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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Society of the Black Mouths

Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the Mandan/Hidatsa/Minataree culture, there were men's societies similar to today's clubs or civic organizations. One of these societies was the Society of the Black Mouths. Members of this society were men who painted the bottom half of their mouth black, much like the above painting of a Minatare chief.

The societies each had their own dances, rattles, weapons, articles of clothing, body painting and hair style.

Societies were segregated by age. The Black Mouths were men in their 40s. When they became older they sold their membership and bought a membership in a higher society.

Two officers in this society carried "raven lances" into battle. If he was chased by the enemy he was to plant his lance in the ground and remain beside it to fight until killed or until a fellow tribesman pulled it out.

In the book, Waheenee, An Indian Girl's Story, a Hidatsa girl describes the Black Mouths as being bossy men who told the women when to clean up the village yard and inspected lodges to see how clean they were. Most of the women feared them and were submissive to them. The children feared them because of their bossy ways. If their orders were disobeyed, they punished the offenders by beating them or firing guns at their feet.

I thought this was an interesting detail of daily Hidatsa life and included it in my book about Sacagawea.

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