Vision Quest


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

Vision Quest (Hanbleceyapi)
s mural the Lakota and Dakota rite known as the vision indicates his explicit intention to include a strictly indigenous ceremony as a critical part of the history of the Missouri River. From this s purpose to include the vision quest ceremony in this particular series indicates the continuum of histories practiced before and after the arrival of nonnative peoples to the Northern Plains. is undertaken by individual Lakota or Dakota young persons with the spiritual guidance of a holy man (wicasa wakan). The individual voluntarily elects to go on a vision quest to pray, to communicate with s vision during the s personal life and their commitment to themselves and their people. In the mural Oscar Howe illustrates a man standing on a hilltop with his back facing the Missouri River in the background. During the course of the vision quest as depicted by the artist, the person promises to remain isolated on a hill, fasting without food or water, for one to four days with a blanket and a tobacco pipe. For centuries young Lakota and Dakota men have pilgrimaged to their ancestral homelands in the Black Hills (Paha Sapa) in western South Dakota for the vision quest rites and other sacred ceremonies. Upon completion and return, the person who has undertaken a vision quest will often consult with the wicasa wakan about their experiences and communication with the spiritual world. The various meanings of the vision may or may not be readily apparent immediately afterwards. In some cases the individual might elect to present their vision to the people by means of a public ritual performance. In other cases, the meanings associated with the personal vision quest might be told to wait for knowledge and wisdom for months and even years.

Suggested Readings

Brown, Joseph. The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Sacred Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972.
DeMallie Raymond J. and Douglas R. Parks, eds. Sioux Indian Religion: Tradition and Innovation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
William K. Powers, Yuwipi: Vision and Experience in Oglala Experience. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.
William Stolzman, SJ, The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue. Pine Ridge: Red Cloud Indian School, 1986.

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


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