spider woman of the dreamcatcher legend

*  7 points " the seven prophecies of the grandfathers

*  6 points " an eagle or courage

*  5 points " the star


A dreamcatcher can also have a feather tied to the bottom and beads or animal tokens hanging on the strands. Traditional dreamcatchers are only a few inches in diameter, but you will see contemporary models anywhere from a few inches to 1 foot across


Legend says that if you hang a dreamcatcher above a bed, it will catch the bad dreams in the web while letting the good dreams through the hole in the middle. As the sun’s rays hit the dreamcatcher in the morning, all of the bad dreams will evaporate.


Dreamcatchers became popular during the pan-Indian movement of the 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of renewed Native American pride. They can now be found at almost every reservation in the United States and Canada. While you can find cheap imports at many souvenir stores throughout the West, it is a good idea to try to purchase the authentic article whenever possible. By buying dreamcatchers that have been made by native people, you can help keep the tradition alive and help support native tribes. Several websites specializing in authentic Native American items have been offering authentic dreamcatchers for sale. Try websites such as native-language.org/dreamcatchers for a list of craftspeople who make and sell authentic dreamcatchers and dreamcatcher.com for some beautiful examples for sale.


Dreamcatcher Legends

Each tribe has a similar dreamcatcher legend, but each legend has slightly different twists that are particular to that region of the country.


Ojibway Legend

This is the story of how the spider woman brought the sun back to the people of the world. Once, the Ojibway people were gathered together as one nation. As the people dispersed to the four corners of North America, Asibikaashi (the spider woman) swore that she would continue to take care of the children, but couldn’t get to each bed every night. The women of the tribe wove magic webs shaped like a circle (which is how the sun travels through the sky) and hung them over the cradleboards. Just as the spider woman traps insects in her sticky web, the bad dreams are trapped in the web of the dreamcatcher and perish as the sun hits them every morning. Many mothers tied a feather to the hoop in the centre representing breath or air. The baby would watch the feather and be entertained as it danced on the wind above its head.


Chippewa Legend

This legend says that dreamcatchers were made to prevent children from awakening with the fear of the bad dreams still in their eyes. Mothers wove a web on a willow hoop while saying sacred words and thinking happy thoughts. They would hang the sacred feathers from the centre so that when the good dreams find their way to the centre, they will float down the feathers and sprinkle onto the sleepers. An owl feather stood for wisdom and was placed above the beds of girls, while an eagle feather stood for courage and was placed above the beds of boys.


Lakota Legend

In this legend, an old spiritual leader had a vision. Iktomi, the great teacher and trickster appeared as a spider. Iktomi took the elder’s willow hoop and began to spin a web as he spoke of the cycle of life from infant to old age. He told the elder that if you listen to the good ideas, the forces at work will steer you in the right direction. If you listen to the bad, the forces will steer you in the bad direction. He showed the elder that the web was a perfect circle, but had a hole in the centre. Iktomi told him that the good ideas will be caught in the web, but the bad ones will go through the hole and not stick as it sifts the dreams and visions of his people


There was a time in Anishnabe history when the people were being tormented by nightmares. The elders and "medicine people" all tried to solve this problem on their own, but not a one made progress against the dreams; so a council or all the people was called. During this council one elder had a vision of a spider's web in a hoop with a feather and bead attached that would catch the bad dreams while letting good dreams pass through. The elders went to work fashioning dream catchers in the manner prescribed by the vision and when the people started using them, the bad dreams went away


The dream catcher is hung above a sleeping area in a place where the morning light can hit it. The nature of the Dream Catcher will attract all sorts of dreams to its webs. When bad dreams come, they do not know the way through the web and get caught in the webbing where the first light of day causes them to melt away and perish. The good dreams knowing the way go through the centre of the web and slide down the feather to the sleeper below


The Old Ones tell that dreams hold great power and drift about at night before coming to the sleeping ones. To keep the dreamer safe, the Old Ones created a special web, the Dream Catcher, to hang above their sleeping places.


When dreams travelled the web paths, the bad dreams lost their way and were entangled, disappearing with the first rays of daybreak. The good dreams, knowing the way, passed through the centre and were guided gently to the sleeping ones.


The Lakota Dream Catcher Legend works in reverse.





Long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to the elder in a scared language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.


As he spoke Iktomi, the spider, took the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horse hairs, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web. Iktomi spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.


Iktomi said, "In each time of life there are many forces and different directions that can help, or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the Great Spirit and all of his wonderful teachings." Iktomi gave the web to the Lakota elder and said, "See, the web is a perfect circle, but there is a hole in the centre of the circle. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good dreams and ideas, and the bad ones will go through the hole. Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people's ideas, dreams and visions."


The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Lakota's use the dream catcher as the web of their life. It is hung above their beds, or in their home to sift their dreams and visions. The good of their dreams is captured in the web of life and carried with them, but the evil in their dreams escapes through the centre hole, and are no longer part of them.




            Long ago in the ancient world of the Ojibwe Nation, the Clans were all located in one general area of that place known as Turtle Island. This is the way that the old Ojibwe storytellers say how Asibikaashi (Spider Woman) helped Wanabozhoo bring giizis (sun) back to the people. To this day, Asibikaashi will build her special lodge before dawn. If you are awake at dawn, as you should be, look for her lodge and you will see this miracle of how she captured the sunrise as the light sparkles on the dew which is gathered there.

Asibikaasi took care of her children, the people of the land, and she continues to do so to this day. When the Ojibwe Nation dispersed to the four corners of North America, to fill a prophecy, Asibikaashi had a difficult time making her journey to all those cradle boards, so the mothers, sisters and Nokomis (grandmothers) took up the practice of weaving the magical webs for the new babies using willow hoops and sinew or cordage made from plants. It is in the shape of a circle to represent how giizis travels each day across the sky.


The dream catcher will filter out all the bad bawedjigewin (dreams) and allow only good thoughts to enter into our minds when we are just abinooji.


You will see a small hole in the centre of each dream catcher where those good bawadjige may come through. With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams would perish. When we see little asibikaashi, we should not fear her, but instead respect and protect her. In honour of their origin, the number of points where the web connected to the hoop numbered eight for Spider Woman's eight legs or seven for the Seven Prophecies.


It was traditional to put a feather in the centre of the dream catcher; which means breath, or air and is essential for life.


Dream catchers made of willow and sinew are for children, and they are not meant to last. Eventually the willow dries out and the tension of the sinew collapses the dream catcher, representing the temporary period of youth. Adults should use dream catchers of woven fibre which is made up to reflect their adult dreams.







1. Use willow or grapevine to make a circle of any size, usually between three and eight inches in diameter. Many people like to wrap the hoop with suede or leather for a more rustic look.


2. Get some strong, thin string. Tie it in a loop at the top of the circle where you will hang the dreamcatcher. Loop the string around the hoop, approximately every 1-2 inches, depending on how many points you want on your web. This will leave you with the string circling the hoop one time


3. Start the second round of weaving by looping the string through the straight parts of the first round, in between the points on the hoop. As you work your way around the hoop and tighten the string, it will begin to pull the strings into a diamond shape.


4. Keep repeating with additional rounds until you have woven the entire web, leaving a small hole in the middle.


5. Tie it off at an inconspicuous point.


6. Hang feathers or beads from the centre if you wish





Medicine Wheels have been a part of many ancient cultures dating as far back as 5,500 years. They are sacred power locations that contain the collective energy investment of the ancient peoples who used them in ceremony. The Medicine Wheel was a time-honored ceremonial space to honor the gifts of growth, rites of passage, seasonal changes of Mother Earth and the interconnectedness of all life.

The ancient peoples recognized that they were influenced by the rhythms of Mother Earth and the cycles of life and lived in accordance with those natural rhythms. They honored all the life cycles - times for creation, gestation, planting, birth, growth, change, death & rebirth. "Medicine" was about coming back into balance and harmony with those cycles, much different than today's modern medicine.

Our modern lifestyle is driven by a hectic pace of striving, striving to get ahead, striving to get things done, striving to do it all. Modern thinking is much more linear and analytical, often using a reductionist (vs. holistic as in the Medicine Wheel) model of breaking things down into separate pieces. This is evidenced in western medicine with its attendant specialists looking after our various body parts versus the whole person.

The Medicine Wheel is a circular mandala defined with stones. The sacred circle of the Medicine Wheel embodies Mother Earth and the 4 directions; East South; West and North.



The East point on the Medicine Wheel is represented by the colour yellow, the season of spring and the totem animal eagle. The east is the direction for seeking illumination and clarity regarding your life path.



The south on the Medicine Wheel is symbolized by the colour red, the season of summer and the totem animals of coyote and mouse. The south teaches the qualities of faith, trust and humility.



The west position on the Medicine Wheel is the home of bear, the season of fall and the colour black. The power of the west and bear asks us to go within and perhaps hibernate for a while, to be introspective and review our goals.



