Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Creek Fight And Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman.
The Apple Creek Fight And
Killdeer Mountain Conflict Remembered
Dakota Conflict In Dakota Territory
By Dakota Wind
KILLDEER, N.D. - “Four Horns was shot in the Killdeer Battle between Sioux and General Sully’s troops…some time after the fight, his daughter cut out the lead bullet,” One Bull said to Colonel Alfred Welch on a hot July day in 1934 at Little Eagle, S.D. “The report [that] the soldiers killed hundreds of Indian dogs is untrue,” said One Bull, “because Indian dogs, half wild creatures, would follow the Indians or run away long before soldiers would come up within range.[1]

The Killdeer Mountain conflict occurred on July 28, 1864. Sully was under orders to punish the Sioux in another campaign following the September, 1863 massacre of Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta peoples at Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána (Dry Bone Hill Creek), also known as Whitestone Hill.[2]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta knew Killdeer Mountain as Taȟčá Wakútepi (Where They Hunt/Kill Deer), Killdeer. The hunting there was good and dependable, and the people came there regularly, not just to hunt but to pray as well. The plateau rises above the prairie steppe allowing for a fantastic view of the landscape, and open sky for those who came to pray.

A hand-tinted photo of Matȟó Watȟákpe by Frank Fiske.
Matȟó Watȟákpe (Charging Bear; John Grass), led the Sihásapa (Black Sole Moccasin; Blackfeet Lakȟóta) on the defensive at Killdeer. The Sihásapa had nothing to do with the 1862 Minnesota Dakota Conflict. “In this surprise attack the Indians lost everything… soldiers destroyed tons of food, etc.,” Matȟó Watȟákpe told Welch, and added that great suffering followed the fight and hatred against the whites grew.[3]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta saw General Sully’s approach from miles away, his march put a great cloud of dust into the sky. Sully formed his command in to a large one mile square, and under his command was a detachment of Winnebago Indian Scouts, traditional enemies of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires; Great Sioux Nation). A war party of thirty warriors had tussled with the Winnebago two days before Sully’s arrival.

In Robert Larson's take on the Killdeer Mountain conflict, the Teton are overconfident and Inkpaduta was the chief who organized the defense against Sully.

Historian Robert Larson describes July 28, 1864, nearly perfectly, “…Sully’s five mile march to reach the large Sioux village was a tense and uncomfortable one. Even though it was morning, the day would be hot and dry; the tense summer heat had already thinned the grass and muddied the water holes. On every hill along the valley at the south end of the village were clusters of mounted warriors.”[4]

The Dakȟóta under ĺŋkpaduta (Scarlet Point) had been engaged with soldiers since the Minnesota Dakota Conflict of 1862. They had fled west towards Spirit Lake when General Sibley and his command caught up to them at Big Mound. The Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta under Phizí (Gall) had crossed the Mníšoše (Missouri River) to the east in search of game; the heat and drought had driven game from the traditional their hunting grounds. Sibley’s arrival and pursuit of the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta towards the Mníšoše marked the first U.S. military contact against the Huŋkphápȟa.

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta pictured here in his B.I.A. police uniform. "Sitting Bull was my friend," he said, "I was under orders...I killed him..."

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta (Red Tomahawk), infamously known for his part in Sitting Bull’s death years later, recalled the Sibley Campaign, “There was a shallow lake south of the hills and about where Dawson now stands. That was fine buffalo country. The buffalo would get into this lake and mire down so they could not get out. We went there that time to drive them into the lake and get meat and hides. While we were there the Santees came along.”

