Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Flowers Speak Again in Inspired Dakota Floral Alphabet

The First Flute Song (above) is written in the Dakhóta Floral alphabet. The song was sung by the late Kevin Locke.

Dakhóta Floral Iyá
Flowers Speak Again
By Dakota Wind

Long ago, the Ochéti Shakówiŋ said that the flowers used to speak to people. When they walked by the Prairie Rose she used to call out "Haŋ!" A bashful flower, she stopped greeting the people when they didn't hear her or ignored her.

The Ochéti Shakówiŋ revered the flowers of their traditional homelands from the lakes and woodlands to the vast open plain. Many of their traditional medicines are taken from plants and bushes that blossom. Flowers were never picked just because they were beautiful. They also say that the rainbows are the spirits of last season's flowers. They beautify places and make the air sweet.

A guide (above) explains the flowers used to construct the Dakhóta Floral alphabet. 

In August 2021, I was inspired by the revival of the Dakhóta Floral tradition in beadwork, quillwork, ribbon dresses, and graphic media. One night I dreamt of flowers too. I sketched out flowers and vines in a linear fashion left to right but the execution never seemed natural. Then a reader contacted me about the direction of thought and communication. Dakhóta Floral patterns are stacked. It became obvious that I needed to change the direction to capture the design elements of this tradition. It needed to be vertical.

It may seem impractical to have complicated characters representing sounds in this alphabet. The designs and patterns in Dakhóta Floral are thought out and reflected upon, however, and are carefully applied in practice onto the medium of leather, paper, cloth, etc. It is a mindful practice to beautify an everyday apparel or tool.

A key (above) to the Dakhóta Floral Iya. Image by author.

After drafting the characters on paper, I constructed them in a desktop publisher program, created an account at Calligraphr, imported the alphabet in their format, and the online app created the font and file. The font will not automatically type vertically in your Word doc. Here are the steps I take to use this font.

Download the True Type Dakhota Floral here. Download the Open Type Dakhota Floral here.

After installing the Dakhóta Floral font for Windows users:
1. Create text boxes. You can adjust them as you go along.
2. Write your Lakhota text in the Txakini orthography.
3. Select your text and change the font to Dakhóta Floral.
4. Adjust your text box/es so that one letter is on one line, one letter atop the other.
5. Adjust your paragraph spacing "after" to "0 point." Adjust your line spacing to whatever you are comfortable with. I set mine to "multiple" at "0.85."

Here's a reading from Genesis 1:11 (above) transcribed from the Bible History in the Language of the Teton Sioux Indians (1924). By author.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Cannonball-Missouri Confluence Meets National Criteria

The Cannonball River looking west of the Albert Grass Memorial Bridge on the Morton-Sioux county line. Photo by author.
The Cannonball-Missouri Confluence
Site Meets National Historical Criteria
by Dakota Wind
The Cannonball-Missouri River confluence is host to over a dozen archaeological and historical occupations and events over the course of the past one thousand years. The many documented and verified stories of place meet the qualifications for National Historic Site or National Memorial status. For your consideration, here is a bullet point list to pique your interest followed by a series of figures and narrative expanding on the occupations and events. You can access the complete document here.

* The Ochéti Shakówiŋ (the Great Sioux Nation) and the Late Woodlands Period (circa 500-1000 CE)

* The Mandan Indians and Cannonball River Phase circa 1200-1450 CE

* The Cheyenne Occupation circa 1700-1803 CE

* The Cheyenne-Lakhóta Conflict circa 1762-1763 CE

* Fort Jupiter, an English Trade Post established circa 1798 CE

* The Upper Missouri River intertribal conflicts of the 1790s

* The Corps of Discovery stop in October 1804

* The Historic Spring Flood of 1825

* The Arikara-Lakhóta Conflict of 1835-1836

* The Historic Smallpox Epidemic of 1837

* The Assiniboine-Lakhóta Conflict of 1862-1863

* The Historic Cannonball Ranch circa 1864 through 1913

* The 1864 Punitive Campaign led by General Alfred Sully

* The 1866-1867 winter camp of the Húŋkpapa Lakhóta

Why Is Water So Sacred To The Ochéti Shakówiŋ People?

Figure 1. Íŋyaŋ possessed all powers then and the powers were in his blood, and his blood was blue, by Thomas Simms, from Otokahekaġapi (First Beginnings): Sioux Creation Story (1987). According to the creation narrative recalled by Deacon Ben Black Bear, Jr., “Íŋyaŋ kaŋ ki iyúha glugxáŋ chá txá wé ki hinápxe na txá wówash’ake ki hinápe wé ki ogxéya na makxá iháŋke ki kagxé. Txawé ki mní ki é eyásh tawówash’ake ki mní etáŋ ihxéyab okáx iyáyiŋ na Makxá ki itxá’okashaŋ ich’íchagxe Niyáŋ iyéchel. (Íŋyaŋ [Stone] opened all of his veins and his blood left him and Íŋyaŋ saw that all his powers went from him in his blood and formed the edge of Makxá [the World]. His blood became the waters but the powers flowed outward from the waters and formed around Makxá as the spirit).” The Ochéti Shakówiŋ spoken term for Water is Life is Mní Wichóni. Water has a long association with the creation narrative as the source of life according to the Ochéti Shakówiŋ. 

How Far Back Does The Historic Record Reach?


Figure 2. The image above is taken from Garrick Mallory’s Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (1894), plate no. XXI. Pictograph labeled “A” in this image recalls the cycle of time from circa 901 CE to circa 930 CE recorded by the traditional Lakhóta historian Battiste Good, also known as High Hawk. This pictograph recalls the earliest record of time when White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Gift of the Sacred Pipe to the Ochéti Shakówiŋ people.

This pictographic record reaches back to the the Late Woodlands Period (circa 500 CE to 1000 CE) and overlaps with the Cannonball River Phase of Mandan Indian Occupation (circa 1200 CE to 1400 CE). 

The Ancestral Ochéti Shakówiŋ Presence

Figure 3. On the bluff located near the center of section 17 of this map is the stone feature Íŋyaŋ Chaŋgléshka Wakxáŋ Shakówiŋ, or the “Seven Medicine Stone Circles.” According to Tim Mentz, Sr., former THPO for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the ancestral Ochéti Shakówiŋ came together in communal prayer within these stone circles. The Seven Medicine Stone Circles are a physical record of the kind of prayer, the Haŋblécheyapi, or “Vision Quest,” that was held from four to seven days before the sundance held on the floodplain in sections 16 and 15. 

According to Black Elk, when the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Gift of the Sacred Pipe, she also gave a sphere of pipestone upon which were carved seven circles representative of the seven rites of prayer. The Seven Medicine Stone Circles at this location also represent these same seven sacred rites.

The Mandan Indians held their annual sundance in this same vicinity when they lived in their Big River Village in the Late Woodland period, or Cannonball River Phase circa 1200 CE. The Cheyenne who came to live on the north bank of the Cannonball River at the turn of 1700 held their annual sundance here until they moved west at the turn of 1800. See figure 16.

