Monday, December 30, 2013

The Spy And The Wolf

US Indian Scouts were an official branch of the US Military from 1865 to about 1950. Indian Scouts also had their own guidons, military flags.
The Spy And The Wolf
Tunwéya Na Šuŋgmánitu Tĥáŋka
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – There were two kinds of scouts on the Great Plains in the nineteenth century. One kind consisted of Indians who enlisted in the US military as members of the US Scouts, an official branch of the US military. The Indian Scouts were charged with four basic responsibilities which included scouting the landscape for military expeditions, translating, running down deserters, and delivering US mail between military forts.

The other kind of scout served the native people by going out ahead of the main camp and watching for enemies, guiding the camp to the best campsites, and searched for game. The essential qualifications of the scout included truthfulness, courage, intuition, and a thorough knowledge of the landscape.

Native men who enlisted as US Scouts did so for a variety of reasons. Some enlisted as a means to avenge themselves on an enemy tribe, but others did so out of the desperate need to feed their families.

"The Buffalo Hunt Under The Wolf Skin Mask" by American artist George Catlin. Indian scouts sometimes employed the wolf skin as a means to sneak up on game or enemies.

Native men, so far as Lakĥóta men are concerned, were selected by council and gathered by the headmen for council. At the council, they would pray, smoke, and talk about the importance of the occasion. The chief and council spoke about the benefits for the entire camp upon success, and dire consequence upon defeat. The scouts were told to be wise as well as brave, to look not only to the front but behind, up as well much as to the ground, to watch for movement among the animals, to listen to the wind, to be mindful when crossing streams, to not disturb any animals, and to swiftly return to the people with any information.

Lakĥóta scouts, weren’t selected for their fighting prowess, nor were they necessarily warriors. The scout party was selected for each man’s keen eyesight and a man’s reputation for shrewd cunning and quick vigilance.

The Lakĥóta have sayings for mindfulness or awareness. In an online discourse with Vaughn T. Three Legs, Iŋyáŋ Hokšíla (Stone Boy), enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and radio personality on KLND 89.5 FM, and his čhiyé (older brother) Chuck Benson, they shared the phrase Ablésya máni yo, which means, “Be observant as you go,” but observation also implies understanding.

"Comanche War Party, Chief Discovering Enemy And Urging His Men At Sunrise" by George Catlin, 1834. Note: the chief meets the two scouts at the crest of the hill.

Cedric Goodhouse, a respected elder and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, offered Ĥa kíta máni yo, which means, “Observe everything as you go.” He also put before this writer the phrase Awáŋglake ománi, or “Watch yourself as you go around.” Lastly, Cedric shared the philosophy Taŋyáŋ wíyukčaŋ ománi, “Think good things as you go around.”

The late Albert White Hat, a respected elder, teacher, and enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, often shared the phrase Naké nulá waúŋ, “Always prepared,” or “Prepared for anything,” but this preparedness also reflects a readiness in spirit to meet the Creator too.

Each of these sayings were things practiced daily in camp and on the trail, then and today.

Before starting out, the scout’s relatives, or the camp’s medicine people offer prayers of protection, for the sun and moon to light the way, for the rain to fall sparingly, for the rivers and streams to offer safe passage, for the bluffs to offer unimpeded views, and for gentle winds. All of nature is petitioned to assist the scout to the people’s benefit.

When the scouts set out, only two were permitted to go in the same direction. A larger scout party could see and report no more information than two. A larger party would certainly be discovered more easily by the enemy.

The scout, whether he was a US Indian Scout or a Lakĥóta scout, would take with him a small mirror or field glass, invaluable tools made available in the early fur trade days. A scout would signal with his mirror a pre-determined set of flashes for the main camp to interpret and prepare long before his return. A tremulous series of flashes might indicate that the enemy was seen.

An online search for "mirror," "bag," and "Sioux," brought this image up. This type of mirror bag could easily be modified to be worn around the neck.

As the scout approached the main camp, near enough for vocal communication, he might let loose a wolf howl, again, to indicate that the enemy was seen and/or approaching.

Upon viewing the flashes and certainly upon hearing the wolf howl, the main camp war chief, headmen, and warriors would gather in a circle broken by an opening towards the approaching scout. The scout or scouts entered the broken circle and completed it, where they shared the news.

Captain William Philo Clark, a graduate of the US Military School, and military scout under General Crook, observed firsthand or heard from native authorities of a ceremonial ritual upon the scout or scouts return. Clark served in Dakota Territory from 1868 to 1884, and authored “The Indian Sign Language.” Clark observed that all tribes observed a return ritual for their scouts.

Basically, the broken circle is complete when the scout or scouts enter the opening, whereupon the pipe is offered to the six directions, the war chief or other headman and scout draw breath on the pipe, and upon the fourth time, the scout or scouts are debriefed. It was Clark’s observation that often enough the ritual was not always practiced. Certainly if there were an enemy war party fast approaching, ceremony was dropped in preparation for combat.

The Lakĥóta word for scout is Tuŋwéya, which means “Spy,” “Guide,” or “Scout.” The sign for scout is simply “Wolf.” Hold the right hand, palm out, near right shoulder, first and second fingers extended, separated and pointing upwards; remaining fingers and thumb closed; move right hand several inches to front and slightly upwards, turning hand a little so that extended fingers point to front and upward.

The Lakĥóta scout sometimes employed a wolf headdress to aid in his mission; sometimes they even carried a bone whistle to aid in alerting the camp.

