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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt's Two Wives Of The Badlands

Roosevelt, pictured here in 1884. 
Theodore Roosevelt's Native Wives
Left Behind To Pursue Politics
By Dakota Wind
BADLANDS, N.D. - On November 6, 1934, an Arikara named Sand Hill Crane (a former US Scout too) gave an interview to Colonel Alfred Welch about Theodore Roosevelt and his two native wives. Here's what he said:

“Yes, I know about Roosevelt and the Gros Ventre [Hidatsa] woman he took. He got her. That was the way we did it then. He gave some horses for her. Her name was Brown Head. She was Hidatsa. She’s dead now," said Sand Hill Crane. After Roosevelt left Brown Head, she became the wife of Foolish Woman, a member of the Hidatsa and Sand Hill Crane's cousin, but shortly after their marriage, Brown Head died. 

Then Sand Hill Crane went on to explain, “He got another one. Her name was See The Woman. She was one-half French and one-half Hidatsa. She’s alive yet up at Shell Creek. Yes, I knew him well. He was all right. When he went away he gave the women some horses and things." After Roosevelt's convalescent stay in the Badlands, he returned to the east and entered the political arena. Of Roosevelt's relationship with the two women, Sand Hill Crane shared this, "
So he went away. Then he became a big man. We never said anything about these women to anyone. That’s the way the white men did then in the country."

Roosevelt believed that the American Indians had no claim to the land, and had no desire to hold property. It is evident too, that he didn't think his marriages to Brown Head and See The Woman were valid either, as he left them behind when he sufficiently recovered from the loss of his wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother, Mittie Roosevelt. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Killdeer Mountain Conflict

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman. 
General Sully’s 1864 Punitive Campaign
Conflicts 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 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.[i]

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), Whitestone Hill.[ii]

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.[iii] 

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 U.S. 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.”[iv]

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 Sully and his command caught up to them at Big Mound. The Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta under Phizí (Gall) had crossed the Mníšoše (Missouri River) 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. martial 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.”

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta then referred to the ĺsaŋyathi (Santee) as “hostile,” but that the Huŋkphápȟa camped with them and joined together in the hunt. He doesn’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 and turned north.

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

After the escape at Apple Creek, ĺŋkpaduta and Wakhéye Ská moved their camps in an arc, first northerly, then back east and south, and kept a respectable distance between the Isáŋyathi and Sibley’s retreat. Then the Isáŋyathi journeyed to Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána to make camp and hunt with the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna the following month. Sully found the camp 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.”[v] 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 1890s. 

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 the vesper of sunset, they emerged from the river safely onto Burnt Boat Island (later called Sibley Island).[vi]

The Sibley campaign was the Huŋkphápȟa’s first encounter with U.S. soldiers, 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.[vii]

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.”[viii]

But the camp was moved. At least the Lakȟótas’ was, from the west side of Taȟčá Wakútepi to the southeast side, below Medicine Hole the day before Sully’s arrival,[ix] 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,[x] 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.

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.”[xi]

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.[xii]

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

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[xiv].

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 (Walter Campbell) that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi were as strangers to the Lakȟóta, and that they lost thirty when their line of defense broke.[xv]

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 along side 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.”[xvi]

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.”[xvii] 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.[xviii]

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.
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

Huŋkphápȟa: 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

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

Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána: Dry Bone Hill Creek (Whitestone Hill Creek)

Phizí: Gall, a war chief of the Huŋkphápȟa (Hunkpapa), one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

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

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)