The Nu'Eta (Mandan) Occupation

Figure 4. Sitting Rabbit’s Map (1905). The Nu’Eta (Mandan) term for the Cannonball River is Aashihdia, or “Big River.” The Mandan occupation on the south bank of the Cannonball River is labeled as Aashihdiatis, or “Big River Village.” This unfortified south bank village had as many as forty-five rectangular earthlodges in an area of about seventeen acres and was occupied from between circa 1200-1450. The Cannonball River Village on the north bank is part of the Huff Phase in which the Mandan constructed palisades and fortification ditches around their villages. According to Dr. Elizabeth Fenn, the Cannonball River villages mark the earliest times when the Mandan practiced the Okipa ceremony as it was practiced in late historic times. State Historical Society of North Dakota. OCLC number 958911859.

The English Came To Trade

Figure 5. Title [Map of Missouri River and vicinity from Saint Charles, Missouri, to Mandan villages of North Dakota: used by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in their 1804 expedition up Missouri River] (1798). John Evans recorded the Cannonball River as the “Bomb River” on his map of the Missouri River. Evans operated a trading post on the north bank of the Cannonball River in the 1790s. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. 20540-4650 USA dcu. Call number G4127.M5 1798 .F5.

The Corps of Discovery Record Their Visit

Figure 6. Title [A map of Lewis and Clark's track, across the western portion of North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean : by order of the executive of the United States in 1804, 5 & 6] (1814). The Corps of Discovery recorded the Cannonball River on their map. On Oct. 18, 1804, Meriwether Lewis ordered his men to take a cannonball concretion to use as an anchor for their keelboat. Note the historical occupation of the Teton (
Lakhóta speaking “Sioux” Indians) in the vicinity of the Cannonball River; the “Saone,” or Saúŋ, was the historic and cultural term for the northern divisions of Teton known today as Húŋkpapa, Mnikówozhu, Itázipcho, and Oóhenuŋpa; the Saúŋ occupied both sides on this stretch of the Missouri River. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. 20540-4650 USA dcu. Call number G4126.S12 1814 .L4. 

Intertribal Conflict On The Upper Missouri River

Figure 7. The Pictographic Bison Robe, at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, MA, details the intertribal conflicts amongst the Arikara, Mandan, Hidstsa, Hunkpapa Lakota, and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) Dakhóta in the Heart River and Cannonball River area along the Missouri River during the 1790s. This same robe details one of many conflicts between the tribes of the Upper Missouri River which concluded in the 1803 Battle of Heart River, which saw the expansion of the Hunkpapa territory. This conflict is remembered in the Drifting Goose Winter Count (aka John K. Bear Winter Count) as Tha Chaŋté Wakpa ed okhíchize, or “There was a battle at Heart River.” The expansion of 
Húŋkpapa territory north of the Cannonball River is significant. This territorial boundary is recognized in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard, MA. Call number PM 99-12-10/53121. 

The Cheyenne Start A Fire

Figure 8. This image represents the intertribal conflict between the Teton 
Lakhóta and the Cheyenne in the winter of 1762-1763. That year a band of Lakhóta fought the Cheyenne at the mouth of the Cannonball River. The Cheyenne were living on the north bank of the Cannonball River, occupying the same bank and site that the Mandan had previously lived on. The Cheyenne retaliated and set fire to the prairie grass. The Lakhóta sought to outrun the prairie fire and fled up the Long Lake Creek, present-day Badger Creek, located in Emmons County, ND. The fire caught up to the Lakhóta and burned them about their legs, the survivors jumped into Long Lake. When they emerged they became known as Sicháŋgu, or “Burnt Thighs.” The late Albert White Hat Sr. (Rosebud; Sicháŋgu), recalled the oral tradition of the Sicháŋgu as taking place in the Bismarck region. The conflict which resulted in the formation of the Sicháŋgu began at the mouth of the Cannonball River. The identity of one of the tribes of the Ochéti Shakówiŋ tied to this location is significant. Annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1880), page 692.

The Historic Spring Flood Of 1825

Figure 9. The third entry of the Medicine Bear Winter Count (top row, third from left; #3) recalls 1825 as Mniwíchat'e, or “They drowned.” The Húŋkpapa were camped on the bottomland known as “Gayton’s Crossing,” opposite the mouth of Cannonball River. During the night the ice jam broke and the bottomlands suddenly flooded. They lost about thirty lodges, or about 150 people, and many of their horses to this flood. This event is recorded in other Húŋkpapa and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna winter counts such as Blue Thunder, Long Soldier, High Dog, No Two Horns, and the Chandler-Porht at the same location. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Concord, NH. Call number 2009.65. 

Lakhóta Trade Ends In Fight

Figure 10. The thirty-fifth entry on the Long Soldier Winter Count recalls the winter of 1835-1836 when the Arikara made camp on the Cannonball River. The 
Lakhóta went to trade with them for corn, and the Arikara killed six of the Lakota. The lodge in this image represents the immovable camp of the Arikara at the approach of the Lakhóta. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Call number 11/6720. 

The Historic Smallpox Epidemic Of 1837

Figure 11. An entry from the Medicine Bear Winter Count which recalls the 1837 smallpox epidemic that swept the Northern Great Plains. Several winter counts recall this year, all with similar depictions of a figure covered in marks like this image above.

The High Dog Winter Count, Blue Thunder Winter Count, and the Long Soldier Winter Count, an interview by Mamie Wade (daughter of pioneer rancher William Wade) of Lakhota elder Annie Sky, and the first-hand story remembered by Annie Sky’s granddaughter Dr. Harriet Sky, the Húnkpapa were camped on the bottomland at the Cannonball-Missouri Confluence when smallpox struck.

The High Dog Winter Count and Blue Thunder Winter Count are in the collections at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The Medicine Bear Winter Count is in the collections at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. A copy of the Long Soldier Winter Count is available for viewing at the Sitting Bull College Library. Mamie Wade’s interview is available to read in the book Paha Sapa Tawoyake: Wade’s Stories by William Wade.

North Dakota Studies identifies the steamboat St. Peters, a trading vessel, that brought the historic 1837 smallpox epidemic to the Northern Great Plains. Access The 1837 Smallpox Epidemic article.

Assiniboine-Lakhóta Fight Among Sacred Stones

Figure 12. An entry from the Long Soldier Winter Count which recalls the winter of 1862-1863 as the year when twenty Assiniboine came on the warpath, there was a battle at the Cannonball River, and the Assiniboine hid behind the cannonball concretions. The circle tells us that the Assiniboine were surrounded and fired upon. The fox image which overlays the Assiniboine tells us they fought with guile. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Call number 11/6720.

Enter: General Alfred Sully, And The 1864 Campaign

Figure 13. On July 29, 1864, after spending two weeks hastily constructing Fort Rice, General Sully took his command of 2200 soldiers, which included a detachment of Winnebago Indian scouts, and ascended the Cannonball River on the south bank, his punitive campaign on the Isáŋyathi Dakhóta anew. Sully also marched against the 
Lakhóta (Húŋkpapa, Mnikówozhu, Itázipcho, and Oóhenuŋpa), and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna Dakota, two Siouan groups who had nothing to do with the 1862 Minnesota Dakhóta Conflict. Sully received a dispatch from Fort Rice at midnight on July 22 that the Dakȟóta were on the Knife River. The next day Sully’s command crossed the Cannonball River near present-day communities of Porcupine and Shields, ND. Capt. Seth Eastman, Fort Rice (1864). https://history.army.mil/html/artphoto/pripos/eastman.html

1864 Campaign Began At Cannonball River

Figure 14. Map of General Alfred Sully’s 1864 punitive campaign in Dakota Territory. Rev. Louis Pfaller, O.S.B., from Capt. H. von Mindon of Sully’s Northwest Expedition. Sully’s Expedition of 1864 featuring the Battles of Killdeer Mountain and the Badlands Battles. https://www.history.nd.gov/pdf/Sully%201864%20by%20Pfaller1.pdf. Pages 24 & 25.

