Sioux Indians and Mental/Physical Toughness

The Sioux Indians, a tribe of people who lived mostly in the plains of North America and were known for their fierce resistance to invaders.
Since they did not rely on modern technology such as guns or horses, they had no choice but to develop skills that would benefit them during battles with other tribes.
They became very skilled at hunting and tracking animals; however, it was likely these combined traits made the Sioux one of the most perceptive tribal groups ever seen.

Sioux Indians were known for their spirituality and mental/physical toughness. They believed that the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, would protect them from harm.

Sioux wisdom quotes about mental physical toughness.

Charles Alexander Eastman was born in 1858 and reared as “Ohiyesa” in the Santee Sioux culture as a hunter and warrior. He left tribal life when he was about 16 years old to study European-American civilisation and get his undergraduate and medical degrees. Eastman went on to become a doctor, a passionate defender for his people’s rights, and a prolific author of books that tried to impart the genuine traditions of the American Indian. Eastman’s thoughts on the Sioux concept of masculinity were previously revealed. We’re currently making our way through a series of edited collections of Eastman’s writing on three particular subjects: situational awareness, physical and mental toughness, and spirituality, after laying that solid overview.

Living in the forest provided the American Indian with a level of independence and autonomy that others who lived in towns could only dream of. However, such a life came with its own set of risks and obstacles, which needed the Indian to acquire a high degree of mental and physical endurance. A Sioux’s everyday existence necessitated a strong body; all males were hunters, and slinging a deer on his shoulders and carrying it several kilometers back to camp was nothing out of the ordinary.

Native life’s general cycle was similarly seasonal and unpredictable. During the summer, there was plenty of game, and the Sioux were able to partake in a variety of outdoor activities and ceremonies. Winters, on the other hand, brought severely cold temperatures, necessitating a reliance on stockpiled food and the ability to weather days-long snowstorms with just a teepee for shelter. The Sioux intentionally trained for toughness in order to develop the resilience needed to withstand these ups and downs and “prepare the body for the extraordinary exertions that it might, at any moment, be required to undergo.” This included fasting from food and water even when there was plenty to eat and drink, taking ice baths on a regular basis, and “continuous hard exercise.” Eastman used to exercise for at least three hours a day as a young man (and continued to do so throughout his undergraduate years), usually by participating in a range of rigorous sports and races with his classmates. Because they believed that improving a young man’s fitness not only improved his physique, but also fostered his capacity to live a life of moral virtue and self-mastery, the Sioux put such a high value on physical exercise.

Indeed, mental and physical discipline were considered as complementary; a “trained mind” was required “to achieve the pinnacle of one’s physical capabilities,” while physical skill and toughness aided the mind’s resilience and bravery. These two characteristics were required for a Sioux to become “real masculinity.”

A Sioux’s overall toughness was not nurtured for aesthetic reasons (though they did enjoy the attractiveness of a well-developed physique), and utilizing one’s physical strength to engage in harmful activities for personal fun was absolutely forbidden. Instead, a man’s strength and endurance were to be improved in order for him to become a stronger hunter and warrior and serve his people better. A Sioux guy developed enough strength to be helpful.


We now turn to the words of Charles Eastman to comprehend the ideas of the training “program” that was utilized to achieve that purpose.

The Sioux Guide to Mental and Physical Toughness is a book that teaches you how to be mentally and physically tough.

Charles eastman sioux quote perfect body moral life.

The Industry Standard

The powerful inner reason that drives a youngster out on the wilderness road to experience the world for the first time is the longing to be a man — the innate spirit of the explorer and hero. First and foremost, he learns about himself and what he needs to be in order to overcome obstacles, endure pain and adversity, and obtain the prize of his journey. The Indian kid starts his career by constructing a sound and efficient physique, with these impulses at their purest and strongest.

arrowAll of the lads were required to persevere in the face of adversity without complaining. A young guy in violent combat must, of course, be an athletic and accustomed to enduring a variety of hardships. He must be able to spend two or three days without food or drink without showing signs of weakness, or run for a day and a night without stopping. He must be able to navigate a pathless and untamed landscape at any time of day or night without getting lost. If he wants to be a warrior, he can’t refuse to undertake any of these things.

