Monday, October 28, 2013

Crying Hill: A Sacred Natural Landmark

A view of Crying Hill from above in the 1930s.
Crying Hill: A Sacred Natural Landmark
Where The Hidatsa Became Two Tribes
Edited by Dakota Wind
Mandan, N.D. - In 1919, Colonel Alfred Burton Welch, a World War I veteran came to call the city of Mandan, N.D. home. There in Mandan, Welch began a new life as a store keeper, he also served as the post master, and founded the El Zagel Shrine. He spent the remainder of his life in the rolling hills of Heart River country along the Missouri River valley, and became fast friends with many of the Indian tribes there.

Captain AB Welch, seen here in his uniform from the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Welch became good friends with Chief John Grass. Grass was a distinguished Sihásapa Lakȟóta leader and veteran of the Sioux campaigns of the 1870s such as the Little Bighorn. Grass was known to the Lakota as Matȟó WatȟákpA, or Charging Bear. He had attended the Carlisle Indian School and became fluent in English to help his people fight the government in the new battlefields, the courtrooms. In March 1913, Grass adopted Welch as his son and bestowed on him Grass’ own name of Charging Bear.

While Welch lived in Mandan he took in all the lore about the site and more, and recorded as much as he could. One of those site stories he recorded was about the village and people who lived in the Mandan village along the Heart River near to Crying Hill.

Andrew Knudson painted this scene of the Corps of Discovery entering Black Cat's village near Knife River. A similar village would have graced the banks of Heart River below Crying Hill. That village was known to the Mandan as Large And Scattered Village.

The Mandan Indians have lived along the Upper Missouri River for about a thousand years and longer if you take into account their emergence story south of Mandan.

According to Welch, or the stories he attributed to the Hidatsa, Crying Hill is where the Hidatsa split into two distinct tribes. Welch uses the term Gros Ventres to name the Hidatsa. Here’s the story, Feb. 24, 1925:

The Gros Ventre were divided into two bands, and each of these bands followed their own chiefs. One starving winter-time they were reduced, by the absence of game and the failure, or destruction, of their crops, to eating the red seed pods of the wild rose bushes.

But, at last, through the prayers of a holy man among them, one lone, rogue buffalo bull, lean and staggering, wandered close to the village. He was chased and fell in the exact middle of the Heart River. Upon being dragged to the shore, it was decided that the meat should be divided in two equal portions, each band obtain the same amount of meat, bone and hide. When the division was made, one band was aggrieved and claimed that the other party had obtained the fatty portion of the stomach, while they had only the lean part.

The aggrieved band then decided that they would leave the other and go into a country which they would discover, and where they would be their own hunters and use their kill as they saw fit to do. Consequently this band did leave, traveled southwest into the country west of the Black Hills and east of the Big Horn Range, which territory they secured and where they have maintained themselves ever since that day.

These are the people known today as the Crows. They frequently come to visit the Gros Ventre; speak the same language and accept each other as cousins or relatives, but the real Gros Ventre call the crows the “Jealousy People,” on account of the separation, long ago.

Crow Indians Firing Into The Agency by Frederic Remington.

A variation of the story about the separation of the Hidatsa into two tribes came a few years earlier by way of Joe Packineau, Dec. 3, 1923:

“Crow Indians are Gros Ventre. I will tell you how it came about that they do not live together now. “That Indian village site in Mandan, we call it “Tattoo Face.” It is not Mandan village, but Gros Ventre or Hidatsa.

“There were two brothers born in that place a long time ago. One had a tattoo mark on his face like a quarter moon. It started on the cheek and ran down across the chin and up on the cheek on the other side of his face. So the people called him Tattoo Face. He became a very famous man among the Gros Ventre.  His brother was all right, and he was named Good Fur Robe. He also became a very great man and a wise man.

“Good Fur Robe was the one who had the corn seeds first. He gave one grain to each person and told them how to plant and look after the plant. Tattoo Face had tobacco before anyone else.

