Quasi Religious Organizations

Apsaalooke Social and Family Structure, By Dale D. Old Horn and Tim McCleary, Pages 47-49.

Retrieving of the Warbonnets Ownerships

The Aps√°alooke received the ceremony called Baleeikk√ļhpakukattuua, Retrieving Of The War Bonnets, from the Atsina. The Atsina are called Apiiwish√©, Hairy Nostrils, by the Aps√°alooke, and Gros Ventres by the Euro-Americans. They presently reside on the Ft. Belknap Reservation.

In its original form the Retrieving Of The War Bonnet Ceremony was performed to honor the outstanding warriors of the nation. May Childs, who is presently 104 years old, saw the first performance of this dance among the Aps√°alooke. The adoption and learning of this dance occurred in the Big Horn District sometime around 1902. The Retrieving Of The War Bonnets is a ceremony in which the officers are inducted, much as the Hot Dance. The ownerships are: two B√≠awacheeitche, Woman Chiefs; four Akik√ļhpawishe, Owners of the War Bonnets; two Iipche Akkule√©, Pipe Carriers; two Balashk√ļpe Ake√©, Crooked Staff Carriers; two Iich√≠iliche Ake√©, Quirt Owners; and Biaakashiipeeliliia, The Woman‚Äôs Announcer, this role is filled by a man.

A ritual is performed that is quasi-religious since the Scared Pipe is used. In the dance itself, the women will not carry a pipe, they will simply carry a pipe bag. Since the Aps√°alooke make wishes to achieve a new day, with greater fortune and greater health, they have often vowed that they would provide food or be a part of the Retrieving of The War Bonnet whenever its conducted and in this manner it has a religious aspect.

Arrow Throwing and Hand Game

Two other group activities of a quasi-religious nature are the arrow throwing and hand games. The origin of the arrow throwing is obscured in time. The Aps√°alooke talk about the practice arrows that they would use, √ļushxusshe, blunted base. This term refers to the arrows with blunted tips that were used to shoot birds, such as grouse, prairie chickens, and turkeys. This would augment their buffalo diet.

The same arrows that were used for hunting birds would also be used for target practice, and from this practice, the game of throwing arrows may have originated. This game is still played today. The arrows that are used today are prepared in the manner of arrows that were used in the days of inter-tribal warfare. The markings on the arrow shaft are individually owned and have a spiritual interpertation to them.

There are two groups which are based on Euro-American concepts of competitive sports. They are called the Senior Division and Junior Division. The Junior Division is made up of those who are 18 years old and younger, and the Senior Division is 18 years and older.

The hand game that is played by the Aps√°alooke was adopted from the Assiniboine. The Assiniboine refer to this activity as the feather game, and it has religious significance. When the Aps√°alooke adopted this game, they dropped much of the religious significance and embellished it. The Aps√°alooke added two elk teeth to the two sets of bones that are used. The game is played informally, by families and friends, and formally through teams selected from the reservation districts. In the Spring large tournaments are held which include a Junior and Senior Division much like the arrow throwing.

The hand game has religious overtones since players will use medicine to guess and hide the bones and elk teeth. There is a man in charge of each team and he is called Akaai√°xchiia, Ceremony Leader. He is responsible for passing out the bones, and he also has medicine that is used to influence the outcome of the game. The players with medicine will emulate their spirit patrons to invoke the power necessary to win the game.