Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mní Nažúŋspe KawéğA (Broken Axe Lake), A Tragic Love Story

Mní Nažúŋspe KawéğA (Broken Axe Lake)
Tragic Love Story: Painted Woods Revisited
By Dakota Wind
WASHBURN, N.D.The story of tragic young love is universal. It is perhaps most widely known through the wonderful Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet. It’s the age old tale of boy meets girl; a story of secret forbidden love. But whereas the story of Romeo and Juliet is fictional, this is a true story.

A summary of the tragedy is that a young Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) man met a Miwátaŋni (Mandan; Nu’Eta, or The People as they know themselves) maiden during an intertribal trade one fall many winters ago near what was then known as Mní Nažúŋspe KawéğA (Broke Ax Lake).

This young couple fell immediately and deeply in love. When trade ended, the young man elected to stay behind with his girl. This was the custom of the Miwátaŋni Indians that the man goes to live with his wife in her mother’s lodge. But they eloped.

The Miwátaŋni have the story that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna killed the young woman, while the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna have it that the Miwátaŋni killed the young man.

Here is an excerpt of Colonel A.B. Welch’s Oral History Of The Dakota Tribes, 1800’s-1945, Story No. 32, Story Of Painted Lake [Note: In Welch’s version, the story entangles an Arikara maiden rather than a Mandan]:

A long time ago many Indian tribes, at war with each other, were encamped on the shores of the lake now known as “Painted Woods Lake,” but at that time known to the Sioux as “Broken Axe Lake.”

...Broken Axe Lake has passed into disuse.

A Sioux warrior flirted with an Arikara woman and they prepared to fly away.  But that night the Arikara men killed the Dakotah in the arms of newly-found love.

When the Dakotah discovered this murder, they all went to the tipi where the body lay, with the poor woman weeping over it.  They fitted arrows and shot her many times.  Then there was war for many years, and a dead tree trunk, white with age, was painted red by the Rees and their friends.  Whenever a war party of any Indians would pass that way, they would paint their war deeds upon the boles of certain dead trees as a taunt to their enemies.

Therefore, the place has become the Painted Woods place of the Indians, and the name Broken Axe Lake has passed into disuse. 

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