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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Lakota Woman's Lost Love

An engraving of Lake Pepin in Minnesota. Maiden Rock appears in the background in the right half of this image. 
Legend Of The Maiden’s Leap
A Lakȟóta Woman’s Lost Love

Collected by Frances Densmore
Fort Yates, ND – In 1911 Frances Densmore, an anthropologist and ethnographer, on behalf of the Bureau of American Ethnology, came to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and recorded hundreds of songs on wax cylinders for preservation.

While Densmore was stationed on Standing Rock she heard a story about a Lakȟóta woman’s leap which bore some similarity to a Sisíthuŋwaŋ (Sisseton) woman’s jump off of a promontory on the eastern shore of what is today Lake Pepin. The Dakȟóta woman jumped off this point and killed herself on the rocks below.

The Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton; Lakota) say that their young woman jumped from a high point somewhere in the west. Here is their story:

A young woman had promised to marry a man, but he wished to make a name for himself before the marriage took place. He had been on the warpath, but he wished to go again that he might distinguish himself by valor. When the war party returned they said he had been killed by the Crow.

Sometime afterward in the course of tribal wanderings a camp was made at the place where, according to the report of the war party, the young man had been killed. Dressing herself in her best attire, the maiden went to the edge of the cliff, she offered a song and gave a trill before jumping into the river below her.

This is her song:
Zuyá iyá’yelo (He has gone to war)
Ehápi k’uŋ (You have said)
Hé wašté waláke (I love him)
Iyótiye wakíye (I am sad)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Woodcraft And Wisdom, Be Aware As You Go

The Northern Great Plains, photo by World Wildlife.
XXIII: Woodcraft And Weather Wisdom
Akhíta Máni (Be Aware As You Go)

By Charles Eastman
Note: The following is an excerpt of Charles Eastman's "Indian Scout Tales." Since the life of the Indian is one of travel and exploration, not for the benefit of science, but for his own convenience and pleasure, he is accustomed to find himself in pathless regions —— now in the deep woods, now upon the vast, shimmering prairie, or again among the tangled water-ways of a mighty lake studded with hundreds, even thousands, of wooded islands.

How does he find his way so successfully in the pathless jungle without the aid of a compass you ask? Well, it is no secret. In the first place, his vision is correct; and he is not merely conscious of what he sees, but also sub-consciously he observes the presence of any and all things within the range of his senses.

If you would learn his system, you must note the relative position of all objects, and especially the location of your camp in relation to river, lake, or mountain. The Indian is a close student of the topography of the country, and every landmark—— hill, grove, or unusual tree—is noted and remembered. It is customary with the hunters and warriors to tell their stories of adventure most minutely, omitting no geo graphical and topographical details, so that the boy who has listened to such stories from babyhood can readily identify places he has never before seen.

This kind of knowledge is simple, and, like the every-day meal, it is properly digested and assimilated, and becomes a part of one’s self. It is this instant, intelligent recognition of every object within his vision in his daily roving, which fixes the primitive woodsman’s reckoning of time, distance, and direction.

Sunrise on the Great Plains, featured on Wallpaper Up

Time is measured simply by the height of the sun. Shadow is the wild man’s dial; his own shadow is best. Hunger is a good guide when the sun is behind the clouds. Again, the distance traveled is an indicator, when one travels over known distances. In other words, he keeps his soul at one with the world about him, while the over-civilized man is trained to depend upon artificial means. He winds his watch, pins his thought to a chronometer, and disconnects himself from the world-current; then starts off on the well-beaten road. If he is compelled to cut across, he calls for a guide; in other words, he borrows or buys the mind of another. Neither can he trust his memory, but must needs have a note book.

The wild man has no chronometer, no yardstick, no unit of weight, no field-glass. He is himself a natural being in touch with nature. Some things he does, he scarcely knows why; certainly he could not explain them. His calculations are swift as a flash of lightning; best of all, they come out right! This may seem incredible to one who is born an old man; but there are still some boys who hark back to their great-great grandfathers; they were not born and nursed within six walls!

The colors of tree, grass, and rock tell the points of the compass to the initiated. On the north side, the bark is of a darker color, smoother, and more solid looking; while on the southern exposure it is of a lighter hue, because of more sunshine, and rougher, because it has not been polished off by the heavy beating of snow and rain in the cold season. An Indian will pass his hand over the trunk of a tree in the dark and tell you which way is north; some will tell you the kind of tree, also.

The branches of the tree tell the same story; on the south side they grow thicker and longer, while the leaves lie more horizontal on the sunny side, and more vertical on the north. Again, the dry leaves on the ground corroborate them; on the north side of the trees the leaves are well-packed and overlay each other almost like shingles. The color and thickness of the moss on rock or tree also tells the—secret.

But I must leave some things for you to discover; and I advise you to select a rock or tree that is well exposed to the elements for a first attempt. Of course, in well-protected localities, these distinctions are not so marked, but even there are discernible to a trained eye.

If you ever lose your way in the woods, do not allow yourself to become unnerved. Never give up.” Fear drowns more people than water, and is a more dangerous enemy than the wilderness. A normal man, with some knowledge of out-of-doors, can without much effort keep in touch with his starting-point, and, however tortuously he may rove, he will pick the shortest way back. Know exactly where you are before starting, in relation to the natural landmarks, and at every halt locate yourself as nearly as possible. Measure your shadow (it varies according to the season), and scatter dry earth, leaves, or grass, to learn the direction of the wind. The water shed is another important point to bear in mind. On a clear night, look for the well known stars, such as the Great Dipper,” which lies to the north in summer, the handle pointing west. The Milky Way lies north and south. Once you locate the camp, you may be guided by these or by the wind in night travel.