In English, the word spy implies a clandestine secrecy; a guide leads people in unfamiliar territory, and a scout might mean learning basic survival skills or a covert military reconnaissance. For the Lakĥóta, tuŋwéya clearly meant spying and reconnoitering for the camp; they already know their own country and all except the smallest certainly knew basic survival skills, however they definitely needed to know who else traveled in their territory. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Standing Rock Legend, A Test Of Faithfulness

"Standing Rock, The Sacred Stone Of The Sioux," by W.A. Rodgers.
Another Legend Of Standing Rock
A Tale Of Faithfulness During Absence
By Dakota Wind
STANDING ROCK, N.D. – There are several variations of the story of Standing Rock, but all of them end with a woman transforming into stone. On the Northern Plains there are three tribes which have a Standing Rock story: the Cheyenne, the Arikara, and the Standing Rock Sioux. There is a different location associated with each story too.

The story of Standing Rock, in a way, mirrors the story of the horses’ arrival. There are several variations of the story of first contact with horses, and in different places too. The common element of the horse story is awe and a renewed sense of respect for the mystery of creation. No one story is right, and no one location is the exact one.

The stories of Standing Rock always end in the transformation of a woman into stone. Perhaps some long ago event about a woman who was universally beloved by the tribes of the Northern Plains inspired stories associated with all the feelings and angst of love and tragedy. One variant tells of the importance of obeying the supernatural, another of patience and waiting for a lost love to return, and here’s yet another version about infidelity. It was collected by Colonel Welsh in Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in 1915.

A previous version from Welch’s notes from the website Welch's Dakota Papers was featured here, but this version was tucked away in the AB Welch collection at the North Dakota State Archives. The date of this variant places the incident in 1833 along the Grand River on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, while the Yanktonai Dakota version places the tale in 1740 near Cannonball River, also on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.

"The Night The Stars Fell Over The Sioux Nation," by Eric S. Young.

A long time ago, the year the stars fell [1833], a young warrior took many presents, and laid them at the lodge of a family where a beautiful maiden lived. The father of the maiden came out, looked at the piles of valuable furs and beautiful ornaments, saw the slick slim limbed ponies, and his heart was soft within him. He gathered up the presents, carried them into his tipi, when he came out, he lead his daughter by the hand and presented her to this young warrior for his wife.

The young man, soon after, went away on an expedition against the Crows. He and his party were gone all summer and in the fall were caught by the early winter on the Yellowstone River and owing to the large body of captured horses the party was compelled to make winter camp. As early as they could move in the spring they started across the country and finally arrived at the village of their tribe. There was great rejoicing, dancing and feasts. The young man then went to the sundance and distinguished himself by dragging bison skulls, and prayed to become a great leader among his people.

The young man was eventually selected as chieftan over a small band.

For some reason, the suspicions of the young chief were aroused against his wife and she was compelled to consume a draught of bitter herbs, as a test. If she were innocent, it was believed that the herbs would have no effect upon her. If she were guilty, the drink would make her sick. She became violently ill and it was decided that she had been unfaithful. Accordingly, a procession was formed and she was taken upon the hill that stands alone.

In the presence of the entire tribe, the young chief pronounced a terrible curse upon her. The medicine men performed a mystical rite and the winds rushed and roared, rain and hail beat down with great fury, the sun became darkened – it was midday -, fire leapt out of the ground, and spirits were seen rushing through the air.

Fire Heart applies paint [red] to Standing Rock. Major James McLaughlin wrote that Fire Heart prayed for peace and forgiveness.

At this demonstration, the tribe, in great fear, fell down upon the ground, and when the terrible things had ceased, they looked, and beheld the young woman with a babe upon her back had turned to black stone. This stone thereafter was greatly regarded as sacred. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

No Two Horns' Narratives Of Apple Creek Conflict And Burnt Boat Fight

The Episcopal priest, Aaron Beede, in Fort Yates, ND, collected this piece authored by No Two Horns. The story: No Two Horns entered an enemy village, likely Crow as indicated by the hair style of the Indian peering out of his lodge, and has successfully stolen two horses. 
No Two Horns’ Narratives Of 1860's Battles
Apple Creek Conflict & Burnt Boat Fight
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – Chances are that if you have ever visited the North Dakota Heritage Center you may have come across the works of Hé Núŋpa WaníčA, No Two Horns. No Two Horns is listed by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and by Standing Rock Tourism as being Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta.

Like many Plains Indian men, No Two Horns had another name, Kimímela Ská, White Butterfly. No Two Horns was said to have been born in 1852, or earlier. His father was Ištá Sapá, Black Eyes, who was also known as Wasú Šá, Red Hail. No Two Horns was a master artist of the Plains Indian pictograph and many of his carvings serve as evidence of a graceful careful hand. By his own account, he was quite a horse thief in his youth, and a veteran of the Little Bighorn fight.

In May of 1924, Col. A. B. Welch, adopted son of John Grass, met with No Two Horns and others ostensibly to talk about the Burnt Boat Fight between the Lakota and a group of miners who descended the Missouri River and beached their vessel on a sandbar. One story has it that the miners caught a mother bathing her child nearby and overcome with lust, raped her, and then killed her and her little one.

No Two Horns explained to Welch how the Burnt Boat Fight came about after explaining how his band of people came to be engaged there the summer following the 1863 Apple Creek Conflict.