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

[i] In an interview conducted by Colonel Alfred Welch with One Bull, July 14, 1934.
[ii] From Mr. Corbin Shoots The Enemy, September 2013.
[iii] Welch, A. B., Welch Dakota Papers (
[iv] Larson, R., Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 45.
[v] Welch, A. B., Welch Dakota Papers (
[vi] Interview with Delma Helman, July 2013.
[vii] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).
[viii] Utley, R., The Lance And The Shield: The Life And Times Of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt And Company, 1993), 55.
[ix] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[x] LaPointe, E., Sitting Bull: His Life And Legacy (Gibbs Smith, 2009), p. 49.
[xi] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[xii] Pattee, J., Dakota Campaigns (South Dakota Historical Collections 5, 1910), 308.
[xiii] Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns), thípi with pictographic records, July 7, 1915.
[xiv] Kelly, F., Narrative Of My Captivity Among The Sioux (Mutual Publishing Company, 1871), pp. 274-278.
[xv] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[xvi] From Mr. Tim Hunts In The Winter, March, 2014.
[xvii] 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.
[xviii] Vestal, S., New Sources Of Indian History (Gayley Press, 2008), p. 56.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Repairing A Tipi

A view of Kitson through a tear in a tipi on display in the North Dakota Heritage Center. Kitson mended the tear using traditional methods.
Repairing A Lodge
Standing Rock Woman Fixes Tipi
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – The North Dakota Heritage Center has opened two of its galleries this spring to thousands of visitors from locals to visitors from overseas. The galleries hum and echo with the conversation of hundreds of visitors in an hour. Students in summer school ask questions and look at exhibits with quiet determination if they’re working on an on-site activity.

The Early Peoples gallery features a strong language component in its exhibit design. Part of this design are two displays that receive the most attention: the cyclorama of Yellow Earth Village, which is a huge panoramic painting of a what is known by locals as “Double Ditch,” and a full-size genuine brain-tanned bison hide thipȟéstola (a thípi, or tipi). Visitors, especially young ones want to enter the lodge as soon as they lay eyes upon it.

The thípi was made in 1990 for the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) by Larry Belitz, an enrolled member of the Oglála Lakȟóta on the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The SHSND at one time shone big lamps within the lodge to give it a beautiful glow, but the glow dried it out according to Mr. Mark Halverson, Curator of Collections and Research, “The lamps served only to dry the hide,” which has made it as brittle as paper.

A view of the lodge looking up from the inside. 

Because of its brittle condition, and its popularity with the crowd, the thípi began to tear in a few places. Despite closing the thípi off to visitors and displaying signage discouraging visitors to not touch the display, the lodge developed a tear along a seam, possibly due to young visitors who can’t read, or by foreign visitors unable to read English, or by belligerent excited visitors who can’t keep their paws off the lodge. In any event, it took only one tear.

Repair work on the tear was inevitable. The tear grew daily before it could be mended and it drew attention like bears to honey. Each swipe tore at the seam, until a gaping hole developed. It was awful to see.

Enter: D. Joyce Kitson.

Kitson prepares a patch and welts using brain-tanned bison hide, and bison sinew.

Kitson is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Her traditional Lakȟóta name is Pȟehíŋ Šá Wiŋ (Red Hair Woman), a name carried by her grandmother Matilda Vaulters-Good Iron. Kitson is a master quillworker with works at the National Museum of The American Indian, the North Dakota Heritage Center, and various collections, private and public, here in state and abroad. She also practices the traditional methods of brain-tanning hides, and collecting natural earth pigments.

Kitson is quick to acknowledge who she learned the traditional crafts from. She learned how to tan bison hides from her maternal uŋčí (grandmother) Alice Wears Horns-Vaulters, and uŋčí Zona Lones Arrow. Kitson learned two quillwork methods, one using bird quills in which the feather shaft has been stripped, and the other method involving porcupine quills. Quillwork, Kitson learned from Naomi Black Hawk, Mary Elk, and Alice Blue Legs-New Holy.

Kitson offers formal classes through Sitting Bull College about tanning and smoking hides. She also works through the North Dakota Council on The Arts too, and apprentices two to three learners each year. Her apprentices not only learn how to quill and/or tan, but she requires them to create personal objects for themselves such as awl and quill cases.

Kitson carefully places the patch and welt. The welt will help to preserve the seam where she joins the patch.

“I’m a lifelong learner, as much as I’m a teacher,” says Kitson. She recalled her first teaching experience when she was just sixteen years old at the Fargo-Moorhead Native American Center. Kitson had forty students who she taught the tanning tradition. She is also a mother of five, and taught her children as well.