Finally the north point on the Medicine Wheel is symbolized by the colour white, the season of winter and the totem animal buffalo. The north is the place of wisdom and gratitude, giving thanks for our blessings and sharing what we have learned with others.


In ancient times and today, people have sought the wisdom contained within the Medicine Wheel by sitting or standing in quiet contemplation at the directional point which correlates to the cycle of life growth. This quiet time of deep personal reflection would often bring answers depending on which stage of the personal life cycle the seeker was at - whether it be beginnings, creation, growing, developing or endings. The seeker could respectfully access wisdom from this perspective on which steps were required to assist with personal growth and to keep the wheel spinning in life.

Throughout the course of life each of us goes around the Medicine Wheel many times coming back to each point with new wisdom, refinement and understanding. In this way we remain connected to all life cycles of growth and seasons of change.



Dream Catcher Ritual Ceremony

There are many ways to celebrate a dream catcher. It is suggested that you initiate your dream catcher through a ritual ceremony. Rituals have great meaning and can put your mind and thoughts into action. Your dream catcher can become one with your feelings and perform the way you want it to.

Once you have decided where to hang your dream catcher, it is time to perform the ceremony that will enable it to work properly in your home or living space.

It is suggested that for the ceremony sage is lit and its smoke is used to cleanse the house. With the sage letting out its smoke, offer up a prayer for your dream catcher and what you wish for it to bless your home. Become one with the dream catcher and allow yourself to visualize what the dream catcher is there to protect. End your ceremony by thanking your dream catcher and feel it ready to bless your home.

You are ready to place your dream catcher in the chose spot to hang over and protect your home, family, or thoughts. You may choose to celebrate your dream catcher in this way or through other ways by your own choosing. There is an ancient ritual of the dream catcher called, Smudging. This is a powerful way to initiate and bless your dream catcher. However you choose to perform your ceremony of hanging a dream catcher, make sure you are one with it so it may work the best for you.


What is a Dream Catcher?

Dream catchers are arts and crafts of the Native American people. The original web dream catcher of the Ojibwa was intended to teach natural wisdom. Nature is a profound teacher. Dream catchers of twigs, sinew, and feathers have been woven since ancient times by Ojibwa people. They were woven by the grandfathers and grandmothers for newborn children and hung above the cradleboard to give the infants peaceful, beautiful dreams. The night air is filled with dreams. Good dreams are clear and know the way to the dreamer, descending through the feathers. The slightest movement of the feathers indicated the passage of yet another beautiful dream. Bad dreams, however, are confused and confusing. They cannot find their way through the web and are trapped there until the sun rises and evaporates them like the morning dew.

Originally the Native American dream catcher was woven on twigs of the red willow using thread from the stalk of the stinging nettle. The red willow and twigs from other trees of the willow family, as well as red twig dogwood can be found in many parts of the United States. These twigs are gathered fresh and dried in a circle or pulled into a spiral shape depending upon their intended use. They used natural feathers and semi-precious gemstone, one gemstone to each web because there is only one creator in the web of life

History of Dream Catchers

Long ago when the word was sound, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider picked up the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and on to adulthood. Finally we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.

But, Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, in each time of life there are many forces, some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they'll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. So these forces can help, or can interfere with the harmony of Nature. While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web.

When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, the web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass.

The elder passed on his vision onto the people and now many Indian people have a dreamcatcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good will pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The evil in their dreams are captured in the web, where they perish in the light of the morning sun. It is said the dreamcatcher holds the destiny of the future.

The Ojibwe Totemic or Clan System

According to Eddy Benton-Banai (1988) the Ojibwe clan system was a system of government and a division of roles and labor. William Warren, listed 21 totems (both by their Ojibwe name and in English), noting that, according to oral tradition, in the beginning there were only five. Originally the totem descended through the male line and individuals were not to marry within their own clan. According to Warren, the principle totems were the "crane, catfish, bear, marten, wolf, and loon" (Warren 1885:45). Warren indicated the English name for the more extensive list of 21 totems to be as follows: Crane, Catfish, Loon, Bear, Marten, Rein Deer, Wolf, Merman, Pike, Lynx, Eagle, Rattlesnake, Moose, Black Duck or Cormorant, Goose, Sucker, Sturgeon, White Fish, Beaver, Gull, and Hawk Warren 1885:44-45).

Ojibwe Spirituality

In general terms, Ojibwe spirituality centers around certain customs and beliefs, concepts, events, and objects. These include the sweatlodge, pipe, drums, singing, the naming ceremony, prayer, vision questing and guardian spirits, the Pow Wow, the medicine man or woman (shamans), medicine bags, dream articles and traditional stories regarding the Great Spirit, Creation, Original Man, The Flood, etc. Ritual and spiritual objects include sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar. Dogs were akin to the sacrificial lambs of early Christianity. There are 4 seasons and 4 grandfathers (or 4 powers of the universe) sit at the four cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West. The symbolic "four colors of man" are red, yellow, black, and white. Listen to Frances Densmore's Audio Cylinder Recordings (RealAudio Player - loads fast) or watch a QuickTime Movie about the Ojibwe (5 mgs).

Important Terms and Concepts related to the Ojibwe Creation Story:

Boo-zhoo' means "hello" (and indirectly makes reference to the idea that Ojibwe are related to Original Man or Anishinabe also known later as Way-na-boo'zhoo or Naniboujou, etc). Mi-gwetch' means "thank you" and Mishomis means "Grandfather." Since everything in the world was created before Original Man many things are referred to as "Grandfather."

Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands in Lk. Superior is significant because the Ojibwe believe their ancestors migrated there from the east coast of No. America and it was their final stopping place after 500 years of migration following the dream of the prophet of the First Fire to move or be destroyed. Teachings about Ojibwe history are passed down orally. Birch bark scrolls were used to write down things using pictographic writing (a mnemonic or memory device using pictures and symbols rather than a phonetic writing system).

Ah-ki' (the Earth) is a woman and had a family. The Sky is called Father. Nee-ba-gee'sis (the Moon) is called Grandmother. Gee'sis (the Sun) is Grandfather. Gi'-tchie Man-i-to' (Creator or Great Mystery) is the Creator. The four directions - North, South, East, and West are very important. The physical and spiritual duality is represented in the four directions. It is thought that medicinal plants when physically picked will not work unless there has been the proper spiritual behavior (such as offering tobacco, etc.).

"Gitchie Manito...took four parts of Mother Earth (earth, wind, fire, and water) and blew into them using a Sacred Shell [the Megis or Cowrie Shell]. From the union of the Four Elements and his breath, man was created" (Benton-Benai 1988:2-3).

According to Benton (1988:3) Anishinabe (the older term for Ojibwe) means ani (from whence), nishina (lowered) abe (the male of the species). Others translate it as first male or first man or original man.

Original Man was lowered to the Earth according to this creation myth and all No. American tribes come from him.
The Ojibwe are a tribe because of the way they speak (Algonquian language).

Traditional people call North America "turtle island" because it is shaped like a turtle (Florida is one hind leg, Baja California is another, Mexico is the tail). In the Ojibwe Story of the Great Flood the turtle offered its back to Waynaboozhoo to bear the weight of the new earth. The new earth was formed from a piece of earth recovered by muskrat from the bottom of the water which covered the world. Noah & The Flood the expression "there are many roads to the High Place" means Nat. Americans should support and respect each other's traditions and one tribe's beliefs can shed light on the others. According to the Ojibwe creation story the Original Man's first responsibility after he was placed on Earth was to follow the Creator's instructions and walk the Earth and name all of the animals, plants, hills, and valleys. He also named the parts of the body. Genesis Many English words are derived from the Ojibwe language such as: Mississippi "Miziziibi"(large water), moccasin "makizin," moose "mooz," pecan "bagaan" (nut), toboggan "zhooshkodaabaan," Milwaukee "mino-aki," etc.. The rivers that run underground are the veins of Mother Earth and water is her blood, purifying her and bringing her food. Mother Earth implies reproduction and fertility and life.
The Creator, Gitchie Manido, sent the wolf to keep Way-na-boo-zhoo, Original Man, company while walking around creation. After they completed that task he ordered Original Man and Wolf to go different ways.
The wolf and man (the Ojibwe) are thought to be similar because both walked creation, mate for life, have a Clan system and a tribe, have had their land taken from them, have been hunted for their hair, have been pushed close to destruction and are recovering.

Dogs should never be at sacred ceremonies because dogs are the Ojibwe's brothers as much as the wolf was a brother to Original Man. Because the Creator separated the paths of the wolf and Original Man, the dog who is a relative of the wolf should be separate from contemporary people and should be kept separate from sacred ceremonies and where ceremonial objects are stored or it could endanger people's lives.