Hunting bison in the dusty airy landscape.

The Indian, as an out-of-door man, early learns the necessity of a weather bureau of his own. He develops it after the fashion of another system of precaution; that is, he takes note of the danger-signals of the animals, those unconscious criers of the wilderness, both upon water and land. These have definite signals for an approaching change in the weather. For instance, the wolf tribes give the storm call” on the evening before. This call is different in tone from any other and clearly identified by us. Horses kick and stamp, and the buffalo herds low nervously. Certain water fowl display a strange agitation which they do not show under any other circum stances. Antelopes seek shallow lakes before a thunder-shower and stand in the water the Indians say because lightning does not strike in the water. Even dogs howl and make preparations to hide their young. Ducks have their signal call; but the chief weather prophet of the lakes is the loon, as the gray wolf or coyote is of the prairie.

Certain leaves and grass-blades contract or expand at the approach of storm, and even their color is affected, while the wind in the leaves has a different sound. The waves on the beach whisper of the change, and we also observe the ring around the sun, and the opacity and disk of the moon. The lone hunter may be left with only the open prairie and the dome of heaven; but he still has his grass-blades, his morning and evening skies. Sometimes the little prairie birds give him the signal; or, if not, he may fall back upon his old wounds, that begin to ache and swell with the change of atmosphere.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The High Dog Winter Count, 1798

The High Dog Winter Count on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center.
The High Dog Winter Count
History Of The Great Plains
By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND – The High Dog Winter Count, a pictographic history of the Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta people is on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center. It reaches back to the year 1798 and concludes in 1912. Šúŋka Waŋkátuya (Lit. Dog On-High), or High Dog, kept a winter count, a pictographic mnemonic device in which each year was remembered with one image and a “name.” Years, or winters, were never numbered.

When the year was named, a collective of elders, leaders, and medicine people would gather together to determine what to call the year, sometimes in the spring when the new year began, or sometimes in the fall or over the winter.

The first entry of the High Dog Winter Count.

High Dog’s winter count echoes content within other winter counts, such as Blue Thunder, No Two Horns, Swift Dog, and Jaw, among others, but it has distinct entries all its own. The first entry of High Dog’s winter count features an image of one man with a “fan” of four very blue feathers fanning or presenting the feathers to another man. Here follows the entry:

Wiyáka tȟotȟó uŋ akíčilowaŋpi (Lit. Feathers blue-blue to-use-something singing-praise-they). They sang praises using very blue feathers.

It was agreed to among the people that any one of the tribe who was seen wearing the blue feathers should be an example to others in virtue and goodness, and should be esteemed by all as a guardian of the "nation." Four men at that time were set apart with the blue feathers.

The feathers that are depicted on High Dog's entry resemble the tail feathers of the Ziŋtkátȟo Glegléğa (lit. “Bird-blue striped-very"), commonly known as the Blue Jay. In particular, this rendering resembles the beautifully blue Stellar’s Jay tail feathers. 

The Lakȟóta say that when the Ziŋtkátȟo Glegléğa returns, cold rains follow. Steller's Jay photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By an old ceremony men were set apart as “Atéyapi” (Fathers) and women as "Ináyapi" (mothers). By this ceremony these people were chosen as leaders in the tribe, and their admonitions were heeded.

Sometimes a small child was raised to this class because of a portent at his or her birth that indicated his or her superior wisdom. Grown persons were raised to this class on account of some distinguished service to the tribe, as well as for manifest wisdom and foresight in affairs. Those raised to this class while they were babes are said to have been generally the most satisfactory administrators of justice. Such children received careful training both from those previously raised to this class and also from their grandmothers.

They were taught to admonish with discretion and with gentleness, to honor and respect each and every one of every age and themselves; to be kind to dogs and all animals. If one of this class proved unworthy, one was not deposed, but from that time on, or until one had purged oneself of old offenses and adopted better manners one had small influence in the council-meetings, yet the people still respected him or her.

At that time, men were gifted with blue feathers to designate their worthiness; women were gifted with blue glass pendants they wore proudly upon their forehead, though this practice has long since faded. 

The Blue Cloud Stone as sketched by Col. A. Welch

Kȟaŋpéska Imánipi Wiŋ (Walking On The Shell Woman), the wife of Matȟó Watȟákpe (Charging Bear; John Grass), was among the last Lakȟóta women to have possessed one of what they called Maȟpíya Tȟó, or a Blue Cloud Stone. The stone was actually a flat blue polished piece of glass, possibly volcanic, which was melted and poured into a sand or clay mold. The stone was made by a woman of virtue, and only one was made in a year.

When it was worn, the woman was held in high esteem by all as good and honorable, a role model for all women

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Ring Around The Moon: She Makes A Fire

A ring of light, or halo, appears around the moon. The planet Jupiter is visible within the arc of light. 
Wíačhéič’ithi: She Makes A Fire
A Ring Around The Moon
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – It’s a clear cold night on the Northern Plains, following a cloudless icy day. A blanket of snow on the driveway had become compacted into crunchy ice over the past week. The sun bathed the land in silent golden light then he slipped over the horizon. The stars gradually blinked into their places in the vesper dusk. The full moon slid into the night sky and glided higher and higher. A vast gently glowing halo encircled the moon and altogether her milky white light spilled into the heavens.