I don’t press her for details but Kitson acknowledges that she lived a hard life, and enthusiastically professes her faith in God. She freely goes back and forth between reverently calling God “God” and the Lakȟóta address of “Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka." She sees both as one and the same.

Her faith permeates her crafts. “The work shouldn’t be laborious,” she says between drawing sinew through her mouth and fingers, “It should be an honor to work on these hides.” According to Kitson it takes six to eight hours to tan a hide depending upon how big the hide is and whether or not she has assistance.

After prepared the sinew and placing the welt and patch, Kitson begins a whip stitch.

Kitson lives a clean life, “To honor my ancestors, to honor the Authority,” she says. She believes whole-heartedly that if one honors one’s ancestors and the Creator that one, in turn, will be honored and blessed. Right now, Kitson shares, we must honor our youth.

As Kitson works on the thipȟéstola I ask her if she has any stories, “lore” one might say, associated with it. She believes that Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka sends her dreams and visions, sometimes regarding people she should pray for, sometimes a pattern to create with quillwork.

Then Kitson revisited my thipȟéstola query and said, “A thípi is a spiritual covering. It is spiritual protection.” She then shared that once she was walking up Mathó Pahá (Bear Butte), the sky serving as lodge in this story, when she was gifted with a vision about the butte as a pregnant woman about to give birth. The trees and animals upon it signified the birth of the Seventh Generation, and that all the life born thereafter would be gifted with dreams.

Almost done with the patch. Upon assessment of the lodge, there will need to be two more patches, one on the back and another on the top of the entry.

In a related story about the lodge, Kitson shared, her mother had a dream a long time ago about being within a thipȟéstola. “The sky opened up like a book,” she said, “and water poured down.” Her iná (mother) dashed within the lodge and attempted to close the thiyópa (the thípi door) with a safety pin to keep the waters out. Her iná prayed about this dream and received the revelation that the water was the Holy Spirit, and that the people were not yet ready for the Word.

Kitson finished patching the thipȟéstola. The hide visibly delicate in various places, the SHSND can anticipate future repair work on it as long as the lodge is on display and within reach of the general public’s paws.

Kitson shared one more thing as she repaired the lodge, “I would like to create one.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

From Native America To Iceland

The sunrise behind Mount Hekla. 
From The Land Of Sky And Wind
To One Of Ice And Fire

By Dakota Wind
SELFOSS, ICELAND - The preconception of Iceland I have is probably much the same that some people have about North Dakota, which is to say, cold, snow, and wind. I had passed through Reykjavik once before ten years ago in January and found the thick powder covering the terrain somewhat resembled the rolling hills of western North Dakota in deep winter.

I arrived on a brisk early Sunday morning. A red sun kissed the eastern horizon before lift off and red golden light poured onto the land and ignited the frost. The land glistened with fire and ice, and my steamy breath glowed with a little rainbow of its own.

Thelma, an educator at Laugalandsskóli in Holt, greeted me at the airport and graciously took me into Reykjavik for breakfast, a walk around town, and to Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church and national landmark, for one of the most memorable services I can remember. My new friend then took me to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a modest hotdog stand known throughout the world for its hotdogs; and finally an early afternoon at the National Museum of Iceland before a drive on the lonely winding road to Holt.

Laugalandsskóli, the school I visited, lays quietly nestled along a clear bubbling stream. The surrounding hills roll into mountains, whose summits climb into the sky. Generations of hardy Icelandic farmers have gradually cleared fields, and ranchers have broken trails in the stony earth for their sturdy Icelandic horses.

My host, Sigurjón, the headmaster of Laugalandsskóli, offered me a bed for the duration of my visit. His ranch style home lay in the shadow of Mount Hekla, along a black sand creek of cold clear water. A few lonely trees stood out on his land, twisted and gnarled by the elements, but made beautiful because of it.

Icelanders refer to volcanoes as “she” and mountains as “he,” geysers as “he,” roads and fences as “he,” and rivers as “he” and lakes as “she.” They find humor in America’s fascination with Bigfoot, but many Icelanders hold to the lore of fairies, trolls, and elves, going so far as to build roads and other development around significant cultural resource properties. And like the Lakȟóta of the Great Plains, far removed from the land of ice and fire, they have many words for the wind.