Wounded Leader Walks To Winter Camp At Cannonball

Figure 15. An entry from the Long Soldier Winter Count indicates that the 
Húŋkpapa were camped at the Cannonball River in 1866-67. Gall was taken by soldiers that winter to Fort Berthold where they stabbed him. Gall was left for dead and the camp moved on. What makes this tale remarkable is that Gall walked to the Húŋkpapa camp at the Cannonball River and recovered. He later fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Call number 11/6720.

The Historic Cannonball Ranch

Figure 16. In 1999, the Cannonball Ranch was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. It’s one of the oldest ranches in North Dakota. According to the ND Cowboy of Fame, the ranch served as a gathering point as early as 1865. The ranch included a hotel, a general store, a ferry crossing, a steamboat landing and fueling station, a military telegraph station for Fort Rice, and a stage line to the Black Hills in the 1870’s and 1880s. The ranch also included two houses, a barn, a blacksmith shop, a bunk-house, an ice house, a laundry, and tennis court.

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame’s strict criteria for eligibility to be recognized is that a ranch must have been “instrumental in creating or developing the ranching business, traditions, and lifestyles of North Dakota’s western heritage and livestock industry.”

State Historical Society of North Dakota (1952-00057). Frank B. Fiske Photograph Collection 1952. Call number 958906935.

An Archaeologist Makes An Observation

Figure 17. An aerial perspective of the north bank of the Cannonball River looking southwest. The Mandan Indian village (circa 1250 to 1400) is visible. The DAPL drill pad and earthen fort was erected on this site in 2016. According to the late Dr. Ray Wood, a world-renowned Missouri River archaeologist, John Evans trade post also occupied this locale. Evan referred to this site as “Jupiter’s Fort.” Prologue to Lewis and Clark: The MacKay and Evans Expeditions, University of Oklahoma Press; Norman, OK. 2003. Page 111. Photo by Ray Wood (1955), State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Village, Camp, Sundance, And Internment 

Figure 18. The bluff in section 10 of this map is the location of the Mandan Indian village. Section 9 is the location of the historic Cannonball Ranch. Section 15 & 16 is the location of the winter camp of the 
Húŋkpapa people; it was the location some summers where they had sundance. This floodplain is where the Húŋkpapa, buried an estimated 150 people who drowned in the spring flood of 1825.

Historic Spring Flood Of 1825 Remembered

Figure 19. The highlighted area on the eastern floodplain of the historic Missouri River is where the 
Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna camped in the winter of 1824-1825. In 1878, the Húŋkpapa chief, Ishtá Sápa (“Black Eye/s”), met with William Wade, a cattle rancher on the Cannonball River, and shared this about the terrible 1825 flood: “...we camped on this bottom land just below here...it was the Wolf Month [February] and it had been warm for a long time. One night the water started coming in over the ground from the river and before we could get to higher ground we were surrounded by water and ice chunks. Our only chance was to get to high ground before we would all be covered up with water. We tried to carry our tepees and supplies but finally had to leave them and many of the women were drowned trying to save their children. Most all our old people drowned and many others. Most all our horses went under and you can still see their heads (skulls) laying [sic] along at the foot of the hills after so many, many years. Two Bears (Mathó Núŋpa) a Yankton chief [sic], saved the lives of several women and children by carrying them from camp to the higher ground.”

The people were buried where they drowned. The line of horses were buried in a line where they were picketed. The area that Two Bears refers to is known to locals now as Etú Phá Shúŋg T’á, or “Dead Horse Head Point.” The northeast quarter of section 22 is called “The Point,” where locals once gathered on the bank overlooking the place where their relatives and horses were laid to rest.

Archaeologist Identifies Another Source

Figure 20. A screen capture of an email sent to then ND State Archaeologist Mr. Paul Picha regarding missing information in the DAPL Class III survey. Mr. Picha not only confirmed the missing information but included another source regarding the 1825 spring flood. The narrative that Mr. Picha pushed that there is nothing there is false. Picha is aware of people and horses buried at this location following this flood.

President Extends Reservation

Figure 21. On March 16, 1875, President Grant extended the boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation east of the Missouri River along Beaver Creek to the fork of South Beaver Creek then a straight line south to the 
Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna reservation. The Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna reservation was established by President Grant’s executive order the same day Standing Rock was extended. U.S. General Land Office, Dakota Territory, 1876.

The Three Star Reservation

Figure 22. The Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in Sioux County and Emmons County, North Dakota. This map is based on the 1876 General Land Office Map with President Grant’s executive order. About 628 square miles were added to the Standing Rock Agency. According to Mr. Robert Taken Alive, the Standing Rock extension on the east side of the Missouri River was known as the “Three Star Reservation,” recollection of a personal interview with “Old Man Stretches,” Aug. 1991. The term “Three Star” may be a reference to Major General George Crook. Map by author.

The land east of the Missouri was never ceded nor a treaty signed. President Cleveland signed the 1889 Indian Appropriations Act into law and opened "unassigned" lands for sale to settlers under tenants of the 1863 Homestead Act.

Territory Determined By Tribes Changed By Congress

Figure 23. Jesuit missionary Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet, who served as a translator at the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, drew a map by hand demarcating the boundaries of the Thíthuŋwaŋ Lakhóta which extended to the Heart River. Map of the upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains region, 1851. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g4050.ct000883. Call number 2005630226.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Solar Eclipse is A Moment of Redemption

Above, "Mahpíya Yaphéta," or "Cloud On Fire," it says in the Leroy Curley Lakhota Alphabet. Curley's alphabet is inspired by the phases of the sun and moon. This image depicts the solar eclipse in the first character of the first word. For more examples check click on The First Scout on Instagram.
The Sun Dies, or Cloud On Fire
Solar Eclipse Moment of Redemption

By Dakota Wind

In order to understand the Lakhóta perspective of the solar eclipse, we need to give some attention to the Lakhóta understanding of the universe. In 1987, Ben Black Bear, Jr., translated Thomas Simms’ Otókahekagapi (First Beginnings): Sioux Creation Story. Simms transcribed and illustrated this narrative.

The Mysteries of the Universe

The Lakhota creation story recalls Háŋ, a great lasting darkness, but Háŋ was not a being, at least not yet. Waiting there in the deep quiet was Íŋyaŋ, an ancient stone whose spirit was Wakháŋ Tháŋka, the Great Spirit.