The Naming Ceremony

The Naming Ceremony, which remembers the sacrifices of Original Man in naming everything, requires that a medicine person be asked by the father and mother to seek a name for their child. The seeking can be done through fasting, meditation, prayer or dreaming and the spirits give the name. At a gathering the medicine person burns tobacco as an offering and pronounces the new name to each of the 4 Directions and everyone present repeats the name when it is called out. The Spirit World then accepts and can recognize the face of the child as a living thing for the first time. The Spirit World and ancestors then guard the child and prepare a place for him or her when their life ends. At the naming ceremony the parents ask for four men and four women to be sponsors for the child. The sponsors publicly vow to support and guide the child. This naming ceremony is thought to have been started by Original Man.

The Ojibwe Migration Story

According to oral tradition the Ojibwes and other Algonquin speakers were originally settled up and down the East Coast. Those who do not share this traditional view think it is more likely the Ojibwe lived next to Hudson's Bay and moved southward. Traditional Ojibwe spiritual leaders are creationists and do not believe in the Bering Strait hypothesis for the peopling of North America nor the evolution of human beings in a Darwinian sense. Traditional oral history indicates that the early Ojibwe planted corn and used canoes, overland trails, and sled dogs and sleds in winter. According to they oral traditions the Ojibwe Daybreak people (Wa-bun-u-keeg') vowed to stay in the east and may be the people the French referred to as the Abnaki. The prophet of the 1st Fire told the people to move or be destroyed. Most of the Daybreak people were later destroyed when the whites came. The Mide (shamans) remembered the prophet of the First Fire speaking of a turtle shaped island that would be the first of seven stopping places during the Ojibwe migration. There are two sites that fit the description. The first is at the mouth of the St. Francis River and the other is an island near Montreal. The 6 Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were major adversaries during the migration. The seven major stopping places of the great migration were 1) turtle-shaped island (Montreal?) 2) Niagara Falls 3) the Detroit River 4) Manitoulin Island in Lk. Huron 5) Sault Ste. Marie 6) Spirit Island in Duluth and Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands of Lk. Superior. The Megis Shell rose up out of the water or sand at each locale and they knew when to stop when they found a turtle-shaped island (Madeline Island) and "the food that grows on water" (wild rice).

The Ojibwe have a 3 Fire confederacy composed of the Potawatomi (the fire people; keepers of the Sacred Fire), the Ottawa (the trader people), and the Ojibwe (the faith keepers; keepers of the sacred scrolls and the Waterdrum of the Midewiwin (the organized shamanic society for healers). All of the Anishinabe people are the nation of the Three Fires. Benton-Banai thinks the people were mistakenly referred to as the Chippewa. Densmore said that: "The meaning of the word Ojibwe has been the subject of much discussion. The derivation of the word from a root meaning "to pucker" has been conjectured. Many attribute this derivation to a type of mocassin formerly used by this tribe, which had a puckered seam extending up the front instead of having a tongue-shaped piece, as in present usage" (Densmore 1979:5-6). The Three Fires nation was attacked along the migration by the Sauks and Foxes and never fought the whites. They fought battles with the Dakota when they got to the Midwest. Benton-Banai thinks the migration started around 900 AD and took about 500 years to complete (1988:102). He believes the Sacred Fire was kept alive that long and the dream of the original 7 prophets was carried by many generations.

Ojibwe Dream Articles: Physical Objects Representing or Interpreting Dreams and Visions

According to Anthropologist, Frances Densmore (1867-1957), physical objects such as stone pipes, a horned cap, woven yard cords, paintings and drawings on cloth, blankets, headgear, miniature objects given to children, and woven beadwork such as headbands or neckbands worn tightly around the neck, frequently represented the subject of important dreams and visions, and represented them either by imitation or interpretion (Densmore 1979:78-86).

She wrote that: "It was the belief of the Chippewa that by possessing some representation of a dream subject one could at any time secure its protection, guidance, and assistance. There seems to be inherent in the mind of the Indian a belief that the essence of an individual or of a 'spirit' dwells in its picture or other representation" (Densmore 1979:79).

"[F]asting, isolation, and meditation" were the main methods to obtain a dream (Id.). The dream representation could be either made into an object or outlined as a picture and could be "either an exact representation or an article or outline more or less remotely suggesting a peculiarity of the dream. The representation published the subject of a man's dream but seldom indicated the nature of the dream" (Densmore 1979:80).

Stone was favored for its enduring properties and on older man told Densmore: "A picture can be destroyed, but stone endures, so it is good that a man have the subject of his dream carved in a stone pipe that can be buried with him. Many of his possessions are left to his friends, but the sign of the dream should not be taken from him" (Id.).

Protective charms could be either direct representations or symbolic representations of dreams. The possession of a woven yard cord with the color white woven into it, when tied around the waist of a woman who had dreamed of a safe trip on a large lake, was believed to provide protection to her when traveling (Densmore 1979:80-81,111). As Densmore points out: "A personal fetish was usually a crude representation of an object seen in a dream, either by the wearer or by someone who transferred it to him, together with the powers or benefits accruing from the dream" (Densmore 1979:111). A husband who dreamed of the bear when he was young, could strengthen his very ill wife by spreading a cloth with the image of a bear over her and later hanging it by her head as she was getting stronger. A man who had dreamed of a rainbow, thunder bird, lightning, and the earth (indicated by a circle) painted it on a blanket and wore it around his back for everyone to see and fastened it across his chest (Id. at 82). A man who dreamed of an unusually shaped knife made one and carried it in battle. A woman who saw a winged figure in a youthful dream carried a representation of the figure made of black cloth and bordered with white beads, "believing that she has secured supernatural guidance from its presence. . . . When in doubt she has 'always seemed to have a mysterious guidance' that has led her to a successful solution of her difficulties" (Id. at 86). Beadwork incorporating dream representations were common in headbands and neckbands (Id.).

After recounting various physical objects Densmore notes: "From the foregoing instances it is evident that the subject of a man's dream was clear to all intelligent observers, but its significance was a secret that he might hide forever if he so desired" (Id. at 83). One man related that he was able to increase his strength by wearing a horned cap similar to a horned animal seen in a dream. He believed "in the power of a dream article, as well as the making of an article in accordance with a dream" (Densmore 1979:85).

Dream articles were also given to children by their medicine man (or woman) namer. Densmore wrote that: "Miniature representations of dream objects were frequently hung on a child's cradle board, the child deriving a benefit connected with the nature of the dream. Such articles were usually given the child by the person who named it, and were in accordance with the namer's dream" (Densmore 1979:113). In Chippewa Customs is an illustration of an upside down lunate that was given to a small child to be worn around the neck.(Figure 8, Densmore 1979:55). The shaman who named the child (after dreaming for the name) gave the "token" to the small child "'in order that the child might care for him' This consisted of something that might attract the fancy of the child and was usually worn around its neck by a cord" (Id.). It is not clear from Densmore's description but the upside down lunate may be a dream article related to the namer's dream that gives him or her power, or it may be a representaion of the child's dream name. Densmore gives two clear examples of medicine man namers who gave dream articles to children they named and one example of a similar practice where a namer gave a dream article to an adult. The man, mentioned above, who dreamed of a peculiarly shaped knife, "always gave a miniature of this knife to they boys that he named. Another man always gave a little bow and arrow to his namesakes. A dream article given to an adult by a namer is noted in a subsequent paragraph" (the woven yard cord with white cord woven into it)(Id.). The power to name children is derived from a shaman's dream (Id. at 56). In the case of the adult woman who was named by another woman: "The namer. . . related [the namer's] dream, announced the name, and presented an article made to resemble the subject of the dream" (Id. at 58).

As Densmore notes: "It was considered desirable that the representation should be put in as enduring a form as possible," and as one old man told her, "stone endures" (Densmore 1979:80).

Ojibwe Rock Art: Physical Artifacts Representing or Interpreting Dreams and Visions

The physical objects of Ojibwe culture that perhaps most permanently recorded and represented their dreams, visions, representations of dream names, and mythical figures was the rock art. As Vastokas and Vastoukas (1973:44-45) have pointed out, based on their analysis of Henry R. Schoolcraft's descriptions, (1851-1857), there were actually two kinds of pictographic images that the Ojibwa would render in stone. Schoolcraft was himself part Ojibwa and was the Ojibwa Indian agent at Sault St. Marie, Michigan from 1822 to 1841. The Ojibwa pictography termed "Kekeewin" could be "incised upon birch bark scrolls as memory aids in the singing of Mide songs, as heraldic devices identifying clan affiliation or representing personal totems carved on the trunks of trees, as images placed on gravemarkers, and as glyphs pecked out or painted on rocks or boulders" (Vastoukas and Vastoukas 1973:43). These were generally known and understood. "Kekeenowin" on the other hand "are shamanistic renderings of visionary experiences" and were more symbolic, secret, and sacred rather than secular. "Muzzinabikon" or rock writing, most often recorded "the visionary experiences" of Ojibwa shamans (Vastoukas and Vastoukas 1973:44).

The Algonquian Language Family

The Ojibwe (Ojibwa,Ojibwe) language is spoken in the southern portions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, and northern areas of MN, MI and WI. It is part of a larger language group called the Algonquian Language Family. The four main parts of the Ojibwe people are 1) The Northern Ojibwe in central Canada, 2) the SE Ojibwe in Ontario, northern Ohio, etc., 3) The Chippewa in MN, WI, and MI, 4) the Plains Ojibwe in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and ND (see Ojibwe Maps).

