Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Sahnish (Arikara) Tale Of Standing Rock

Standing Rock Important To Many Tribes
A Sahnish (Arikara) Tale Of Standing Rock
By Dakota Wind
Some years back I attended the Knife River Culture Festival, an annual event held at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, in the town of Stanton, ND. Generally, the speakers and presenters are members of the Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan Nation, otherwise known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

On this occasion I met a few people of the Sahnish Cultural Society. They shared with me their story of Standing Rock, which was held in high regard and venerated by the Sahnish. The tale they shared with me is not the same tale that was shared by the Rev. Aaron Beede, an Episcopal minister who lived and preached on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. However, I can share "Beede's" version.

The rock, known as the Standing Rock to the Sioux and which is now at Fort Yates, N.D., formerly stood in an Arikara vilage in the vicinity of the old town Winona, directly across the river from Fort Yates.

The headman of this village had a beautiful daughter. She was much sought after by young men of the tribes to wed. She refused them all. It was her custom to spend much time among the growing corn in the fields of the village. She cultivated the plants with the shoulder-blade hoe and talked to the corn and sung songs to the pumpkins in the fields, for the Rees were corn raisers. She was very different from the other young women of the village and there was not a word of scandal regarding her. In fact, she was thought to be very pure and holy. She refused many men who were good hunters and brave warriors, and her parents, at last, became displeased with her actions in this manner. At such times she would say that it was intended that she should marry and that it would displease the spirits.

But at last a noble young man appeared from a great distance and played upon his eagle-bone flute outside her father's lodge, or rather, earth lodge. She persisted in refusing to marry and her father said, "It is always good for Indian women to show respect towards their parent's desires in such matters; that she was not displaying the proper filial obedience and that they were displeased with her. This time she must marry whether she wanted to or not."

The young chief brought a great pile of furs and other presents for the parents of the young woman and laid them at the door of the lodge. He presented his horses to the father. At last the young woman was married to the young chief from far away. But still contended that it was the wrong thing for her to do; that she was not intended for marriage and that it was all a big mistake. A great feast was given and, after many days of merry-making, the two young people started upon the long journey toward the west where dwelt the people of the young chieftan. 

Sometime afterward there staggered into the village of the Arikara this same young woman, tired and weary with hunger. She had made the long and dangerous journey alone, she said. Her anxious mother asked her what the trouble had been, if her husband had abused her, if she did not have enough to eat, if she had not been well cared-for and and many other questions, such as a mother would ask her daughter. 

But the daughter said that she had been well-treated by her husband, that he gave her the softest skins to rest upon, that she was well fed and that her husband was the perfect man in all things, but she said, "I told you that it was not intended that I should wed, and now see the ruin you have caused by compelling me to marry." 

She then displayed her private parts to her mother. Behold, what had been formerly shaped like the beautiful flower of the pumpkin blossom were now faded and drooped. Her parents comforted her as well as they knew how, but that night she disappeared and, after a long search, was found upon the top of the hill to the northeast of the village, but she refused to return to her parent's lodge. 

Then her father went to speak with her but she still refused. Her mother next talked with her but she told her that she was slowly turning to stone and could not go. She was stone to the knees.

Terribly alarmed, her parents urged the medicine man and all the people to go with them to the hill and have her return. They went, but it was, indeed, true, she was turning to stone and could not move. Her little faithful dog climbed up into her lap and would not be disturbed. Soon she had turned to stone to her private parts, then to her breasts, and finally her entire body and that of the little dog were turned to stone. 

Then a terrible storm came up, spirits rushed through the air, the people were scared and terrified. When the storm had passed over, the daughter was still there, but stone, as you see her, today. So this stone was sacred ever after and was put up in the sacred enclosure in the middle of the village. 

If this story is the true one it is not a Sioux stone but originated with the Arikara. Assuming it was an Arikara stone, the story became evidently known to the Sioux women who carried it across the river after the Arikara had been driven out of that country and established it upon the slope of the hills south of the Porcupine. The Sioux stories were gradually woven about the stone, as the Sioux women would quite naturally take good care of it as a holy object, even though of Arikara origin, as the story connected with it was about a woman. 

