Ghost Hill on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, south and east of Fort Yates, ND.Legend Of Ghost Hill
Jealously Drives Mob To Murder
As Told By Šiyáka (Pied-Billed Grebe)
Song by Two Shields
Recorded by Frances Densmore
Standing Rock, SD & ND – Musical ethnologist Frances Densmore recorded this story and song on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation between 1911 and 1914. About eight miles south-east of present-day Fort Yates, ND is a high butte known as Ghost Hill.
When Sitting Bull and his band were brought from Canada they camped one winter on the lowland beside the Missouri River, a few miles below Fort Yates. It was a large camp, including many hostile Indians, who were afterward located at Pine Ridge and at Cherry Creek in the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Among these Indians was a particularly handsome young man, who was very fascinating to the young women.
One day he disappeared. As no trace of him could be found, his parents consulted a man who had some sacred stones, giving him a horse and asking that he would tell them of their son. This man said that during the next night the voice of the missing man would be heard passing through the camp, and that all must follow the voice. On the night designated all the camp was on alert; just before dawn they heard the voice of the young man approaching. His parents and friends, recognizing the voice, began to lament, and the dogs barked at the approach of a person.
The voice passed through the camp, singing a love song, then turned and came back, retracing its way toward this hill. The people followed, but could not go as fast as the voice, which gradually became more distant until it was lost in darkness.
This incident seemed to make the grief of the young man’s parents more acute, and they went again to the owner of the stones, to whom they gave another horse, asking him to tell who had killed their son. The man said he had been murdered by ten men, who were jealous of him, and that one of these men would die in ten days, another in ten days after the first, and so on until all were dead.
This came to pass as he predicted. The parents of the missing man then went again to the owner of the stones and begged to know where they could find the body of their son. The man said that their son had been chased a long distance by his enemies and finally had been killed far from home, and that his body had been devoured by wolves. He told the parents to follow the voice (which was still heard at intervals singing the same song) and to keep following it until they reached the place where the voice disappeared, where they would see their son.
The next time they heard the voice they hastened toward the place whence it came and saw at some distance before them a figure wrapped in a gray army blanket. They followed it but could never quite overtake it. Sometimes they would feel its presence behind them, and on looking back, would see it, but it never quite overtook them. It always followed the path toward Ghost Hill, and the parents thought it disappeared in the side of the hill.
Accordingly they dug into the side of the hill and made a diligent search, but the body of the young man was never found. A man named Walking Elk lived at the foot of Ghost Hill. He had a large family, the members of which died one after another. He laid their deaths to the ghost and shot at it with his rifle. The last appearance of the ghost was about the year 1889. It is said that a similar figure wrapped in a gray army blanket was later seen at Pine Ridge and on the Rosebud Reservation.
Two Shields assented to record the song attributed to the young man’s ghost:
Wačéye (I Weep)
Wióyuspapi čhaŋ (Courting-women Then)
Iyótaŋ Wačháŋmni Kȟó (Best I-tried As-well)