Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Tragic Love Of Flying Shadow Woman And Track Maker

"The Falls Of Saint Anthony" by Henry Lewis.
Love And Death Between Enemies
Flying Shadow Woman And Track Maker

Edited by Dakota Wind
The story of the love between the Dakȟóta warrior Track Maker and the young Anishinaabe woman Flying Shadow has appeared in print twice, once in Charles Skinner’s Myths And Legends Of Our Own Lands, 1896, and again in Terri Hardin’s Legends And Lore Of The American Indians, 1993. Both books are out of print. This story is retold here with edits. It has not been verified by living oral tradition, but it bears similarities (i.e tragic deaths of lovers, conflict) to living stories such as Painted Woods and Spirit Wood.

BDÓTE, M.N. - The Anishinaabe and Dakȟóta had come together at Bdóte (“Where Two Waters Converge*”) to cement friendships and celebrate. A young Anishinaabe, Flying Shadow Woman, was sad when the time came for the tribes to part, for a Dakȟóta man, Track Maker, had won her heart.

In those days, inter-tribal marriages were not unknown. If she married him and went to live with his people, it might well be possible that every Dakȟóta would be against her should the tribes wage war. War between the Anishinaabe and the Dakȟóta was closer than neither Flying Shadow Woman nor Track Maker anticipated.

The Anishinaabe left with feelings of good will. Flying Shadow Woman had received a token of love from Track Maker and kept it close.


"The Falls Of Saint Anthony" by George Catlin.

Two Anishinaabe warriors lingered behind their band, and for reasons of their own, killed a Dakȟóta man after this congenial gathering. News of the murder reached the Dakȟóta village which provoked an immediate retaliation, and a war party of 300 was swiftly formed. Track Maker counted himself first among the war party as it was his brother who was shot and killed, and though he loved Flying Shadow Woman, he could not remain behind. The war party descended upon the unsuspecting Anishinaabe who had made camp between Owámni (“Whirlpool,” aka St. Anthony Falls) and Wakpá Wakáŋ (“Spirit River,” aka Rum River).

The Anishinaabe camp was unaware of the murder of the Dakȟóta man. 

"Ojibwe Encampment" by Paul Kane.

The Dakȟóta fell upon them and exacted furious revenge. In the midst of the violence Track Maker beheld Flying Shadow Woman who rushed into his arms with a cry of relief, but serenity was denied her. Track Maker embraced her but for a moment until he bowed his head and fortified his will to annihilate her people for the murder of his brother. Track Maker abandoned Flying Shadow Woman to claim retribution. He never looked back. He did not kill her, but he refused to save her.

The Dakȟótas' thirst for vengeance was slaked only when the last Anishinaabe lay dead.

The war party took a hundred scalps that day, and upon their return celebrated their victory.

Track Maker returned with more scalps than any other warrior, and the Dakȟóta welcomed him home as a hero, but he kept a solemn distance from all, and refused to share in the celebration. The memory of Flying Shadow Woman’s face haunted him thereafter. He saw her in the river, in the leaves, in the clouds, and even in the faces of deer when he went hunting.

At last, one day, a war party was mustered. Track Maker was the first to join, and on the field of battle he was the first to engage the enemy by running directly into them. He laid his axe about the enemy until he fell, pierced by a several arrows.

He smiled as he died.

Though this is a very short story retold with edits, two people graciously offered guidance:

Lise Erdrich, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, lives and works in Wahpeton, ND, and has worked in American Indian health and education for over twenty years. She is the author of the children’s picture books Sacagawea, Bear Makes Rock Soup, and many other acclaimed works.

Dawí, Huhá Máza, is a lineal descendant of the Kap'óža Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ Oyáte. A traditional bow and arrow maker, and Dakȟóta language student, Dawí lives in occupied Bde Óta Othúŋwe (aka Minneapolis).

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* Where the Wakpá Mní Šóta (Smoking Water River, aka “Minnesota River”) converges with the Ȟaȟá Wakpá (Falling Water River, aka “Mississippi River”).