Here is an excerpt of Colonel A.B. Welch’s War Drums (Genuine War Stories From The Sioux, Mandan, Hidatsa, And Arikara). Only minor edits have been made to the Lakȟóta text within Welch’s paper:

I have often heard several men of the Sioux make veiled remarks about this (1864) incident for some years before I finally succeeded in obtaining a story regarding it. The Indians appeared to be reticent about discussing it, apparently being afraid that they might be punished for it even at this late date, after treaties had been signed in which all acts of hostility had been mutually forgotten and forgiven. However, when I talked with them regarding the Sibley Expedition, I began to get more of the facts as the Sioux knew them.

"The Sibley Campaign 1863," by depression era artist Clell Gannon.

There are many men alive today, who were young me at that time and who were fighting at the Big Mound north of Tappen, Dead Buffalo Lake north of Dawson, and along the trail from there to where the Indians were forced across to the west side of the Missouri river, at Sibley Island. It is from these old men that I have the information as herein given, as well as stories told to me by several white men and Mandan and Arikara, who were in a position to know much regarding this affair.

The story of the white boy captive and his tragic death appears to be authentic, although I have never been able to get an Indian to tell us positively that it is a fact. Nevertheless, they will not contradict the statement and many have said that they understood or had heard about the boy and that he had died soon after the fight. They intimate that his death was caused by the hysterical demand of the woman, who cried for revenge to “cover the body” of Ištá Sapá (Black Eyes, the father of No Two Horns) who was killed in the battle. I had tried to obtain trace of this boy for years, before I finally was convinced that, if he was actually taken prisoner, he lost his life in some strange manner, soon after.

As no one of the white party survived, it is not possible to obtain any but the Indian account of the actual affair, but the story of Mr. Larned, as given, indicates that the miners might still may have been under the influence of their wild time at Fort Berthold and quite likely had much liquor aboard the craft. Roughly speaking, it is about one hundred miles from Fort Berthold by river, to the place where they met disaster and the flow of the current is about seven or eight miles per hour. If the party were not hung up on some sand bar or did not land to hunt for meat, it would have taken them some fourteen or sixteen hours to have reached the mouth of the creek where they were killed. They probably landed for the night time upon some of the many islands, as there were Sioux upon the east, or left, band and Mandans, Hidatsa and Arikara upon the west, and it stands to reason that the miners would not have invited a night attach. Meat hunting would not have taken much of their time as game was very plentiful and they had stocked up with trader’s goods at Fort Berthold and would have been glad to eat “civilized food” again for a time. I believe that they left Fort Berthold early in the morning; spent that night in the vicinity of the mouth of the Knife River and were late in the next day.

The party was composed of some fourteen or fifteen miners, presumably all Montana miners from Alder Gulch ‘diggins’ (Virginia City). Dust worth several millions of dollars was taken out of this short gulch placer mining district, and the history of the rough times there is wonderfully told in “The Vigilantes.” Wilder men never gathered together in any spot, than there. The members of this party had cleaned up and were returning with their dust to the down-river points in 1864. After their wild debauch at Fort Berthold, and universally holding the Indian in contempt, it is easily understood how they maliciously fired upon the Sioux and were overwhelmed by them when their mismanaged craft struck upon a sand bar on the eastern shore near the Sioux camp. Who they were, or information regarding their family histories, will never be known, but there can be little doubt but that this party of wild frontier miners was completely wiped out by the Sioux, at the first draw north of the present Northern Pacific Railway Mandan-Bismarck bridge in the fall of 1864.

The map is from an 1890s survey of the Missouri River, about thirty years after the Apple Creek conflict. This reproduces the movements of native civilians & warriors, and Sibley's response. 

Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns), a Sioux Indian in whom I place much reliance as to historical data concerning that people, had told me that he was in the fight with the Indians who confronted Gen. Sibley from Big Mound to Sibley Island. He says that, after the Indians were safely upon the west banks of the Missouri, his band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna followed the Heart river to its headwaters and passed on into the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri, and that a month or two later they started back with the intention of crossing again to the east side and spending the winter in their old territory between the Missouri and the James, known to them as “The Earth Dish of Wa’anáta.”

He states that one of the mouths of the Heart was north of the present Northern Pacific railway bridge and that they crossed at that place to the east side and moved up into the first draw, where there was fresh water and wood and where they camped for a time.  This deep, steep-sided gully was a well-known Sioux camping place, and from it travois trails led by east stages up to the high lands and thence by good roads, to the valley of Apple Creek, which they followed up into the Dog Den Butte country, up into the region of Sibley Butte and as far as “Wagon Wheel Hills,” north of Steele, at the east end of which the trail divided, the main route leading along the line of lakes and high choteau (sp?) and into the Čhaŋsása, or James River valley, and another trail bearing north and east of north toward the Mníwakaŋ or Devils Lake regions. This camp site was about a mile south of a well-known Missouri river ford, where passage might be easily made without bull boats or rafts, and which was the generally-used ford in the vicinity for all Indian parties. The west entrance of the ford was just below the United States Government harbor now known as Rock Haven, and required not more than one hundred yards of swimming in the main channel. Why this ford was not used by the party of No Two Horns, at that time, is not known to me.

No Two Horns says: “We were camped in that place then. There was much water flowing out of the hills and the feed was good. Our horses would not leave the grass and shade of the trees along the little stream. There was good wood in the timber there. Many deer were in the bottom lands and antelope up on the prairie. Down on Apple Creek there were many elk. We had much meat. We had been chased across the river by the horse soldiers from the east. We crossed then just above the mouth of the Little Heart. We got across easy. We killed some of the enemy there, too. We had been in the Mníwakaŋ country. We were not Little Crow’s people. We were looking for someone to come and thank us. Inkpáduta (Scarlet Point) and several of his men were in that camp. When we got to the river, they went north on the east side. We went across. We went up the Heart River. We went into the Good Horse Grass country (the Sioux frequently speak of the Bad Lands by that name). When the Indians who followed the horse soldiers came back, we started back to our own country. We crossed the Missouri at the mouth of Heart River then. That was where the railroad bridge is now. We went up to this water-grass place. My father was with me, too. He was an old man.”