Rev. Beede speculates that the Standing Rock stone is not the "original" and that it must come from some where else. That the Sioux women would gradually weave their own stories about the stone mirrors the displacement of place identity the Sioux in turn had the land before soldiers and settlers displaced them. 

Its possible that there are as many as four Standing Rocks. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Visit To Elk River Country

Hehaka TaWakpa Makoche 
(Elk River Country)
AKA Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A Photo Essay by Dakota Wind
MEDORA, N.D. - Anytime I visit a place with my sons, if the Lakota people have a name and a story about it, I tell them about it as the Lakota know it. The above image was taken at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. There, I quietly shared the story of General Sully's punitive campaign against the Lakota that started at Killdeer Mountain and led the soldiers to the Badlands, Makoche Sica.

This was taken about a mile south of Wind Canyon. My youngest son wanted to pick flowers so we walked about and found some. When we came upon some, I told him that we must never pick the first ones we see, that we want the flowers to return, so we can pick the second flower we come across.

Any trees of big size grow on the Elk River floodplain. This little shrub was growing between broken sandstones on a hillside.

There it is. Elk River. Today the river is known by its contemporary name, the Little Missouri River. It was a favored place of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Mandan and Hidatsa to hunt elk.

Here's a feral herd of horses within the park. The horses descend from horses which were removed from the Lakota in the late 1800s. My youngest son knows that the horses aren't "ours" as in ownership, but he calls them "ours," as in "our friends."

A gange of bison roam the park too. These bison are pure blooded bison from the gange at Yellowstone National Park. By the turn of 1900 there were only about 300 pure blood bison that could be accounted for there. They were close to extinction, but have made a return.

There were several colts among the haras (one of those fancy collective nouns for horses) in the park. Several other visitors had gotten out of their cars and trucks to take pictures, but we didn't. My youngest rolled down his window and called out to them. 

It was windy, but then it always is on the Great Plains. The wind has been here since creation and still blows strong. The wind blew and carried the wonderful scent of sage across the endless rolling miles. Here's a little valley of sage. Last year my youngest son picked sage for my mother here because her house smells like this.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Tale Of The Pizzle Stick

A pizzle stick is generally treated as a chewing implement for dogs.
The Tale Of The Pizzle Stick
By Dakota Wind
I have a story I’d like to share about the pizzle stick.

One time, back at the greatest park in North Dakota, an old supervisor paid a visit bearing a pizzle stick to put on display in the earth lodge. He told me, in an authorative voice that it was a pizzle stick to display along with the many reproductions within the “living” lodge, an earth lodge outfitted to look as though the Nu’Eta (Mandan) lived there and had only just stepped out.

“What’s a pizzle stick?” he asked, waving it around.

“It’s a horse whip,” I nonchalantly responded, looking down at the edge of Missouri River as though something vaguely interesting were there.

“Ah. A horse whip,” he said with great newfound respect and then laid it on a woven cattail mat next to the hearth.

In those days, interpreters (or tour guides) stood around in the abandoned village, greeted visitors, provided interpretive programming, and answer questions to the best of our ability. Working with the general public is something that I wish everyone could experience. Some days brought educated guests, other days were filled with the challenges that only the general public brings. Some visitors were of the live and let live philosophy. Some had read a book and became an overnight expert. Some wanted to see Indians.

It so happened one day that there came a-visiting, a rather gregarious and rowdy bunch of visitors. I was having a tough go of it trying to engage this group and maintain their interest. I suspected that they may have had ingested a few alcoholic libations with their belligerence, raucious laughter, bawdy jokes and repeated questions.

So how does one engage such a group? Like for like? I decided to press my luck when a woman asked about the pizzle stick. She even had the audacity to lean down and pluck it from its place among the reproductions. I saw her bold behavior and thought to meet her coterie’s inebriated wit with pluck.

“I say, what kind of stick is this?” she inquired, completely uninterested in pottery, beadwork, quillwork or the painted elk hide.

I leaned forward a little, lowered my head, and lowered my voice a smidge and said in a conspiratorial tone, and amazingly, they all quieted, “That, is a pizzle stick.” Then I waited for any sign of recognition from her and her party. When none came, a naughty notion struck me, “The ‘Indians’,’” I used the term “Indians” liberally in a grand show of undetected sarcasm, “used the pizzle stick for luck. Like a rabbit’s foot.”

