Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipse Is Time For Prayer And Reflection

A modern take on a historic pictograph representing the solar eclipse of Aug. 7, 1869. Metallic pencils (gold and silver) on black composition paper. 
Cloud On Fire
Eclipse Is Time For Prayer
By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, N.D. (TFS) – The Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta call the solar eclipse Maȟpíya Yapȟéta, or “Cloud On Fire.” Other Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires; Great Sioux Nation) tribes have different names for the eclipse, many calling it Wí’kte (Sun Killed). The New Lakota Dictionary, 2nd Edition, has a few entries for eclipse as well: Aháŋzi (Shadow) and Aóhanziya (To Cast Shadow Upon).

On August 7, 1869, North America experienced a solar eclipse. One group of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna Dakhóta, under the leadership of Matȟó Núŋpa (Two Bear), camped outside Psíŋ Oyáŋke (lit. “Rice Place;” Fort Rice) for the occasion. Throughout the summer, the officers and soldiers told and retold the Húŋkpapȟa and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna about the impending occlution. Dr. Washington Matthews, the post surgeon at Fort Rice, remarked about the palpable anticipation the month before the eclipse[1].

The day of the eclipse, however, found the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna not filled with excitement or anticipation, rather, they were filled with a quiet reverence. Some loaded their pipes for prayer, others lit sage, burned braids of sweetgrass, and others offered cedar as their incense. Some of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna discussed the eclipse with the soldiers at Psíŋ, the soldiers in turn explained the science of the eclipse. After the sun returned, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna solemnly departed the fort.

The Swan Winter Count records the solar eclipse of 1869. 

It is worth observing that not one Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna winter count ever mentions the 1869 solar eclipse. The Chandler-Pohrt Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna) details a black circle for 1867 but the accompanying text and interpretation relate that this entry refers to a death (the filled in black circle can represent death, night, moon, or winter, within context). They undoubtedly saw it, but chose not to record it.

That same day, Aug. 7, 1869, some of the Oglála at Fort Laramie viewed the solar eclipse alongside the soldiers there. Matȟó Sápa (Black Bear) and recorded the eclipse on his winter count as a black circle with a few stars. The Oglála contended that the solar eclipse was in fact a great uŋȟčéǧi (monster; i.e. “dragon”) that swallowed Aŋpétuwi (the Sun) [2].

Concurrently, at Iyóȟaȟa Ipákšaŋkšaŋ (lit. “Winding Waterfall”)[3], the present-day waterfalls at Sioux Falls, SD, astronomer Cleveland Abbé observed a large presence of Iháŋtȟuŋwaŋ (Yankton) were present for the observation. Abbé made no further note of visitation with the Iháŋtȟuŋwaŋ, but did record that their attention to the non-native reaction was equal to their observation of the eclipse itself[4].

When a rainbow appears in the clouds like this, the Lakȟóta call it Wíačhéič'ithi, which means, "The Sun makes a campfire for himself." This was taken on the day of the partial solar eclipse in 2014, as seen from North Dakota.

At the same time, at Whetstone Agency in Dakota Territory, DC Poole, an Indian agent and physician, thought to increase his standing among his charges (it was the era of paternalism) by telling them he would take away the sun on Aug. 7, 1869, until he chose to bring it back. The eclipse came as he predicted (he took his prediction from an almanac). The Sičáŋǧu (lit. “Burnt Thighs;” aka Brulé) and Oglála watched the eclipse impassively until the occlusion reached its climax, at which point they drew their guns and fired, dispelling Poole’s "medicine." The doctor might be able to predict the event, but the Lakȟóta could dispel it. Poole wasn’t a real medicine man after all[5].

According to Oyúȟpe Wiŋ (Drags Down Woman; sister of Chief John Grass) the Sihásapa Lakȟóta were hunting on Makȟóčhe Wašté (lit. “The Beautiful Country;” Great Plains), when the eclipse occurred, “It became very dark. The medicine man told them all to fire their guns at the sun or it would never awaken again and they would be lost in the darkness. So everyone fired their guns at the sun and yelled very loudly, and wailed and cried and prayed. Finally, the sun began to get brighter and finally came to life again.[6]” This narrative indicates that this band of Thítȟuŋwaŋ regarded the eclipse as though the sun had died. They called it Wí’kte (lit. “The Sun Died”).

A partial solar eclipse as seen from North Dakota in 2014. 

The Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ Dakhóta (lit. “Leaf Dwellers;” Wahpeton) at Portage la Prairie and Griswald in Manitoba informed anthropologist Wilson Wallis in 1923 that the solar eclipse served as a warning to prepare for disaster. The eclipse signified the end of the world; or that great conflict was soon to break out in the world. Also, a lunar eclipse signified the same warning. The luminaries, Aŋpétuwi and Haŋwí (the Moon) favor the Dakhóta and give them an early warning to prepare them[7].

Maǧáska (Swan), a Mnikȟówožu (lit. “Those Who Plant By The Water) Lakȟóta man and winter count keeper, seems to be the only one who outright recorded that they experienced fear when they witnessed the 1869 eclipse[8].

The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ have many words to describe the solar eclipse.

Aháŋzi[9]: Shadow

Aŋpétuwí Tókȟaȟ'aŋ[10]: Disappearing Sun

Aóhanziya[11]: To Cast A Shadow Upon

Maȟphíya Yapȟéta[12]: Fire Cloud

Wakhápheya[13]: Of A Singular Appearance

Wí’Atá[14]: Sun Entire

Wí’kte[15]: The Sun Died

Wí’te[16]: "New Moon"

Does the solar eclipse serve as a warning of calamity and war? Is a great dragon devouring the sun, or is it the false medicine of a white man? The eclipse is a call to remember the mystery of creation. I imagine that the Dakhóta in Sioux Falls were amazed at the non-native reaction to the sacred balance of light and darkness of the eclipse, wondering, perhaps, why such regard couldn’t be held for Makȟóčhe Wašté, for each other, and for their fellow human beings.

What do the Lakȟóta and Dakhóta do during an eclipse? Some fired guns. Others felt an inexplicable fear. Others, a need to prepare for war. The Húŋkpapȟa pray. The Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna pray. They pray for others in that sacred moment. The sky is visibly wakȟáŋ, it is with-energy. They burn incense to carry their prayers.

Lekší Cedric Good House (Húŋkpapȟa; Standing Rock) maintains the tradition that the solar eclipse is a time of prayer, and to reflect. 

Visit the Native American Mint for more information about this curious coin

The Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation and the Native American Mint have teamed up to produce a silver coin with a face value of $1.00 to mark the eclipse event. The coin is regarded as legal tender, but only on the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation. The face side of the coin features a map of the western hemisphere with the path of the moon detailing the eclipse. The reverse features an image of the moon in front of the sun. There is absolutely nothing cultural about the coin in its imagery.

The next solar eclipse over North America will be on April 8, 2024[17].






[1] Powell, J. W. Fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1882-'83. Washington, DC: Washington Government Printing Office, 1886.
Time: The Dakota Winter Counts, page 126.
[2] Ibid., page 125.
[3] Mr. Kevin Locke, August 2017.
[4] Ibid., page 125.
[5] Hollabaugh, Mark. The Spirit and The Sky: Lakota Visions of the Cosmos. Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indian Series. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.
Eclipses and the Aurora Borealis, page 112.
[6] Welch, A. "Life on The Plains in The 1800's." Welch Dakota Papers. November 1, 2011. Accessed August 11, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[7] Ibid., page 114.
[8] Greene, Candace S., and Russell Thornton. The year the stars fell: Lakota winter counts at the Smithsonian. 1st ed. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 2007.
Page 265.
[9] New Lakota Dictionary, 2nd Edition. 2008.
[10] Mr. Warren Horse Looking, 2014.
[11] New Lakota Dictionary, 2nd Edition. 2008.
[12] Húŋkpapȟa word for solar eclipse.
[13] Ms. Leslie Mountain, 2014.
[14] Mr. John Eagle, 2014.
[15] Many Lakota Winter Counts.
[16] Anonymous Lakota man, 2014. Note: this can also be found on a few winter counts.
[17] McClure, Bruce. "When’s the next U.S. total solar eclipse?" http://earthsky.org. Accessed August 15, 2017. http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/whens-the-next-total-solar-eclipse-in-the-us.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Crying Hill, An Endangered Historic Site

"Crying Hill," or "Mandan Hill" can be seen in the middle of this photo, the Missouri River down below, city development behind in the distance. 
Crying Hill Endangered
Site Overlooks River, City, Interstate
By Dakota Wind
Mandan, N.D. (TFS) – A hill rolls above the floodplain where the Heart River converges with the Missouri River. It divides the city of Mandan from traffic of I-94. It loudly proclaims “MaNDan” on its east face in bright white concrete lettering; the south face of this same plateau says the same but with trees spelling the city's name.

