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Sidney Keith


A dim paleness pervades the scene and pastel colors portray the reflective mood of departure - one for the spirit world, some for their unfinished journeys. 


The black horse leading pulls no sled but carries a lady with her child old enough to hang on, to ride double. Behind the last two gentle horses, bundles of belongings strapped on sleds of slender poles ride and slide. A lone lady in the middle rides the bay horse pulling the heaviest load. Perhaps to safeguard this cargo, two ladies walk directly behind. With her cradled baby strapped tightly to her back, a mother mounts the Hinzi (yellow) horse stepping lightly, bringing up the rear.

In the panorama, no man appears, only the women doing the work of tearing down and packing the tipis and moving the whole camp. To scout the safety of the terrain to be traveled, the men earlier that day rode or walked out, a few warriors always standing rear guard.

A mourner pauses beside the scaffold to meditate on the death of her closest relation. The scaffold supports the body of a warrior, the platform easily six feet high, perhaps making the Lakota of all people, at the time of death, nearest to "heaven". Personal gear hangs from three of four supporting posts, identifying the robe-covered body above.

Circular and inscribed with the ubiquitous image of the buffalo, the shield with tied-on eagle feathers numbering the mystifical four, hangs from one corner. Above the shield on the same corner at it's highest point, securely knotted to the pole, the shaved sinte (tail) of his favorite pony swings with the wind. Lenghside on the right corner from the shield hangs the bow and a quiver full of arrows.

Diagonally across, the tobacco pouch sways loosely, maybe empty, its contents smoked for the last time. The pipe may be placed beside the pte (buffalo) skull on top of the robe of the body. Or, beneath the robe, the pipe may be placed next to the left arm parallel with the body, the sacred pipe placed nearest to the warrior's heart.

In multicolored hues, the distant skyline juxtaposes the solid and the transient - the evanescent cumulus clouds and the everlasting hills. A Lakota affirmation says it better - "Only the earth endures." - Maka kin leccla tehan yukelo.

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