Sheridan, Clare –The Initiation of Plenty-Coups, the famous Crow Chief
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Clare Sheridan – Redskin Interlude
From earliest age, the [men and boys] dreamed of distinguishing [themselves]. When I use the word " dreamed " I mean literally that their lives were dominated by dreams. It was absolutely necessary that each individual should " dream " his destiny, his Medicine-bundle, his name in fact. This took place as soon as the adolescent touched manhood. It was the equivalent of the medieval knights' vigil.
The young man left the camp and went up into a high lonely place. He communed with Nature, invoked the Great Spirit, and through severe fasting succeeded in having what was termed a dream, but which is the equivalent of a vision such as the monks of old experienced, also through fasting and abstinence.
If, having dreamed, the young man could not understand his dream, he confided it to a warrior, to his father, or to the Medicine-man of the tribe. A meeting would be convened, the dream discussed, and the Medicine-man would give out his interpretation. Through this dream the youth received instructions as to a Medicine-bundle that would protect him during his life and bring him safely through his war-paths. There are records of these visions.
In the case of Plenty-Coups, the famous Crow warrior who dictated his biography to Frank Lindemann, we get an intimate account of this exceedingly important event in a young man's life. Plenty-Coups was only twelve years old, but advanced for his age and impatient.
He could not wait for his adolescence, he wanted to dream his dream and be ready before his time to share the perils of the war-path. Accordingly he withdrew to a far mountain height, fasted and waited. He endured hunger, thirst, and exposure, but no dream came to him. He invoked the Sun at its rising and its setting, he prayed to the Great Spirit, he grew weaker and weaker, but still no dream was vouchsafed him. In despair he cut off a finger, trusting that the loss of blood would so weaken him that he would receive the vision, but no blood flowed. Exposure to the cold at that height seemed to have stopped the normal circulation. He wept and prayed and continued to mutilate himself.
At last he got his dream. His friends who came in search gathered up the unconscious body and carried him back to camp.
As soon as he had recovered, the warriors and the old men assembled to listen to the dream of this remarkable boy. After a long meditative silence, the Medicine-man pronounced the interpretation, which prophesied an end of the buffalo and the coming of the White man- and was to influence the actions of Plenty-Coups when in later years he became the Chief of the Crows.
The source of the experienceNative American Indians
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
Loneliness and isolation
SuppressionsBelieving in the spiritual world
Communing with nature