"Mackinaw Boat Under Attack On The Missouri," by William de le Montagne.

“Then we saw a boat coming down the river. It had white men in it. We wanted to trade for powder, lead, guns, coffee and cloth. We had some fine otter pelts and other skins to trade.

We waved our arms and asked them to come and trade with us. They shot us then. They killed my father. His name was Ištá Sapá (Black Eyes). We were mad then. They fired guns at us. They were working hard at shooting. The boat run on some sand where the little stream run out. We killed them all then. We set fire to the boat and it burned to the water. We got their clothes and guns and kettles. Some yellow earth, we poured out of some little sacks. We did not know it was worth anything then. But it was gold. We buried my father in a lodge there. I can show you the place where it stood. We went away. They shot at us. We were friendly people.  The leader of the horse soldiers did the same thing. He made us fight. The Government always treated the people who fought the best. It was fall before the snow came. I don’t remember any more about that time by the little stream which flowed into the Mníšoše (Missouri).”

Thaóyate Dúta, His Red Nation (aka Little Crow).

It will be remembered that, at the time of the Minnesota Massacres (1863) by Little Crow’s Santees, many members of the Iháŋktȟuŋwan and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna divisions moved away into the Devils Lake regions, with the expressed purpose of keeping out of the trouble. They fully expected that the Government would send a messenger to them, to thank them for that action. They nearly starved during the winter and early in the spring were in the vicinity of Steele and Dawson, Kidder County, North Dakota, hunting buffalo when they were surprised by the advance of Sibley’s column.

Their own story is that they sent forward several old, honorable men to smoke with Gen. Sibley, and that these old men were fired upon by Sibley’s men and the fight started. Many of these friendly Indians were killed in the running engagement, but the troopers were, to say the least, perfectly satisfied to see the Indians cross the river, after which the soldiers returned to Minnesota.

Inkpáduta, or Scarlet Point, pictured here, went on to fight at the Little Bighorn. 

The hostile renegade, Inkpáduta (Scarlet Point), and about twelve of his men had joined this hunting party a few days before Sibley found them, but had already been notified by the camp soldiers, that he must go away at once. When the Indians neared the Missouri, he, together with his men, left the main body and slipping through the soldiers guard, succeeded in passing north along the east bank of the stream and went off into the Devils Lake region, and north, to be close to the Canadian border. The other Indians broke up into small parties after the crossing, and went into several directions, but the camp with which No Two Horns traveled, went into the Bad Lands, which they reached about August 15th, 1864. No Two Horns argued that the Government made peace only with those who fought against them, and that his people should have done so, under the thought that they would have been treated better if they had.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Expressions Of Gratitude: Thank You In Speech And Sign

A Lakota Give Away (above). 
Expressions Of Gratitude
"Thank You" In Speech And Sign
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – Kevin Locke, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and emminent flute-player and world renowned hood dancer, finished his program with a recitation of White Cloud’s “An Indian Prayer” which included  a demonstration of the Plains Indian sign language.

Accompanying Locke was Reuben Fast Horse, also an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a traditional singer and flute-player in his own right. Fast Horse is also a hand-talker, or signer, of the Plains Indian Sign and Gesture language, the world’s first universal langauge.

The program came at the latter end of November, close to the national American holiday known as Thanksgiving. In North Dakota, the entire month is designated as Native American Heritage Month. The program, in Locke’s and Fast Horse’s execution, bespoke of the universal thread that is humanity in language, song, story, and dance.

I turned to Fast Horse as Locke was taking a few questions on stage and asked how one signs gratitude. Fast Horse set his hand drum down on the table he was seated at and extended his arms up and out and shoulder level, fingers extended and gently curved, palms out, and patted his hands downward to about waist level.

Locke uses the same gesture to express gratitude. He learned from his mother, Patricia, who was also a signer. The gesture is synominous with respect to someone or something.

Marland Aitson, Kiowa, demonstrates the sign for "thank you," from George Fronval's "Indian Signs And Signals."

Cedric Goodhouse, and his wife Sissy, both enrolled members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and keepers of the living culture, offered a program of their own in Bismarck the previous week, also to commemorate Native American Heritage Month. Afterward, I asked about methods of expressing gratitude. One might say philámayayA or philámiya pó, the first an expression of gratitude to someone, the second is the way a man would express his gratitude to more than one person. The phrase wóphila, an expression of thanksgiving or appreciation, can be used to express common thanks, but its usage is acquainted with blessings and prayers.

During the Sioux Wars of the 1870s, a military officer named William Philo Clark was sent to Dakota Territory. There he personally lead commands of Crow, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapahoe, and Lakota. In the evenings he witnessed entire conversations pass with no difficulty among people who spoke different languages. Clark was stationed at Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies then was assigned north, either to run mail or manage another detachment of US Indian Scouts, but he found himself among the Mandan, Arikara, Assiniboine, and Bannocks, and he found that the Plains sign and gesture langauge a reliable method of communicting.

In 1881, General Phil Sheridan assigned Clark to submit a compilation of the Indian sign and gesture langauge to the military, a comprehensive work that eventually became known as The Indian Sign Language. Within this work is an entry for gratitude.