The Algonquian Language Family originally extended NE of a line from North Carolina to the Great Lakes excluding upstate NY and southern Ontario, and the Ohio Valley. Now it extends from the Maritime Provinces in Canada to Alberta, including Michigan and the western Great Lakes area, and scattered settlements in MT,KS,IA,OK and northern Mexico. The Algonquian languages include Micmac, Maliseet-Passamoquoddy, Etchemin, Penobscot, Caniba, Aroosagunticook, Sokoki-Pequaket, Western Abnaki, Pennacook, Pentucket, Loup A, Loup B, Massachusett, Wampanoag, Cowesit, Narragansett, Mohegan-Pequot, Montauk-Shinnecock,Quiripi,Unquachog, Mahican, Delaware languages, Munsee, Unami, Unalachtigo, Unami, Virginia Languages, Nanticoke-Conoy, Powhatan, Chickahominy-Appomattox,Pamunkey-Mattapony, Nansemond, Carolina languages, Chowan, Pamlico, Cree Languages, Eastern Cree, Naskapi, Montagnais, East Cree, Western Cree Atikamek, Moose Cree, East Swampy Cree, West Swampy Cree, Woods Cree, Plains Cree, Ojibwe languages, Northern Ojibwa, Algonquin, Severn Ojibwe, Eastern Ojibwe, Ottawa, Central Ojibwe, Lac Seul Ojibwe, Southwestrn Ojibwe, Saulteax, Potawatomi, Menomini, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Miami-Illinois, Shawnee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Atsina, Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, Ritwan, Wiyot, Yurok.

Lakota History

The Lakota inhabited a large portion of the northern Great Plains. The Crow were directly to the west, Mandan and Hidatsa to the north, and Ponca, Omaha, and Pawnee to the south.
Across more than 750,000 square miles, the heartland of the continent was a vast sea of grass, interrupted here and there by mountainous terrain and winding, forested river bottoms. The land continuously transformed itself as it extended south from Alberta, Canada, to the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, of western Texas and New Mexico. From the region’s eastern boundary along the Mississippi River, a rider on horseback might travel for weeks before running up against the western wall of the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. "Sioux" is short for the Anishinabe term “nadouessioux,” meaning "snake"; the oldest primary designations are Lakota and Dakota, variant words for "allies."

The Lakota would travel to the Arkansas' hot springs to gather together with other tribes to hunt, tirade, and take the healing waters. Even when their peoples were at war, individuals of opposing tribes could come together here in safety and peace. The creative energies of nature are clearly at work here. As rain falls on the mountains and side down into the warm rock, minerals dissolve while the underground heat sterilizes and filters out impurities in the liquid. The water seeps slowly through the porous sandstone on the lower west side of Hot Springs Mountain until it flows out through cracks in the rock at a rate of about 850,000 gallons a day, the end of an eventful 4,000 year journey through the mountain.

The Lakota were ancient enemies of the Fox and the Anishinabe. Seasonal warfare was constant in the area west of the Great Lakes. While the Huron were being driven from their homes during the Beaver Wars, they drifted first into Lakota country on the northern Mississippi. The Lakota drove them from there and they settled in separate groups into Wisconsin and north. The Lakota again drove them further to the north shores of the Straits of Mackinac. During this time, the Fox, deeply concerned that European rifles were being traded to their archenemy, the Lakota, joined forces with the Iroquois in order to disrupt that deadly flow of merchandise.

As the bloodshed abated in the Upper Country, the governors of New France took advantage of the lull to consolidate their position. Ambassadors went out from Montreal, inviting all the tribes to gather for a mass celebration of friendship and peace.... Finally the day arrived. In midsummer of 1701 the canoes started landing on the beach at Montreal-Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Potawatomi, Miami, Huron, Anishinabe, Kickapoo and Lakota in their eagle feathers and buffalo robes. In addition to these French allied tribes came their former enemies, the Five Nations of the Iroquois League-Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk

Close to 1,300 people attended, representing 39 separate tribes, and together they feasted and parleyed and smoked the calumet (sacred pipe). The delegates worked out some last-minute details. The Iroquois received the right to hunt in Ontario country, and western Indians wee given free access to trade in New York. But important issues remained unresolved. Far more difficult was the matter of the Fox. All through the peace negotiations the Fox protested bitterly that French traders were still supplying their Lakota enemies with guns. Already the arms deals had driven them into a secret alliance with the Iroquois.

Forced to play both sides in the high-stakes game of woodland power politics, the Fox did not take kindly to insult or neglect. French arms continued flowing to both the Lakota and the Anishinabe. And no matter how loudly the Fox objected, the French refused to listen.

Afterwards, the Fox war parties staged lightning raids on key French outposts, crippling trade in the Upper Country. Nothing was safe. Isolated villages, canoe portage routes ... Fox raiders hit them all. The French tried to crush them repeatedly, but the Fox always seemed to slip away....adroit Fox diplomacy enhanced their battlefield prowess. They made peace with the Anishinabe in 1724 and allied themselves in 1727 with their former enemies the Lakota. The Lakota assisted Tecumseh (Shawnee) and joined sides with the British in the War of 1812, the new conflict between the US and Britain. Multitribal towns sprang up along the Illinois River in support of the war effort. By the fall of 1812, virtually the entire Great Lakes region. had been brought under Indian control. The initial triumph did not last. Unfortunately for the Indians, the British appointed a new general, Henry Procter, to command their western front. Indecisive and overly cautious, he frittered away the early British advantage. When an American naval victory on Lake Eric severed his supply routes in September 1813, Procter decided to retreat to Canada. In the spring of 193 1, the famed Oglala Lakota holy man, Black Elk, walked some visitors to a hill he called Remembrance Butte on his personal allotment of land in the northwestern corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Now an old man of 78 winters, Black Elk wanted to pray where he could see the traditional lands of the Lakota.

Some 20 miles to the south loomed the Paha Sapa, the Black Hills, sacred heart of the Great Plains, with the pointed crest of Harney Peak barely visible. The peak, he had been told by a spirit guide long ago, was the very center of the world. It was there many lifetimes earlier, it seemed to Black Elk that he had experienced a life-changing vision at the age of nine. In it he met the great powers of the world and received special abilities from them. But he could also see four generations into the future, and what he saw included adversities awaiting his people that he would have no power to change.

Black Elk gestured toward the grassless, broken up landscape immediately surrounding his visitors. They knew this dry and craggy place as the Badlands, but his name for it was mako sika, "strange lands of the world." Then the old man swept his arm in the direction of what the Lakota called awanka toyala, "greenness of the world," the graceful rolling breadth of the shortgrass prairie.

He remembered the shallow, wooded ravines in that expanse of places where his people had gathered currants, plums, buffalo berries, coral berries, and the much sought after chokecherries that were collected by the hidefull in late summer. In the springtime he had accompanied his family to look for the violet colored blossoms on the exposed green roots that showed where sweet prairie turnips, called tinpsila, were ready to be uprooted with digging sticks. Eaten raw like carrots, they also were boiled to thicken buffalo stew and could feed a family through the winter if properly dried.

Finally, Black Elk looked to the east, to the flat, undulating tall grass prairie known to his people as oblayela, "wideness of the world." The old holy man had been born at a time when his people felt themselves to be custodians of this entire domain. Yet within the brief span of his own lifetime, everything had changed. Black Elk had witnessed the bitter end of the Lakota’s terrible war with US troops and had seen his people reduced to impoverished isolation on four small reservations, a meager fraction of all that had once been theirs. As a descendant of renowned Lakota healers and medicine men, however, Black Elk still clung to a vision of his people’s greatness, refusing to let it die.

Now with his visitors, looking over a landscape he know like the back of his wrinkled hand, Black Elk prayed that his People might survive and might yet reclaim their ancient connections to this wide world with its many different spirits. When Black Elk was born in 1863, his people were among some 30 distinctive Native American nations known collectively as Plains Indians who called some portion of the open grasslands their home. For all the peoples of the Plains, the landscape itself had tales to tell.

According to tradition, an oval valley that rings the Black Hills came into being as a great racetrack, dug into the earth when all the world’s creatures: two-legged, four-legged and winged, ran in a race that established their various destinies, including the two-legged’s right to hunt buffalo.

Plains hunters, traveling on foot and armed with stone-tipped spears, could kill their swifter, stronger prey only with ingenuity and coordinated effort. They used two basic techniques. One method was to frighten animals out of the brush and ravines into wide channels created between two makeshift fences. Corralling the terrified prey into a circular enclosure at the end of this chute, they could then kill the animals at close range.

