Editor’s note: The following excerpt on “Teepee Etiquette — The Unwritten Law of the Lodge,” was taken from The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore (1912) by Ernest Thompson Seton. Seton said he gathered these maxims on American Indian hospitality “chiefly from observations of actual practice, but in many cases from formal precept.” They’re still largely apropo for modern hosts entertaining visiting guests in their “teepee” (though your mother-in-law may disagree).
Teepee Etiquette — The Unwritten Law of the Lodge
Always assume that your guest is tired, cold, and hungry.
Always give your guest the place of honor in the lodge, and at the feast, and serve him in reasonable ways.
Never sit while your guest stands.
Go hungry rather than stint your guest.
If your guest refuses certain food, say nothing; he may be under vow.
Protect your guest as one of the family; feed his horse.
Do not trouble your guest with many questions about himself; he will tell you what he wishes you to know.
In another man’s lodge follow his customs, not your own.
Never worry your host with your troubles.
Always repay calls of courtesy; do not delay.
Give your host a little present on leaving; little presents are little courtesies and never give offense.
Say “Thank you” for every gift, however small.
Compliment your host, even if you strain the facts to do so.
Never walk between persons talking.
Never interrupt persons talking.
Let not the young speak among those much older, unless asked.
Always give place to your seniors in entering or leaving the lodge; or anywhere.
Never sit while your seniors stand.
Never force your conversation on any one.
Speak softly, especially before your elders, or in presence of strangers.
Never come between any one and the fire.
Do not stare at strangers; drop your eyes if they stare hard at you; and this, above all, for women.
The women of the lodge are the keepers of the fire, but the men should help with the heavier sticks.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Do not talk to your mother-in-law at any time, or let her talk to you.
Show respect to all men, but grovel to none.
Let silence be your motto till duty bids you speak.
Thank the Great Spirit for each meal.
Last updated: August 29, 2016