Clark recorded that the concept of gratitude as he learned it as, “You have taken pity on me; I will remember it, and take pity on you.” The sign is as follows: hold the right hand near the heart, thumb and index nearly extended, palmer surface near ends pressed together, other fingers closed; move right hand outwards (which represents something drawn out of the heart; this means “thanks”); followed by the sign for “Give,” which is as Locke and Fast Horse articulate gratitude through sign.

Tompkins pictured here engaging in the Plains Indian Sign Language with the Lakȟóta. Tompkins was given the friendship name Waŋblí WíyutȟA, Sign Talking Eagle.

In the 1880s, William Tompkins was raised at Fort Sully, south of Pierre, SD, then in Dakota Territory, near what became the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservations. Tompkins put together his own book with accompanying illustrations about the sign and gesture langauge, but also including a little of the pictographic langauge and even a page on smoke signals.

Tompkins book, Indian Sign Language, published in 1931, concurs with Locke’s and Fast Horse’s method of expressing thanks. Later publications, like Robert Hofsinde’s Indian Sign Language, and George Fronval’s Indian Signs And Signals, also correlate the method of articulating thanks used by Locke and Fast Horse.

Another non-native, Alfred Burton Welch, was born on a homestead near Armour, SD (then Dakota Territory) in 1874 to a traveling Methodist minister father. The Welch family moved to Tacoma, WA. AB Welch went to university in Puget Sound, then served in the US Military in the Philippines. Welch moved to Mandan, ND but maintained his military service in the National Guard. While in Mandan, Welch grew close to the Sihásapa (Blackfeet) Lakȟóta, in particular, Mahtó WatȟákpA (Charging Bear), also called Chief John Grass who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Grass grew fond of Welch, so fond in fact, that he adopted Welch as his son in the Huŋká (Making-Of-Relatives) ceremony.

While Welch became familiar with the Lakȟóta on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation he recorded several stories and even took a few notes about the Plains Indian sign and gesture language.

In Welch’s notes is mention of how one articulates gratitude, which is described as follows: draw one’s hand (left or right) over one’s face, touching the forehead and then down below one’s chin. This method of signing gratitude, as it was recorded on Standing Rock in 1919, was accompanied with the interjection hahó hahó, which means  delight, gratitude, or joy. Welch recorded that signers would accompany the gesture with the interjection of hayé hayé, which also conveyed gratitude but was/is addressed to the Creator.

The Lakȟóta also say and accept thanks in English too, and offer a warm handshake.

It is especially good luck to gift a Lakȟóta twenty dollars. I’m just kidding, it isn’t. But if you gave me a twenty I’d be grateful. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Council Of The Flowers

Fragrant Water Lilly in bloom, S.D., photo by National Park Service.
The Council Of The Flowers
Lowliest Flower Becomes Loveliest
As told by Mrs. Kick The Corn, 1915. (Note: Text has undergone some minor editing such as traditional Lakȟkóta names for the flowers.)
FORT YATES, N.D. - A long time ago all the Wanáȟča (Flowers) lived anywhere they happened to be. The Uŋžíŋžiŋtka (Prairie Rose), the Čhuŋwíyapehe Iyúwi (Wild Grape), the Waȟčázi (Sunflower), the Waȟpé Tȟó (Violet) and all the rest, lived side by side. They could not keep their families together. They were not pleased about this, so it was decided to hold a great council of the Wanáȟča Oyáte (Flower Nation) and divide the land among them, so that each could have their own places to live in.

So they all gathered together in one place and each made a speech and ate of the feast which was prepared. After several days of speech-making and celebration, it was decided the Uŋžíŋžiŋtka should grow on the prairie in the sunshine; the Čhuŋwíyapehe Iyúwi should live among the trees in the shade; the Waȟpé Tȟó should grow in the shade of the cool, moist forest places; the Waȟčázi should grow along the hot, dusty trail and all the other Wanáȟča and Čháŋ (Trees) should have his own place.

Then the council broke up and everybody started home. But a poor, ill-favored Wanáȟča came limping into camp just as the Wanáȟča Oyáte were going away.  It was tired, hungry and almost dead. It had had so far to come to the council that it had not arrived in time to present its claim to any ground to live in.

They decided to hold another council just for this poor Wanáȟča. But there was no other place for it to have, as all the ground was gone. But Iŋktómi (Spider) spoke with wisdom and said that there was some ground which had not been taken. This should be the poor Wanáȟča’s home, and on account of it having come so far and being so tired, he would call upon the Iŋktómi Oyáte to make it the most lovely Wanáȟča on Makȟóče’s (Grandmother’s) blanket.

So everyone was satisfied and the council broke up again and the Wanáȟča Oyáte went to their new homes. The Waȟpé Tȟó went into the cool, shady places; the Waȟčázi joyfully went to the dusty trails; the Čhuŋwíyapehe Iyúwi started to climb the great trees; the Uŋžíŋžiŋtka found a warm spot under the sun out on the prairie; and all the rest found their new places.

The ill-favored, stinking, little Wanáȟča which had come last to the council, then went to its new home in the ground beneath the waters of the ponds and slowly-moving waters of the small creeks, and grew to be the most beautiful of all flowers and, with the most pleasing breathe.

It is now called Mniȟčáȟča (Water Lily).

