Hunkapi Ceremony

2012 Photo Credit:  Borrowed Light Photography, Travis Svihovec, for Friends of Scherr Howe

2012 Photo Credit: Borrowed Light Photography, Travis Svihovec, for Friends of Scherr Howe

Hunkapi Ceremony

Click on the audio clip below to hear an interview with Kevin Locke about this mural:


Oscar Howe drew upon a vast body of traditional Dakota knowledge in his choices to paint the ceremonies of the Sioux people. Growing up on the Crow Creek reservation in the community of s maternal grandmother Shell Face (Ite Kampeska) had a profound impact on his childhood and immersed him in the traditional language and stories of the Dakota Sioux. A s grandmother emphasized the importance of knowing the Dakota culture, language and legends. The mural Hunkapi Ceremony is a one example of the countless stories Oscar Howe was told as represents the formal adoption of people as relatives. Strong kinship relationships were the heart of Dakota and Lakota families and communities. As a result, Lakota and Dakota people made use of the hunkapi ceremony for multiple purposes. One such purpose included building and reinforcing trade and exchange alliances with other Native nations and their people. The making of relatives ceremony further strengthened bonds between persons and families who were not related in the non-Native context of families and relatives. The hunkapi ceremony was the process by which individual persons and their families were joined together as family with other individual persons and their families. The ceremony formally created new extended families. The hunka (child-beloved) was the person being adopted. In traditional Lakota and Dakota culture, the hunkapi ceremony was usually performed to unite a younger person with a family. The ceremony was often a way of solidifying relationships with other individual persons as well as with Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit or Creator).

Suggested Readings
Brown, Joseph. s Account of the Seven Sacred Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972.
Ella Cara Deloria, Waterlily. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
Walker, James R. Lakota Belief and Ritual. Edited by Raymond J. DeMallie and Elaine A. Jahner. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
Walker, James R. Lakota Society. Edited by Raymond J. DeMallie. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Mural descriptions by Dr. Edward Welch, Humanities Professor – Augustana College, December 2012

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