An elite society known as Red Feather (or Akicita) has evolved to recognize and pay homage to Indian war veterans who were wounded in war while acting on behalf of their country or people.
Based in South Dakota (S.D.), the society honors the veterans each year during an annual powwow at Spearfish, S.D. Renewed in 1983, the society has close to 20 inducted members most of whom saw action in World War II or the Vietnam War.
Sam DeCory, the Head Akicita, says that "the Lakota Oyate Wacipi is an honoring and recognition powwow." To be inducted into the prestigious Red Feather Society is one of the highest military honors one can achieve in Sioux Indian country. The award is akin to Canada's Distinguished Service Cross although the society's award is more personal and, therefore, meaningful to Indians.
To be a Red Feather is to really be somebody because it is an acclamation of recognition from your own Indian people.
The philosophy behind this honoring tradition is explained by the society as an important Indian ceremony that was revived "so that our veterans would receive the recognition of accomplishments/deeds in serving their country/people. These veterans put their lives on the line for their people in order that their people may live in peace and freedom."
The society is actually a modern extension of the Akicita/Warriors Society which felt that most Indian veterans had not received the distinction that they deserve.
DeCory, himself a veteran and Akicita, explains the ceremony as a solemn occasion at which no photographing is allowed. The ritual is generally conducted in the early evening following the grand entry for the powwow and involves prayers, songs and instructions to the inductees.
The distinguished warriors are taken into the Tokala (Kit Fox) Society which, literally translated, means "they that put their lives on the line for their people."
Once inducted, Red Feather members are expected to be active in leadership roles in their communities. As such, they are expected to act accordingly with diplomacy.
They have a responsibility to properly care for their own families, must follow the Red (good) Road, show respect towards others, practice humility and to be of help wherever and however they can.
Although the society issues a formal certificate of membership into the society, it is the symbolic eagle feather which is the major item.
The red coloring on the eagle feather is applied by