Arrow.That guy had built the cornerstone of a moral existence the minute he thought of a flawless physique, flexible, symmetrical, elegant, and lasting! No man can expect to sustain such a temple of the soul beyond adolescence unless he is able to control his indulgence in sensual pleasures. The Indian established a severe system of physical training, as well as a social and moral code, around this principle. As a youngster, he had a lofty ideal of male strength and beauty, which he believed could only be attained via strict dietary and sexual restraint, as well as rigorous and consistent exercise. He aspired to be a worthwhile link in the chain of generations, and he didn’t want his frailty to suffocate the vitality and purity of blood that had been gained via a long line of self-denial by his forefathers.

Self-Control: Mental and Emotional

It was taught in me as a little kid to be quiet and reserved. This was one of the most crucial characteristics to develop in the Indian’s personality. It was regarded extremely important to him as a hunter and warrior, and it was supposed to create the foundations of patience and self-control. There are instances when our people engage in riotous merriment, but the norm is gravity and propriety.

Arrow crossing.The first American was a firm believer in stillness as a symbol of perfect balance. The perfect equilibrium or balance of body, mind, and soul is silence. In the opinion of the unlettered sage, the man who keeps his selfhood perpetually tranquil and unshaken by the storms of existence — not a leaf astir on the tree, not a ripple on the surface of a brilliant pool — his is the perfect attitude and conduct of life. “It is the Great Mystery!” he will say if you ask him what quiet is. “His voice is the sacred stillness!” “The rewards of quiet include self-control, genuine bravery or perseverance, patience, dignity, and respect,” he says when asked. “Character is built on the foundation of silence.” “Guard your mouth in youth,” the ancient chief Wabashaw said, “and you may mature an idea that will be of benefit to your people as you get older!”


Two Arrows.I remember some of my grandmother’s gentle cautions and reprimands to this day. She used to remark, “Have a strong heart — be patient!” She told me about a young chief who was known for his outbursts. He tried to murder a lady during one of his rages, for which he was killed by his own band and left unburied as a symbol of shame – his corpse was just covered with green grass. She would say to me if I ever lost my cool:

“Hakadah, keep your cool, or you’ll end up like the young guy I told you about, laying beneath a green blanket!”

Arrows.Smoky Day was well-known among us as a historian and tale keeper. He was a walking history book of his people’s customs and history. I went to him one day with a bit of tobacco and an eagle feather, expecting to hear him talk about some of our people’s courageous actions in the distant past.

“Ah, Ohiyesa!” he said, “my little warrior — for you will one day be!” I know this because you want to hear about your forefathers’ amazing exploits. That’s a wonderful indication, and I like telling these tales to a young kid who will grow up to be a bold man. I don’t want to lull you to sleep with nice phrases, but I am familiar with your paternal ancestors’ behavior. They have always been and continue to be among our tribe’s bravest members. To demonstrate this, I’ll tell you about an incident that occurred in your paternal grandfather’s family twenty years ago.

“A jealous young guy in their own band assassinated two of his brothers. Because the crime was done without justification, all of the braves decided to execute the perpetrator. When your grandpa was approached with this idea, he said that he and the other brothers couldn’t condescend to pour the blood of such a wretch, but that the others might do whatever they wanted with the young man. These guys were among the Sioux’s most feared warriors, and no one doubted their bravery; but, when a scoundrel brought this disaster upon them, they refused to attack him! This is a genuine test of courage, my kid. At such a time, self-possession and self-control are evidence of a strong heart.”

The Art of Tactical Swimming and Mentorship

He learns to swim as a young kid, just as readily as he learns to walk. Standing silently, full of real love for the spirit of the deep, as he stood before the towering rock, or the magnificent, lonely tree, the writer hardly recalls standing on the white, pebbly beach with his grandpa by his side. In preparation for any endeavor, the Indian enjoys meeting the all-pervading Spirit in a state of wordless prayer.

With a childish cry, the grandfather now takes the plunge. “See, see!” he exclaims to the youngster as he emerges from his dive, panting and ecstatic. “As I lay here, caressed by the flowing river, I feel content.” You may be as happy as you want if you just make the decision to try!”


Do you see what I’m getting at? The key thing is to make the attempt, to take the leap. The youngster is not scared nor coerced into following; he does it on his own initiative, and the class gets off to a good start under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher.

As the youngster gets older, he becomes more skilled and courageous, and he begins to seek perfection in his new craft. His definition of perfection is perseverance, followed by swiftness; elegance and form occur naturally while pursuing these two goals. As a result, he swims constantly, even in difficult waters and against strong currents. When he is abruptly thrown into the water at a disadvantage, whether injured or forced to swim long distances under water to escape the enemy, he understands how to maximize his power and, with the incredible subtlety and ability of the Indian athlete, frequently overcomes enormous odds.