The other method was the "buffalo jump. " At the start hunt leaders would position women and children behind piles of stones arranged in a V-shaped that narrowed to a point at the edge of a sheer cliff. The buffalo were enticed to enter the wedge by a slow-hobbling man disguised in a fur robe. Other people brought up the rear, yelling and flapping robes and waving the scented smoke of burning cedar in the air. This gave the impression of a terrifying forest fire, causing the great beasts to stampede over the edge of the cliff. Down below, a makeshift enclosure prevented wounded animals from escaping, while arrows and spears mined down from all sides until the lifeless carcasses could be approached by butchering parties.

Along the borderlands of the western Great Lakes, the Dakota-the easternmost tribe of the “Sioux,” and the Ojibwa, largest of the Great Lakes woodland tribal groups, found themselves in bloody competition over the same inventory of natural resources. Both peoples harvested wild rice in the fall, hunted in the winter, made maple sugar in the spring, and farmed in midsummer. Their neighbors include Lakota tribes, branches of the great Siouan-spealdng brotherhood, who preferred a buffalo-hunting way of life.

By the 1770's the Santee Sioux of central Minnesota had become an equestrian people. Horses were stolen and traded from tribe to tribe by way of routes cast and west of the Rockies. Before long there were herds of run-away horses, and eager tribesmen snagged their own wild mounts.

In the summer, young Lakota horse catchers ventured into the Platte and Arkansas country, pursuing the herds in relays, riding one wild horse until it gave out, then hopping onto another, relentlessly driving the animals until they were utterly exhausted and easily lassoed. A second method took advantage of box canyons: relays of riders herded horses into narrow canyon passageways and then, tossing a loop attached to a stick, noosed them and tied them down.

By the early 1700's, a common currency had entered the Plains in the form of the horse. Aspiring leaders won followers and status as their personal stables multiplied. Inevitably, as horses became the new index of wealth and warriors sought them by any possible means, the frequency of intertribal raids skyrocketed. Young men clamored to go out on these expeditions, often disobeying older chiefs to do so.

Stealing horses was even more exciting than capturing them wild. No seizure of enemy horses conferred honor comparable to that of killing an enemy. It offered the raiders a triumphant return to camp, past admiring women, galloping in with a string of snorting and whinnying trophies behind them.

Horses transformed Plains Indian life by eliminating the uncertainties of food supply almost overnight. If buffalo could not be found nearby, hunters simply rode to wherever they were. Shooting at a thundering herd of buffalo from horseback was not only far less risky than running after them on foot and driving them off a cliff but also took less time and required fewer participants. Small bands or even individuals could locate a small herd and within a few hours slaughter enough to feed their people for months. It was then that true nomadism, a rarity in North America, began to flourish and tribal bands could come and go with few restraints.

While the horse enabled men to hunt independently, the women, whose role in forming the buffalo surrounds had previously been essential to the hunt, were now able to devote their time to processing the hides. After every successful hunt there was now an excess of tanned buffalo skins, which translated into tradable goods and greater prosperity. Warriors on horseback wielded small shields painted with powerful symbols such as medicine bears and birds to protect them from enemy fire. Bows were shortened and laminated for greater power, and clubs and short lances were crafted for close combat. The use of firearms in warfare was not adopted throughout the Plains Indian world as readily as that of horses. Before the arrival of repeating rifles, warriors had to rely on smooth bore muzzle loaders, which were not very accurate and could not be found as rapidly as arrows in the heat of battle. And to renew his gunpowder, lead shot, and spare parts, an Indian needed steady access to the white man’s trading posts.

Highest honors were accorded the daring warrior who risked all to "count coup." A French word meaning "strike," coup could signify any sort of damage or humiliation inflicted upon an enemy in war. Coups were the means by which a warrior gained status in his tribe, and they were scrupulously ranked. Striking an enemy with a gun bow, or riding quirt, for instance, might be considered a higher achievement than actually killing him. Other honors were granted for stealiing horses, riding down an enemy, recovering his weapon, or scalping him.

Warriors proudly recollected their notable coups on formal occasions and rewarded them with appropriate insignia, such as specially trimmed feathers, marks on their horses' flanks, beaded or quillwork strips on the war shirts, or pictographs painted on buffalo robes and tipi covers. Maintaining peace on an intertribal basis, however, called for more formalized rituals that centered on the use of tobacco. Adopted by all Plains tribes, ceremonial smoking established neutral ground among horseback tribes that found themselves in ever closer and more contentious proximity to one another. Animal-shaped or flat-disc pipe bowls carved from soapstone were originally used for the purpose. Later, when the westward-migrating Lakota took control of western Minnesota's quarries of brick-red pipestone, distinctive T-shaped stone pipe bowls gained acceptance as a badge of chiefly office throughout the Plains. Beaded pipe bags became an essential feature of male regalia, and the time-consuming etiquette that evolved around the ceremonial sharing of the pipe would often exasperate visiting white traders and diplomats.

As men became increasingly preoccupied with horse raiding and coup counting, the women of some Plains tribes were compelled to find new ways to assert their roles. Especially among the tribes that had formerly worked the land, the new nomadic lifestyle of increased warfare and year round hunting eroded the women's traditional power base. As planters and harvesters of the village gardens in earlier times, they had enjoyed a relatively high position as providers and as guardians of domestic space.

Now a woman’s worth to her family and community increasingly came to rest upon her ability to manufacture and decorate a wide number of items not only for family use but also for trade. Throughout the Plains, women based their reputations upon the artistry they brought to the making of pots, baskets, cradleboards, robes, moccasins, and beadwork. The burgeoning fur trade provided a ready market for the hides and pelts that women processed for export. Woman’s products were also coveted items on the intertribal trading network: 18th century Europeans witnessed the Crow and Lakota trading decorated shirts, leggings, and animal-skin robes with the Mandan-Hidatsa for squash, corn, beans, tobacco, and guns.
Among the Plains tribes, artisan "guilds" controlled the production of quillwork and beadwork. Members controlled the highly specialized knowledge needed for certain techniques, and instruction required payment. Those women who were fortunate enough to possess such knowledge were well paid for their creations. A quilled robe made by a member of a quilling society, for example, could easily be traded for a pony from the Arapaho or the Mandan-Hidatsa.

The quilling societies of the Sioux were organized by women who had dreamed of Double Woman, a supernatural figure who, according to legend, had first taught Lakota women how to dye quills and perform intricate quillwork. Double Women possessed two contrasting natures: one industrious and virtuous, the other idle and lascivious. She offered the dreamer a choice between the productive practice of special slues in craftwork and the ability to wreak havoc by stealing other women's men.

Throughout the Plains, men and women alike sought spiritual power through dreams, Visions, sacred objects, and songs that could impart special luck or the ability to alter events in their furure. The Oglala Lakota called this power wakan. A Lakota shaman named Sword described it this way: "Every object in the world has a spirit, and that spirit is wakan. Thus the spirit of the tree or things of that kind are also wakan. Wakan comes from the wakan beings. These wakan beings are greater than mankind in the same way that mankind is greater than animals. They can do many things that mankind cannot do. Mankind can pray to the wakan beings for help.”

To this end, at the time of puberty almost every Plains Indian boy set out on vision quests, periodic wilderness retreats in which the initiate hoped to receive guidance from the spirit world. Only with the aid of special power beings, such as the spirits of eagles, hawks, or bears, it was believed, could a person gain that extra jolt of supernatural assistance needed to succeed in war, curing, love, or tribal leadership.

After a purifying "sweat" in a bowl-shaped sweat bath framed with willows, shrouded with buffalo hides, and steam-heated with hot rocks splashed with water, the young quester shouldered his sleeping hide and trekked to a sacred butte. At the summit he fasted for four days, wept and prayed naked before the elements, and sometimes went so far as to cut off a finger to entice a spirit to grace him with an empowering vision.

After the quester returned to camp and again entered a purifying sweat bath, elders helped him assemble objects that his spirit guide had instructed him to collect. Wrapped in a skin, these items were known as a medicine bundle and were a warrior's dearest possessions. They might be unwrapped prior to any perilous enterprise when a man needed the sacred protection that had been granted him during his original vision.

Most Plains tribes, in addition, had sacred objects that were unique to their history and as essential to their collective identity as their language. The Lakota had a White Buffalo Calf Pipe. As proliferation of horses allowed closer contact among various plains tribes, many of them came to observe the same rival, one of profound importance. It was the Sun Dance: a four-day religious festival in which singers, drummers, dancers, and spectators gathered to seek continually the sort of power that they sought as individuals in their private vision quests.

Some historians suggest that the Sun Dance appeared around 1700, possibly originating with the Cheyenne. To the Plains Indians, however, the ceremony was ageless, a divine gift from the supernatural world. In any case, by 1750 virtually every Plains tribe practiced some variation of the Sun Dance. To the Lakota it was known as the Dance Gazing into the Sun, wiwiyang wacipi.. Regardless of the name, all the tribes erected a central Sun Dance Medicine Lodge, which served as the sacred ceremonial space. Within a circular framework of poles constructed around a central sacred cottonwood tree, which was loosely walled with leafy boughs, young painted "pledgers" fasted and danced continuously.