Íŋyaŋ grew lonely and longed for another, but he knew for that to happen that he would have to take from himself. Íŋyaŋ said aloud the first sound, “Nuŋwé,” meaning “So be it!” He opened his being and drew forward his own blood which flowed about him becoming the waters, and this great sphere he called Makhá, the Earth. The power that emanated from Íŋyaŋ became Shkáŋ, a principle of Movement.

After some great time Makhá became saddened that she was not a separate being apart from Íŋyaŋ; she was disheartened in the eternal void too, but Íŋyaŋ could not placate her because his power left him. They petitioned Shkáŋ to intervene in their dispute and he agreed to serve them as judge.

Shkáŋ could not divide Makhá from Íŋyaŋ, but he could offer her a respite from the dark and so he created light. Makhá determined that she didn’t want just light but warmth as well, so Shkáŋ reached into himself, reached into Íŋyaŋ, reached into Makhá, and took a portion from all including the waters and created Wí, the Sun. Háŋ retreated to the edge of light.

Shkáŋ instructed Wí to shine, give heat, and make shadow. Wí did as he was bid and the world became hot where there was no shade. Makhá had no relief from the heat of Wí and became miserable so she petitioned Shkáŋ to bring Háŋ back. Shkáŋ determined that Háŋ would would alternate their company with Makhá, and Makhá would have relief from the heat of Wí. Shkáŋ determined that Aŋp, the early light, would run ahead of Wí when he returned, thus day followed night.

Shkáŋ gave names to these first two times calling day Aŋpétu, and night Haŋyétu.

Above, the four superior mysteries of creation "Wi, Skan, Maka, Inyan" by Thomas E. Simms.

Thus, the four principle mysteries had come into existence. These four are the world and of the world: Íŋyaŋ, Makhá, Shkáŋ, and Wí. All acknowledge the one superior spirit above all, Wakháŋ Tháŋka, the Great Spirit.

An Interpretation of the Mysteries

Royal Hassrick, author of The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society, offers an interpretation of the principle mysteries and their associates. Íŋyaŋ, is the ancestor of all, and serves as advocate of authority and patron of the arts; Makhá, the protector of the home and mother of all that lives; Shkáŋ, the source of power and movement, and authority of the principle mysteries and all spirits; Wí, the patron of four core virtues including bravery, fortitude, generosity, and fidelity.

Hassrick does not offer a narrative explaining how the four associates were created. It is understood that these four associates were created in balance at the moment each was needed. The associate/s of Íŋyaŋ is Wakíŋyaŋ, the Thunderbeing/s with glances of lightning and patron/s of cleanliness. The associate of Makhá is Wóopxe, meaning “Law,” the daughter of Wí and Haŋwí, known as The Beautiful One, she is the matron of harmony and pleasure. The associate of Shkáŋ is Txaté, the Wind who guides the seasons and admits the spirits onto Wanágxi Txacháŋku, the Spirit Road which is the Milky Way. The associate of Wí is Haŋwí, the Moon, who set time.

Others came into existence too. An old man called Wazíya (Pine),his wife Wakáŋaka (Elderly), and their daughter Ité (Face) who was so beautiful that she was called by her face. Captivated by the beauty of Ité, Txaté made her his wife and together they had five sons: Wozíya, the North Wind and first-born, known for his cruelty and temper; Yatá, the West Wind and second born, exuberant and high-spirited; Yaŋpá, the East Wind and third born, and weakest of the Four Winds; Okágxa, the South Wind, who is in perpetual conflict with Wozíya; Yumní, the Whirlwind, playful, yet destructive.

Another of those who came to be was Iŋktómi, the Trickster, who is always ready to promote discontent, anxiety, ridicule, and disharmony among people and creation. Iŋktómi interjected himself into the lives of Wazíya, Wakáŋaka, and Ité, and cultivated the idea that they could have better lives if Ité became the wife of Wí, never mind that Ité was already married with children.

At a feast where all were invited to the lodge of Haŋwí. It is important to note that the principle mysteries and their associates all had predetermined places around the fire, but Ité arrived to the gathering early and saw the place beside Wí open, the very place of Haŋwí, and Ité chose that moment to sit beside Wí.

Wí was taken by the beauty and charm of Ité and was gratified at her close presence. When Haŋwí arrived she saw that Ité had appropriated her place beside her husband Haŋwí drew her shawl over her face to hide her shame from everyone who laughed at her predicament; Iŋktómi laughed the loudest of all.

A Different, Yet Traditional Interpretation

The late Kevin Locke (Standing Rock), a traditional storyteller and fluteplayer, offered a unique variation that differs from the narrative that Hassrick shares after the feast of creation.

After the feast, Shkáŋ called a council and asked for the perspectives from Wí, Haŋwí, Wazíya, Wakáŋaka, and Ité. Wí and Haŋwí argued long and great. When Wí argued his light and heat caused the waters of the world to dry and earth to crack, stars fell and struck the world. When Haŋwí argued darkness and cold enveloped the world, water flooded the earth. Back and forth they argued until creation was nearly undone. Shkáŋ intervened and drew their attention to the destruction they caused, then he passed judgment on all involved.

Wí, determined Shkáŋ, would forever be sundered from Haŋwí, never to know her comfort again. Wí would rule the day and Haŋwí the night. There might be occasion when Wí and Haŋwí appear in the sky together, but on those occasions when Wí approached Haŋwí she should draw her shawl over her face in shame. Then Shkáŋ turned his attention to Ité and ruled that because of her vanity, dereliction of her responsibility as a mother and wife, her sons would be removed from her. Shkáŋ allowed Ité to keep her beauty but only one half of her face would remain attractive, the other half would be so terribly scarred that anyone who looked at her would be terrified or driven insane. From that day forward she became known as Anúŋg Ité, the Double Faced Woman. Iŋktómi would never know friendship.

Wí was thoroughly repentant of his behavior and sought forgiveness from Haŋwí. Both Wí and Haŋwí expressed their love for one another before Shkáŋ; both were aware and aggrieved at the destruction they brought to the world.

Above, "Aŋbháŋkeya Wí," or "The Moon of Half-Day Half-Night." By author. 

Shkáŋ was moved by their sincere remorse and amended his judgment. On one day in a moon cycle would Haŋwí show her face to Wí. On the day of the full moon, as the moon rises and as the sun goes down, Wí reaches across the heavens to his eternal love Haŋwí with song, and if one listens carefully, one would hear:

Iyéhaŋtu wíŋ taŋyáŋ hinápha nuŋwé
Haŋhépi Wí taŋyáŋ hinápha nuŋwé
Makhá iyúzhaŋzhaŋyaŋ taŋyáŋ inápaya nuŋwé

Now you are coming out in a beautiful way
It is night and you are coming out
As you appear your beautiful light shines upon the world

Shkáŋ determined that Wí should never forget his indiscretion with Ité and so now and then the sun dies and the darkness envelopes his light. The Lakhóta have a few terms to express this understanding: Wi’té (The Sun Died) and Wi’kté (The Sun was killed [by Darkness]). When an eclipse happens, some Lakhóta shout and fire their guns into the sky. When the sun returns they say he is renewed.

The Húŋkpapha and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna light their pipes and pray for the sun’s renewal, but also for a renewal in their fellow human beings. They call the eclipse Mahpíya Yaphéta, or “Cloud On Fire,” in reference to the sun’s corona visible around the moon.