“Now the best part of a buffalo is his paunch. It is nice to eat. One time there was one buffalo which they killed right in the river there. He dropped dead in the middle of the Heart River when he was killed. The people drew him out for they were hungry. Good Fur Robe was the biggest chief, so he took the paunch when they divided the buffalo up between the two bands.

“That made [the] Tattoo Face people mad so that band decided that they would go away. They did go, and made their home in the country west of the Black Hills after that time.

“People call that people Crows now. But the Hidatsa do not. We call them “The Paunch Jealousy People.”

So the place where these people separated from the Hidatsa, is the Heart River at the Crying Hill (or Tattoo Face Village) which was Gros Ventre. The Mandan lived there too after that, I think.”

Crying Hill is located within the city of Mandan, ND. In 2003, Patrick Atkinson purchased Crying Hill in efforts to save the heritage site from further development. Read about Atkinson’s efforts to preserve Crying Hill

Monday, October 21, 2013

Autumn Morning On The Northern Plains

An early fall morning at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Autumn Morning On The Northern Plains
A Clean Beginning To A New Day
By Dakota Wind
Missouri River, N.D. - When I went out to start my car this morning, I saw that the sun had not yet arisen. The far horizon was bright orange and pink, the north and south horizon was purple and blue. Most of the sun light was reflected off the clouds in the east from an even more distant sunrise. Because the rising sun was teasing in its great reveal, it seemed like time was frozen in perpetual twilight.

The morning made me think of late fall mornings back on the rez in the days of my youth.

The frost was frozen fast to the windshield of my car. It came off in a couple of passes with the scraper. The frost curled in about it itself like wood shavings. The curls gathered about the top of the window where my scraping stroke ended, there they gradually melted as the windshield warmed the interior.

I scraped in silence. Neighbors had already departed for work. Neighbors’ children had already left for school. My breathing the only sound accompanying the scraping came in puffs. When I was little I used to imagine there was a little fire within me that burned warm. I remember hearing once that long ago, the Lakota thought that the visible breath was also visible spirit. I was never scared that I would lose mine, the fire within somehow kept it close.

I stepped on my freshly shorn lawn cut only a few days ago, and the grass crunched beneath my shoe. The crunch of delicately frozen grass was too great a call to the little boy within me that I stepped some more just for the joy of it and left a trail of crushed steps across the lawn before getting back to my car.

The trees still have some leaves. Indigenous trees like the ancient cottonwood go from shiny green to yellow and then fall. In the summer when the wind blows through the cottonwood the leaves heave in a great constant shush, it’s like the sound of the ocean. The leaves may change color, but after they fall, they continue shushing until snow quiets them, and then the wind changes.

The wind is a constant presence. One can count the number of days without a breeze on one hand. In the summer, you might think that the wind would be a welcome presence on a hot day, but it blows the heat around like a furnace. In the fall, if anything can possibly carry the smell of cold and winter, it’s the wind. It smells cold and distant, but clean too. Any moisture that the wind carries a hint of always smells clean here on the prairie steppe.

Steam off the river filled the Missouri River valley as far up river and down river as the eye could see. Silent undulating waves of fog cascaded in slow motion in the early quiet. Tendrils of fog gently whipped at the confines of the river bank and a few managed to lick the air above the tree line. As a boy I remember being told the steam off the river like this is the spirit of the river, “The river breathes too,” my grandfather said.

A magpie stirred and took flight in the neighbor’s lawn and I’m reminded instantly that meadowlarks no longer wake me in the early pre-dawn. The magpie alights in a nearby tree giving me a view of its snowy white feathers on midnight black ones. The mix of black and white in a world of dawn color is noble.

The moon sets in a sea of deep azure and grey misty clouds in the western sky. Starlight is gradually snuffed out like a campfire, or a candle. The brightest stars twinkle for a moment or two and then quit for the day.