Attended by medicine people, the youths prayed to their creator as the wind tossed flags hanging from the rafters of the lodge and .rawhide effigies dangling from the center pole. Then the pledgers' skin was pierced with skewers, which were attached by rawhide thongs to the center pole. As the young men danced, they tore their flesh as a sacrificial expression of the sincerity of their prayers for a powerful vision-not only for their personal well-being but for the happiness and prosperity of their people as well.

As horse-rich tribes staked out their favored roaming and hunting territories in the Plains, they forged military Alliances based sometimes on shared cultural traditions and sometimes purely on the existance of common enemies. One early partnership arose between the Siouan-speaking Assinibione people and the Algonquian-speaking Plains Cree. Opposing them was the mighty Blackfeet Alliance, whose constituent tribers-Piegan, Blood and Northern Blackfeet (also called Siksika)-had long standing bonds of language and custom. A third alliance, that of the earth-lodge communities along the middle Missouri River, was less a military than a self-proctective and cultural coalition.

But there was a fourth great alliance that threatened all the others with aggressive militarism and overwhelming numbers: the "seven council fires" of the Lakota. Altogether they amounted to some 25,000 loosely affiliated tribesmen in the 1790's. The four eastern groups were known collectively as the Dakota, or Santee. In the middle were the Yankton and Yanktonai (Nakota), keepers of the sacred pipestone quarry. A full 40% of the alliance belonged to the Teton, or western division, Lakota.

For good reason, then, the earth-lodge tribes whose horses, dried squash, and corn the Lakota coveted, together with the Lakota's traditional enemy, the Crow, were constantly vigilant about survival. Once the Lakota bolstered their numbers with Cheyenne and Arapaho allies, they became the most formidable fighting force on the northern Plains. Just after the turn of the 19th century, a major outbreak of small pox and cholera struck nearly exterminating the Omaha, Ponca, Oto, and Iowa peoples. The vicious diseases spread north and south, heading up the Missouri River to decimate the Arikara, Gros Ventre, Mandan, Crow, and Lakota, and down the Mississippi to wreak havoc among the Kiowa, Pawnee, Wichita, and Caddo .... All across the northern and southern Plains, the bodes piled up too quickly to be given decent burial. They were heaped in mass graves or thrown into the river.

There were other disturbing signs that the glory days of Plains Indian horsemen were on the wane. The 1804-06 expidition of Lewis and Clark to survey and document the landscapes, plants, animals, and Indian tribes of the West constituted a sort of scientific forerunner for the territorial takeover by the US government that was soon to follow, The next government probe into the Plains Indian world came in 1825. That year Brig. Gen. Henry Atkinson and Indian agent Benjamin O'Fallon sought out chiefs for negotiating treaties concerning trade and friendship. Some 15 Cheyenne individuals put their thumbprints to a document acknowledging US political and commercial authority over their region. As would happen time and again in Indian-white frontier diplomacy, what US officials considered a legally binding agreement, the great majority of Indians neither understood nor accepted.

In the north, traffic on what whites called the Oregon Trail was producing no fringe benefits for the native populations. By 1843 the road shoulders on both sides of the North Platte and Sweetwater sections of the Oregon Trail were virtually devoid of grass, and wagon traffic west had only just begun .... The buffalo were scared off, the meager stands of river-bottom timber were depleted, and streambeds were made muddy from cattle tracks.

Many tribesmen also noticed disturbing changes in the populations and habits of the animals they depeded on. Traders paid some Indians in liquor to hunt wholesale, a gruesome practice described in one case by George Catlin. Native hunters, Catlin reported in 1832, were wiping out a herd of 1,500 buffalo near Ft Pierre. Only the tongues were saved for transport to St Louis; the meat and raw hides were left to the wolves. But with the demise of the beaver trade due to overtrapping in the 1830's, a new market for buffalo robes filled the vacuum in the late 1840's. An Indian agent foresaw that the buffalo would soon be hunted to extermination and that, in his words, "the Indians will have great difficulty in procuring sufficient for their own clothing and food."

The times were changing, and many Plains Indians read the signs with foreboding. The Cheyenne war leader named Yellow Wolf observed that buffalo were harder to find and confided a deeper fear that unless his people adopted the white man's ways and found some alternative to their hunting way of life, they would disappear forever.

In fact, another 40 years of Indian rebellion still lay ahead, years of whole tribes removed and resettled, of pitched battle and pitiless massacres and violent deaths of many good-hearted Indians like Yellow Wolf, who fell at the age of 85. On all horizons of those Great Plains, the same vistas a somber Black Elk would point out to his visitors newly a century later, there loomed the gathering storm clouds of violent and irreversible change.

There may never have been a single day when the might and majesty of Plains Indian culture was more brilliantly displayed than on Monday, September 8, 1851. The sunrise that morning illiumintated the greatest assemblage of Plains Indians ever seen in one place: the Great Indian Treaty Council, convened at Ft Laramie in Wyoming Territory along the banks of the North Platte River.

Indian famishes had been streaming in for weeks, their numbers reached an estimated 10,000, with tipi poles and hide bundles strapped to travois pulled behind their horses. Contributing to the general noise and commotion were hundreds of dogs, some of which would serve as prized delicacies in the feasting ahead...,First to arrive were the proud Cheyenne and Arapaho and large bands of Oglala and Brule Lakota, who pitched their tipis along the Platte's northern bank.

By the sea a tipis that stretched west to the horison, these conferees represented nine different Plains Indian nations. A contingent of some 270 white soldiers watched in awe from the wooden walls of Ft Laramie, a 17 year old heading center, as the assembled chiefs sat down to smoke the pipe of peace together and partake of nearly $100,000 worth of presents from the US government.

This unique convocation was the brain-child of Thomas Broken Hand Fitzpatrick, a long time mountain man and fur trapper who had guided the explorer John C Fremont to California in the 1840's. Soon after that Fitzpatrick had been named Indian Agent for the newly created Upper Platte and Arkansas Agency, and he was now dealing on behalf of the US government in treaty negotiations with the Plains Indians.

Finally the long round of feasts, pageantry, and speeches about peace, along with the tougher talk of setting territorial boundaries for each tribe, drew to a close on September 17. Old enemies stood together in line to inscribe their marks on a document stating that they pledged to respect one another's boundaries, refrain from harassing settlers on the Oregon Trail, and allow new roads and military posts to be built on their lands. In return for this, the US government would permit them to hunt and fish at will within their own territories. The tribes would also share a total of $50,000 worth of blankets, kettles, tobacco, and other goods disbursed by the government each year.

In 1853 Fitzpatrick arranged a similar gathering with southern Plains tribes at Ft Atkinson, on the Arkansas River near present day Dodge City, KS. He met there with Comanche, Kiowa, and Plains Apache representatives, who had been leery of attending the Ft Laramie session because, as one delegate put it, “We have too many horses and mules to risk among such notorious horse thieves as the Lakota and Crow.” The agreement they reached called for the tribes to give up buffalo hunting and take up ranching and farming on lands that government would rent for them in the Leased District, an unsettled portion of Choctaw lands in Oklahoma that the tribe leased back to the government for the relocation of other Indians.

Some representatives, including the Lakota, were especially disgruntled at the notion of limiting their territories. "You have split my land and I don’t like it. These lands once belonged to the Kiowa and the Crow, but we whipped these nations out of them and in this we did what the white men do when they want the lands of the Indians. "-Oglala Lakota delegate.

Not surprisingly, the paperwork from Ft Laramie and Ft Atkinson had hardly made it back to Washington before the agreements began to unravel. From their domains in western Minnesota and the Dakotas, war-painted Lakota were pouring into Kansas territory to strike at their old enemies, the Pawnee. Before long, the Crow of south-central Montana were vehemently protesting Lakota aggression and finally, in 1868, were given protection by US troops on their own reservation.

In 1864 the Arikara in North Dakota had likewise demanded federal protection from Lakota attacks, bitterly pointing out that their chiefs who had taken part in the Ft Laramie accords were all dead now-cut down by Lakota arrows. The Hidatsa were even more virulent in their denunciations of the Lakota: "They will not keep the peace until they are severely punished. Either keep them a year without gifts or provisions, or cut off some camp, killing all, and the rest will then listen.”-Hidatsa leader.

By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, funding for Fizpatrick’s promised annual rations to the tribes had been cut back substantially. At the same time, the government was building a network of forts on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, as well as along southern routes from Kansas and Missouri to the Rio Grande. Everywhere the number of whites seemed to be multiplying; and wherever they appeared, trouble seemed to follow.

In August 1862, four hungry young Santee Dakota men, hunters returning from another unsuccessful outing, stole some eggs from the homestead of a white farmer near the small community of Acton in the Minnesota River valley. For years, supplies pledged to the tribe by treaty in exchange for prime hunting lands had been systematically diverted then sold to their rightful recipients by local merchants at exorbitant prices. The training and equipment that would make them self-sufficient farmers never materialized. Complaints of illegal liquor sales and outrages against Indian women by whites were ignored by authorities. The fall harvest of 1861 had been blighted by an infestation of cutworms, and the bitterly cold winter that followed left the Santee impovrished half starved and desperate.