At this point, if you reader, don’t know what a pizzle stick it, you may want to run a quick internet search about it.

“And like the rabbit’s foot, they would stroke it several times for good luck,” and a few of the women pawed at it, giggling as they stoked it and exchanged sexual overtones with one another. I continued in overwhelming confidence, “The women would rub it on their faces.”

I struggled to keep a straight face at how close the women were in their exchange of sexual gesticulations with the pizzle stick. I shook my head at their minstration of the stick, and they laughed, thinking they were embarrassing me. However, just as one woman was about to caress the stick with her cheek I had to speak, feigning newly remembered knowledge, “I do apologize, but it is in fact a horse whip. And [dramatic pause] It’s made from a buffalo penis.” 

Really, some men did in fact use it for a horse whip.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Sacred Stone As Related To AB Welch

Standing Rock in Fort Yates, N.D. on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.
Native American Sacred Stones And Holy Places
As Told To Col. A.B. Welch
FORT YATES, N.D. - The following comes from the papers of Col. A.B. Welch. The Welch papers are available online at Welch Dakota Papers.

Chapter II: Sacred Stones
Part 1, The Painted Rock
Many stories and legends are told among the old people of the North Dakota tribes and frequent allusions are made in these legends to a large rock, sometimes called “The Painted Rock,” situated in the country deserted by the Mandans and Arikara as the Sioux pressed northward, upon the North Fork of the Cannon Ball river, not far from Brisbane in Grant County, N.D.

This probably was the most revered object of all the stationary medicine, or holy, stones of the tribes which have held the country, including the Cheyenne and Sioux, during the last one-hundred and twenty-five or more years, and has been frequently consulted by many tribesmen who are still living.  It is known to the Sioux as the Iyan Wakan Gapi (Idol of the Holy Stone) and they call the river upon which it is situated Iyan Wakan Gapi Wakpa (River of the Idol of the Holy Stone).  This stream is marked upon maps as the Cannon Ball and Le Raye mentions it by that name in 1801.

Part 2, Reclining Bear's Story Of Standing Rock
Reclining Bear, an old time Hunkpapa Teton speaks as follows of the stone itself:

“I have been there.  Many people went there often.  The Palani went there too.”

Palani, or Padani, is a Sioux word properly applied to the Arikara.  While the Dakotah, or Sioux, have separate names for the Mandans and Hidatsa, or Gros Ventre, the term Palani is commonly used when speaking of these three northern tribes as a separate federated body.  When speaking of any of these tribes as a separate people, they use the name Mowahtani for the Mandans, Hewaktokta for the Gros Ventre and Palani for the Arikara.

Reclining Bear used the term in the general sense meaning the people of those three tribes.  Continuing, he said:

“This stone is a big one.  It is a little distance from the water of the Cannon Ball.  It is as big as a log house, where it stands.  It has many marks upon it.  The marks are made by the spirits.  When we came near to it, we sung songs and acted very respectfully then.  We camped on the water and not too near it.

Then when we were ready, some old man carried a pipe to it.  He carried the stem in both hands in front of his body.  He extended it toward the sky and toward the holy stone then.  There he sat down and smoked with four draws through it.  He placed the pipe there.  He poured out some tobacco there.  He sung a good song then.  He wanted plenty of buffalo and he wanted the people to live a long time.  He sung that way.  He went away from there.

The next day he went again.  When he went again there were other marks upon the stone.  Some good men would tell what they meant to the people.  Some times there was [sic] paint marks upon it.  The marks were made by spirits.

They were never the same marks like they were before.  It told us what to do.  It said when to strike the enemy.  It told where the buffalo had gone to.  If the people did like it said, they were all right.

One time it sung a song with words.  We saw an old woman walk into it one time.  She went right in it.  She was gone.  It is very holy.  It was there when we came across the Missouri.  I think it had been an Arikara stone.  I think they found it first.  The put things there, too [sic].  No one would strike an enemy around that place.  Every one was safe there.  There were always many presents there.  There were weapons and things to eat and valuable cloth on sticks.  There were buffalo heads there, too, for meat to come around.  It is very holy.  It is there yet.  I do not want to talk much about it.” 