My car is ready and warm by the time I’m ready to get back in. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Broken Bone Lake, Now Pleasant Lake

Nearby Broken Bone Hill, west of the lake, overlooks Broken Bone Lake, ND. 
By Dakota Wind
Rugby, N.D. – East of present-day Rugby is the Pleasant Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In the early days of statehood, settlers to the area and noticed this modest tree-lined lake. The natural features and shade of the lake seemed agreeable to the settlers and they named it Pleasant Lake.

The Dakȟóta who lived in the area and who, up until the reservation period, hunted in the area, camped frequently along this lake, finding it agreeable as well, and though they found it as pleasant as the settlers, had another name for it: Kaȟúğa Mní, which means To-Break-In-To [as in “Bone”] Lake, which was freely translated as Broken Bone Lake.

A woman prepares a hide in a Dakhota encampment, by Karl Bodmer.

After a successful hunt, the men returned to camp with their quarry where the women quartered and cleaned the carcasses. The hides were carefully stretched and fleshed. Some hides were fleshed and shaved in the sun, whereupon they became rawhide for parfleche boxes and moccasin soles. Hides which were fleshed and tanned with that animal’s brain became hides useful for creating clothing, or for other uses.

Meat is dried and prepared for use over the coming winter months.

After the meat was cut and drying on a rack, becoming “jerked,” and after the hides were prepared for tanning, attention was turned to the bones. The bones were split and broken open to acquire the marrow within, which was then boiled and consumed.

An antler pyramid on the Great Plains by Karl Bodmer.

Sometimes tools were made from the antlers of deer or elk, but sometimes not. In those times when deer or elk antlers were not used, they were piled into an “antler pyramid.” Those places with such pyramids indicated that a regular hunting site was in nearby.

Broken Bone Lake is part of the Pleasant Lake National Willdlife Refuge management area which consists of Pleasant Lake, Broken Bone Lake, Broken Bone Hill, Horseshoe Lake, and Mud Lake. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Philip Deloria Returns To North Dakota

Philip Deloria Returns To North Dakota
An Author And Scholar In His Own Right
By Dakota Wind
Grand Forks, N.D. – I came awake at four in the morning. Sleep sand still thick in my eyes, I managed to roll over and turn off the alarm on my iPhone. I had set it to play “Thor Kills The Destroyer” rather than listen to a blaring alarm so damn early in the morning. I let the song play through completely before tapping the screen, then stretched hard and yawned loud. I rolled into some clothes I set out before I crashed.

I hit the road at 5:00 in the morning. Traffic was light and I managed to gas up my little beast and take to the Interstate in a few minutes. I put on my Def Leppard playlist and before I knew it, the sun was up and I was in Fargo.

In Fargo, I picked up blogger, world traveler, archaeologist, and historian Aaron (The Edge Of TheVillage) who joined me on this day trip to Grand Forks to meet and hear Phil Deloria, author and historian. Phil came to the University of North Dakota as a guest lecturer for a few days and though Deloria and I had conversed online for several years we had never met in person.

Aaron and I stopped in at some hotel where Deloria was staying at and had brunch. I ordered a round of biscuits and gravy with a pile of whipped scrambled eggs and a couple rashers of thick bacon. I have never tasted such fresh biscuits, which were somehow flaky, and with a creamy gravy to go with it. I swear the food tasted like the chef loved his job. I washed it all down with a hearty drought of sweet grape juice.

Aaron probably had bread and water, or something.

I informed Phil we were at the hotel café and he joined us in the lobby. The floor of the halls and lobby were naked tile. Naturally, noises magnified and echoed back and forth, a clatter of dinnerware and silverware sounded like a crash of thunder. Banter amongst the hotel and café staff sounded not dissimilar to a country henhouse.

Phil’s great-grandfather, the Rev. Philip Deloria, was an Episcopal minister on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, as was Vine Deloria Sr. My grandfather, Innocent Goodhouse, served as an Episcopal minister too, his time overlapped with the Delorias. Our families used to be close. Ella Deloria, was my mother’s god-mother. Time, distance, and vocations called Vine Deloria Jr. and his son Phil to the ministry and interpretation of American Western history.

St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, Wakpala, SD, where Philip Deloria and his son Vine ministered to the Lakota people.