I was standing beside my car one minute taking in the serene brisk scene. I imagine for a moment that another man stood here beside his horse in long ago days, outside the glow of his wife’s lodge, standing in the same snow, under the same sky, perhaps even breathing in the same air.

The part of my mind that has been educated and westernized says that the ring around the moon is probably caused by a light refracting through moisture in the atmosphere, and a quick internet search says pretty much the same thing. Science is beautiful in its own way as it questions and sometimes reveals the mystery of creation, but this explanation doesn’t endear me to the majesty of what I see above.

The Lakȟóta saw the natural world, the natural heavens and concluded that what happens here happens above. The thípi glowing in the evenings, filled with the smell of sweet cedar, earthy sage, or rich tobacco, and a mother or grandmother stirring her kettle of tȟaníǧa soup over the fire, now and then adding handfuls of shelled corn and dried thíŋpsiŋla. The way she stirred her kettle reminded the Lakȟóta of the phases of the moon.

A column of moonlight reflected on a body of water is called a "moonglade." The Lakȟóta call this "Mníyata Ožáŋžaŋ."

Kevin Locke, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, recalled a meeting long ago with Mrs. Holding Eagle at her home on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, “She said the phases of the moon were caused by how hard she stirred her kettle.” Mrs. Holding Eagle referred to the moon, in this sense, not as Haŋwí, but as Hokhémi, an old woman bundled in layers of clothing. The phases of the moon are described as though she were standing at times, dipping, or lying down, and at the full moon she is at her kettle.

When a ring of light appears around the moon, it is Hokhémi building a fire. Wíačhéič’ithi, “She Makes A Fire.”

Mrs. Amanda Grass on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation explained that as the moon wanes, as the moon loses light, the moon itself is the lodge of Haŋwí, and a large mouse with a pointed nose would nibble at the edge of her lodge, going back and forth, gradually, until there was nothing left. When the moon waxed, it was Haŋwí patiently and persistently rebuilding her lodge until it shown full once more. Then the cycle continued.

The cold shakes me from my reverie and I walk across the compacted snow to my home. The horse beside me a moment ago, replaced now by a little silver car. The windows warmly aglow, smells of supper adrift from the door, different smells and different light but homey all the same. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Warfare On The Northern Plains: Interpreting The Pictographic Bison Robe

The Pictographic Bison Robe, Peabody Museum.
Warfare On The Northern Plains
Painted Robe Reveals Battle
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University in Massachusetts has a spectacular collection of Lewis and Clark related artifacts in the country. The artifacts have been determined to have been collected by the Corps of Discovery who did gather dresses, shirts, and various painted robes in 1804-1806, or by Lt. George Hutter in 1825-1826. In particular, both parties acquired a painted robe depicting conflict either with or against such tribes as the Sioux, Arikara, Hidatsa, and the Mandan.

Castle McLaughlin, Associate Curator of North American Ethnography, Peabody Museum at Harvard, carefully researched the “Pictographic Bison Robe” and has concluded that the robe is likely to have been collected by Hutter, not the Corps of Discovery. McLaughlin noted that another robe was collected by a Charles Wilson Peale in 1826, and that this robe was said to depict the Arikara War of 1823, the first American military campaign against Plains Indians. However, McLaughlin notes, “this is unlikely to be the Peabody robe, which does not depict Anglo-Americans.”[1]

In a telephone interview, McLaughlin offered an updated reflection about the painted bison robe, “The robe is likely to be Siouan in origin, and it was collected after the Corps of Discovery Expedition of 1804-06, maybe not by Hutter.” The Lewis and Clark Collection came to the Peabody Museum from more than one source and at different times.

There are about three major conflicts the Očhéti Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires, aka “The Great Sioux Nation”) participated in that fall within a thirty year window: a fight against enemy tribes in the 1790s, a conflict along the Grand River involving the Arikara and Ensign Pryor’s command in 1809, and the Arikara War of 1823.

Warfare At The Turn Of The Century
In the winter of 1794-95, the Dakota camped with the Mandan[2] perhaps to trade but the peace was short lived when a Mandan killed a Dakota with long hair and took his scalp,[3] however other winter counts recall that the Mandan killed a Crow instead, and that may be the case as White Bull recalled this particular conflict at Rawhide Butte.[4] The following year, the Mandan Chief Man-With-A-Hat became noted as a warrior[5], the Mandan knew this great leader by a different name in their own language, Shekek Shote (White Wolf).[6]

In summary, the Očhéti Šakówiŋ waged near continual warfare against such tribes as the Crow, Ponka, Assiniboine, Arikara, and Omaha. In particular, the Očhéti Šakówiŋ continued war against the Omaha until an epidemic of either smallpox or chickenpox struck the Lakȟóta in 1802.[7] The Omaha retaliated in a series of relentless attacks, but when the Lakȟóta recovered sufficiently, a warparty leader raised a pipe with a horsetail affixed to it and waved it over the people, a call to arms.[8] The Lakȟóta rallied together and launched an offensive that left seventy-five Omaha dead and fifty as prisoners.[9]

In 1803, there was one major battle of note, the Battle of Heart River. The northern Očhéti Šakówiŋ known then as Saúŋni, or simply as Saúŋ (White-Rubbed Shirts/Robes), who were made up of Huŋkphápȟa, Oóhenuŋpa, Sihásapa Lakȟóta in alliance with the Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta[10] fought against the Assiniboine who were possibly allied with the Arikara who were then living at the mouth of Beaver Creek (south of present-day Bismarck, ND). [11]

Conflict At Grand River
A second possible interpretation of the Painted Bison Robe is of the 1808 conflict between Ensign Nathaniel Pryor’s command, the Saúŋ Lakȟóta, and the Arikara. This conflict has its roots in the Corps of Discovery’s visit a few years previous.