Some Dakhóta know it is the moon that eclipses the sun and call this occlusion Wakhápaye, which means “Of a singular appearance.” If the sun and moon could come together for one spectacular moment of redemption it seems that we could all forgive one another.

Many Terms for Solar Eclipse

Just as there are many divisions of the Ochéthi Shakówiŋ, there are many traditional terms for a solar eclipse. Here are a few. 

On August 7, 1869, a full solar eclipse darkened the Great Plains. Ten Lakhóta winter counts from all seven Thítuŋwaŋ (Teton) tribes remember this outstanding event. Nearly all remember the event as Wí’kte (The Sun was Killed) or Wi'te (The Sun Died). 

An earlier eclipse, this one in the 1830s, is remembered by the Huŋkpapa Lakhóta as Mahphíya Yaphéta, or “Cloud On Fire.” The Huŋkpapa leader is named for this event, as was his son in turn. Fire Cloud later fought at the Little Bighorn. 

A friend of mine shared a conversation with me between her and her father, Mr. Warren Horse Looking. Mr. Horse Looking explained the eclipse as the sun disappearing. In Lakhóta: Aŋpétuwí Tókxax'aŋ (Disappearing Sun).

A friend's uncle back on Standing Rock refers to the eclipse as Wí’
áta, which translates as "Sun Entire." Áta serves as an intensifier in many sentences, as to say here, "completely," or "greatly." Perhaps even here, it could mean a full solar eclipse. 

My haŋkáshi (female cousin) Leslie (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; Dakota), shared with me that she learned eclipse as "Khaphéye," a contraction of Wakhápheye, which means "Of A Singular Appearance," which I think beautifully explains the sun and moon during a solar eclipse.

The people who put out the New Lakota Dictionary have had different terms for the solar eclipse throughout the years. In their first and second editions, their entry was Aóhanziya, meaning "To Cast Shadow Upon." In the third edition the entry is now Aŋpáwi Aíyokpaze, which means "The Day Becomes Dark Like Evening." 

Aháŋzi: Shadow

Aŋpáwi Aíyokpaze: The Day Becomes Dark Like Evening

Aŋpétuwí Tókxax'aŋi: Disappearing Sun

Aóhanziya: To Cast Shadow Upon

Mahphíya Yaphéta: Cloud on Fire

Wakhápheya: Of A Singular Appearance

áta: The Sun Entire

Wí’kte: The Sun was Killed

Wí’te: The Sun Died (also for New Moon)

Some Dakhota say that when an eclipse happens it portended a great calamity like disease or war. In older times, some Lakhota said that a great Uŋktegxi swallows the sun, killing him. Most say the sun dies and awakens to life. Other Lakhota say the eclipse is a profound moment of renewal, prayer, and reflection; they take their pipes out, load them, light them, and pray for others. 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Remembering Phil Baird


Phil Baird coming out of the gate astride Boots, a Pete Long Brake horse.

Wanblí Wichásha Wókiksuye
Remembering Phil Baird (Eagle Man)

By Dakota Wind

Wanblí Wicháshala tókhi éyaye hé? Thíyata oníchilapelo. Uŋmá echíyataŋhaŋ iyáye. Waŋná Chaŋkú Wanágxi maní. Chaŋkú Txó oówaŋyaŋg washté ománi. Tóksha akhé waŋchíyaŋkiŋ kte ló.

Where have you gone Eagle Man? They have called you home. You have gone on to the other side. Now you walk the Spirit Road. You walk on the beautiful Blue Road. I will see you again for certain.

Anyone who has met the late Dr. Phil Baird left their conversation with him with a deeper appreciation for horses, bison, education, and the Lakota Way of Life. A wonderful listener, the flow of conversation was never about him. Lekshí Phil cultivated mutual interests in art, music, the pursuit of higher education, and history most of all.

Lekshí loved family. He spoke of his daughters with soaring pride and held his grandchildren with such a great abiding affection his warmth was like a fire. Lekshí loved making relatives. If anyone knew him a winter or longer, he was happy to call one friend or family. His self-assuredness was not boastful. The respect he held for others was like the very Breath of Life he shared with horses, somehow wild, electric, sudden, and forever.

Lekshí loved horses. Everyday lekshí carried the same energy, excitement, and mystery as the day the first horse entered the circle and became part of the Lakota Way of Life. There are many variations about the first horse encounter, but all have one thing in common: a genuine respect for the mystery of creation. Lekshí carried that deep respect and understood that the bounty and prosperity of the Lakota Way of Life worked hand in glove with our relationship to the traditional homeland. He was a lifelong cowboy Indian. In service of his love for horses and history, Lekshí was a founding member and longtime president of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Lekshí loved bison. He was an undaunted advocate of land management and restoration. Lekshí believed that the health of the people was directly tied to the health and stewardship of the land. He recalled the promise of the bison to provide for all the needs of the people and believed in the inherent value of bison as a keystone species; the eternal bison cycle nurtured a healthy landscape and people. Lekshí had a dream of an educational bison management plan, a holistic and ambitious call to a modern yet natural way of life.

Lekshí was a strong voice for education. “School is always in session,” he frequently said. Lekshí was called to a lifetime as an educator. He held administration positions at both United Tribes Technical College and Sinte Gleska University. Lekshí had a shared history and leadership with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the National Congress of American Indians, and more.

On Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, the relatives built a fire on the other side and called Lekshí to return and take his place among them. He goes home to a vast open sky filled with unbounded light and joy. He waves his hat in the Enlightening Breath, a wind upon which all life returns, that has carried across creation since the first days. His voice joins a great song sending encouragement from the fires of heaven to the people below.

We may not see you in the here and now, but you are as close as our next breath, as close as our dreams, as close as shadow in the prairie grass, as close as reflection in the water.

Akhé waníyetu ú. Akhé kičhíč’iŋpi kte. Ohómni wótheȟike ečhéča takómni uŋmáčhetkiya yakpáptapi kta héčha. Mitȟákuye Owás’iŋ.

Again, the winter approaches. Again, they will carry each other. Although surrounded by adversity, nonetheless, may you safely emerge on the other side. All my relatives. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Ancient Stories of Emergence

"The Seven Sisters Above,"a watercolor by Dakota Wind.
Ancient Stories of Emergence
Research, Tribal College Journal

by Dakota Wind
Note: This article originally appeared in Vol. 35, No. 1 of the Tribal College Journal. Access the original article as it was seen in print here, or visit the article as it appears online on the TCJ.

Historians studying Lakxóta history in recent years have begun to treat the pictographic record, winter counts, as primary source documents. Two recent publications by non-Native historians do this, but aside from establishing the oral narrative of the White Buffalo Calf Woman as the starting point of Lakxólkichiyapi, the story itself is not presented as history. In this article we will look at stories of the great Plains which argue the case for a long cultural occupation that challenges the established date of 1682 as marking the Lakxóta arrival to the region.

In regard to length of occupation, traditional Lakxóta people would inform their interviewer that they were here since the beginning, or for a very long time. Archaeological evidence informs us that the flute or whistle has been present on the northern plains since circa 1100 AD. Oral tradition about this musical instrument tells us that the flute has been with the Mandans since about the same time (Goodhouse, 2002a). Beginning in the 1980s, ethnomusicologists have been investigating the role of music in defining a sense of place. This does not inform us how long people take to develop a sense of place but it does indicate that this art signals a people’s place “in terms of social boundaries” (Lipsitz, 1986, p. 5).