It’s the home of the Mandan Braves, named after the indigenous people who lived there on the banks of the Heart River as traders, fishers, and farmers. The Nu’Eta, as they call themselves, could defend themselves when called for as well. They lived in fortified villages in the Heart River area from about 1450 to about 1781.

Each village had a civil chief and a war chief to advice and look after their interests. The Nu’Eta were productive and hard-working. They must have been doing something right; their villages possessed no jails.

Welch's notations on a 1911 US Geological survey map. Bismarck and Mandan have grown considerably in the hundred+ years since. 

The village along the banks of the Heart River in present-day Mandan, ND was large, with a population of perhaps as many as 3000. Its identified mainly as a Nu’Eta site, but the Hidatsa claim the populace as their own. The Hidatsa became neighbors of the Nu’Eta sometime around 1600 C.E., and inter-married with them over the centuries that today one isn’t Nu’Eta without having Hidatsa relatives.

This large village was known by many names. The Nu’Eta called it Large and Scattered Village. The Hidatsa called it the Two Faced Stone Village for the sacred stone feature atop the plateau overlooking their village. Crows Heart, a principle leader of the Nu’Eta, informed Colonel Alfred Welch that that they called the village there in present-day Mandan, “The Crying Hill Village.” Crows Heart also essayed to Welch that they called it so because their women went to the top of the hill to mourn for lost relatives.

Another village there, south of the Crying Hill Village, called Motsif today, was known by the Nu’Eta as Youngman’s Village. According to Welch’s informants, the Nu’Eta of both these two villages would gather together and inhabit a winter camp in the timber on the floodplain of the Missouri River[1].

According to the late Mr. Joe Packineau, the Crow separated from the Hidatsa at the Crying Hill Village, adding that the village was also called the Tattoo Face Village, and further, that it was Hidatsa, not Nu’Eta. In the time of Good Fur Robe, he had a brother whom they called Tattoo Face. A hunt concluded with a dead bison recovered from the middle of the river. Good Fur Robe divided the kill and took the paunch, which infuriated Tattoo Face and his people, who picked up and moved west. According to Packineau, the Hidatsa called them not Crow, but “The Paunch Jealousy People.” Where the Crow broke away from their Hidatsa relatives was at the Crying Hill Village[2].

Welch drew this diagram mapping the features of Crying Hill. Visit the Welch Dakota Papers site.

At the top of Crying Hill were stone features (including a stone turtle effigy measuring twelve feet across), sacred to the Nu’Eta, upon which were images or pictographs, which changed, and were said to be able to tell the future. One oracle stone in particular, was said known as the “Two Face Stone.” When diviners gathered ‘round to interpret the stone’s musing for the future, they would lift the stone, which seemed to them to be very light. Upon putting it down, they would lift again, and the stone mysteriously weighed more than one could lift. They called this stone Two Face because of its dual nature, and according to Welch’s informant, the village below was called “Two Face Village.” Enemy Heart, an Arikara man, estimated the side of the Two Face Stone to be a diameter of about 18 inches[3], it’s location, at least in 1912, was lay just east of the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, ND[4]. Enemy Heart insisted that the Crying Hill Village’s proper name was Two Face Village.

In the 1870’s, as the city of Mandan developed on the remains of the Large and Scattered Village, or Crying Hill Village, or Tattoo Face Village, Two Face Village, homes and streets encroached on Crying Hill itself. One day, a prospective home owner, took dynamite to the sacred stone on the hillside of Crying Hill and blew it up[5]. Welch contends that the greater oracle stone was drilled and split by white settlers for building stone. One resident, Mr. G.W. Rendon built the basement of his house from fragments of this holy stone[6].

There used to be a burial ground at Crying Hill. In 1933, laborers of the city of Mandan were expanding development of the city for two new houses, and disturbed the graves of eleven Nu’Eta men and women, including a baby. Col. Alfred Welch was called on to offer his assessment of the findings, and he estimated that the size of the Crying Hill Village at about 3000 souls, and was occupied for about 300 years[7], from ~1500 C.E. to about ~1800 C.E. The bodies were hastily buried, possibly due to the haste in which the survivors departed the Heart River villages in 1781 following the smallpox epidemic which struck them.

