Two Elks' Work and Medicine

     This fully-beaded work and medicine bag belonged to Two Elk from Pine Ridge on the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.  She was a descendant of Chief Lip, a Brule' who established a village near Wanblee (Eagle).  In her bag are items she inherited, dating to the early 1800s.

     The bag's face represents power of Thunder Beings with diagonal lines as lightning strikes and the dominant blue and red lanes as Thunder and Lightning. The back of the bag has green and white diamonds and dotted designs in beaded rows as "hail."

     The bag contains twisted sinew threads for sewing, loosely tied so a strand can be pulled from the bundle.  A porcupine quill-wrapped tipi tinkler is tied to rawhide cut-outs to be finished.  The top piece is her pattern.   Within a burnt-toe child's moccasin are rawhide leaf patterns, eagle and star cut-outs.  Large rawhide, floral patterns are stored loose within the bag.  The floral work is characteristic of the Yanktonai living near the Missouri River in central South Dakota, where Two Elk's ancestors originated.


   There are three small bundles to represent Thunder with blue cloth.  The small, light-blue bag contains birch fungus.  This waxy material ignites easily and is used to bring an ember into a flame.  The dark-blue bundle contains puffball fungus used to stop bleeding.  The largest bag contains many remnant strings of beads in various colors and sizes.

   The cut leg bone with a sharp front, possibly from a buffalo calf, was used to press into a hide to leave an indentation or guide-line for beading and marking outlines for rawhide cut-outs.  

   A coiled, painted rawhide blowing tube is tied to beaver root to burn and its smoke inhaled for treating headaches.  The smoke of the root would be blown through the tube toward a patient to inhale.  The tube is held open, when not in use, with a section of worked buffalo rib.

   Wrapped in a remnant of tanned buckskin is a medicine root, broken spear point for cutting sinew threads, bone awl to poke holes for sinew-sewing, sandstone to sharpen the awl's tip,  and chalk to rub on soiled spots to whiten them.

   This work bag shows the every-day life of a Lakota woman in the 1840s with her tools, along with protective medicines.

Larry Belitz, Plains Indian Material Culture Consultant