I brought my winter count, a pictographic record of the history of the Lakȟóta people, and shared stories about life before and after the horse, of conflicts a world away to them, and tragic love stories and songs of the plains; I was introduced to the Saga of the Volsungs.

I shared stories of the Wanági, the Little People of the plains, of Wazíya, the giant of the north, of Uŋktéği, giant serpents of the waters; students shared stories of elves, giants, and dragons.

My most powerful experience came when we exchanged names. I gave my everyday “American” name, followed by my Lakȟóta name and interpreted my name to each class. For the Lakȟóta, names carry a story, a song, and a lineage. For the Icelanders, names also carry lineage. Everyone carries their last name as a marker indicating that he or she is the son or daughter of their fathers, sometimes their mothers. Students interpreted their names and meanings into English for me. Many names could easily have been heard on the Great Plains.

A tree that fights an ever present wind, grows in a fantastic swirl, like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

I made contact with students in grades four through ten most often. I interpreted the pictograph “language” of the Plains Indians through storytelling using my winter count as an example. Over the course of the week, we created pictograph narrative examples so that students could create their own winter count.

For homework, I assigned students to ask their parents about the year they were born and the first five to six years of their lives. One student got a late start on the creation of his pictograph narrative. I learned that he was born in Russia, adopted out of country, and was now in foster care. He didn’t remember much of his childhood and didn’t know his parents. I asked him how old he was, and then asked him if he liked Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which came out around the time he was born. From there we constructed a pictograph narrative of his life using pop culture to create his life story.

By the end of the school week, about forty-three students had created their picture stories from as few as ten stories (this would be the fourth grade) to as many as sixteen (tenth grade).

For the younger students, grades K-3, we constructed parfleche envelopes. Parfleche, in the Plains Indian tradition, is basically anything constructed out of rawhide, from boxes and cylinder cases to envelopes, to protect personal belongings or even food. At the end of the week, about twenty students had constructed their own parfleche envelopes.

During breaks I played chess, soccer, and ping-pong with students, and though I couldn’t speak Icelandic, many spoke English, and for those who didn’t, we had fun playing common games and laughed in our efforts at play.

After hours, my guide Thelma, took me to see Gulfoss, a roaring waterfall that drops into wild rapids. I saw Geyser, a privately owned and managed national Icelandic landmark. Beautiful. Lastly, I saw Þingvellir, where the Norsemen gathered annually to recount their laws. It’s also where Iceland is divided between the North American and European continent. There’s a stream of water several feet deep, that flows above the fault line, there passersby throughout the centuries offered coins to the elves, and many still do, in fact, my guide gave me a few coins to leave an offering.

Iceland is divided here at Þingvellir. On the right is the European continent, and on the left is North America. Coins from passersby lie aglitter beneath the icy water.

My visit to Iceland concluded. I left on a cloudy cool spring morning. Thelma drove me to Reykjavik. She bought me a Malt Extract, a non-alcoholic beverage that tasted something between a carbonated soft drink and a beer. I don't drink, I've a had a few long ago, but I tried this and I suggest that if one were to drink anything there on one's visit, one must have one of these.

I got airborne on Saturday afternoon. Security was really talkative when they discovered I was native. I saw Iceland from the window, then from the sky, and then just the ocean.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Origin Of Stone Arrowheads

An artist's representation of early North American Indians knapping flint, others work to quarry the stone from the earth. 
The Origin Of Stone Arrowheads
Trickster, Little People Crafted Stone Utensils
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – Educators in North Dakota cover North Dakota history in the fourth and eighth grades. In the fourth grade it’s called North Dakota Studies, and in the eighth grade it’s called North Dakota History. Whether it’s called studies or history, students, at least In Fort Yates where I went to school, usually take in a field trip to the North Dakota Heritage Center.