In 1804, the Arikara selected a leader, Arketarnarwhar, to descend the Missouri River with an escort provided by coterie from the Corps of Discovery who would escort and interpret his eventual meeting with President Thomas Jefferson back east. The Arikara leader never returned. Manuel Lisa, of the American Fur Company, was charged with delivering the missive of Arketarnarwhar’s death[12], which was found to be of natural causes.[13] The news was carried upriver in 1806 by two French trappers who in turn were detained by the Corps of Discovery on their return journey. The trappers having delivered the Corps news of civilization were dismissed.

When the corps passed by the Arikara villages going downstream they deliberately withheld news of their leader’s death, in fact, the Arikara didn’t hear word of Arketarnarwhar’s death until 1807.[14] The Arikara developed a hostility towards the United States thereafter, and harassed trappers and traders alike coming upriver, and actually halted Ensign Nathaniel Pryor’s expedition to return the Mandan Chief Shehek Shote to his people at Knife River in August 1808 with a war party of about 650 Arikara warriors.[15] Location: where the Grand River converges with the Missouri River near present-day Mobridge, SD.

The Saúŋ Lakȟóta, who had their own mixed history with the Corps of Discovery, were also present when the Arikara stopped the Pryor expedition. The Wapȟóštaŋ Ğí (Brown Hat) Winter Count records the event that a Huŋkphápȟa man named Red Shirt was killed.[16] No Ears recorded the year with the following text, “Ogle Luta on wan itkop ahi ktepi,” which translates a few ways, but essentially means that Red Shirt died in conflict.[17] Lone Dog’s pictograph indicates that Red Shirt died by two arrows[18].

It is possible that Oglé Lutá (Red Shirt), in the Lakȟóta tradition of great leaders, had a different name, Tȟatȟáŋka Sapá (Black Bull). It should be noted that in the Corps of Discovery’s encounter with the Thithúŋwan (Teton) along Bad River in 1804 ended when the Corps gifted a Lakȟóta leader, then Black Bufallo, a hat, a medal, and a red military coat.[19] Black Buffalo intervened on behalf of the Corps of Discovery when the Corps refused to pay a toll. Black Buffalo ordered the warriors to lower their bows. The Corps passed after throwing a twist of tobacco at the feet of the Lakȟóta.

The Arikara War of 1823
The third possibility is the Arikara War of 1823.

The Arikara War saw Colonel Henry Leavenworth ascend the Missouri River to defend the interests of the American Fur Company from the hostile aggression of the Arikara. Leavenworth led a command of six companies of the US Infantry, and an aggrieved William Ashley plus sixty men of the American Fur Company who were accompanied by about 750 Očhéti Šakówiŋ warriors.[20]

The Očhéti Šakówiŋ led the assault on the Arikara village at dawn on Aug. 9, 1823. The fighting consisted of an exchange of gunfire and hand-to-hand fighting until the Arikara retreated behind their stockade. The following morning Leavenworth ordered artillery to commence firing on the Arikara. The Arikara pressed for a cease-fire soon after and Leavenworth heard them out. Thirty Arikara were killed by the artillery in addition to the fifteen from the previous day’s fighting.[21]

Leavenworth negotiated peace with the Arikara. Unbeknownst to Leavenworth, the Arikara were preparing to abandon their village that very night. The peace talks were likely a diversion while the village made ready. The Arikara left that night under Leavenworth’s sleepy watch. The Očhéti Šakówiŋ warriors were anticipating a fight in which they’d get many war honors, but were ultimately disgusted with Leavenworth’s decision to treat with the Arikara. The Očhéti Šakówiŋ raided the Arikara cornfields. Ashley was also disgusted with Leavenworth in that the entire Arikara village wasn’t destroyed.

The Lakȟóta remember the Arikara War of 1823 as “The year of much dried corn.[22]” Many winter counts depict stalks of corn to remember 1823 and frequently reference conflict with the Arikara. It is interesting to note that while Leavenworth organized this punitive campaign against a Plains Indian tribe, and referred to his command, including the Očhéti Šakówiŋ, as the Missouri Legion, that three winter count pictographs actually mentions Leavenworth, his soldiers, or the trappers in his command.

The Swan winter count recalls 1823 as “US troops fought Ree Indians.[23]” The 1823 entry on The Flame winter count is “White and Dakotas fought Rees.” Cloud Shield reveals a little more, “They joined the whites on an expedition up the Missouri River against the Rees.” Lone Dog’s entry says, “White soldiers made their first appearance in the region.” Lone Dog does not mention the Corps of Discovery as his people, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakȟóta were stealing horses from the Crow in 1804. Had this band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna been at Bad River in 1804, they certainly would have recorded white soldiers ascending the river as Blue Thunder,[24] also an Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, did.