This reconstruction of the 1863 Apple Creek Fight is overlaid on 1850's Warren survey map. 

Crying Hill overlooks one of the largest conflicts in Dakota Territory history. In 1863, General Sibley led ~2200 soldiers into Dakota Territory on a punitive campaign from Camp Pope in Minnesota. The campaign concluded at the mouth of Apple Creek, on Aug. 1, 1863, when Sibley withdrew from the field of conflict, unable to pursue the Lakȟóta across the Missouri River. The Húŋkpapȟa, led by Black Eyes, crossed the Missouri River where the Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge spans the river, and thence up the Heart River to escape pursuit.

A week after the Apple Creek conflict, Black Eyes brought the Húŋkpapȟa back across the Missouri River and re-crossed the Missouri at the northern most mouth of the Heart River (which had three mouths at that time), and camped above the floodplain opposite Crying Hill. During the night, miners from Fort Benton, MT came down and camped on a sandbar. The next morning the miners tried forced themselves on a Lakȟóta woman who had gone down to the river to refresh herself. She died at the miners’ hands; Black Eyes retaliated and the Húŋkpapȟa warriors awoke and hurried to the river’s edge and exchanged gunfire with the hostiles. During the fight, the boat’s swivel gun misfired into the boat itself causing a fire to break out. The miners were killed to the last man, and there precious gold was scattered about the sandbar[8].

The Mandan Historical Society features this photo of the "Mandan Hill" in the summer of 1959. Visit the Mandan Historical Society today.

In 1934, a local Boy Scouts troop arranged forty-seven truckloads of local stone into giant letters which spelled out “MaNDan,” on what became renamed “Mandan Hill.” It was maintained by the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Mandan Jaycees over the years, then in 1968, after Interstate 94 (I-94) was complete, the “MaNDan” sign was reconstructed in concrete. In the late 1990’s, pine trees were planted on the south face of Crying Hill arranged to spell “MANDAN[9].”

Sometime in 2003, Mr. Patrick Atkinson, acquired 4.7 acres of what remained of Crying Hill, to save it from development. Atkinson heard that the property was going to be put on the market, and he dashed up to Crying Hill after hearing a little about the lore, and provoked by his own winter memories of sledding down the face of Crying Hill. He took his son to the site to talk about what it meant to them. They concluded to save what they could. Atkinson maintains that the Crying Hill preservation effort is ecumenical and non-political, preserving the site for the sake of the sacredness and inspiration found there by native and non-native alike[10]. Visit Atkinson's site about Crying Hill.

In 2008, Preservation North Dakota declared that Crying Hill was endangered. To be declared endangered, a site must be of historical, cultural, or architectural significance and in danger of demolition, deterioration, or substantial alteration due to neglect or vandalism. Preservation North Dakota acknowledged the preservation efforts of Atkinson and the Crying Hill preservation coalition for saving Crying Hill for the edification and gratification of future citizens.



[1] Welch, Alfred, Col. "Good Fur Blanket Was Mayor Of Mandan In 1738 - Proof Is Found Of Ancient City On Present Site." Mandan Daily Pioneer (Mandan), April 14, 1924.
[2] Welch, Alfred, Col. "Joe Packineau's Verson of The Split and Formation of Crows." Welch Dakota Papers. November 15, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[3] Welch, Alfred, Col. "Arikara Hide Their Sacred Stone From The Sioux." Welch Dakota Papers. November 15, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[4] Welch, Alfred, Col. "More About The Two Face Stone." Welch Dakota Papers. November 15, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[5] Welch, Alfred, Col. "The Minnitari Stone." Welch Dakota Papers. November 15, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[6] Welch, Alfred, Col. "Stone Idol Creek Journey." Welch Dakota Papers. November 15, 2011. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.welchdakotapapers.com.
[7] "Spades Of Workers Rudely Disturb Last Resting Place Of Ancient Gros Ventres Warriors." Mandan Daily Pioneer (Mandan), May 11, 1933.
[8] Dakota Wind. “The Apple Creek Fight.” The First Scout. Nov. 17, 2014. Accessed Aug. 4, 2017. http://thefirstscout.blogspot.com.
[9] "Mandan Hill 501 N Mandan Ave." Mandan Historical Society. 2006. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://mandanhistory.org.
[10] Crying Hill Heritage Site. 2003. Accessed August 3, 2017. http://www.cryinghill.com