On my field trip, I remember seeing at the ol’ Heritage Center a big collection of arrowheads, and it was explained that the Paleo Indians made the early clovis points and other cultures which have come and gone in the ten millennia occupation of the Great Plains have made various style of arrowheads. I was supposed to accept this, because someone, probably a Ph.D. or a think-tank of experts somewhere, came to this conclusion, and that conclusion was fact.

In a related story, my Lalá (Grandfather) took my uncle Kenny, my younger brother, and me to the Klein Museum in Mobridge, S.D., for no other purpose than to see some old stuff. There we beheld a motley collection of various two-headed preserved animals like snakes and calves, but what captured my attention while there was a huge collection of arrow heads.

Meanwhile, in Carrington, N.D., there’s the Chieftain Inn. The Chieftain is known for a comically large two-story red Indian caricature outside the inn with its right hand jutted out, palm up and out in the frequently parodied Plains Indian sign for greetings made popular in old black and white westerns. Inside the carpeted halls of the convention center, the walls are decorated with custom cases filled with arrowheads, granite grinding stones, manos, and metates. It really is a wonderful display.

At any museum across the Great Plains, city, county, or state, someone has donated collection of arrowheads. 

So, the arrowheads come from some where, and there are stories about that. 

Colonel Alfred Burton Welch was determined to find an answer to the origin of the stone arrow heads. On September 23, 1923, Welch met with Chasing Fly, then about seventy years old. Chasing Fly had this to say to Welch’s question, “We did not make them. We picked them up when we wanted them. No one made the stone points. The Pȟadáni [Arikara] picked them up like we did. Iŋktómi Nation made them. Or some animal made them. No Dakȟóta ever made good ones. Some Dakȟóta prayed at it. There were many of them then. The wild plums grow on trees. The stone arrows lay on the ground. We picked the plums. We picked the points. Iŋktómi is wakȟáŋ. The stone points are wakȟáŋ. The plums were placed there for us to eat. We ate them. The stone points were put there for us to use. We used them in arrows. I cannot talk much about that thing. [Chasing Fly’s medicine was an animal, and he didn’t feel comfortable or obligated to answer further questions about stones especially stones that he felt were wakȟáŋ.] I cannot talk of stones much. Some other man can. The stone arrow point is wakȟáŋ. It is not my medicine. So I could pick them up when I found them. But I cannot talk much about them.”

On Oct. 6, 1926, Welch sat down with tribal elder Mrs. Grey Bull and asked her about the origin of arrowheads. This was her response, “Iŋktómi made the stone arrow points.  We had iron for a long time and made them.  The Dakȟóta never made them.  We say many of these stone rings and pictures on the ground on the high hills.  Someone made them.  I do not know who these people were.  They were not our people.  They were wakȟáŋ.”

In an undated conversation Welch had with Bull Bear, Welch approached Bull Bear with a flint-knapped turtle effigy. Bull Bear was moved to say, “This is a turtle. Sometimes in the past good boys and girls wore such things in a bag which was tied to their hair for good luck. Iŋktómi made it like he made all the arrow heads. Some people have heard him at work, but could never see him. I have, myself, heard him at work, chipping stones. It was a small hole south of Fort Yates where I heard him working. He went slow [chip chip]. We got within a few feet of the hole, when he would stop and we could not find him then. When we went away he worked again.”

On May 11, 1933, Welch interviewed Mrs. Crow Ghost about some artifacts exhumed from Crying Hill in Mandan, ND. Welch showed her bone and metal tools, and she told Welch that the tools were made by a woman’s hand, but the stone tools, Mrs. Crow Ghost said, were not made by human hands. “these stone knives and scrapers and arrow heads,” said Mrs. Crow Ghost, “Iŋktómi made them and put them where that woman could find them to use.”

A few years later, an unidentified Dakȟóta man had picked a flint arrow head and approached Welch with the offer to part with it for a nickel. Welch took the opportunity to ask if the arrowhead was made by Iŋktómi. The man’s answer, “I do not think so. Most of us say that he made them, but I think the Little People [Wanáği] made them.”

This is the cultural origin of the old stone arrowheads, made by Iŋktómi, the Wanáği, or perhaps even some early people, and scatted across the land. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Great White Father Visits Standing Rock

The President sits next to Chairman Archambault at the Cannonball Flag Day Pow-wow in Cannon Ball, N.D. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast. 
Tȟuŋkášilayapi Yuhá Hí
Whom They Have For A Grandfather Came Here
Or, The Great White Father Visits Standing Rock
By Dakota Wind
CANNONBALL, N.D. – The morning was just like any other summer morning, only this particular morning I awoke before the meadowlarks and mourning doves could fill the backyard with songs.

I hit the road with my youngest son, Lij, at 7:30. Destination: Cannonball.

The road follows the river south, and meanders back and forth along the bluffs and banks of the river through hills and even a small badlands formation near Huff. A few cars, one loaded with dancers, passed us by as if I was driving in reverse, the woman in the passenger seat was busy wrapping her hair, others in the backseat plaiting their hair, their destination the same as ours.

Traffic steadily increased as we reached Cannonball. The junction was a swarm of activity. Shiny cars and bright lights, matched by the crisp blue uniforms of B.I.A. cops and matte black of the Secret Service, a few vehicles were positioned to block the road already, as a few cars – probably residents – squeaked by through police officers ushering traffic on foot.

Prairie Knights Casino. I saw Journey play here, back when they got small after Steve Perry, but before they got big again with Arnel Pineda. 

Elders, singers, dancers, and other guests were directed to Prairie Knights Casino, a few miles south, where all would be shuttled to the Cannonball pow-wow grounds at 11:15. Early arrivals had already formed a long line, which only grew over the next few hours, but it was a jovial crowd full of flashing smiles and raucous laughter.

The bus ride in itself was filled with a hum of growing anticipation, oddly juxtaposed with Billie Idol’s “White Wedding” playing rather obnoxiously on the radio, followed by Mötley Cruë’s “Girls Girls Girls,” and finished with Billy Squier’s “Everybody Wants You,” by the time we pulled into Cannonball.

"Waiting to host President Obama at Cannonball Flag Day Celebration," Chase Iron Eyes, Last Real Indians.

The wačípi (pow-wow) ground was flanked by proud lodges at the west side of the bowery representing the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (The Seven Council Fires, commonly known as the Great Sioux Nation) and the First Nations, their doors open and facing the direction of the new day.

Security at the pow-wow. The Secret Service removed knives and other potential weapons. Photo by Mark Holman.

An odd site was a great tent, under which waited the Secret Service. They herded everyone like cattle to walk through fencing and metal detectors, some participants were taken aside and patted down. A few dancers brought knives, which were part of their regalia, but which were removed from them. I didn’t find out if those individuals got their knives back, but I felt oddly comforted that I didn’t bring mine, and out of sorts that I didn’t wear mine. A few dancers, familiar faces on the pow-wow trail, noted the absence of my sword, and jested that I looked strange without it.

Dancers were directed into the arena. Veterans had raised the flags with the voices of singers in the light of the rising sun, in pride and memory of our relatives who served our people and country. There was a light wind that blew out of the south that picked up as morning became noon, which lifted the flags, some a little worn and faded, others brilliant and new, but all rippled and snapped proudly in the wind.

The biggest flag I've ever seen fly on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.

In the center of the bowery a large American flag roared in the wind and flew above all others, a diminutive flag of the Standing Rock Nation hummed below it at times in the shadow of the American flag.

Cannonball Flag Day Pow-wow is an annual event. Without regard to the President’s visit, a prayer was invoked by respected Standing Rock community leader Cedric Good House, and the Grand Entry commenced shortly thereafter, followed by inter tribal dances.

The announcer, Mr. Tony Bobtail Bear Sr., kept the crowd entertained with humorous quips, “Is it okay to ask what the President is doing over there? We’ve been waiting for twenty minutes now,” to, “Who wants to see the Secret Service dance?” Bobtail Bear introduced honored visitors and guests, tribal chairs rose as he called their name. Seemingly random visitors were also asked to rise but whom the Bobtail Bear knew personally and could share a personal story about.

Governor Dalrymple greets the President with a warm North Dakota handshake as he disembarks Airforce 1 at the Bismarck Airport. 

Eventually, he announced North Dakota Governor, the honorable Jack Dalrymple.

Ms. Marcella LaBeau, Wígmuŋke Wašté Wiŋ (Pretty Rainbow Woman) in uniform. Is honored by the crowd for her service to the people and country. 

Among the many honored guests was Marcella LaBeau, a ninety-four year old WWII nursing vet. She was honored with song by the people, and brought with her a medal awarded to her from the President of France; a gleaming silver and glass medal which contained sand where the D-Day assault landed in France.

The President arrived by helicopter, under escort of four other helicopters then he and the First Lady spent an hour listening to the concerns of the youth of Standing Rock. In recent history, the youth on Standing Rock and on many other reservations deal with living in poverty, broken homes, alcoholism, chemical dependence, gang violence, and suicide (which is 70% higher in the reservations; youth suicide is even higher).

Reservations across the country and into Canada face a high unemployment rate, a lack of housing, poor access to health care, and little assistance in pursuits of post-high school education. During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, many American Indians moved to the big cities in the Indian Relocation Act, for employment, and often found poor paying blue collar jobs no one else wanted; the greatest cost the “city Indians” lay in the sacrifice of culture and language, in order to provide for their families.

Photo by Mark Holman.

The President entered the arena sometime after four o’clock in the afternoon, and was greeted with an encouragement song by the Grand River Singers. By this time, the dancers were wind-blasted and cooked, but neither the sun nor the wind could dampen the people’s enthusiasm.

The dancers performed a men’s exposition, that is, all the male dancers in every category and from every age were asked to go out to enter the arena and share their dance. My son and I entered the open arena and took up a spot to start from on the west end, in an open area near the President.

Lij asked, “Where’s the President?” I looked westerly and saw the First Lady, the President was talking with Mr. Dave Archambault Jr., Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. My son stood behind me and peaked from around my leg towards the President and the First Lady, and waved. She waved back, then gently nudged the President in his side and pointed in our direction. They both waved, and it seemed to me that this would be as close as I would get.

There I am, on the far left and out of focus. Probably the only picture I'll be in with the Great White Father. Incidentally, if I met him, I would have addressed him with a straight face as "The Great White Father," just to see his reaction.

The song began and my son and I parted. He one way, and I another.

When next I saw my son, at the end of the song, after the men dancers left the arena and the women took our places, he said, “I met the President,” in a simple, matter-of-fact tone.

He walked right up to him with his new friend, and met the President.

During the downtime, Lij had drawn a picture of the sun shining down upon a pile of rocks, and signed it, “To Presidunut, From *Lij**.” I couldn’t, in my doubt, believe that he’d be able to give it to him, and suggested that perhaps we could mail it, but, in his innocent resolve, said to me, “No.” And took his drawing into his own small hands with quiet deliberation.

After the women’s exposition, the Tiny Tots (a category for the youngest children dancers, boys and girls) were called forward to a last dance in the arena. Afterward, Chairman Archambault introduced the President, who offered greetings in Lakȟóta, and kept his speech mercifully short. His speech is online.

Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast.

Then the President stepped out into the bowery and offered to take pictures with the dancers. Lij had become fast friends with another young traditional dancer there, and shared his seat in the very front row. When the bar was raised, Lij raced out to the President and I lost sight of my little boy.

He returned a few minutes later empty handed, and said to me in all nonchalance, “Let’s go get some fries.” I asked him if he met the President and shook his hand, his response, “Sure.” I said, “I didn’t get to meet him,” and he said simply to me with no hint mockery, that innocence shining in his liquid brown eyes, “You can shake my hand.” And I did.

Photo by Mark Holman.

The President left in a caravan. A trail of dust rose up in swirls, a dance in itself, in a field of native grasses, shorn for the occasion. The dust drifted away to nothingness, but the sun shone golden on the prairie steppe, and the invisible wind remained.