The battle depicted on the Pictographic Bison Robe could represent the Arikara War of 1823. Because it does not include the representation of white soldiers or trappers does not mean without certainty that it isn’t. Why would it? The Očhéti Šakówiŋ did the actual fighting. The robe depicts warriors fighting warriors. Leavenworth refrained from ordering his infantry to engage in the fighting, but was still involved in the fight through use of his artillery.

Ken Woody (St. Regis Mohawk), Chief of Interpretation, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, reproduced the Pictographic Bison Robe for the National Forest Service’s Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Great Falls, MT. According to Woody, who examined the original, the green quills on the ends of the quilled strip are in fact bird quills. The Mandan and Hidatsa were well known for their quillwork involving the use of bird quills. The feathers would have been collected from sea gulls which came north in the summer to North Dakota. The feathers were stripped and treated for use in quillwork.[25] “The only thing on the robe which would hint of a Mandan or Hidatsa origin is the bird quills for the quilled strip, although if I remember right, most were porcupine quills and only the green quills at the beginning and end were bird quills,” remarked Woody.

It is entirely possible that the Pictographic Bison Robe represents other conflicts not recorded in winter counts or remembered in surviving oral tradition. There seems to be only one certain thing, that the robe was painted before George Catlin and Karl Bodmer for their visits among the first nations of the Upper Great Plains in the 1830s left such an impression with their art, that simple form pictography was transformed with elaborate flourish and became the high plains pictographic art of the middle nineteenth century.

[1] McLaughlin, Castle, Arts Of Diplomacy: Lewis & Clark’s Indian Collection, University of Washington Press, Seattle WA, 2003.

[2] The Rosebud Winter Count.

[3] White Cow Killer Winter Count.

[4] White Bull, Chief Joseph (translated and edited by James H. Howard), The Warrior Who Killed Custer: The Personal Narrative of Chief Joseph White Bull, University of Nebraska Press, London, 1968.

[5] The Flame Winter Count.

[6] The Big Missouri Winter Count. It becomes clear who The-Man-With-The-Hat is when Big Missouri mention that a Mandan chief descended the Missouri River in 1806 with some white men to go meet the Great White Father.

[7] Pp. 130-146, Howard, James H., Fourth Annual Report Of The Bureau Of American Ethnology, Washington DC, Smithsonian, 1886.

[8] The Blue Thunder Winter Count, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND.

[9] Clark, Capt. William, journal, Sept. 25, 1804.

[10] The John K. Bear Winter Count, 1803.

[11] Pp. 20-58, Howard, James H., Yanktonai Ethnohistory And The John K. Bear Winter Count, Plains Anthropologist: Journal Of The Plains Conference, Memoir 11, 1976.

[12] Page 306, Jackson, Donald C., Journey To The Mandans, 1809: The Lost Narrative Of Dr. Thomas,” Missouri Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 3, April, 1964.

[13] Pp. 5-7, Innis, Ben, Bloody Knife: Custer’s Favorite Scout, Smoky Water Press, Bismarck, ND. 1994.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Page 144, Potter, Tracy, Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat, Farcountry Press, Fort Mandan Press, Washburn, ND, 2003.

[16] The Brown Hat (Baptiste Good) Winter Count.

[17] No Ears Winter Count.

[18] Lone Dog Winter Count.

[19] Page 169, Ambrose, Stephen, Undaunted Courage, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Long Soldier Winter Count, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND.

[23] The Swan Winter Count, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC. The Swan Winter Count,

[24] Blue Thunder Winter Count, State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND.

[25] Woody, Ken, discussion with author, Nov. 26, 2014.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Creek Fight And Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman.
The Apple Creek Fight And
Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered
Dakota Conflict In Dakota Territory
By Dakota Wind
KILLDEER, N.D. - “Four Horns was shot in the Killdeer Battle between Sioux and General Sully’s troops…some time after the fight, his daughter cut out the lead bullet,” One Bull said to Colonel Alfred Welch on a hot July day in 1934 at Little Eagle, S.D. “The report [that] the soldiers killed hundreds of Indian dogs is untrue,” said One Bull, “because Indian dogs, half wild creatures, would follow the Indians or run away long before soldiers would come up within range.[1]

The Killdeer Mountain conflict occurred on July 28, 1864. Sully was under orders to punish the Sioux in another campaign following the September, 1863 massacre of Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta peoples at Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána (Dry Bone Hill Creek), also known as Whitestone Hill.[2]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta knew Killdeer Mountain as Taȟčá Wakútepi (Where They Hunt/Kill Deer), Killdeer. The hunting there was good and dependable, and the people came there regularly, not just to hunt but to pray as well. The plateau rises above the prairie steppe allowing for a fantastic view of the landscape, and open sky for those who came to pray.

A hand-tinted photo of Matȟó Watȟákpe by Frank Fiske.
Matȟó Watȟákpe (Charging Bear; John Grass), led the Sihásapa (Black Sole Moccasin; Blackfeet Lakȟóta) on the defensive at Killdeer. The Sihásapa had nothing to do with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict. “In this surprise attack the Indians lost everything… soldiers destroyed tons of food, etc.,” Matȟó Watȟákpe told Welch, and added that great suffering followed the fight and hatred against the whites grew.[3]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta saw General Sully’s approach from miles away, his march put a great cloud of dust into the sky. Sully formed his command in to a large one mile square, and under his command was a detachment of Winnebago Indian Scouts, traditional enemies of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires; Great Sioux Nation). A war party of thirty warriors had tussled with the Winnebago two days before Sully’s arrival.