Many of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, who were already dwelling in their traditional homelands, advanced west at General Sibley’s approach and “went directly to the Missouri River opposite the Standing Rock and occupied the country between Beaver Creek [Čhápa Wakpána; Emmons County] and Blue Blanket Creek [Šiná Tȟó Wakpána; Walworth County].”[5]

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta referred to the Isáŋyathi (Santee) as “hostile,” but that the Huŋkphápȟa camped with them and joined together in the hunt. He didn’t detail how the fight began at Big Mound, only that Sibley pursued them to the Mníšoše. The warriors held the attention of the soldiers, which allowed the Lakȟóta two days to cross the river. The ĺsaŋyathi under ĺŋkpaduta and Wakhéye Ská (White Lodge) broke off upon their approach to Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála (Apple Creek) and turned north.

ĺŋkpaduta pictured here. After the Little Bighorn fight he went into exile in Canada and died there in 1881.

The Isáŋyathi moved their camps in an arc, first northerly, then back east and south, and kept a respectable distance between them and Sibley’s retreat.[6] Šákpe (The Six) and his Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ Dakȟóta broke from the main body of Isáŋyathi and crossed the Mníšoše  with Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns) and his band of Huŋkphápȟa. Then they journeyed to Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána to make camp and hunt with the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna the following month. Gen. Sully found the camp that and slaughtered as many as 200 and took over 150 captives, mostly women and children in both cases.

After the Dakȟóta split from the Lakȟóta, “we went to cross the river. We were not afraid,” explained Tačháŋȟpi Lúta, “We did not lose any of our people when we crossed.”[7] He admitted to being a part of the party who waited the night through and then attacked and killed two soldiers.

Here's a reconstruction of the Apple Creek conflict. The map comes from a survey of the Missouri River in the 1850s by G.K. Warren.

The late Delma Helman, a Huŋkphápȟa elder from Standing Rock, recalled the story of the Mníšoše crossing, “The soldiers chased us into the river. We cut reeds to breathe underwater and held onto stones to keep submerged until nightfall.” After sunset, they emerged from the river safely onto Burnt Boat Island (later called Sibley Island) and crossed the Mníšoše.[8]

Mike McDonald, a Dakȟóta elder from the Spirit Lake Oyáte, shared the oral tradition of the Wanéta Thiyóšpaye (The Charger’s Band) when they reached the Mníšoše, “The Wanéta band moved north and easterly in wide arc and settled near present-day Rugby, N.D. at Pleasant Lake. There they stayed until they were invited unto the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” The Dakȟóta call this lake Wičíbdeza Mní, Pleasant Lake.[9]

Three days after Gen. Sibley’s departure from Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála, Šákpe (The Six) and his band of Isáŋyathi came back across the Mníšoše, accompanied by Hé Núŋpa WaníčA and his band of Huŋkphápȟa[10], and made camp at Čháŋğu Wakpála (Burnt Wood Creek). Six days later, a mackinaw descended the Mníšoše with miners from Fort Benton and landed on a sand bar. A Dakȟóta wičháȟčala (an elder Dakota man) they called Ištá Sapá[11] (Black Eyes; father of Hé Núŋpa WaníčA) tried to warn the miners away, they shot him. The Dakȟóta retaliated and killed all the miners, and cast their gold dust into the river, thinking perhaps it was gun powder which had gone bad.[12]

The Sibley campaign was the first military campaign against the Huŋkphápȟa, Sully’s assault at Killdeer was the second. Sitting Bull’s own pictographic record testifies to his own portrayal, not as a warrior but as a medicine man, counting coup and stealing a mule from Sibley’s wagon train in July, 1863.[13] The pictograph testifies that the Huŋkphápȟa were east of the Mníšoše and present at the Big Mound fight against Gen. Sibey’s command.

Sitting Bull pictographed his part in the Big Mound conflict in which he stole a mule from Sully and counted coup on one of the men.