We talk about shared family history, and our families today. It is the Lakota custom to introduce one’s self by lineage, but as Phil and I already know the other’s family and background, we move on to the heart of our visit: the 1863-1864 Sibley-Sully Punitive Campaigns against the Sioux. Deloria’s great-grandfather, Philip Deloria, was the son of Mary Sully, who in turn was the daughter of General Alfred Sully, the antagonist behind the conflicts at Whitestone Hill and Killdeer Mountain.

I ask Phil if he had any family history about General Alfred Sully and why he left his Dakota family behind. He is a straight-shooter in this regard, and says straight up that he doesn’t know. If there was a story, it probably died with Mary.

Phil is working on a family history project, something his father had also tackled. Over coffee and juice (because I don’t drink coffee), Phil shares the story of how his grandfather Vine Sr., met his grandmother through Vine’s sister, Ella. Ella herself, had assumed leadership of the family and thought that she’d always be the one to take care of her little brother Vine.

General Alfred Sully. He had a daughter with a Dakota woman, Mary, then left them. One can read about Sully in the book No Tears For The General by Langdon Sully, another of Sully's descendants. The book omits the general's Dakota wife and child.

Phil’s family studies un-apologetically does not include much of General Sully story, other than a brief mention of how an ancestor of Phil’s, Saswe, crossed paths with Sully. Saswe had a vision before the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict that he would kill four of his people, a terrible choice, a lesser of two evils to preserve as many of the Dakota people as he could.

Saswe went into a camp of Dakota, explained that Sully was coming, and that it was his destiny to kill four of his own people. Saswe killed a man after the people listened to him out, and later three others. General Sully took a Dakota woman and had a daughter by her. Saswe had a son, Tipi Sapa, Black Lodge, also known as Philip J. Deloria.

“My grandfather always got a charge out of that,” shares Phil, “The children of two antagonists married one another.”

Though Phil is descended from General Sully, I asked him if he is descended from any of the people who Sully attacked the Dakota at Whitestone Hill or the Lakota at Killdeer Mountain. Phil is not certain, he says, and would have to conduct further research into his background. He does say, however, that one of Saswe’s wives, was from Standing Rock.

I ask Phil about Killdeer Mountain and the energy development currently taking place there and if he’d be able to be there for the 150th commemoration. He teaches a late summer course and his schedule may be tight and it may well be that he can not make it.

Phil is named after his great-grandfather, the Rev. Philip J. Deloria. Among the Dakota and Lakota people, they take everyday legal names and go about their business in the land of the brave, but many keep the traditional names too. Rev. Philip was known among his people as Thípi SápA, Black Lodge.

Phil’s grandfather, the Rev. Vine Sr., was known among his people as OhíyA, Win or Triumph. Vine Jr. carried not just his father’s everyday legal name but also his traditional Lakota name.

Phil comes from a legacy of ministry. His father was a lay reader as well, but answered to the call to indigenous native rights and public education of those rights; among Vine Jr.’s works are God Is Red and Custer Died For Your Sins.

Phil heard the call to action and has pursued a doctorate in history. He is the author of Playing Indian and Indians In Unexpected Places. He is a professor of history and Native American studies at the University of Michigan. Phil carries his family history to his field of work. He can’t not when he’s talking about native studies, especially contemporary native studies in the age of self-determination.

I ask Phil if he has a Lakota name, expecting that he’d tell me he carried his great-grandfather’s Lakota name. He smiles broadly and lets out a small laugh. “My grandfather called me Pšíš,” he said, “It was my grandfather’s boyhood name.” I wonder a moment if Phil liked onions when he was a boy. Pšíŋ is onion, and Pšiŋšíčamna is wild onion.

Gratify yourself and get a copy of Philip Deloria's "Playing Indian."

Our time draws to a close as Phil’s ride to the UND campus arrives. I catch him later to sign my copy of Playing Indian, “Tehansi [male cousin], so great to have connection, and good talk. Hope you enjoy this! Phl Del.”