Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tipi Rings Or Stone Circles

A foggy morning at Whitestone Hill, N.D. One stone is visible in the foreground, the remaining stones in this circle are nearly covered up by years of soil and grass. 
Tipi Rings, Stone Circles
Features Attributed To Trickster
Edited by Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. – My good friend Aaron Barth, proprietor of The Edge Of The Village, recently asked me about stone circles, a feature regularly found on the Great Plains of North America.

In Memoir 19 of the Plains Anthropologist (1982), is a collection of papers about the “tipi ring” feature. Within those pages is an account of an archaeological survey of a tipi ring site; the tipi ring site, at least this one, featured a cache pit which seems to indicate to the writer to that people intended to return. I don’t believe that's entirely accurate. Another possibility is that food or other items were left as offerings to a higher power when someone long ago prayed there.

"...tipis were staked to the ground with pegs, not stones."

One thing for certain is that tipis were staked to the ground with pegs, not stones.

Next follows an edited excerpt from Colonel Alfred Welch’s papers about stone circles (references to locations have been removed). Welch had interviewed several people from the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation to create this wonderful summation of stone circles (not tipi rings):

All through the Missouri river country may be found certain systemically formed “Stone Rings or Circles.” These round patterns, or mosaics, are formed by stones placed side by side, describing a more or less well-formed circle.

They are of various diameters, the largest which we have measured being forty feet across and the smallest twelve feet across. Some of these circles are formed with a single line of stones, others have two well-defined circles, one within the other, and a few have been found with three or more lines of stone laid closely together, forming a “circle” which was wide like a paved walk.

"...they are rocks which have been used to hold the bottom of the lodges from being flapped by the wind." 

The commonly accepted version of the farmers upon whose lands these are to be found is that they are rocks which have been used to hold the bottom of the lodges from being flapped by the wind.

This idea, however, is discarded for the rings, or circles, are to be found where lodges would not have been erected, in all probability. An examination of…many others [stone circles] confirms us in the belief that they are ceremonial places. 

The regularity of the position of the stones indicates that they were not used as weights for tipi edges, for stones used for that purpose would have been rolled out of line when breaking camp, and they are too heavy for that purpose.

Lodges would certainly not have been put up in those particular locations during the winter time and, if they were there during the summer, the complete circumference of the lodge would not have been weighted down, but would have been left free to open to the side from which the cool winds blew. No half circles have been found. There is generally no wood readily available, and only sometimes the stone circles are located conveniently close to water.

They are not of glacial formation, as the great number of them and their regularity as to shape and entrance clearly indicates the work of human hands.  Entrances are a space of some two or three feet across, entirely free from stone, and in most cases is in the direct eastern part of the circle, or nearly so, and shows a positive purpose or design. In the center of circles a larger stone is sometimes found, which also indicates a definite purpose.

The stones of the circles are, in many cases, almost covered with the accumulation of wind-blown dust and sand. A few have been seen, where no stones were seen at all, the only indication of the formation being by the grass-free spot over the rocks. The supposition is that they are of great age and the natives claim that they were here when they came into the country.

"Any peculiar form of rock is supposed to have been made by Iŋktómi, even the flint arrowheads were made by him."

Conversations with the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta regarding them nearly always end with the remark that “Iŋktómi made them.” Among the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta, Iŋktómi, the Spider or Trickster, was the wisest creature and possessed of wonderful powers of changing himself into any other form he desired. Great feats of strength are also ascribed to him. Any peculiar form of rock is supposed to have been made by Iŋktómi, even the flint arrowheads were made by him.

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara do not claim to have built these rings and, in fact, say that they did not construct them but that they were made by some people who were here before any of their people came into this country.  The entrances all being toward the east, the fact that they appear to have been constructed both on high hills and low vales, the appearance of a stone altar in the middle of so many of them – are significant and of interest to all students of “ancient mysteries” and “land marks.” 

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