It is not my goal to teach you how to swim; rather, it is to show you how to use the skill of swimming to developing an outside body and a rational mind.

Cold Experimentation

In the winter, the typical technique of bathing is to enter a sweat lodge for five or more minutes, then leap into a hole in the ice that he has cut big enough to safely enter, and emerge in a few minutes. He wraps himself in a buffalo robe with the hair inside and rests for a time after a short run. This transforms him into a whole different person. When there is new snow on the ground, the Indian youngster often rolls about nude in the snow.

A well-trained outdoor guy has enough of natural heat and may create much more via activity. Little clothing is required, and I’ve observed Indians sleep all night without being covered, even in chilly temperatures. Much is dependent on habit and early upbringing; nevertheless, it is possible to adopt new habits after one has reached adulthood.

One of the first things you should do is get used to lying on the ground until your muscles have adjusted to its hardness and unevenness and you are able to relax comfortably. Do not be concerned about snakes or insects; they will seldom hurt you, and there is no risk from moisture after you have completed your training. A few evergreen boughs draped over frozen or damp ground provide sufficient shelter. In camp, sleeping with your feet facing the fire is the best option. This is due to a number of factors. If the fire escapes by accident, your feet are incredibly sensitive and will wake you up quickly. It is also simple to rise without bothering others.

Arrow.He starts to take ice-cold foot baths before winter arrives, and as soon as the first snowfall arrives, he walks barefoot in it till he develops a lovely glow, then changes into warm, fur-lined moccasins. He is fully capable of enjoying life outside at any time of year and has no need for civilization’s artificial house-heat. If his feet become wet, he stuffs dry hair or even grass into his moccasins and sprints until they’re dry and toasty.


Fasting and Diet

We used to eat just two meals a day, one at the beginning and one at the end of the day. This rule was not invariable, however, since it was Indian custom to provide tobacco or food, or both, if there were any callers. The males — particularly the younger men — followed the two-meal-a-day norm more religiously than the women and children.

Arrow sign.His finest meal is in the evening, when he eats large portions and sometimes eats again later in the night. He eats a light breakfast and nothing at all if he plans to run a long distance. If it’s convenient, he prepares some game for himself around midday. A brief fast is imposed on the Indian youngster once in a while to help him build his endurance and self-control.

Arrow design.My uncle would sometimes wake me up extremely early in the morning and dare me to fast with him for the whole day. I had no choice but to accept the task. We used charcoal to blacken our faces so that every boy in the village would know I was fasting for the day. Until the compassionate sun retreated behind the western hills, the small tempters would make my life a misery.

Routine in the Morning

An Indian must always get up early in the morning. First and foremost, as a hunter, he like to hunt early in the morning. Second, when other tribes go to battle, they normally strike first thing in the morning. Even when our people are traveling about casually, we prefer to get up early in the morning to travel while the air is cold and unnoticed by our opponents.

Arrow.Before starting the day, the Indian must always awaken every fiber of his body. When he wakes up, the first thing he does is extend every limb to its maximum length, followed by the complete body. He gets a kick out of the biggest yawns. He gets out of bed and makes the fire; then he sprints to the closest stream or lake shore, either plunging in or splashing the icy water over his face, chest, and arms. He often submerges his face and eyes for many seconds. After that, he rinses his mouth and neck, massages his palms energetically, and combs his hair in front of the calm pool or spring, which serves as his lone mirror.

Arrow symbol.The Indian designs after his animal buddies after he wakes up from his slumber. You’ll notice that no dog gets up and goes away without stretching completely from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. This is a fantastic remedy for early morning drowsiness.

Sleep that is satisfying

His sleep is sound and lovely, as it is after a day of healthy physical activity in the open air, when a decent evening meal and the warmth of a happy campfire induce that wonderful weariness to which it is a pleasure to submit.

Read the Series in Its Entirety:

Read the Series in Its Entirety:


How to Turn a Boy into a Man: Lessons from the Sioux Situational Awareness: A Sioux Guide The Sioux Spirituality Handbook

How to Turn a Boy into a Man: Lessons from the Sioux Situational Awareness: A Sioux Guide The Sioux Spirituality Handbook

Further Reading & Resources:

Boyhood in India

The Indian’s Spirit

Today’s Indian

From the Wilderness to the City

Scout Talks with Indians



The “native american boy” is a picture of a Sioux Indian boy. The caption says “Native Americans were tough and resilient people who survived many adversities throughout history.”

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