Historian Robert Utley estimates that there were perhaps as many as 1400 lodges at Taȟčá Wakútepi. It was a sizable village consisting of Huŋkphápȟa, Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, and Isáŋyathi. Utley paints the Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta in overconfident tones: “they did not order the lodges packed,” explains Utley, “nor did they order the village moved, “The women, children, and old men, in fact, gathered on a high hill to watch.”[14]

But the camp was moved. At least the Lakȟóta camp was, from the west side of Taȟčá Wakútepi to the southeast side, below Medicine Hole the day before Sully’s arrival,[15] in a movement which placed a fresh water creek between them and the approaching soldiers. The Lakȟóta had learned the previous summer that water slowed or stopped the soldiers’ advance.

"Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake," says Ernie LaPointe of Sitting Bull, "that's his name."

Ernie LaPointe, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake’s (Sitting Bull’s) direct lineal descendant, a great-grandson of the Huŋkphápȟa leader, offers this retrospective, “If it had been possible, Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake might have accepted peace terms that simply allowed his people and him to continue to live their traditional lifestyle.” As it was, Sully’s assault left one hundred Lakȟóta dead,[16] though Sully’s reports have the count closer to 150.

A map of the Killdeer conflict as it unfolded, courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. This author is currently working on a map of the conflict from the perspective of the Lakȟóta.

The Lakȟóta camp had moved in a position which faced Sully’s left flank; ĺŋkpaduta’s camp faced Sully’s right. A hunting party, possibly a war party though all the men were as much prepared to fight as to hunt, skirmished with Sully’s Winnebago scouts earlier that day. Sully’s command, five miles away, approached Taȟčá Wakútepi for a showdown.

When the soldiers got closer, a lone Lakȟóta warrior, Šúŋka Waŋžíla (Lone Dog), decided to test the fighting resolve of the soldiers and boldly rode his horse within range of fire. The soldiers fired three times at him. Tȟatȟáŋka Ská (White Bull) believed that Šúŋka Waŋžíla lived a wakȟáŋ life, charmed some would say in English. “Šúŋka Waŋžíla,” explained Tȟatȟáŋka Ská, “…was with a ghost and it was hard to shoot him.”[17]

A map of the 1864 Sully campaign in Dakota Territory.

Lt. Col. John Pattee, under Sully’s command that day, said of Šúŋka Waŋžíla riding, waving, and whooping at the soldiers, that an aide from Sully approached him, “The General sends his compliments and wishes you to kill that Indian for God’s sake.” Pattee ordered three sharpshooters to bring down Šúŋka Waŋžíla. One shot, according to Pattee, sent Šúŋka Waŋžíla from his horse, though Sully claimed the warrior fell from his horse.[18]

According to the pictographic record of Šúŋka Waŋžíla, he was riding, armed with bow and arrows, carrying black shields as much for practical protection as for spiritual protection, and received one wound.[19]

The fighting continued north for the five miles it took for Sully’s command to reach the encampments. For those five miles, the Lakȟóta held the soldiers’ attention, at times in brutal hand to hand combat. The Lakȟóta managed to outflank Sully’s men, which threatened the wagons and horses, so Sully ordered artillery to open fire. When the fight approached the encampments, the women hastened to break and flee. Frances “Fanny” Kelly, a captive of the Lakȟóta said that as soon as soldiers were sighted, the women withdrew into the hills, woods, and ravines, around Taȟčá Wakútepi, for protection.[20]

Taȟčá Wakútepi (Killdeer Mountain), a view from the south looking north.

On the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi side of the conflict, the fight for the Dakȟóta became a stubborn retreat back to the encampments at the base of Taȟčá Wakútepi. There the soldiers broke into heavy fire into the Dakȟóta protectors until they finally broke. White Bull told Stanley Vestal that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi were as strangers to the Lakȟóta, and that they lost thirty when their line of defense broke.[21]

In a dialog with Mr. Timothy Hunts In Winter, there was a woman, an ancestor of his, Ohítika Wiŋ (Brave Woman) who fought at Killdeer. “She was only 14 on the day of the Killdeer fight but she fought alongside her até (father). Her até was killed that day in battle,” explained Hunts In Winter, “she was named Ohítika Wiŋ because she was a woman warrior.”[22]

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta encampment lay on the other side of this coulee (the treeline in the middle ground). The Lakȟóta camp moved here from the southwest side of the plateau.

