Lower Sioux staff talk about tipi life

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Dane Nelson, right, of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Morton, displays artifacts including buffalo hides and bones at the “Tipi Life” presentation at the Sleepy Eye Area Depot Museum Aug. 23. At left is Sean Beckler of Morton.

SLEEPY EYE — A trio of Lower Sioux Agency staff talked about tipi construction, customs and items found in a tipi and culture at the Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society Depot Museum Thursday.

The men displayed many items that originated from buffalo. For instance, a buffalo stomach was hollowed out, stretched and used as a cooking pot.

Buffalo bones are placed in the ground before ants ate the meat from the bones before they were used as cups, spoons and tools, according to Dane Nelson of the Lower Sioux Reservation. Buffalo tendons were used as sewing needles.

Other hand-made items included a hammer made of stone and wood, a baby rattle made of buffalo toes on a string, and bones shaped various ways to create tools. A rake made of deer antlers and a large stick was displayed. Wood, rope, tinder and flint rocks were used to start fires.

Nelson said according to Dakota culture, women are to be held in high regard because they bring life into the world. Anyone who mistreats women could pay very dearly for it.

In addition, Nelson said there are very few Dakota alive who learned to speak the language before learning English.

This summer, the first Lower Sioux Head Start Immersion School opened in Morton. Aided by grant funding, the school will teach the Dakota language and heritage to infants, toddlers and young children up to age five.

Last fall, the Lower Sioux Reservation partnered with Redwood Valley and Cedar Mountain school districts to offer twice-a-week, two-hour Dakota language classes for middle-school students and adults. The classes are open to anyone.

Other Dakota language immersion plans include a Dakota language bowl and adding Dakota words to reservation street signs.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.