Teton - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Teton were divided into seven tiyospayes prior to the reservation period: the Payabya, "head circle"; Tapisleca "spleen"; Kiyaksa, "breakers of the rule"; Wajaje, "Osage"; Itesica "bad faces"; Oyuhpe, "untidy"; and Wagluhe, "loafers." Each tiyospaye was in turn divided into a constantly changing number of wicotis, themselves composed of extended monogamous or polygynous families. The minimal social unit is called tiwahe, "family."

Political Organization. Prior to contact, Teton wicoti were under the ad hoc leadership of a chief proficient in hunting and warfare. In the summer, however, when the bands came together for the communal hunt, the entire camp was under the supervision of a group of chiefs called wakicunze, who determined when the camps should move and hunts and ceremonials begin. After the reservation period, some of these wakicunze represented their tribes in treaties with the United States. But it is generally accepted that the position of head chief never existed in aboriginal times. After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Teton reservations formed tribal councils whose officers were elected by ballot every two years. This is the present form of government.

Social Control. During the summer encampments, rious sodalities called akicita (soldier or marshal) were in charge of policing the camp and ensuring that the bison hunt would not be jeopardized by overzealous individuals. Under the authority of the wakicunze, the akicita could severely punish or even kill offenders. A number of these sodalities, known by such names as Strong Hearts, Foxes, Crow-Owners, and Badgers, also waged personal vendettas against tribes in retaliation for those lost in battle. Members were elected, and great prestige accrued to them.

Conflict. After the establishment of the reservation, conflict arose between several of the Teton chiefs. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, both heroes of the Custer battle, were assassinated by their own people as a result of jealousy and a rising fear among Whites that they might regain power. Red Cloud was perhaps the most controversial in that he advocated friendly relations with the United States after earning the reputation of being the only Indian to win a war against the U.S. government. A number of tiyospayes engaged in rivalry with each other, and much factionalism on the Teton reservations still persists along earlier lines of social and Political organization.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: