Monday, October 10, 2011

The Waterfall Maiden, A Lakota Love Story

The Waterfall Maiden
An Enduring Tale Of A Sad Love Story
By Dakota Wind
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The Ihanktowon, or Yankton, were camped at the falls of the Big Sioux River in South Dakota.  The falls was a favorite winter camp site as there was plenty of water, game, and resources for keeping the camp there. 

In the late fall and throughout the winter when the water was low enough, the Yankton could easily cross the river on stepping stones above the falls. 

Because this site was so popular, many tribes would trade here in an annual rendezvous. 

It happened one winter, at the time when winter passes and nature embraces spring, a neighboring tribe came to make temporary camp on the east bank of the Winding River.  The Yankton were camped on the west bank and as the seasons were changing, so did they begin to prepare to break camp.


The Yankton chief immediately formed a delegation of his head men, some of his relatives, and his own immediate family and crossed the Winding River Falls to meet their new neighbors. 

The new neighbors proved to be quite hospitable and gracious.  They put on a feast and dance for the Yankton and the celebration lasted into the evening.  The next day, the Yankton chief and his band readied themselves and broke camp, their destination: west to hunt and gather as their Teton Lakota relatives had always done. 

The evening before, during the festivities, the Yankton chief’s daughter met a young brave from the other tribe.  As her people began to prepare to leave their winter camp at the falls, she began to lose her motivation to break camp.  Her enthusiasm to leave waned, but she also didn’t want to disobey her parents and stay behind.  She broke camp with her people and left the winter camp behind. 


It was nearing the end of winter.  The time of year when the geese return, when bison calves are born, when trees began to leave, and it is also the time when ice breaks. 

It was late winter, or early spring if you see it that way, and as her people’s band moved further and further away from the Winding River Falls, the chief’s daughter became withdrawn and sad.  The Yankton maiden became so overcome with longing that she left her father and people and stealthily made her return to the falls. 

Okay, so I couldn't find a proper appropriate image of a native woman by a waterfall, and, "No. Native women didn't dress like this.  If they did, I wonder why I didn't see a sight like this back on the rez."

During the ensuing days from when her people initially left their winter camp to her arrival, the snow melted and the ice broke, submerging the stepping stones of the Winding River Falls.  She couldn’t cross the river.  She stood at the edge of the river looking at the neighboring tribe’s abandoned campsite. 

The Yankton Chief noticed the absence of his daughter sometime later and he knew just where she might be bound, so he sent some of his scouts back to the winter campsite to retrieve her. 

The scouts came upon the Yankton maiden, and as they came closer they overheard the maiden’s song. 

As she stood there, a melody from the falls came to her.  With this melody, she put the words that the young brave had spoken to her: 

One of William Horncloud's albums.  Gratify yourself and get a copy today.

Nióiye wéksuye,
Nióiye wéksuye,
Nióiye wéksuyiŋ na wačhéye nióiye wéksuyiŋ na wačhéye. 
“Eháŋni šáš kičhí waúŋ šni,”
ečháŋmi kiŋ óta ye nióiye wéksuyiŋ na wačhéye. 

I regretted losing you (I wanted you back) and I was heart broken many times. You live somewhere else and are having a hard time.

When you quit (that one) you and I will live together. 

Why did you tell about us?  And now I am in misery, I am in misery.  Why did you tell about us?  And now I am in misery.  

If this is not possible on earth, it will be possible in heaven.  

Love me, you made me miserable.

I remember your words,  
I remember your words,
I remember your words and cried.  
I remember your words and cried.  Many times I have thought:
“I should have been with her long ago,”
I remember your words and cried.   

The song, adapted to flute by Kevin Locke, appears on Locke's album "Dream Catcher."  You should go get yourself a copy of this one too.  Kevin is teaching me this song and has permitted me to play it, which I will when I'm confident I sound good.

Song by William Horncloud
Story by Ben Black Bear Sr.
Big Sioux River name, Ipákšaŋkšaŋ Wakpá (Winding River) remembered by Agnes Ross
Adapted to flute by Kevin Locke