Part 3, Offerings To Stones
The custom of placing offerings before certain stones was noticed by many of the early explorers.  There can be little doubt that Lewis and Clark, in 1804-05, while wintering with the Mandans at a point a few miles above the present city of Mandan, N.D., referred in their journals to this identical stone mentioned by old Reclining Bear.  Many of the traditions told today by members of the three Federated Tribes relate to this stone.  It is often mentioned as a sort of “Zero Milestone” when they endeavor to locate some point in the country, by saying that “It is a day’s journey by wagon from the Painted Stone on the Cannon Ball.”

Part 4, [Standing Rock] Holy Idol Stone Mentioned In Lewis & Clark Journals
“Thursday, 21st (February, 1805).  We had a continuation of the same pleasant weather.  Cheenaw and Shahaka came down to see us, and mentioned that several of their countrymen had gone to consult their medicine stone as to the prospects of the following year.  This medicine stone is the great oracle of the Mandans, and whatever it announces is believed with implicit confidence.  Every spring, and on some occasions during the summer, a deputation visits the sacred spot, where there is a thick porous stone twenty feet in  circumference, with a smooth surface.  Having reached the spot, the ceremony of smoking to it is performed by the deputies, who alternately take a whiff themselves and then present the pipe to the stone; after this they retire to an adjoining wood for the night, during which it may safely be presumed that all do not sleep; and in the morning they read the destinies of the nation in the white marks on the stone, which those who made them are at no loss to decipher.  The Minnitares (Hidatsa) have a stone of a similar kind, which has the same qualities and the same influence over the nation.  Captain Lewis returned from his excursion in pursuit of the Indians…”

Part 5, The Minnitari Stone
The “Medicine Stone – sacred oracle” mentioned by Lewis and Clark is none other than the Iyan Wakan Gapi of the Sioux on the Cannon Ball River.  The “Minnitari” stone spoken of, according to information given to the writer by living members of the Mandan and Hidatsa people, was a large, detached, granite boulder – - – which was in the Valley of the Middle Hole country, and a little ways from the river which flows there.  The Crying Hill Village people went there.  It was north of the water on a hill side.  It is gone now.  Some white man put powder in it and built a house with it.  It was a holy stone.  It belonged to the Hidatsa.  It had marks upon it like the one on the Cannon Ball.

They were marks of buffalo, birds and wolve’s feet.  They were different every time.  The old people knew how to read these marks.  It told them all about everything.  It is too bad that it is spoiled.

There was the other one in the Sioux country.  It was bigger than this Minnitari (Hidatsa) stone.  When we passed by there we smoked.  While we were close there, we were not attacked by anyone.  It was dangerous around there after we left the stone.  It was in the Sioux country.  When we left there we always rode clear to the Heart River before we stopped.   They could steal our horses then.  But between the Heart and the Cannon Ball it was dangerous country.  We were safe at the stone.  On the Heart we could keep watch and they could steal our horses if they were brave enough to come after them there.” 

Part 6, Stone Idol [Standing Rock] Creek Journey
The Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Arikara villages on the Grand River in the early part of October, 1804, and those people desired that one of their chiefs would be permitted to accompany the boats to the Mandans for the purpose of concluding a peace parley.  Accordingly, the Chief of the upper village, by the name of Ahketahnasha (“Chief of the Village”) went aboard.  On the trip up river to the Mandan villages north of Mandan, N.D. much information was obtained from him regarding the names of the creeks and rivers flowing into the Missouri.  It is observed that in nearly every instance where he gave the name of deserted village sites, he called them Mandan villages.

