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From the Heart and Hand

Blackfeet Thunder Bundle Keeping Teaching:

George Kicking Woman/Darrell Norman and the Thunder Pipe Society, Browning

I'm the only one who knows the entire Thunder Pipe ceremony and at my age, I know the importance of having this ceremony...for the generations to come.

- George Kicking Woman

photo of Four Directions Powwow in Browning

One form of religious expression among the Southern Pikuni, or Montana Blackfeet, is the bundle and the ceremony that goes with opening it, including prayers, dances and songs. A bundle is a collection of objects, including bird and animal skins, that is held by a person who is the designated owner/keeper of the bundle. He or she has received this bundle from a previous keeper, in a line stretching back to the original holder of the bundle, who often received instructions for creating the bundle through a dream or vision from the spirit world. The bundle is opened for healing purposes, and the ceremony must take place at certain times of the year. When the bundle is opened, its keeper or holder must carry out the proper sequence of songs, dances and prayers with the pipe that belongs to the bundle, as well as preparing a feast in the traditional manner. Other people help in keeping and opening the bundle; they are referred to as a society. The occasion for opening of a bundle can be for a specific healing purpose or to mark or celebrate a new season of the year bringing good fortune for the People. It is a way of passing on spiritual traditions from one generation of people to the next. Several different bundles can exist in a community and bundles are often transferred from one person to another through a ceremony and payment of some kind.

George Kicking Woman is the spiritual leader of the Thunder Pipe Society in the Blackfeet Nation and holder of the "Long Time Pipe," or Thunder Bundle. He was taught the ceremony by his elders and in 1993 was the only person who knew the entire ceremony. According to Darrell Norman, the ceremony for opening of the Long Time Pipe is called Ninamska puska, Blackfeet for Thunder Pipe Dance. George Kicking Woman passed on his knowledge of Ninamska puska to members of the society, including Darrell Norman. George transferred to Darrell the rights to one of several songs and dances that had been given to George by one of his teachers from long ago.

photo by Alex Swaney

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