The late Kevin Locke made his research into the North American Indian flute a lifetime study. For nearly 50 years, Locke studied flute music and found that there is a standard formulaic composition structure that transcends the many languages and cultures of the northern plains. In fact, said Locke, “Over the plains or woodlands, you see the same rules of structure . . . it has a meaning that goes beyond the individual tribe or their geographic area” (Locke & good Feather, 2015). Regarding the biological history of bison, the animal originated on the Siberian steppe about 2.6 million years ago. Eventually, the animal migrated across the Beringia land bridge to North America (Sorbelli et al., 2021). Once there, it evolved into the many bison species in our natural historic record, eventually becoming Bison americanus that we recognize today (Wilson et al., 2008). The Lakxóta call the bison simply pté, which also refers to the female of the species. The term txatxáŋka existed long before the film Dances with Wolves (1990) or before WWE wrestler Chris Chavis (Lumbee) put the term into popular vernacular. Txatxáŋka literally means “the great ones,” and refers to the male of the species. Bison calves are called ptehíŋcha, meaning “small bison,” or ptehíŋchala, which translates as “beloved” or “familiar small bison” (Goodhouse, 2012b). The creation of bison is closely associated with the emergence story from Wind Cave located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Lakxóta refer to Wind Cave by many names, including Washúŋ Niyá, which means “breathing cave”; Txatóye Oyúxlokapi, which means “where the wind has made a hole” and refers to the opening of the four winds; Txaté Washúŋ, which is literally “wind cave”; Oníya Oshóka, or “where the Earth breathes inside” (Weddell, 2022); Makxá Oxlóke, or “earth cave.” The Lakota Language Consortium’s New Lakota Dictionary Online lists an entry for Wind Cave as Wašúŋ-Tȟáŋka, which means “the great cave” (Ullrich, 2021). Wilmer Mesteth, a tribal historian and spiritual leader on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, employed other terms in reference to Wind Cave, including Txukáŋ Típi, meaning “the [stone] spirit lodge,” and Makxá Oníye, meaning “the breathing Earth” (Wind Cave National Park, 2022).

A long time ago, Iŋktómi the trickster and Anúŋg Ité (Double Face Woman) tricked the people into emerging into the world without the consent of Txuŋkáshila. Anúŋg Ité sent her wolf with a pack of dyed quills, various berries, meat, and fine clothes to entice the people into following her wolf into the world above. A few people were lured after eating the food and wearing her fine leather clothes and followed the wolf into the world through Wind Cave there in the Black Hills. Some refused to be tricked by the wolf, and so they stayed behind in the world below.

When the people emerged later, they were amazed at the vast blue sky above, the scent and sight of all the flowers in bloom. The wolf led them to the lodge of Anúŋg Ité where she taught them how to hunt and gather, prepare food, and make clothing for themselves. Summer became fall, and fall soon became winter, but the people had very little prepared to survive the seasons. They returned to the lodge of Anúŋg Ité for help, but then she unwrapped her shawl, revealing the other side of her face—the scarred disfigured half of her face—and she laughed at the people. The people ran in fright from her, and she set her wolf on them. They sought to return to the world below at Wind Cave, but the way was covered, leaving them trapped on the surface of the world. They didn’t know what to do or where to go and fell to the ground in anguish. Creator heard their cries and came to them. They explained how they emerged before they were ready to do so. This angered Creator and he told them they must be punished. He took them and gave them a new form and purpose, transforming them into bison. They became the first great herd.

Eventually, the world was prepared for people to live on. Creator instructed Txokáhe, meaning “the first,” to lead the people into the world through Wind Cave. On their journey towards emergence, they stopped four times and prayed, their last stop being at the entrance of Wind Cave. On the vast open plain they saw bison tracks. Creator instructed them to follow these tracks, as they would acquire food, tools, and clothing from bison. Eventually they crafted their homes, too, from bison hides. Creator informed them that the bison would lead them to water (Wind Cave National Park, 2022). The seven ancestral leaders of the seven divisions of the Títxuŋwaŋ, the first seven to emerge at Creator’s instruction, became the Wicháxpi Shakówiŋ, the Seven Stars (or the Big Dipper). There they carry new souls into the world to begin their journey, or they carry the souls from this world back to the heavens to begin their journey to the ancestors (Goodhouse, 2020). But not all the people were ready to emerge into the world. Some chose to stay. That was their choice. Creator turned his attention to Wind Cave and the entrance contracted until it was too small for the people to re-enter. Wind Cave thereafter served as a memorial so that the people would never forget where they came from.

According to master ledger artist Donald Montileaux, a holy man called Txatxáŋka warned the people not to ascend to the surface. He saw the people in a vision. They lost their language and had to invent a new one, becoming known as Ikché Wichásha (the ordinary or common people). It was Txatxáŋka the holy man who came into the world and transformed into a great bison bull. He was willing to give up his life so that the Ochéthi Shakówiŋ (the Seven Council Fires, or great Sioux Nation) would have food, shelter, and clothing (Montileaux, 2009).

The Ochéthi Shakówiŋ do not limit the narrative of the bison and people’s emergence to one single moment in linear time. Indeed, emergence and revival are a continuous cycle. Each spring, for example, bison, as well as wamákxashkaŋ owásiŋ (all the animals of each kind), emerged from the world below. The cycle of renewal begins with Niyá Awíchableze (the enlightening breath upon which all life returns) (Goodhouse, 2022). The bison left evidence of their long presence across the great Plains in the vast and uncountable buffalo wallows. The Lakxóta call these depressions Oshkókpa Txatxáŋka and like to say about them, “This is where the bison dance.” Further, emergence is not limited to one single location. Different stories tell of different locations (see full article with sidebar).

Washú Niyá. “On their journey towards emergence, they stopped four times and prayed, their last stop being at the entrance of Wind Cave.” Photo by Lennie Ramacher/NPS.

The Baptiste Good Winter Count, a pictographic mnemonic device in which images recall outstanding events for a year, places the arrival of the Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, at 901 AD (Mallory, 1893). Prior to her arrival as Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ, the Thítxuŋwaŋ fought amongst themselves as much as they fought against their enemies. The gift of the sacred pipe established a relationship amongst the Ochéti Shakówiŋ and with bison. After her gift, the people took to calling themselves Dakhólkichiyapi, or “They who speak to each other with affection” (Goodhouse, 2022a). According to Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th keeper of the sacred pipe, Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ brought the pipe to the people at Matxó Típila, Bear Lodge (Devils Tower) (Hancock, 2015).

The Lakxóta refer to the pipe as chaŋnúŋpa. The sacred pipe represents unions of air and stone, sky, and earth; the masculine and feminine; and the here and now. Before the pipe, the people prayed at sacred sites with stone elements like summits, caves, and stone arches. They called themselves Ikcheya, or “common.” They also called themselves Pté Oyáte, or “People of the Bison” (Goodhouse, 2022b).