The expedition, in following up the Missouri River from the Arikara villages in the vicinity of the Grand River, came to a small creek coming in from the east, or left, bank, on Saturday, October the 13th.  This creek now bears the name of “Morphrodite Creek” and is in Campbell county, S.D., near the North Dakota line.  To this creek they gave the name of Stone Idol Creek, and their journal contains these remarks about it:

“…At ten and a half miles we reached the mouth of a small creek on the north, which takes its rise in some ponds a short distance to the northeast; to this stream we gave the name of Stone Idol Creek, for after passing a willow and sand island just above its mouth, we discovered that a few miles back from the Missouri there are two stones resembling human figures, and a third like a dog, all of which are objects of great veneration among the Ricaras.  Their history would adorn the metamorphoses of Ovid.  A young man was deeply enamored with a girl whose parents refused their consent to their marriage.  The youth went out into the fields to mourn his misfortunes; a sympathy of feeling led the lad to go to the same spot, and a faithful dog would not cease to follow his master.

After wandering together and having nothing but grapes to subsist upon, they were at last converted into stone, which beginning at the feet, gradually invaded the nobler parts, leaving nothing unchanged but a bunch of grapes which the female holds in her hands to this day.  Whenever the Ricaras pass these sacred stones they stop to make some offering of dress to propitiate these deities.  Such is the account given by the Ricara chief, which we had no mode of examining except that we found one part of the story very agreeable confirmed, for on the river where the event is said to have occurred we found a greater abundance of fine grapes than we had yet seen…”

By Sunday, October 21st, the same expedition had ascended the great waterway to “a creek on the south called Chisahetaw, about thirty yards wide and with a considerable quantity of water.”  This is the famous Heart River of the Mandan Indians and is so called to this day.  Continuing, the journal states:

“Our Ricara tells us that at some distance up this river is situated a large rock which is held in great veneration and visited by parties who go to consult it as to their own or their nations destinies, all of which they discern in some sort of figures or paintings with which it is covered.  About two miles off from the mouth of the river the party on shore saw another of the objects of Ricara superstition; it is a large oak tree standing alone in the open prairie, and as it alone had withstood the fire which has consumed everything around it, the Indians naturally ascribe to it extraordinary powers.  One of their ceremonies is to make a hole in the skin of their necks through which a string is passed and the other end tied to the body of the tree, and after remaining in this way for some time they thing they become braver…”

The stone mentioned in the foregoing paragraph by the old chief of the Ricaras, as being situated “at some distance up this river,” is the Minnitari Stone, and was drilled and split up for building stone by the white settlers in Mandan, and the basement of Mr. G.W.Renden’s residence is built of the fragments of this holy stone of the inhabitants of the Village of the Crying Hill of one hundred and fifty years or more ago.

Part 7, Maximilion Visits The Painted Rock
In the records of the German scientist, naturalist and explorer, Maximilion, Prince of Weid, who spent some time with the Mandan Indians in the winter of 1833-34, we also find reference to the sacred stone of the Cannon Ball River, the Iyan Wakan Gapi of the Dakotah.

Speaking of a Holy Stone, Maximilion says:

“Another curiosity of a similar nature is the Medicine Stone, which is mentioned by Lewis and Clark and which the Minnitaries likewise reverence.  This stone is between two and three days journey from the villages on Cannon Ball River, and about 100 paces from its banks.  I was assured that it was on a tolerably high hill, and in the form of a flat slab, probably of sand stone.  The stone is described as being marked with impressions of the footsteps of men, and animals of various descriptions, also sledges with dogs.  The Indians use this stone as an oracle, and make offerings of value to it, such as kettles, blankets, cloth, guns, knives, hatchets, medicine pipes, etc., which are found deposited close to it.  The war parties of both nations, when they take the field, generally go to this place, and consult the oracle as to the issue of their enterprise.  Lamenting and howling, they approach the hill, smoke their medicine pipes, and pass the night near the spot.  On the following morning they copy the figures on the stone upon a piece of parchment or skin, which they take to the village, where the old men give the interpretation.  New figures are undoubtedly drawn from time to time upon this stone, near to which the celebrated ark, in which part of the nation was saved from the deluge, formerly stood.”

This “Medicine Stone” of Maximilion is, without doubt, the Iyan Wakan Gapi of the Dakotah, and the description he gives to it is quite accurate.

