Sacred bundles of the Ioway Indians
It is with ambivalence that I present this study on the sacred bundles of the Ioway. Although I am an enrolled tribal member of the Kansas-Nebraska branch, and the bundle belief system among the Ioway is no longer active, several people expressed their belief that such a study, and especially the handling and the description of the sacred bundles was a spiritually unwise and even dangerous thing to do. I cannot disagree with this. And so one might ask why, then, did I do it? As the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has become a major issue to American Indians, the U.S. Government, and anthropologists, the repatriation of the dead to their homes as well as the return of sacred artifacts is something that has to be faced by every tribe. There are mixed feelings, as one who is brought up in their culture knows that it is not simply a matter of returning "things." These "things" once had a proper cultural context, with songs and rites to be given, social forms to be observed, Keepers to be chosen, cautions to be undertaken. These returned "things" are not simply "things." They are material manifestations of a vibrant, interconnected cultural system as well as a difficult, painful, and sometimes clouded past. Considered to have a kind of life, these "things" are, in the native view, like "Old People" returning to a home unrecognizable to them and sometimes to descendants who do not know them and their ways. I have thought about these manifestations of the past for over ten years now. Every step I have taken has led me to this place, even when I tried to go in a different direction. I always prayed that only if it was good should I continue in this manner. And so I find myself in this place. I still have much to learn. I have been given no authority to do what I have done. Sometimes, if no one else will do what needs to be done, it will go on to someone who will. I simply offer here what I have found out about these "Old People," the sacred bundles of the Ioway. It is an ongoing process of knowledge and experience. In getting an academic degree, one must write down what has been learned and put it in a form called a thesis, a requirement to receive a diploma and go on in one's quest to learn more. I offer here my experience and knowledge of what I have found so far. I offer it here to those descendants of the Ioway who seek to understand the past. The objective of this study is to begin to describe the sacred bundle system of the Ioway (also called Iowa) Indians, through historic context and examination of bundles in some museums. The work is primarily descriptive, ethnographic, and interpretive, as a basis for providing an "emic" perspective, which has been essentially lacking in earlier analyses. Ultimately, legitimate theoretical workers depend on descriptive work as the material for their arguments and as a data base for their explorations and proofs.