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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Punishment - Tribal

Tribal Punishment


Sentencing Circle

Visual representation of nature's laws


Reputation and Punishment Within the Community
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.

Chief Standing Bear: "The way of the tribe in dealing with an offender was simple and dignified. There was no violence such as whipping, no taking away of personal effects nor personal liberties, no hounding to persecuting, and no pompous show of authority. When it became necessary for the band to protect itself it did so by merely ignoring and ostracizing the violator. Conversations, games, councils, and ceremonies were carried on as if the disfavored one were not about. This sort of punishment was usually sufficient to make the offender change his habits. If the offense was a minor one, such as bragging or strutting, then ridicule and laughter sufficed to put a stop to it, but the boaster was usually quickly detected and his glory short lived, for he was as quickly resented as he was detected. On the other hand, if a man’s offense were serious, say if he were a murderer, his exclusion from the band would be permanent. He would suffer neither for food nor clothing, but he would not be welcome at the tipis of others and no one would visit his tipi, In time of sickness he would be cared for by near relatives, but he was never again accepted as a credible member of his band … but cases of this kind among the Lakota were very rare, and in all my life I have known only two or three. There is no word in the Lakota language which can be translated literally into the word ‘justice’; nevertheless, there was the certain practice of it as evidence in the phrase wowa un silaI, ‘a heart full of pity for all’" (qtd Bunge 109).

The Prevention of Stupidity or Foolish Actions by Band Members
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.


"A Comanche male who had suffered a legal wrong was under social obligation to take action against the offender. For a man not to do so was not looked upon as a social grace; indeed, such behavior was a social disgrace. A man so acting was stamped not as magnanimous, but as lily-livered. Adultery and taking other’s wife were direct attacks upon the prestige of the wife’s husband. Both acts were unmistakable challenges which could not be ignored by the man who would maintain enough face to make life livable. Naturally, the aggrieved party was not always inclined to act, nor was the reason always cowardice. If the wrong was not made public, it is obvious that public opinion could not drive a man to institute prosecution. Ridicule was the weapon used by society to cause a man to proceed after the cause for action had become public" (Hoebel 188-189).


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