Wanáȟča: Flower
Uŋžíŋžiŋtka: Prairie Rose
Čhuŋwíyapehe Iyúwi: Wild Grape
Waȟčázi: Sunflower
Waȟpé Tȟó: Violet
Oyáte: People or Nation
Čháŋ: Tree
Iŋktómi: Spider or Trickster
Makȟóče: Grandmother Earth
Mniȟčáȟča: Water Lily

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Origin Of The Prairie Rose

The Origin Of The Prairie Rose
The First Love Of Whirlwind
As told to Rev. Aaron Beede, Sept. 1, 1921
FORT YATES, N.D. - A long time ago, the surface of makȟá (the world) which is the blanket of Makȟóče (Grandmother Earth), was desert and held no beauty. Tȟatéiyumni (Whirlwind) had it for his playground.

And Makȟóče was sad at heart because her blanket had no beauty with flowers and living things with bright colors, and she said, “There are flowers in my heart. Oh, that they might be on my poor blanket. Ugly Tȟatéiyumni.” And when a flower of her heart, to please her, would go up onto her blanket, Tȟatéiyumni would rush for the flower saying, “What business has she in my playground of dust and storms?” And he would blow out her life.

At last Uŋžíŋžiŋtka (Prairie Rose), her mother’s darling flower, went up onto Makȟóče’s blanket by a water spring, and Tȟatéiyumni rushed upon her crying, “How sweet her breath is! And her dress is clean and pretty. I like her. It is not in my heart to blow out her sweet life. She may have part of her playground for her home and I shall name her Uŋžíŋžiŋtka.”

Then others came and Tȟatéiyumni liked them and played with them and became gentler, and then other flowers and grasses and trees came, and Tȟatéiyumni played with them and became still more gentle.

So the Dakȟóta put the colors of Uŋžíŋžiŋtka on their garments and lodges, and when Tȟatéiyumni sees this color he remembers his first love for Uŋžíŋžiŋtka and he becomes too gentle to kill the people, though he sometimes plays with them boisterously.  

Makȟá: Earth
Makȟóče: Grandmother Earth
Tȟatéiyumni: Whirlwind
Uŋžíŋžiŋtka: Prairie Rose

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Wind Is The Spirit Of The Great Plains

Tȟaté’káoškokpa (Canyon Made-By-Wind), or Wind Canyon, along the Heȟáka Tȟa Wakpá (River Of Elk; Little Missouri River) in Makȟóšíća (Badlands, N.D.; Theodore Roosevelt National Park).
The Wind Is The Spirit Of The Great Plains
The Sky In Word, Pictograph, And Sign
By Dakota Wind
THE GREAT PLAINS - The wind has been a constant presence on the open prairie since creation, and has shaped the landscape with its caress. It races across the open sky with the summer and winter storms, and flows about the landscape playfully, fitfully, and angrily. It is the very essence of the Great Plains.

The Lakȟóta have several words for the wind and its attributes such as tȟaté (air in motion), uyá (to blow leeward of the wind), kaȟwókA (to be carried along with the wind), ikápȟaŋyaŋ (to be beaten down by the wind, as with grass) or itáglaȟweya (with the wind). OkáluzA, or ičáluzA, refers to a breeze.

When a strong wind is present, or suddenly appears, during prayer or at a gathering, the wind might even be referred to as takú wakȟáŋ škaŋškáŋ (something with great energy is moving). A whirlwind is called tȟatéiyumni, which some regard as a sign that a spirit is present.

There is only one word to describe a windless day, ablákela (calm or quiet).

When the wind blows cold, such as it does in the winter months, the Lakȟóta refer to it as tȟatóšni. The cold winter wind had a story of its own, and in the days of legend, before steamboats and trains, before soldiers and missionaries, when the camps moved across the prairie steppe in the fall to establish winter camps, they told the story of Wazíya, that which some call a giant, or the Power Of The North. Wazíya blew his cold breath across the world. 

The blizzard is known to the Lakȟóta as Iwóblu. 

But even the wind has an origin. There are various stories about the wind, but the basics are that after creation, Tȟaté (Wind) took the daughter of Old Man and Old Woman, Ité (Face) as his wife. They had four sons, the Four Winds. Iŋktómi, the Lakȟóta trickster, persuaded Ité to begin an affair with Wí (the Sun) to gain status. 

The affair backfired, and Takú Wakȟáŋ Škaŋškáŋ gave Haŋwí (the Moon) her own domain, and sent Old Man and Old Woman to earth along with Ité. Ité was ever after parted from her husband, Tȟaté, and their four sons. Ité, however, had a fifth son, Tȟatéiyumni (Whirlwind). Woȟpá (Falling Star Woman), daughter of Wí and Haŋwí, was sent to earth. Woȟpá became the wife of Okáǧa (the South Wind) and they raised Tȟatéiyumni as their son.

They say as the summer wanes and turns to autumn, the wind changes with the weather. That change in the wind is the breath of North. The cold was and is deadly, never to be feared, but respected. The North spreads his robe across the sleeping land. The North makes hunting game easier to track. In fact, the Lakȟóta used to dance in snowshoes in the blanket of the first snowfall. They rejoiced in the weather and embraced the deep cold. 

In the spring or autumn mornings, in the early morning just as the sun rises, there appears a mist. The Lakȟóta call this Aŋptȟáŋiya. Regular fog is P'ó. 

Sometimes the winter seems like it will never end, even for people who’ve lived here for thousands of years. Gray skies smother the light for days on end. Everywhere the land is monochrome. Months without color took its toll on the people. These days it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

For the Lakȟóta people, even the winter holds the promise of light and hope.

