How Warlike Were The Sioux?
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How Warlike Were The Sioux? Like all of the plains Indians, the Sioux tribe needed to be skilled and equipped if they should go into war or battle. Individual warriors took part in warfare for many reasons e.g. stealing horses, claiming sacred land etc, so the Sioux can never be considered to be totally unwarlike. The Sioux warriors were well armed. They fought with many weapons, all of which were made by themselves from any natural materials they could find. They used lances to fight with which were made to be 4 to 5 metres long and had a polished steel blade. They were often decorated with beadwork, buffalo fur and feathers. They also used shields, which were to protect the body, and these were made from the skin of the buffalo's neck hardened by steam, smoke and buffalo hoof glue. They were arrow proof and would be decorated with magical symbols such as powerful animals that would protect the warrior. Bows and arrows was the most frequently used weapon by the Sioux. The bow would be made of reinforced wood and the bowstring from twisted buffalo sinew. Up to 20 arrows could be carried in quills, which were decorated with quillwork. The rifle was a prized possession among warriors. Travellers and settlers introduced them to the Plains Indians from the East.
The Sioux fought in battles to steal from their opponents. This proves that they were warlike because only an aggressive person would forcefully capture somebody else's property. It also seems extremely barbaric to scalp a dead persons body. Warfare was fought according to certain rules. The bravest thing to do was touch an enemy with a coup stick or to peg the end of your sash to the ground. The idea of 'counting coup' was made into a war ritual and it was considered braver to touch an enemy rather than to kill him. This usually only took place when fighting other nations over issues such as stealing horses. During battle, a warrior may have pegged the end of his sash to the ground. This meant that he could not move until the fight was over and that he must ward off enemies from this particular area. The warrior could not pull out his peg from the ground and move away. This could only be done by a fellow warrior or the warrior would stay in the area until he was killed or touched with a coup stick. During fights, casualties were very low. Between 1835 and 1845 the Sioux were at was with the Ojibwa and fewer than four warriors were lost each year. More tribe members were probably killed through hunting accidents rather than through fighting.
Raiding parties of small numbers would set out to enemy villages and launch attacks for any of the above reasons. The Sioux may also have fought with the Crow and Pawnee to keep the Sioux nation together. Often the tribes and bands went off separately, but by going to tribal council every year meant that they stayed together as a nation. Other reasons for fighting would have been to increase wealth by capturing horses. Wealth was measured by the amount of horses owned by an Indian and stealing horses from an enemy was seen as a great deed. Overall, I feel that he Sioux nation was only warlike in certain aspects but generally they weren't. The 'rules' that were used in battle such as 'counting coup' was not warlike as it didn't harm anybody and it wasn't vicious or bloodthirsty. Rules like these left low casualties, and also gave them respect and honour. On the other hand, they would always be ready and prepared to go into war if such thing happened. They had successful tactics such as sending out the raiding parties and their reasons for fighting were for a good reason. Scalping was very warlike, but this was an aspect of religion and personal honour. The Sioux created savage images of themselves, as the decoration of their tipi, clothing and weaponry present this characteristic, as do the ways in which they performed their war dances. However, I feel that they created more of an impression of themselves being warlike than they actually were because they hardly ever killed.
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