The story of Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ bringing the gift of the sacred pipe is set at Matxó Típila. The story features the song of Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ and her arrival. The song contains elements of place in social boundary, similar in scope and meaning to the biblical story of Moses descending from Mount Sinai, as the messenger arrives at a sacred place with a covenant for the people to live a way of life according to the divine.

The Mnikxówozhu, or “Planters by the Stream,” (a division of the Títxuŋwaŋ) were experiencing hard times. Hunters returned with little or no game and fighting among their fellow people. They selected two scouts to search for any sign of bison. The scouts arrived at a hill and saw a figure advancing in their direction. When it came close enough to distinguish features, they discerned it was a beautiful woman wearing a white buckskin dress, white leggings, and white moccasins. In her hair on the left side of her part she wore a tuft of bison fur, her hair hung loose otherwise. She carried a fan made of sage in her right hand. Her face was painted with red vertical stripes. It seemed to the two scouts that she was floating rather than walking. They realized she was wakxáŋ, which means literally “with-energy.” Some say that braids of sweet grass hung from her belt.

One of the scouts looked at her and was overcome with impure thoughts and, seeking to have her for himself, went to her. A cloud suddenly enveloped them. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The cloud dissipated and at her feet were the bones of the lustful scout. Some say that snakes writhed among his remains.

She spoke to the remaining scout: “Return to your people. Tell them to prepare a special lodge in the middle of camp for my arrival at daybreak.” He left her to prepare his people. She came to them at dawn and as she approached sang:

Niyá txaŋíŋyaŋ (With visible breath)
mawáni yé (I am walking)
oyáte waŋ (this nation [this bison nation])
imáwani (I walk toward)
na (and)
hó txaŋíŋyaŋ (my voice is heard)
mawáni yé (I am walking)
niyá txaŋíŋyaŋ (with visible breath)
mawáni yé (I am walking)
walúta waŋ (this scarlet offering [this pipe])
imáwani yé ([for it] I am walking) (Goodhouse, 2002b)

The chief of the community dipped a braid of sweetgrass into a bison horn cup full of rainwater and offered it to her. She gave them the pipe then, with instructions as to its care. She said to them, “Behold! With this you shall multiply and be a good nation. Nothing but good shall come of it. Only the hands of the good shall take care of it and the bad shall not even see it.” Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ then added, “I give you this pipe. Keep it always!”

Baptiste Good’s account of Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ includes another gift: four colored grains of corn. She informed them that this gift would feed the world. She offered words of encouragement to the women, reminding them that they sustain the people with their gift of life. She offered words to the children, telling them it would be their turn someday to make careful decisions for those not yet born and to learn the way of the pipe. To the men she offered minding words to use the pipe for good purposes, that the tribe depends on them, and that they should revere the world and sky. She promised them all that someday she would return (Mallery, 1893). She took her leave of them then and as she stepped away, she transformed into a bison calf. Some say that she rolled or turned, and with each roll or turn, her bison coat became a different color before at last turning white. The calf then ran, crested a hill, and disappeared. The people ran after her and discovered a herd of bison on the other side. According to Lame Deer, as they prayed with her, bison surrounded their community (Erdoes, 2006). In either instance, she brought the bison with her.

In another story of Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ, the people were close to starvation when she came and brought them bison-calling songs. The Blue Thunder Winter Count and all its variants begin: “Waníyetu eháŋna saúŋ wiŋ kiŋ ú,” or “Long ago, a woman in white came to them.” Interpretation of the images offers only a basic understanding that is remembered in these primary source documents. Blue Thunder never had children of his own. He married Íŋyaŋ Pahá Wiŋ, or Rocky Butte Woman, in the early post-reservation era and passed the tradition down to her and her daughter and sonin- law. The story of the Woman in White is remembered as one of the times that Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ came with songs.

In yet another story, the Títxuŋwaŋ were camped on a flat by a little stream that flows into the Mnishóshe, or “the water-astir” (the Missouri River). There, neither fish nor fowl sustained them. In their desperation they cried out for aid and Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ heard them. She came to them at their camp, bringing the gift of bison-calling songs. She instructed them to use this medicine at once. She guided them to an overlook on the Mnishoshe where they set up camp below the high plain. At her instruction, they selected two scouts who sought out the lead bison cow and startled her. She ran and her herd followed her. At the instruction of Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ, the people waved bison robes at the herd, continuing the bison’s startlement and in effect guiding them to the overlook where they leapt over the edge. Below the high plain waited the women with their knives.

This buffalo jump where they brought the bison to them with song and ran them over the high plain is called Akáŋlya Washté, or “the beautiful high plain” (Goodhouse, 2010). According to Txuŋwiŋ Evelyn Buckley, a good Dakhóta woman could butcher a bison by herself in four to six hours (Goodhouse, 2011). And according to Txuŋwiŋ D’Joyce Kitson, a good Lakxóta could tan a bison hide by herself in the same amount of time (Goodhouse, 2018). There are many sites associated with the Ptehíŋchala Sáŋ Wíŋ, including Matxó Típila (Devil’s Tower); Chaŋnúm Ok’é, or “pipestone quarry” / Chaŋdúhupa Shá K’ápi, meaning “where they dig red pipestone” (Pipestone National Monument); Íŋyaŋsaŋ Pahá (Whitestone Hill North Dakota State Historic Site); Akáŋlya Washté, which translates as “beautiful high plain” and is the high plain overlooking the west bank of the Missouri River between Huff and Fort Rice, North Dakota.

The Lakxóta have many names for their homeland, and North America by extension. One of these names is Makxóche Owánase Txáŋka, meaning “the land of the great hunt.” The hunt was communal and involved several days of preparation. The Ochéti Shakówiŋ call the period before the introduction of the horse “dog days.” During this time, the people and their dogs pulled the travois. Kevin Locke shared three terms relating to travel in those times: hupáwaheyuŋpi, meaning “they pack things up to travel”; waŋzhíkshila, which is a travois that was pulled by a person; and shúŋg’ok’iŋ, a dog travois.

There are many stories of first contact with the horse. All of these stories carry a deep regard for the mystery of creation and serve as reminders to the Ochéti Shakówiŋ that even as the horse was reintroduced to the great Plains after a long absence, it is a sacred gift. The Drifting goose Winter Count, a pictographic record in which a single year is remembered by one outstanding event, recalls the earliest record of the Ochéti Shakówiŋ encounter with the horse in 1692. Waniyetu ehaŋna shuŋg nuŋi ota kiŋ, meaning “a long time ago they saw many wild horses,” recalls the Drifting goose Winter Count (Howard, 1976). More recently, Mary Louise Defender Wilson tells a story of two scouts who crested a hill and saw horses emerging from a swirl in the Mnishóshe (Missouri River) as a thunderstorm was approaching. The horse was invited back to camp and became inseparable from daily life (Defender-Wilson, 2001).

Pete Looking Horse recalled the first horse encounter with a song called “Thunder Horse,” which commemorates how the Dakhóta people saw the horse as it emerged from the water:

Waŋkátaya txokéya ichágxe ló (Above, the first time we saw it, it changed, it is so) Waŋkátaya txokéya ichágxe ló (Above, the first time we saw it, it changed, it is so) Shúŋka Wakxáŋ waŋ txokáhe kech’úŋ (A horse, it was the first, even so) Maxpíya ichágxeya, ichágxe ló (The clouds grew, it changed, it is so) (Locke, 1996)

The pictographic record, oral tradition, and song inform us this was in 1692 at Chaŋshásha Wakpá Ozháte, which is the confluence of the White Birch River or James River and the Missouri River, near presentday Yankton, South Dakota.