Their 52-year-old chief, Little Crow, tried without success to get provisions from the local Indian agent of credit from local traders. "If they are hungry" said one storekeeper, "let them eat grass." The egg-stealing incident rapidly boiled up into a confrontation that left the farmer and four family members dead, grass stuffed in their mouths. With no more premeditation than a summer storm, the Lakota Uprising of 1862 had begun.

Tribal leaders hurridly met with Little Crow, who agreed to lead them but harbored no illusions whatever about their chances. In the next four weeks the Lakota lashed out against settlers in surprise skirmishes and large scale battles up and down the Minnesota Valley. Hundreds of whites were killed and an estimated 30,000 others frantically sought refuge at Ft Ridgley. Little Crow, wounded in an attack on the fort, turned over his command to Chief Mankato. But then in the fierce battle of Wood Lake in late September, Mankato was killed by a cannonball, some said he refused to dodge it, and his warriors were routed by federal troops.

Some 1,700 captured Dakota were marched to Ft Snelling, where they were enclosed in a wooden stockade with scant food and little shelter against the approaching winter cold. Trials were held and more than 300 of the men were condemned to death. Back in Washington, President Lincon was besieged by demands from his own millitary advisers, as well as an aroused national press, for quick executions. One lone voice of dissent was that of Henry Whipple, an Episcopal bishop and longtime advocate of the Lakota, who appealed to the president for clemency. Lincoln considered his plea and commuted the sentences of all but 39 of the prisoners, who were promptly separated ftom the rest to await their fate in Mankato, Minnesota.

As the sun rose on December 26, 1862, the prisoners began chanting their death songs, which they continued to sing as the scaffold was nailed together and white cowls were rolled down over their faces. When the trapdoor dropped beneath their feet, it was the largest mass execution ever to take place in American history. Little Crow was not among the victims, but six months later, while picking beans on a farm, he was shot to death by the owner. The state of Minnesota rewarded his killer with $500.

After the tragic events of 1862, many Lakota decided they had seen enough bloodshed and worked to establish peaceable communities among their white neighbors. One group took refuge in Canada and sought help from the British, their former allies. Reluctantly, the Hudson's Bay Company provided land near Manitoba's Ft Garry for the impoverished exiles. Some Canadians feared a repeat of the violence in Minnesota, but the Lakota proved content to trap, hunt, and lead quiet lives as farmers and ranchers. They even remained neutral dining the Metis Rebellion of 1869, an outburst with origins a century old.

Enraged at the Sand Creek slaughter of the peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho (there by order of the post commander at Ft Lyon) in 1864, war chief of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Lakota had in the meantime held a council near the Republican River. Even as the government was conducting its research into the Sand Creek massacre, their warriors descended on stagecoaches and ranches, tore down telegraph lines, and raided with impunity from Colorado into the Dakotas.

Yet the war parties could not stem the tide of freight caravans, stagecoaches, miners, and military reinforcements that was steadily filling up their countryside after the end of the Civil War. One especially keen observer was Red Cloud, a 44-year-old Oglala Lakota who had earned his chieftaincy on the strength of numerous honors won in battle. Red Cloud bitterly opposed the Bozeman Trail, which cut through the heart of the Sioux’s Powder River hunting grounds and across treaty-protected lands, enabling miners to take a shortcut from the North Platte River in Wyoming to the goldfields of Montana.

In response to Indian attacks against travelers using the Bozeman trail, protective millitary posts were built along the trail. But Red Cloud, thanks largely to his military strategist Crazy Horse, consistently outmaneuvered the cavalry. Their greatest victory came on December 21, 1866, against Gen. William J Fetterman (who had once boasted that "with 80 men I could ride through the Sioux Nation”). Staging a sham hit-and-run attack on Ft Kearny in Wyoming Territory, they lured Fetterman and his troops out of the safety of the fort and into a perfectly set ambush that left Fetterman and all 80 of his cavalrymen dead. In the face of this unexpectedly fierce resistance-and because a new railroad to the south would soon make the trail obsolete-the government reversed its position and offered to meet with Red Cloud to discuss a withdrawal from the "bloody Bozeman. "

The last major round of peace treaties between the US government and the Plains Indians were held a year after Fetterman’s debacle. The first meeting took place in the valley of Medicine Lodge creek in Kansas where Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa-Apache delegations convened once again with white peace commisioners on the full moon of October 1867.

The second round of peace treaty negotiations with northern tribes took place at the following spring of 1868, once again at Ft Laramie. With the immediate aim of ending Red Clouds hostilities the government agreed to abandon its military garrisons along the Bozeman Trail- effectivly shutting the route down to white traffic. (As humiliated officers and their men filed out of Ft Phil Keanery, a triumphant Red Cloud rode through its gates and proceeded to burn it to the ground)

The new Ft Laramie treaty also designated the Powder River country of Montana and Wyoming, plus all of today's South Dakota west of the Missouri, as the Great Sioux Reservation. Within these lands lay the Black Hills, held sacred by many tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Crow.

But no treaty could assuage the deep, abiding hatred of white men that the Sand Creek Massacre had planted in the heads of Cheyenne warriors like Medicine Water and Dull Knife, and Northern Arapaho fighters like Powder Face. Soon their tribesmen would join forces with the Lakota to outdo even the triumpth over Fetterman and inflict the most stunning defeat on a white foe in all the years of the Indian wars in the West.

When Ulysses S Grant assumed the presidency in 1869, his new "peace policy" towards Indians sought to revise military and civilian roles on reservations. Military Indian agents, who had been notoriously prone to corruption, were to be replaced by emissaries from the Quaker Society of Friends and other religious organizations. Soldiers would be used only to pressure Indians onto reservations and keep them there, while it would be the civilians’ job to coax them into the "arts of civilization." In 1870 Congress reflected the seriousness of Grant's policy by allocating $100,000 for the education of Indian youth and related purposes.

Yet a wide chasm separated the reformist attitudes in the East from the mind-set of most Westerners on the subject of Indian rights. The Lakota in Particular were learning that the Ft Laramie accord Red Cloud had signed in 1868 meant little to miners and settlers clamoring for access to their sacred Black Hills.

Although the land was protected by treaty, in July 1874, William Tecumseh Sherman dispatched Custer to lead a survey expedition into these Lakota domains. A pack train accompanied by 1,200 troopers wound its way through this game-stocked preserve-complete with guides, a photographer, a wagon master, a howitzer and three gattling guns, 110 wagons, 1,000 horses, and 300 cattle for meals along the way.

Once word leaded out that Custer's illegal 1,205-mile survey of the Black Hills had verified rumors of "gold from the grassroots down," mining in the area increased noticeably the following summer. In 1876, two years after the expedition, 6,000 newcomers had taken up residence in Custer City, SD, and gold strikes in Deadwood Gulch predictably lured thousands more. Streams were clogged by sluice boxes, and timbering operations were already moving into the virgin forests of the Black Hills.

Not surprisingly, the Lakota were incensed that their sanctuary had been invaded in so flagrant a violation of the 1868 treaty. Calls for resistance and revenge filled the air. When Senate negotiators came to Lakota territory in September 1875 to try to work out a lease agreement to the Black Hills, a warrior clad in battle attire led a chant: "Black Hills is my land and I love it-And whoever interferes will hear this gun." -Little Big Man, Oglala Lakota

When President Grant was told of the Indians' intransigence, he let it be known that from then on, government troops would not stop miners from invading the Black Hills. Moreover, the off- reservation Lakota who were roaming the Yellowstone and Powder River valleys in Montana would henceforth be considered threats to the general public.

In March 1876, Gen George Crook marshaled his troops for a campaign against the last remaining Plains Indian rebels. That month some troops struck a Cheyenne village, erroneously thinking it was Crazy Horse's camp. They came away with 600 Indian ponies, only to lose them to Cheyenne the same day. Meanwhile, the Cheyenne and Lakota were slipping away from their reservation, where food supplies had grown more and more scarce, to join renegade bands along Rosebud Creek, practically under the government's nose. Thousands made camp on the Rosebud's banks in what proved to be the calm before the storm.

On a ranch near the Northern Cheyenne town of Lame Deer in southern Montana stands a sandstone outcrop covered with incised designs. Across From the rocks on the other side of Rosebud Creek tradition has it, the Lakota staged their annual Sun Dance. Seated near the rocks in June 1876, the great Hunkpapa Lakota medicine man Sitting Bull, then 42, sacrificed 100 pieces of skin, 50 front each arm, to bolster his prayers for a victory over the encroaching whites and their blue- coated soldiers. It was then that Sitting Bull fell into a trance and envisioned "dead soldiers without ears falling upside down into camp." They had no ears because the white man did not listen to what had been told him.

