Friday, May 1, 2015

Lakota Woman Goes To War

Camp of the Gros Ventre on the Prairies, by Karl Bodmer. 
Brave Woman Counts Coup
Huŋkphápȟa Woman Remembered

As told by Jenny Leading Cloud
American Indian Myths And Legends
Edited by The First Scout
White River, Rosebud, SD - Over a hundred years ago, when the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (“Sioux”) were still living in Mníšota (Minnesota), there was a Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton) band of Huŋkphápȟa at Mní Wakȟáŋ (Spirit Lake) under an chief called Tȟáwa Makȟóčhe (His Country). It was his country too, Indian Country, until the white soldiers with their cannon finally drove the Thítȟuŋwaŋ across the Mníšoše (Water-Astir; Missouri River).

In his youth the chief had been a great warrior. Later, when his fighting days were over, he was known as a wise leader, invaluable in council, a great giver of feasts, and a provider for the poor.

The chief had three sons and one daughter. The sons tried to emulate their father in deed by becoming great warriors as their father, but it was a difficult thing to do. Time and again they battled against the Kȟaŋğí (Crow) with reckless bravery, exposing their selves in the front rank, fighting hand to hand, until one by one they were all killed. The sad chief had only his daughter left. Some say her name was Makȟáta Wiŋ (On The Ground Woman). Others called her Ohítika Wiŋ (Brave Woman).

The young woman was beautiful and proud. Many young men sent their fathers to the old chief with gifts of fine horses that were preliminary to marriage proposals. Among those who desired Ohítika Wiŋ for a wife was a young warrior named Hé Lúta (Red Horn), himself the son of a chief, who sent his father again and again to arrange a marriage on his behalf.

Ohítika Wiŋ would not marry. “I will not take a husband,” she said, “until I have counted coup on the Crow to avenge my brothers.”

Another young man, Waŋblí Čík’ala (Little Eagle), also loved Ohítika Wiŋ. He was too shy to declare his love because he was poor, and had never been able to distinguish himself.

At this time, the Kȟaŋğí made a great effort to establish their nation on the upper Mníšoše, a country the Saóŋ (Northern Thítȟuŋwaŋ) consider their own. The Huŋkphápȟa decided to send out a strong war party to chase them back. Hé Lúta and Waŋblí Čík’ala were in this same war party.

“I shall ride with you,” Ohítika Wiŋ said. She put on her best dress of white buckskin, which was richly decorated with beadwork and quillwork; around her neck she wore a dentalium choker.

Ohítika Wiŋ then went before Tȟáwa Makȟóčhe and addressed him, “Father, I must go to the place where my brothers died. I must count coup for them. Tell me that I can go.”

Tȟáwa Makȟóčhe wept with overwhelming pride and profound sadness. “You are my last child,” he said, “I fear for you, and for a lonely age without children to comfort me. Your decision has long been determined. I see that you must go. Do it quickly. Wear my warbonnet into battle. Go and do not look back.”

Ohítika Wiŋ then took her brothers weapons, her father’s warbonnet and best horse, and rode out with the war party. They came upon a vast enemy camp, that it appeared to be the entire Kȟaŋğí nation – hundreds of men and thousands of horses. There were many more Kȟaŋğí than Huŋkphápȟa, but they attacked nevertheless.

Ohítika Wiŋ was a sight to stir and motivate the warriors to great deeds. She gave Hé Lúta her oldest brother’s lance and shield, and said, “Count coup for my brother.” To Waŋblí Čík’ala she gave her second brother’s bow and arrows, and said, “Count coup for him who owned these.” She gave her youngest brother’s war club to another young warrior. For herself, Ohítika Wiŋ carried her father’s coup stick wrapped in otter fur.

At first Ohítika Wiŋ held back in the fight. She supported the Huŋkphápȟa by singing brave-heart songs and trilling (the tremulous cry which women use to encourage their men). When the Huŋkphápȟa were driven back by overwhelming numbers, she rode into the midst of the fight. She didn’t try to kill her enemies, but counted coup left and right. What Lakȟóta warrior could think of retreat when a woman fought bravely beside them?

The press of the Kȟaŋğí and their horses pushed the Huŋkphápȟa back a second time. The horse of Ohítika Wiŋ was hit by a musket ball and went down. She was one foot and defenseless when Hé Lúta passed her by. She was too proud to call out for help and he pretended not to see her. Waŋblí Čík’ala then came riding out of the battle dust, dismounted, and told her to get on. She did so, thinking that they would ride double when he called out, “This horse is wounded, and is too weak to carry us both.”

“I won’t leave you to be killed,” said Ohítika Wiŋ, when Waŋblí Čík’ala struck the horse’s rump with her brother’s bow. The horse bolted and Waŋblí Čík’ala went back into the fight on foot. Ohítika Wiŋ rallied the war party for a final charge. Their final push was so determined and fierce that the Kȟaŋğí retreated.

This was the battle in which the Kȟaŋğí were driven away from the Mníšoše. It was a great victory for the Huŋkphápȟa, and many brave young men had died. Among the dead was Waŋblí Čík’ala, struck down with his face towards the enemy. The Huŋkphápȟa warriors took the bow of Hé Lúta and broke it, then took his feathers and sent him home.

They placed the body of Waŋblí Čík’ala on a scaffold, where the enemy camp had been. Then, they killed his horse to serve him in the spirit world. “Go willingly,” they told the horse, “Your rider has need of you in the spirit world.”

Ohítika Wiŋ gashed her arms and legs with a knife in her grief. She also cut her hair short and tore her dress. Thus, she mourned for Waŋblí Čík’ala. They had not been husband and wife. In fact, he hardly dared look at her or speak to her, but now she asked everyone to treat her as a widow.

Ohítika Wiŋ never took a husband, and she never ceased to mourn the loss of Waŋblí Čík’ala. “I am his widow, “she would tell people. She died of old age. She had done a great thing and her fame endures.

Huŋkphápȟa: Head Of The Camp Circle, Hunkpapa
Kȟaŋğí: Crow
Očhéthi Šakówiŋ: Seven Council Fires
Mníšoše: Water Astir, Missouri River
Mníšota: Smoking Water, Minnesota
Mní Wakȟáŋ: Water With Energy, Spirit Lake
Saóŋ: Northern Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Huŋkphápȟa, Oóheŋuŋpa, Mníkowožu, Itázipčho)
Thítȟuŋwaŋ: Dwellers On The Plains, Teton

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