Part 8, Four Swords Story
Four Swords, an aged Sioux, living today upon the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, when questioned regarding the stone, said:

“This stone.  I have seen it.  It is west of Shields.  It is about days’ travel from that place (via horses and wagon).  It is on the north branch of the Cannon Ball River.  It is near the water.  (He pointed across the street to a building about 150 feet distant).  It is that far.  This stone is not high.  It is flat and very large.  It is not red or black or white.  It is more like this color (here he pointed to a tan shade in the rug).  It is not on a high hill.  The ground is not high there.

It is Wakan, this stone.  People sat around it many times in the old days.  ‘Hekton’ – they smoked there.  Many things were placed there.  They placed sticks in the ground with red cloth on them.  They poured out tobacco in little piles there.  Many people sat together there.  The Palani came there too (here he used the term of the Federated Villagers).  We sat together there.  We did not fight then.

I never saw any Wicasa Kangi (Crows) there.  Some might have been there.  They visited the Minnitari (Hewaktokta – the Gros Ventre).  I do not know.  When nighttime came, we went to our camp down by the water.  In the morning there were new tracks on the stone.  There were buffalo tracks there, those of the yearling cows.  That meant good meat.  There were bird tracks and tracks of the wolf, too.  In the grass were tracks of the buffalo and elk.  The spirits had been there.  This stone is there today.  Some old people might go there today, but we have better spirits now.  We go to church.”

The town of Shields is on the left bank of the North Fork of the Cannon Ball, on the New England branch of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Rwy., and in Grant County.  A sub-agency of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, also called Shields, is located in the same vicinity, but on the right bank and in Sioux County.  Four Swords location would place the stone almost south of Brisbane and in the valley of the Cannon Ball, and agrees with Maximilion, that “This stone is between two and three days journey from the villages on the Cannon Ball River and about 100 paces from its banks.”

Part 9, A Mysterious Incident At The Painted Rock
Emeron ‘White,’ an educated Teton Sioux, told me this story as he passed through Mandan after a visit with the Mandans, Arikara and Gros Ventre upon the Fort Berthold Reservation.  As it relates to the “Iyan Wakan Gapi” of the Cannon Ball River, it is given here, verbatim:

“The people up north told me this story while I was with the Arikara: They said that they sent some men out to look for a place to build a village.  There were four of these men and they went out along the valley of the Missouri to find a good, flat place with high bluffs over the water.”

“They came at last to a single earth lodge like they lived in then.  They had never seen this lodge before and they were very much surprised to find it there.  They approached it carefully and there was an old woman standing there all alone.  There were no men around that they could see.  They all ran toward her to strike her for honors.  She did not run, but she did not speak either, but just turned and looked around all the time.  They were afraid to strike her then.  They tried the sign language, but she did not answer them in that either.  She just looked around all the time.  They were afraid of her because she did not speak to them.  Finally they all went away from that place.  They went to their own camp and reported all they had seen and what had taken place.  So then the old men did not believe them at all, for they did not know about that stranger lodge either.”

“They decided to prove the story told by the hunters.  They all went there, guided by the four men.  The lodge was still there.  They finally looked within.  There was no old woman there at all.  There was nothing in the lodge except some branches where some one had slept.  There was no pottery or anything else.  But they found a mark outside which looked like some one had dragged a dead horse or deer or some heavy body through the bush and the grass.  The grass was trampled down all around the mysterious lodge.”

“They followed the sign of the dragged thing and, at last, the trail ended, but a buffalo cow’s track led away from the end of the dragged trail.  These tracks are smaller and more slender than a bull’s track.  They followed these tracks for a long time.  They followed them to the Cannon Ball River and picked them up on the other side.  The tracks led straight to the Iyan Wakan Gapi, where the drawings were, and went inside the rock there.  This is the reason why this Cannon Ball stone was sacred to the Arikara, because this spirit woman went inside the stone.  This was during the time of “Red Man’ or “Red Bear” who was killed by the stone by the road by the Sioux, at Fort Abraham Lincoln.”

This “Red Man” was Arikara, and was born among the Pawnees, cousins of the Arikara people, in 1793.  He was killed while scouting for the soldiers at Lincoln in 1872.  His son was called “Pretty Elk,” whose mother was “White Corn Woman.”  After his father’s death he took the sun dance and his father’s name.  He also was a scout and was present at the “Testimonial Ceremony” at Mandan, July 4th, 1924.