For his part Gen. Philip Sheridan, who headed military operations that summer, proposed to confront the Indian hostiles, composed of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, from three directions. His three army colums, amounting to about 2,500 men, would include Gen. Alfred Terry and Col. George A Custer coming in from the east Gen. George Crook entering from the south and Gen John Gibbon striking from the west.

Coming upon the Indian camp at Rosebud Creek on June 17, Crook abruptly discovered that their numbers had been disastrously underestimated. For six hours his troops faced waves of attacks by well-armed warriors before he ordered a retreat. Meanwhile, other tribal groups were filtering into the area they knew as the Greasy Grass (and whites called the Little Bighorn River). More than 7,000 people in all camped in six great tipi circles, including 1,800 warriors hungry for more of the success they had tasted at Rosebud Creek.

Out of touch with Crook, Custer led a detachment of the 7th Calvary toward the Little Bighorn. Unaware that he was approaching the largest fighting force ever assembled on the Plains, Custer made an impulsive and fatal decision. Dividing his troops, about 210 men, into three attacking groups, he positioned them on a ridge above the camp.

A warrior named Wooden Leg remembered being awakened by the crack of gunfire. Stripping for the fight and leaping onto his favorite war pony, he and his friend Little Bird took off after a fleeing soldier.

"We were lashing him with our pony whips. It seemed not brave to shoot him. He pointed back his revolver, though, and sent a bullet into Little Bird’s thigh. As I was getting possession of his weapon, he fell to the ground. I do not know what became of him." -Wooden Leg, Cheyenne

in the course of an hour, Custer and every one of his men perished; only a Crow scout named Curly was left alive. The victors promptly withdrew, most heading up the Little Bighorn Valley, where they held a great celebration below the Mouth of Lodge Grass Creek.

It was a moment worth savoring. Not since the infamous defeat known to angry whites as St Clair's Shame, inflicted by the Shawnee 85 years earlier in Ohio, had the US Army suffered so costly a humiliation at native hands.

It did not take the army long to respond. In September 1876 a camp of Lakota trailing back to their reservations was attacked by troops at Slim Buttes in Dakota Territory and lost their leader, American Horse, in a hail of gunfire. At the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux reservations, veterans of the Little Bighorn and other hostiles were imprisoned. Witnessing his people's disinigration, Sitting Bull (who had not taken part in the battle) and a small group of followers fled to Canada in 1877. Many appeals for aid to the Canadian government met with no success, and his people had trouble obtaining even minimal supplies. Faced with the prospect of starving in a foreign country, Sitting Bull and 187 others finally surrendered in May 1881 at Ft Buford in North Dakota.

For bringing his demoralized band of exiles back from Canada in July 1881, Sitting Bull had been promised a pardon for his role in the Battle of Little Bighorn five years earlier. Instead he was summarily arrested and locked up at Ft Randall on the Missouri River in South Dakota. From there the Hunkpapa Lakota warrior could only watch as his tribe's lands were nibbled away by the US government.

The next year, in exchange for 25,000 cows and 1,000 bulls, other Lakota chiefs were asked to sign a paper they could not read it surrendered 14,000 more miles, about half the reservation lands guaranteed in the 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty. Suspecting the worst, a chief named Yellow Hair scooped up a handful of dirt and thrust it at the federal agent. "We have given up nearly all of our land," he said, "you had better take the balance now."

In August 1883 a commision led by Senator Henry L Dawes of Massachusetts came to Hunkpapa Lakota Agency at Standing Rock to investigate charges of an illegal land seizure. Sitting Bull, only recently released from captivity, attended the conference but was at first ignored by the commisioners. When they finally asked for his opinion, he accused them of acting like "men who have been drinking whiskey" and led the chiefs in a walkout. Although Professing loyalty to Sifting Bull, the other leaders were worried and persueded him to apologise the next day. "The Great Father told me not to step aside from the white man’s path, and I told him I would not, and I am doing my best travel in that path," he told the conunissionars.

They were not mollified. "The government foods and clothes and educates your children now," one of them said, "and desires to teach you to become farmers, and to civilize you, and make you as white men."

The Bureau of Indian Affairs agent at Standing Rock, James McLaughlin, tried working with other Hunkpapa and Blackfeet Lakota chiefs. But Sitting Bull remained their favored leader, and ironically, became a celebrity in the white world. At the driving of the last spike to link the Northern Pacific Railroads transcontinental track in the summer of 1883, Sitting Bull was asked to deliver a speech drafted for him by a bilingual army officer. Ignoring the text, the renowned chief rose to announce in Lakota that he hated all white people. "You are thieves and liars," he told his uncomprehending audience. "You have taken away our lands and made us outcasts." The embarrassed officer read a few platitudinous sentences from the prepared speech in English and the listeners sprang to their feet with applause for Sitting Bull.

The next year he made a government-sponsored tour of 15 cities and was so enthusiastically received that Buffalo Bill Cody asked him to join his Wild West Show in 1885. Sitting Bull agreed, but he declined Cody's subsequent offer of a trip to Europe: "I am needed here. There is more talk of taking our lands."

Indeed, the government tried in 1888 to carve up the Great Sioux Reservation (then comprising about half the present state of South Dakota, plus parts of Wyoming and Nebraska) into six smaller Indian reserves and purchase the remaining 9 million acres for 50 cents an acre. The Indians balked. A year later Gen. George Crook was sent to Lakota country with an offer of $1.50 per acre and the implied threat that the land would be seized if the Indians did not agree to sell. Crook, dealing with the tribal leaders one by one, got nearly all to sign-with the notable exception of Sitting Bull. Asked how the Indians felt about surrendering so much land Sitting Bull replied abruptly, "Indians! There are no Indians left but me!"

Having heard of the Paiute prophet Wovoka, several northern Plains tribes sent a delegation to Nevada late in 1889 to learn more about his prediction of a new age without white men. The emissaries returned the following spring to introduce the Ghost Dance religion to the Lakota and other tribes; by autumn of 1890 virtually all activities-trading, schooling, farming-came to a sandstill as the people took up the frenzied ritual.


How to Make a Dream Catcher

1. Using 2 - 6 ft. of soaked willow (or grapevine), carefully bend the vine around to form a circle with a 3 - 8 in. diameter. You decide on the diameter, but traditionally dream catchers are no

2. Twist the piece you are bending, around the circle you have made to strengthen the vine hoop.

3. Use 4-16 ft. of strong but thin string (the length is determined by the diameter of the hoop). Knot a loop in one end from which you will hang your dream catcher when it is done.

4. Tie the hanging loop around the top of your dream catcher (or at the weakest point of your hoop).

5. The dream catcher repeats the same stitch from start to finish. To start, hold the string and place it loosely over the top of the hoop. Move the string around to the back of the hoop (forming a hole) and pull the string back through the hole you just made.

6. Pull each stitch taught but not too tight or it will warp the hoop of the dream catcher and it will not lie flat when it is done.

7. Continue the same stitch for the first round around the hoop of the dream catcher. Space the stitches evenly, about 1 1/2 to 2 in. apart (making 7 to 13 stitches around the hoop).

8. The last stitch of the first round should be placed about a half inch away from the the hanging loop.

Stitch for the second round:

9. On the second and subsequent stitching rounds, place the string around the center of each stitch from the previous round (rather than around the hoop).

10. As you pull each stitch tight, the string from the previous round should bend towards the center of the hoop slightly, forming a diamond shape.
You should see the spider web beginning to form.

11. On the third or fourth round add a bead to represent the spider in the web. Simply place the bead on your string and continue stitching as usual.

12. Continue stitching towards the center of the hoop. Eventually, the stitches become so small that it is difficult to pass the string through. Make sure you leave a hole in the center of the dream catcher.

13. Stop stitching at the bottom of the hole in the center of the dream catcher. End by stitching twice in the same place, forming a knot, and pull tight.

14. You should have 6 - 8 in. of string to tie 2 or 3 feathers which dangle from the center of the dream catcher.
Tie on 2 or 3 feathers and knot.

15. Wrap a 1 in. square of felt around the knot of string and over the base of the feathers. Tie two 4 In. pieces string around the wrapped felt.



The Chippewa (Ojibwa believe that night is full of both good and bad dreams. When a dream catcher is hung above the place where you sleep it moves freely in the night air and catches the dreams as they drift by. The good dreams, knowing their way, pass through the opening in the centre of the webbing while the bad dreams, not knowing the way, are caught in the webbing and destroyed at the first light of the morning sun.

There are many variants to the dream catcher legend, some which say both the good and bad dreams are captured and some which say the good dreams slide down the feather to those sleeping below. Although the Ojibwa are credited as the first people to use Dream Catchers many other Tribes and Native peoples have adopted Dream Catchers into their culture. Even though the designs and legends of Dream Catchers differ slightly, the underlying meaning and symbolism is universal and is carried across cultures and language barriers.

Everybody dreams.

© 2013 Jynx

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Thank you for sharing this. I knew part of the history of the dream catcher. Now I know more.

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Added on June 10, 2013
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