Brave Heart Lance

   This lance and rattle are paraphernalia used by the Brave Heart Society, also called Strong Hearts or Cante Tinza (in Lakota).  The Brave Heart members led the charge into battle, carrying this spear.  Their war cry was "Hoka hey!"--It is a good day to die!  Sitting Bull is perhaps the best known member of the Brave Hearts, which only the bravest Lakota were allowed to join.  This staff was in the care of the Iron Cloud family, who long ago had a grandfather who was a Brave Heart.   The society staff was carried in recent years at celebrations as a symbol of the Buffalo Nation.

   During dances held by the Strong Hearts a doughnut-shaped rattle was used, rather than the round-shaped used by other societies.  This rattle is wrapped with red cloth and contains sweet grass and woman's sage.

   The shaft of the spear has a thin sheet metal head which is somewhat flexible.  This spear was primarily a symbol of the Strong Heart society, rather than a weapon, but there is the blue-black hair lock of a Mandan attached below the spear point indicating it was used to strike an enemy.  This hair is tied with buckskin and wrapped with porcupine quill wrapping.  Such hair was believed to render special power to the spear.  The seven-foot staff is wrapped with tanned hair-on buffalo on either side of the buffalo rawhide in the middle.  Four feathers adorn the shaft, a sacred number to the Lakota.

   This Brave Heart lance had a red trade cloth with dozens of black and white feathers tied along its length for special occasions.  Other times, this bridal string of feathers were wrapped to maintain their power.  When the family sold the lance to a medicine man, they retained the sash of feathers.


Larry Belitz, Plains Indian Material Culture Consultant