An engraving of Lake Pepin in Minnesota. Maiden Rock appears in the background in the right half of this image.Legend Of The Maiden’s Leap
A Lakȟóta Woman’s Lost Love
Collected by Frances Densmore
Fort Yates, ND – In 1911 Frances Densmore, an anthropologist and ethnographer, on behalf of the Bureau of American Ethnology, came to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and recorded hundreds of songs on wax cylinders for preservation.
While Densmore was stationed on Standing Rock she heard a story about a Lakȟóta woman’s leap which bore some similarity to a Sisíthuŋwaŋ (Sisseton) woman’s jump off of a promontory on the eastern shore of what is today Lake Pepin. The Dakȟóta woman jumped off this point and killed herself on the rocks below.
The Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton; Lakota) say that their young woman jumped from a high point somewhere in the west. Here is their story:
A young woman had promised to marry a man, but he wished to make a name for himself before the marriage took place. He had been on the warpath, but he wished to go again that he might distinguish himself by valor. When the war party returned they said he had been killed by the Crow.
Sometime afterward in the course of tribal wanderings a camp was made at the place where, according to the report of the war party, the young man had been killed. Dressing herself in her best attire, the maiden went to the edge of the cliff, she offered a song and gave a trill before jumping into the river below her.
This is her song:
Zuyá iyá’yelo (He has gone to war)
Ehápi k’uŋ (You have said)
Hé wašté waláke (I love him)
Iyótiye wakíye (I am sad)