In Robert Larson's take on the Killdeer Mountain conflict, the Teton are overconfident and Inkpaduta was the chief who organized the defense against Sully.

Historian Robert Larson describes July 28, 1864, nearly perfectly, “…Sully’s five mile march to reach the large Sioux village was a tense and uncomfortable one. Even though it was morning, the day would be hot and dry; the tense summer heat had already thinned the grass and muddied the water holes. On every hill along the valley at the south end of the village were clusters of mounted warriors.”[4]

The Dakȟóta under ĺŋkpaduta (Scarlet Point) had been engaged with soldiers since the Minnesota Dakota Conflict of 1862. They had fled west towards Spirit Lake when General Sibley and his command caught up to them at Big Mound. The Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta under Phizí (Gall) had crossed the Mníšoše (Missouri River) to the east in search of game; the heat and drought had driven game from the traditional their hunting grounds. Sibley’s arrival and pursuit of the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta towards the Mníšoše marked the first U.S. military contact against the Huŋkphápȟa.

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta pictured here in his B.I.A. police uniform. "Sitting Bull was my friend," he said, "I was under orders...I killed him..."

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta (Red Tomahawk), infamously known for his part in Sitting Bull’s death years later, recalled the Sibley Campaign, “There was a shallow lake south of the hills and about where Dawson now stands. That was fine buffalo country. The buffalo would get into this lake and mire down so they could not get out. We went there that time to drive them into the lake and get meat and hides. While we were there the Santees came along.”

Many of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, who were already dwelling in their traditional homelands, advanced west at General Sibley’s approach and “went directly to the Missouri River opposite the Standing Rock and occupied the country between Beaver Creek [Čhápa Wakpána; Emmons County] and Blue Blanket Creek [Šiná Tȟó Wakpána; Walworth County].”[5]

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta referred to the Isáŋyathi (Santee) as “hostile,” but that the Huŋkphápȟa camped with them and joined together in the hunt. He didn’t detail how the fight began at Big Mound, only that Sibley pursued them to the Mníšoše. The warriors held the attention of the soldiers, which allowed the Lakȟóta two days to cross the river. The ĺsaŋyathi under ĺŋkpaduta and Wakhéye Ská (White Lodge) broke off upon their approach to Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála (Apple Creek) and turned north.

ĺŋkpaduta pictured here. After the Little Bighorn fight he went into exile in Canada and died there in 1881.

The Isáŋyathi moved their camps in an arc, first northerly, then back east and south, and kept a respectable distance between them and Sibley’s retreat.[6] Šákpe (The Six) and his Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ Dakȟóta broke from the main body of Isáŋyathi and crossed the Mníšoše  with Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns) and his band of Huŋkphápȟa. Then they journeyed to Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána to make camp and hunt with the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna the following month. Gen. Sully found the camp that and slaughtered as many as 200 and took over 150 captives, mostly women and children in both cases.

After the Dakȟóta split from the Lakȟóta, “we went to cross the river. We were not afraid,” explained Tačháŋȟpi Lúta, “We did not lose any of our people when we crossed.”[7] He admitted to being a part of the party who waited the night through and then attacked and killed two soldiers.

Here's a reconstruction of the Apple Creek conflict. The map comes from a survey of the Missouri River in the 1850s by G.K. Warren.

The late Delma Helman, a Huŋkphápȟa elder from Standing Rock, recalled the story of the Mníšoše crossing, “The soldiers chased us into the river. We cut reeds to breathe underwater and held onto stones to keep submerged until nightfall.” After sunset, they emerged from the river safely onto Burnt Boat Island (later called Sibley Island) and crossed the Mníšoše.[8]

Mike McDonald, a Dakȟóta elder from the Spirit Lake Oyáte, shared the oral tradition of the Wanéta Thiyóšpaye (The Charger’s Band) when they reached the Mníšoše, “The Wanéta band moved north and easterly in wide arc and settled near present-day Rugby, N.D. at Pleasant Lake. There they stayed until they were invited unto the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” The Dakȟóta call this lake Wičíbdeza Mní, Pleasant Lake.[9]

Three days after Gen. Sibley’s departure from Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála, Šákpe (The Six) and his band of Isáŋyathi came back across the Mníšoše, accompanied by Hé Núŋpa WaníčA and his band of Huŋkphápȟa[10], and made camp at Čháŋğu Wakpála (Burnt Wood Creek). Six days later, a mackinaw descended the Mníšoše with miners from Fort Benton and landed on a sand bar. A Dakȟóta wičháȟčala (an elder Dakota man) they called Ištá Sapá[11] (Black Eyes; father of Hé Núŋpa WaníčA) tried to warn the miners away, they shot him. The Dakȟóta retaliated and killed all the miners, and cast their gold dust into the river, thinking perhaps it was gun powder which had gone bad.[12]

The Sibley campaign was the first military campaign against the Huŋkphápȟa, Sully’s assault at Killdeer was the second. Sitting Bull’s own pictographic record testifies to his own portrayal, not as a warrior but as a medicine man, counting coup and stealing a mule from Sibley’s wagon train in July, 1863.[13] The pictograph testifies that the Huŋkphápȟa were east of the Mníšoše and present at the Big Mound fight against Gen. Sibey’s command.

Sitting Bull pictographed his part in the Big Mound conflict in which he stole a mule from Sully and counted coup on one of the men.

