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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture : Beliefs

Colors and Directions

Just as for the Cheyenne the color yellow was the sacred color, and for the Lakota red, for the Ioway the holiest color was blue, the color of the sky, sky blue. The pipes were wrapped in sky-blue, and the stems painted sky-blue when peace was to be made. Sky blue was the color of a clear day, peace (mayanpi), no clouds, no troubles, a clear mind like a clear sky, and untroubled heart. Red was the color of war, black of death, white of purity.

Whe I was doing my bundle research certain colors seemed to predominate from the 1700s. Deep yellow, dark red, pine green. Not too much black or white, except in small marks. Sky blue originally was made by mixing some of the blue earth from "mahato" (Blue Earth, Minnesota) with white clay. (Sioux say makato, Ioway say mahato (MAH-hah-toe)).

I have heard different things on directions. Some say it is the cardinal directions, while some others speak of the ne-se-sw-nw divisions. The color directions I have heard are white (north), green (south), blue (west), red (east). I think these sometimes varied for different ceremonies. Bear ruled the south, pigeon the east, wolf (and thunder) the west, and buffalo the north according to the story of the Holy Twins. The northeast was a bad direction as that was the direction the tornado and other bad winds lived.

Lance Foster

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