Old Eagle - Oto
Curiosity led me to research the Oto People, who I only knew as one of the most frequent words in my crossword puzzles. I had to know more.
Their name is rarely mentioned, where mainstream tribes are concerned. All the more reason to tell their story, if we are to remember all the People.
Originally from Wisconsin where they were closely related to the Missouris, Iowas, and Winnebago, many migrations eventually changed the Oto from a woodland tribe to that of the Plains. Their language is Siouian. The name "Oto" comes from the word wat'ota meaning "lechers", an unusual choice of words that refers to an Oto Chief's son who seduced a Missouri Chief's daughter. Their tribal name is Che-wae-rae (People).
The Oto separated from the Missouris and finally settled in SE Nebraska in the area of the Platte River. There they learned to build earth lodges from their Pawnee and Omaha neighbours, their bark lodges of forest life a thing of the past.
Earlier beliefs remained with them, such as everything belonged to the woman, except for the man's personal belongings. They also continued to consider hunting skills superior to those of warfare. The ability to "defend" was naturally important, but "aggressive behaviour" by a warrior was deemed an endangerment to the tribe as a whole.
The position of chief was hereditary with his main concern being for his people and of keeping the peace.
With a strong belief in the supernatural, the Oto made offerings to Wakonta, whom they believed to live in all things, be they animate or inanimate, and who controlled a person's thoughts, as well as his behaviour.
Oto medicine men were thought to gain their power through having a vision quest, but it could also be inherited. A Buffalo Lodge and Medicine Lodge were both available for healing and or exorcisms, and there were individual shamans whose expertise lay in the use of medicinal herbs.
Gardens supplied the Oto with corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. A corn festival was held before the corn was harvested, always at the Red Bean Medicine Lodge.
Taking only as many buffalo as would be needed, hunts were twice a year, in spring and fall. The first hunt was led by the Buffalo Clan, the second, by the Bear Clan. The last buffalo hunt was held in 1874, when by that time, White buffalo hunters had reduced the magnificent animal to near extinction.
Not long after that, in 1882, the Oto experienced one last change. The U.S. Government forced them to move to Oklahoma, where, along with their old friends, the Missouris (of the infamous seduction story) they together hold trust lands in Noble County.
Now you know that even in the lesser-known tribes, there is a story to be told, and when that word "Oto" shows up in your crossword puzzle, you won't be "puzzled" any more.
Grandmother Two Bears.
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