Historian Robert Utley estimates that there were perhaps as many as 1400 lodges at Taȟčá Wakútepi. It was a sizable village consisting of Huŋkphápȟa, Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, and Isáŋyathi. Utley paints the Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta in overconfident tones: “they did not order the lodges packed,” explains Utley, “nor did they order the village moved, “The women, children, and old men, in fact, gathered on a high hill to watch.”[14]

But the camp was moved. At least the Lakȟóta camp was, from the west side of Taȟčá Wakútepi to the southeast side, below Medicine Hole the day before Sully’s arrival,[15] in a movement which placed a fresh water creek between them and the approaching soldiers. The Lakȟóta had learned the previous summer that water slowed or stopped the soldiers’ advance.

"Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake," says Ernie LaPointe of Sitting Bull, "that's his name."

Ernie LaPointe, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake’s (Sitting Bull’s) direct lineal descendant, a great-grandson of the Huŋkphápȟa leader, offers this retrospective, “If it had been possible, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake might have accepted peace terms that simply allowed his people and him to continue to live their traditional lifestyle.” As it was, Sully’s assault left one hundred Lakȟóta dead,[16] though Sully’s reports have the count closer to 150.

A map of the Killdeer conflict as it unfolded, courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. This author is currently working on a map of the conflict from the perspective of the Lakȟóta.

The Lakȟóta camp had moved in a position which faced Sully’s left flank; ĺŋkpaduta’s camp faced Sully’s right. A hunting party, possibly a war party though all the men were as much prepared to fight as to hunt, skirmished with Sully’s Winnebago scouts earlier that day. Sully’s command, five miles away, approached Taȟčá Wakútepi for a showdown.

When the soldiers got closer, a lone Lakȟóta warrior, Šúŋka Waŋžíla (Lone Dog), decided to test the fighting resolve of the soldiers and boldly rode his horse within range of fire. The soldiers fired three times at him. Tȟatȟáŋka Ská (White Bull) believed that Šúŋka Waŋžíla lived a wakȟáŋ life, charmed some would say in English. “Šúŋka Waŋžíla,” explained Tȟatȟáŋka Ská, “…was with a ghost and it was hard to shoot him.”[17]

A map of the 1864 Sully campaign in Dakota Territory.

Lt. Col. John Pattee, under Sully’s command that day, said of Šúŋka Waŋžíla riding, waving, and whooping at the soldiers, that an aide from Sully approached him, “The General sends his compliments and wishes you to kill that Indian for God’s sake.” Pattee ordered three sharpshooters to bring down Šúŋka Waŋžíla. One shot, according to Pattee, sent Šúŋka Waŋžíla from his horse, though Sully claimed the warrior fell from his horse.[18]

According to the pictographic record of Šúŋka Waŋžíla, he was riding, armed with bow and arrows, carrying black shields as much for practical protection as for spiritual protection, and received one wound.[19]

The fighting continued north for the five miles it took for Sully’s command to reach the encampments. For those five miles, the Lakȟóta held the soldiers’ attention, at times in brutal hand to hand combat. The Lakȟóta managed to outflank Sully’s men, which threatened the wagons and horses, so Sully ordered artillery to open fire. When the fight approached the encampments, the women hastened to break and flee. Frances “Fanny” Kelly, a captive of the Lakȟóta said that as soon as soldiers were sighted, the women withdrew into the hills, woods, and ravines, around Taȟčá Wakútepi, for protection.[20]

Taȟčá Wakútepi (Killdeer Mountain), a view from the south looking north.

On the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi side of the conflict, the fight for the Dakȟóta became a stubborn retreat back to the encampments at the base of Taȟčá Wakútepi. There the soldiers broke into heavy fire into the Dakȟóta protectors until they finally broke. White Bull told Stanley Vestal that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi were as strangers to the Lakȟóta, and that they lost thirty when their line of defense broke.[21]

In a dialog with Mr. Timothy Hunts In Winter, there was a woman, an ancestor of his, Ohítika Wiŋ (Brave Woman) who fought at Killdeer. “She was only 14 on the day of the Killdeer fight but she fought alongside her até (father). Her até was killed that day in battle,” explained Hunts In Winter, “she was named Ohítika Wiŋ because she was a woman warrior.”[22]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta encampment lay on the other side of this coulee (the treeline in the middle ground). The Lakȟóta camp moved here from the southwest side of the plateau.

From the Lakȟóta camp there came a singer escorting a man known as The-Man-Who-Never-Walked, a cripple since birth. His limbs were twisted and shrunken and in all his forty winters, he had never once hunted nor fought. When the soldiers came to the camp, The-Man-Who-Never-Walked knew that this was his one chance to fight. He was loaded onto a travois and a creamy white horse pulled the drag. The singer led him to where Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake was watching the fight.

When the singer finished his song, he called out, “This man has been a cripple all his life. He has never gone to war. Now he asks to be put into this fight.” Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake replied, “That is perfectly all right. Let him die in battle if he wants to.” White Bull later said of Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake, “Sitting Bull’s heart was full that day. He was proud of his nation. Even the helpless were eager to do battle in defense of their people.”[23] The horse was whipped and drove The-Man-Who-Never-Walked straight into a line of soldiers, who shot the horse then him. They called him Čhaŋte Matȟó (Bear’s Heart) after that because of his great courage.

A closer look at the south-facing slope of Taȟčá Wakútepi, below Medicine Hole. They would have ascended the plateau going around the landmark and over.