On cold days one might see what they call a sundog, but its not every cold day that features a sundog. The ancient Greeks called it a “mock sun.” The Romans called it a “double sun.” The English in the early 1400s said the sundog was a representation of the Holy Trinity.

This Campfire-Of-The-Sun is seen here above the Mníšoše (Water-Astir; Missouri River) and Iŋyáŋ Wosláta Oyáŋke (Where Standing Rock Dwells), the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation

Lakȟóta call the sundog Wíačhéič’ithi which means The Sun Makes A Campfire For Itself. The story of this beautiful name for this awesome phenomenon comes to me from Cedric Good House: A long time ago the people experienced several days of bleak grayness. People began experiencing bad dreams and others became depressed. It was the bad dreams that haunted the grandchildren that moved a grandfather to leave his village to pray for an end to the grayness. When he returned he called everyone in to the center of the village and selected two groups of young men to go the east of the camp and build two campfires. They did as they were told and returned to the camp where the people prayed. A lightening of the grayness indicated that morning had arrived. The clouds broke and the sun burst through the grayness. As the sun rose above the horizon, the campfires ascended into the sky with it. The people rejoiced and sang.

Just as there are several words for wind, the Lakȟóta have some words for clouds, which are of the sky. Maȟpíya in itself is a reference to the sky, or heavens. Maȟpíya tȟó, is the blue sky. Maȟpíya šápe is dark clouds. Maȟpíya akáȟpA is a cloudy overcast. Maȟpíya naȟléčA literally “the sky tears,” is a reference to a cloud burst of rain. Maȟpíya okáksaksa is partly cloudly. Maȟpíyaya is cloudy. Čhumaȟpiya means “dew clouds” or “vapor clouds.” Op’ó is a cloud of dust or steam. OkpúkpA is cloudy, hazy, or unclear. Makȟóp’oya is a cloud of dust.

When the Christian missionaries arrived they needed to articulate the Kingdom of Heaven, and coined the term Maȟpíya Wókičhuŋze, which literally means “Kingdom of the Sky.”

The northern lights above North Dakota. Unknown photographer.

The northern lights mean something very special to the Lakȟóta. Maȟpíya Tȟaŋíŋ is the northern lights, but is literally, “Buffalo-hair Sky.” Wanáği Tȟawáčhipi, a reference for the northern lights meaning “Dance Of The Spirits,” and there’s a story, or experience, about out there but it won't be shared here. Haŋwákȟaŋ, another word for the northern lights, literally means “Night With-Energy.” It was a tradition of some Lakȟóta to burn incense, sweet-grass or cedar, when the northern lights appeared.

Sometimes, just as there is no wind, there are no clouds in the sky. There are a few ways of describing a day without clouds: Maȟpíya waníče, there are no clouds. Waŋžíla Tȟo, blue oneness or complete blueness, or tȟowáŋžiča, the sky is blue.

In the spring or summer, storms or rainfall strikes in daylight. The Lakȟóta have the tradition that the Wakíŋya, Thunder-Beings, bring the storms, but not just to bring rain. Lightning flashes from their eyes, claws, and wings. With lightning and rain the Wakíŋya cleansed the earth and destroyed or perhaps chased out the negative entities which settled into the lands. At the end of daylight storms the plains are treated to rainbows stretching from horizon to horizon, a grand arch reaching to heaven.

In the blistering summer months mirages appear on the horizons. The Lakȟóta call this shimmer of air at the edge of the earth Mašténaptapta. 

A double rainbow in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, by Travel Garden Eat.

The Lakȟóta refer to rainbows as Wígmuŋke, A Snare. It is said that the wígmuŋke, causes the storm to end by trapping it, so that no more rain can fall. No one points at wígmuŋke with their fingers, but use their lips or elbows if they gesture to it.

In the spring, the wind signals another change. The Lakȟóta call this wind Niyá Awičhableze, The Enlightening Breath. This is the first spring wind upon which the meadowlarks return. It’s the time of year in which the Lakȟóta carefully watch for the ice to break on the Mníšoše, the Water-Astir (Missouri River), the geese return, and when the bison bear their calves.

One of the names that the Lakȟóta people have for the courting flute is Wayážo, which means To Play A Flute. It is the essence of the wind. Flutes are traditionally made from red cedar. The heart of the wood, the soft red center, is removed with the intention of that space becoming filled with the flute-maker’s own heart. Breath flows through the flute and the wind carries its haunting song.

Tȟokéya Inažiŋ (The First To Arise; Kevin Locke) here with his great-grandfather's flute, shares the flute tradition with youth on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.

In a discussion with Deacon Terry Star, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, about the wind and the flute, Deacon Star shared that he heard the four winds were brothers who represented the four cardinal directions. The West Wind, according to how Deacon Star heard it, didn’t just bring the thunderstorms, but also played the flute.

The wind, clouds, northern lights, and rainbow are expressed in the non-speaking languages of the Great Plains too.

In pictography, the wind is represented by a series of straight lines ending in a curly-cue or wave, and more lines indicate the strength of the wind. A whirlwind is represented by a swirl of four lines spiraling outward from the center of a circle. Clouds are represented sometimes by a simple line drawing of a cloud, but generally clouds are almost always depicted with rain and lightning. An arch above a straight line is a representation of the sky above the earth.

A pictograph for northern lights may be represented by night (a darkened circle with a line running through it top to bottom; or other variant) and fire (above the image depicting night). A rainbow is depicted by a series of arches over a straight line.

Dr. Jesse Johnson (Cheyenne River Lakota), center,  in front of a thípi.

