Friday, August 22, 2014

The Origin Of Fire

The jacket of the book features ledger book art by Black Hawk titled, "Sans Arc Lakota."
The Origin Of Fire
Pȟéta Ohútkȟaŋ

By Dakota Wind
Standing Rock, N.D. & S.D. – The following is an excerpt from Josephine Waggoner’s wonderful book “Witness: A Húŋkphapȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas,” which is published by the University of Nebraska Press, available now. Get your copy today.

The origin of fire as it is remembered in the traditions told by the old men of the tribe of the Sioux is that there had been no fires used by them in the times past. Fires may have been seen but not used. It was feared by the Indians as a destructive element.

Pȟóğe (Inside-Of-Nose) was the first to discover fire. He was an active man, was always examining and noticing everything about him. One day Pȟóğe went to the woods to look for hardwood knots. Those days, men looked for knots in decayed wood. The fallen logs were rotten, but the knots were hard. These were picked up, scooped out, and used for dishes. The dishes were sometimes sort of sandpapered or filed on sandstone till they were the shape they were wanted.

Pȟóğe found a rotten stump. He scooped it all out; he worked with it for quite a while. He tried to work a deep hole in the center. He got a stick. He sharpened it at the end, and with this stick placed sharpened side to the heart of the stump, he rolled it fast between his hands, trying to deepen the hole. It started to smoke, but he kept on twirling the stick. A fire started where it was smoking.

Pȟóğe has been sitting on a knoll and when the fire burnt in earnest, he started toward the camp, toward the center of the village where some of the village had gathered. Everyone was watching Pȟóğe as he walked along with the burning stump. From camp to camp it was spoken of. “Look at Pȟóğe, look at Pȟóğe. He is coming home in a strange way.” The burning stump was taken to the council lodge. Men ran and got wood. Wood was brought from all sides of the camp. Excitement ran high about this new thing that had been discovered. People carried lighted sticks home from the council lodge to start fires in their homes. Meat that had always been cured and dried before using was now cooked – that is, it was roasted.

It was decided that the fire must always be kept up in the council lodge so that those who wanted it could go and get it. After this, the fire was never extinguished. At each council the sacred fire was kept, till there were seven fires among the Sioux.