S.D. Nelson illustrated the mystical pre-contact story of the first horse. The Lakxóta were camped in midsummer at Spirit Hill near the confluence of the grand and Missouri Rivers where long ago, before ever seeing a real-life horse, they saw a thunderer on a creature that didn’t yet have a name. The thunderer, a figure of a giant of a man, came down from the sky during a thunderstorm riding what might be described as a giant horse. It had four legs. It made a three-point landing, that is to say it landed on its hind legs and one front leg. It then leapt into the sky and disappeared. The hoof prints left by this giant thunder horse are imprinted into the landscape and viewable from the top of Spirit Hill. Historians might be inclined to categorize this story as apocryphal, occurring after the reservations were established, but this story predates the reservation (Nelson, 2018).

Hokshíchekpa. “When the pasqueflower blossoms today, her stem, petals, and leaves are like the fur of a bison robe. Her petals are the purple color of an early spring sunrise. . . Her heart is the gold of the sun.” Photo by Dakota Wind.

Besides the horse, there are cultural narratives that seek to explain the appearance of spring’s first flower. There is a lovely little narrative about the bison and the hokshíchekpa, which literally means “a child’s navel,” but is known more commonly as the pasqueflower or prairie crocus. Long ago, according to the Lakxóta people, the pasqueflower bloomed white. One day, a young man went to the hill to pray. As often is the case, men go the hill in a vision quest to pray alone, usually for three to four days. This young man took a bison robe with him on his quest. As night fell, he drew his robe around him. Unbeknownst to him, as he wrapped himself, he included a pasqueflower in his embrace. The flower was grateful for the warmth.

As the days passed and the young man received no vision, the flower spoke to him, offering words of encouragement and informing the man that his vision would come and that he should be patient. Eventually, he received an answer to his prayer and left the flower behind. After he left, Creator, pleased with the flower, visited her and asked her to name a gift. She declined but said instead that she enjoyed the warmth of the bison robe, that she loved the colors of twilight, that she loved the color and warmth of the sun.

Pleased with her undemanding answer, Creator gifted her with a robe of her own, took his paints and colored her dress like the petals of the flower and colored her heart. When the pasqueflower blossoms today, her stem, petals, and leaves are like the fur of a bison robe. Her petals are the purple color of an early spring sunrise or sunset. Her heart is the gold of the sun. When the pasqueflower blossoms white, the Lakxota say that is where the bison drew its last breath.

Depending on who’s work one reads, the bison population dropped to less than a thousand. Andrew Isenberg’s estimate places the bison at about 500 in Yellowstone National Park at the turn of 1900 (Isenberg, 2000). The disappearance of bison was part of the American agenda. The “Wasicu seemed to expect the bison and Lakotas to promptly vanish from the plains,” writes historian Pekka Hamalainen (Hamalainen, 2020, p. 224). Indeed, the U.S. Census estimate of the Native U.S. population at the turn of 1900 was fewer than 250,000 (Calloway, 2012, p. 435). Today, bison are no longer endangered, as their population has recovered. According to the National Park Service, 14 federally recognized tribes and some federal agencies came together for a “bison treaty,” an agreement to best serve and manage the bison population (NPS, 2018). These stories of bison and place have survived too. As archaeological methods and technology have improved, and as long as oral tradition is maintained, cultural resource properties must continue to be reexamined.

Dakota Wind Goodhouse (Lakota/Dakota) teaches Native American studies and U.S. history at United Tribes Technical College.


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Erdoes, R., & Ortiz, A. (2006). The White Buffalo Woman. In American Indian Myths and Legends (pp. 47–52). New York: Pantheon Books.

Garcia, L. (2017). Dakota Place Names. Unpublished manuscript, North Dakota State Archives, Bismarck, ND.

Goodhouse, D.W. (1995, August). Personal communication with Joe Flying Bye.

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Goodhouse, D.W. (2010, October). Personal communication with Thelma Winters.

Goodhouse, D.W. (2011, April). Communication with Evelyn Buckley.

Goodhouse, D.W. (2012a, June). Personal communication with Charles Walker.

Goodhouse, D.W. (2012b, December). Personal communication with Joseph Marshall III.

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Lipsitz, g. (1986). Cruising Around the Historical Bloc: Postmodernism and Popular Music in East Los Angeles. Cultural Critique, 5, 157–177. https://doi.org/10.2307/1354360

Locke, K. (1996). Thunder Horse. The Open Circle [CD]. Bismarck, ND: Makoche Music.

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Mallery, G. (1893). Picture-Writing of the American Indians. Washington, DC: government Printing Office.

McLaird, J.D., & Turchen, L.T. (1974). Exploring the Black Hills, 1855-1875: Reports of the government Expeditions. South Dakota History, 4(3), 280–319.

Montileaux, D.F. (2009). Tatanka and the Lakota People: A Creation Story. Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press.

Nelson, S.D. (2018). Lecture. United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, ND.

Sorbelli, L., Alba, D.M., Charin, M., Moulle, P.E., Brugal, J.P., & Madurell- Malapeira, J. (2021, June 1). A Review on Bison Schoetensacki and Its Closest Relatives Through the Early-Middle Pleistocene Transition: Insights from the Vallparadís Section (NE Iberian Peninsula) and Other European Localities. Quaternary Science Reviews, 261. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.quascirev.2021.106933

Ullrich, J. (2021) Wind Cave. New Lakota Dictionary Online. Bloomington, IN: Lakota Language Consortium. Retrieved from https://nldo.lakotadictionary. Org

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Weddell, W. (2022, May 6). A History Lover’s guide to the Breathtaking Black Hills of South Dakota. Wide Open Roads. Retrieved from https://www.wideopenroads.com/black-hills-south-dakota/

Wilson, M.C., Hills, L.V., & Shapiro, B. (2008). Late Pleistocene Northward- Dispersing Bison Antiquus from the Bighill Creek Formation, gallelli gravel Pit, Alberta, Canada, and the Fate of Bison Occidentalis. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 45(7). Retrieved from https://cdnsciencepub.com/ doi/10.1139/E08-027

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

2023 Lakota Calendar

The Lakxóta say that there is a woman in the moon. They call her Hokéwiŋ. When she stirs her spoon vigorously light spills out about her lodge. Image by Dakota Wind. 
New 2023 Lakota Calendar
December 2022 to January 2024
By Dakota Wind
Hau mitakuyapi. Greetings relatives and friends. I've been producing more arts and post with far more regularity on instagram or FaceBook. You can follow me @thefirstscout. I'll share a bit of news or a book reviews here, or anything that I feel fits what I've shared here over the years. 

Here's what I've come up with for the coming year. You can access this calendar for FREE. Here's the link. It will print out at 11"x17". 

If you are inclined, and want to, you can help this graduate student out. Help me get my books or grab a tea (I don't drink coffee). Venmo me: @Dakota-Goodhouse.