In the sign and gesture language of the American Indians, there is a sign for wind as well. In a communiqué from Dr. Jesse Johnson, Blú Wakpá (Powder River), enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the sign for wind takes a few forms, but its most basic execution involves holding the hands up, backs up at about shoulder height, fingers spread, and moving hands in a wavy tremulous motion in the direction of the wind.

Like pictography, the Plains Indian sign for cloud or clouds is inseparable from rain or lightning. The sign for rain consists of holding one’s hands up at shoulder height and drawing one’s hands down slowly two to three times. Kevin Locke, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, draws his hands down, backs up, and does “piano fingers” to sign rain. Lightning is signed by miming a jagged lightning pattern in mid air with either hand.

According to Dr. Johnson’s research into the Plains Indian sign language, the northern lights are depicted as “both hands, backs down, half closed, thumb and finger tips together, raised very high and spread with a sweep to indicate flashes. It should be done facing north.” Johnson adds that the sign is helped if the hands are swung apart in an arc at the highest point in executing the sign.

Wáǧačhaŋ (Cottonwood) on the floodplain of the Heȟáka Tȟa Wakpá.

The constant wind blowing across the open prairie steppe and through a vast open sky is a part of the Lakȟóta culture, or perhaps it is that the Lakȟóta are a part of the wind. They say that patterns on one’s fingertips indicate the direction the wind was blowing on the day of one’s birth. 

The Lakȟóta have the saying Takú šičá owás’iŋla kaȟwóg iyáyiŋ kte ló, which means, "All the bad things will blow away." 

On the vast open plains, grasses bow down and sway in motion as if in dance. Great cottonwood trees catch the winds and rattle their leaves in a deafening roar, like the crash of waves in the distant oceans. These ancient trees catch the smallest breeze and their leaves shush the world. 

Le tȟaté na maȟpíya tȟa makȟóčhe hečha lo. This is the land of sky and wind. 

Terry Star is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. His traditional Dakȟóta name is Ȟé Ská, White Mountain, after Mount Rainier of which the top of the mountain bears snow year round. He is a deacon in the Episcopal Church and is currently a candidate for the Master of Divinity at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Star was raised by his late grandmother, Lillian Ironbull Martinez in the traditions of the church and the Dakota. For several years he has served as a youth pastor on Standing Rock and has frequently called on the stories he received from Lillian and her friends to relate biblical ones to the youth.

Jesse Johnson is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. His traditional Lakȟóta name is Blú Wakpá, Powder River, after Čhaȟlí Wakpá, which means Charcoal River and is the proper place name of Powder River. Johnson graduated with his Ph.D. in American Indian Studies. In his spare time Johnson teaches martial arts.

Ablákela: Quiet, or windless, calm

Aŋptȟáŋiya: Vapor, mist that arises in the early morning

Čhumaȟpiya: Dew Clouds, Vapor Clouds

Haŋwákȟaŋ: Night-With-Energy, Northern Lights

Haŋwí: Moon

Heȟáka Tȟa Wakpá: River Of Elk, Little Missouri River

IčáluzA: Breeze


Iŋktómi: Trickster

Iŋyáŋ Wosláta Oyáŋke: Standing Rock Agency

Itáglaȟweya: With-The-Wind

Ité: Face

Iwóblu: Blizzard

KaȟwókA: To-Be-Carried-Along-With-The-Wind

Maȟpíya: Cloud, Sky, Heaven

Maȟpíya AkáȟpA: Clouds Overcasted

Maȟpíya NaȟléčA: The Sky Tears, a cloud burst of rain

Maȟpíya Okáksaksa: Partly Cloudy

Maȟpíya Šápe: Dark Clouds

Maȟpíya Tȟaŋíŋ: Buffalo-Hair Sky, Northern Lights

Maȟpíya Tȟó: Blue Sky

Maȟpíya Waníče: No-Clouds, Cloudless

Maȟpíya Wókičhuŋze: "Kingdom of Heaven"

Maȟpíyaya: Cloudy

Makȟóp’oya: A cloud of dust

Makȟóšíća: Badlands

Mašténaptapta: Sunlight-Waving, shimmer on the horizon on a hot day, mirage

Mníšoše: Water-Astir, Missouri River

Niyá Awičhableze: Enlightening Breath, spring wind

Okáǧa: South Wind

OkáluzA: Breeze

Op’ó: A cloud of dust or steam

OkpúkpA: Haze

P'ó: Fog

Takú Wakȟáŋ Škaŋškáŋ: Somthing With-Energy Moves/Moving; often contracted to Takú Škaŋškáŋ (Something Moving), or when talking about creation, simply Škaŋ.

Tȟaté: Air-In-Motion, Wind

Tȟatéiyumni: Whirlwind

Tȟaté’káoškokpa: Canyon Made-By-Wind, Wind Canyon

Tȟatóšni: Cold Wind

Tȟowáŋžiča: Completely Blue, Blue Oneness, a completely blue sky

Uyá: To-Blow-Leeward-Of-The-Wind

Wáǧačhaŋ: Cottonwood 

Wakíŋya: Thunder

Wanáği Tȟawáčhipi: Dance of The Spirits, Northern Lights

Waŋžíla Tȟo: Complete Blueness, Blue Oneness, a completely blue sky

Wayážo: To-Play-The-Flute, Flute

Wazíya: Lit. Pine, Power-Of-The-North, also a name of the North Wind

Wí: Sun

Wíačhéič’ithi: The Sun Makes A Campfire For Itself, Sundog

Wígmuŋke: Snare, Rainbow

Woȟpá: Meteor, Falling Star