Íŋkpaduta engaged in a counter-attack on Sully’s right flank to stall his approach and lost twenty-seven warriors in hand to hand fighting. The Isáŋyathi broke just as Sully’s artillery began to fire upon the encampment.

Women and children who hadn’t retreated into the hills and ravines west of Taȟčá Wakútepi were suddenly in the fight. The women gathered what they could before abandoning camp, and young boys shepherded the horses to safety. “Children cried, the dogs were under everybody’s feet, mules balked, and pack horses took fright at the shell-fire or snorted at the drifting smoke behind them,” according to Frances Kelly.[24]

The Badlands west of Taȟčá Wakútepi. Thousands of places to hide and rendezvous on top of generations of intimate familiarity with the land helped the Lakȟóta remain elusive.

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta turned west into the Badlands, and there evaded capture.

The smoke cleared and over a hundred Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta lay dead. Sully ordered troops to destroy everything left behind. Lodges, blankets, and food were burned. Dogs were shot. Children inadvertently left behind in the confusion were chased down by the Winnebago scouts and killed.
Čháŋğu Wakpála: Burnt Wood Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Čhápa Wakpána: Beaver Creek, Emmons County, ND

Čhaŋte Matȟó: Bear’s Heart (The-Man-Who-Never-Walked), a forty-year-old disabled Lakȟóta man who fought his first and last fight at Taȟčá Wakútepi

Hé Núŋpa WaníčA: No Two Horns, a warrior, artist, and historian of the Huŋkphápȟa; fought at the Little Bighorn

Huŋkphápȟa: Head Of The Circle, also known as “Hunkpapa,” one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna: Little End Village (Yanktonai), one of the seven tribes that make up the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, their language is Wičhíyena

ĺŋkpaduta: Scarlet Point, war chief of the Waȟpékhute band of the Isáŋyathi

Isáŋyathi: the general name of the four eastern tribes (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ), their language is Dakȟóta

Matȟó Watȟákpe: Charging Bear (John Grass), a war chief of the Sihásapa, one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Mníšoše: Water-Astir (Missouri River)

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ: Seven Council Fires (The Great Sioux Nation), the confederation is made up of the Thítȟuŋwaŋ, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ, Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ

Ohítika Wiŋ: Brave Woman, she fought at Killdeer Mountain alongside her father when she was fourteen years old

Oyáte: a tribe, a people, or a nation

Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána: Dry Bone Hill Creek (Whitestone Hill Creek), Dickey County, ND

Phizí: Gall, a war chief of the Huŋkphápȟa (Hunkpapa), one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes; led the Huŋkphápȟa at the Little Bighorn, later became a judge

Sihásapa: Black Sole Moccasins (Blackfeet) one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Šákpe: The Six, a chief of the Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ (Dwellers At The Sacred Lake), one of the four Isáŋyathi (Santee; Eastern Sioux) tribes.

Šiná Tȟó Wakpána: Blue Blanket Creek, Walworth County, SD

Šúŋka Waŋžíla: Dog Only-One (Lone Dog), a Huŋkphápȟa warrior and a Waníyetu Wowápi (Winter Count) keeper

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta: Red Tomahawk , a Huŋkphápȟa warrior known more for being a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer and his role in the death of Sitting Bull.

Taȟčá Wakútepi: Where They Kill Deer (Killdeer Mountain), Dunn County, ND

Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála: Lit. Thorn-Apple Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake: Sitting Bull, a great leader of the Huŋkphápȟa

Tȟatȟáŋka Ská: White Bull, nephew of Sitting Bull, and a famous warrior

Thítȟuŋwaŋ: Dwellers On The Plains (Teton), the Thítȟuŋwaŋ is made up of the Huŋkphápȟa,Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Oglála, Oóhenuŋpa, and Sičháŋǧu, their language is Lakȟóta

Wakȟáŋ: With-Energy, often translated as “Holy” or “Sacred”

Wakhéye Ská: White Lodge, a chief of the Sisíthuŋwaŋ

[1] “One Bull Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[2] Mr. Corbin Shoots The Enemy (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, September 2013.
[3] “John Grass Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[4] Larson, R., Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 45.
[5] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 41.
[6] Ibid. pp. 599. Šiná Dúta Wiŋ (Red Blanket Woman) account places Šákpe and his band of Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ at the Apple Creek conflict, and this fight.
[7] “Red Tomahawk Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[8] Mrs. Delma Helman (Húŋkpapȟa, Thítȟuŋwaŋ; Standing Rock Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, Mobridge, S.D., July 2013.
[9] Mr. Mike McDonald (Dakȟóta; Spirit Lake Oyate), in discussion with the author, Fort Yates, N.D., Nov. 2014.
[10] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 599.
[13] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).
[14] Utley, R., The Lance And The Shield: The Life And Times Of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt And Company, 1993), 55.
[15] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[16] LaPointe, E., Sitting Bull: His Life And Legacy (Gibbs Smith, 2009), p. 49.
[17] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[18] Pattee, J., Dakota Campaigns (South Dakota Historical Collections 5, 1910), 308.
[19] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” thípi with pictographic records, Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[20] Kelly, F., Narrative Of My Captivity Among The Sioux (Mutual Publishing Company, 1871), pp. 274-278.
[21] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[22] Mr. Tim Hunts In Winter (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in an e-dialog with the author, March 2014.
[23] Vestal, S., Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1932), p53-54; White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[24] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), New Sources Of Indian History (Gayley Press, 2008), p. 56.