From the Lakȟóta camp there came a singer escorting a man known as The-Man-Who-Never-Walked, a cripple since birth. His limbs were twisted and shrunken and in all his forty winters, he had never once hunted nor fought. When the soldiers came to the camp, The-Man-Who-Never-Walked knew that this was his one chance to fight. He was loaded onto a travois and a creamy white horse pulled the drag. The singer led him to where Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake was watching the fight.

When the singer finished his song, he called out, “This man has been a cripple all his life. He has never gone to war. Now he asks to be put into this fight.” Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake replied, “That is perfectly all right. Let him die in battle if he wants to.” White Bull later said of Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake, “Sitting Bull’s heart was full that day. He was proud of his nation. Even the helpless were eager to do battle in defense of their people.”[23] The horse was whipped and drove The-Man-Who-Never-Walked straight into a line of soldiers, who shot the horse then him. They called him Čhaŋte Matȟó (Bear’s Heart) after that because of his great courage.

A closer look at the south-facing slope of Taȟčá Wakútepi, below Medicine Hole. They would have ascended the plateau going around the landmark and over.

Íŋkpaduta engaged in a counter-attack on Sully’s right flank to stall his approach and lost twenty-seven warriors in hand to hand fighting. The Isáŋyathi broke just as Sully’s artillery began to fire upon the encampment.

Women and children who hadn’t retreated into the hills and ravines west of Taȟčá Wakútepi were suddenly in the fight. The women gathered what they could before abandoning camp, and young boys shepherded the horses to safety. “Children cried, the dogs were under everybody’s feet, mules balked, and pack horses took fright at the shell-fire or snorted at the drifting smoke behind them,” according to Frances Kelly.[24]

The Badlands west of Taȟčá Wakútepi. Thousands of places to hide and rendezvous on top of generations of intimate familiarity with the land helped the Lakȟóta remain elusive.

The Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta turned west into the Badlands, and there evaded capture.

The smoke cleared and over a hundred Lakȟóta and Dakȟóta lay dead. Sully ordered troops to destroy everything left behind. Lodges, blankets, and food were burned. Dogs were shot. Children inadvertently left behind in the confusion were chased down by the Winnebago scouts and killed.
Čháŋğu Wakpála: Burnt Wood Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Čhápa Wakpána: Beaver Creek, Emmons County, ND

Čhaŋte Matȟó: Bear’s Heart (The-Man-Who-Never-Walked), a forty-year-old disabled Lakȟóta man who fought his first and last fight at Taȟčá Wakútepi

Hé Núŋpa WaníčA: No Two Horns, a warrior, artist, and historian of the Huŋkphápȟa; fought at the Little Bighorn

Huŋkphápȟa: Head Of The Circle, also known as “Hunkpapa,” one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna: Little End Village (Yanktonai), one of the seven tribes that make up the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, their language is Wičhíyena

ĺŋkpaduta: Scarlet Point, war chief of the Waȟpékhute band of the Isáŋyathi

Isáŋyathi: the general name of the four eastern tribes (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ), their language is Dakȟóta

Matȟó Watȟákpe: Charging Bear (John Grass), a war chief of the Sihásapa, one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Mníšoše: Water-Astir (Missouri River)

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ: Seven Council Fires (The Great Sioux Nation), the confederation is made up of the Thítȟuŋwaŋ, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ, Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ

Ohítika Wiŋ: Brave Woman, she fought at Killdeer Mountain alongside her father when she was fourteen years old

Oyáte: a tribe, a people, or a nation

Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána: Dry Bone Hill Creek (Whitestone Hill Creek), Dickey County, ND

Phizí: Gall, a war chief of the Huŋkphápȟa (Hunkpapa), one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes; led the Huŋkphápȟa at the Little Bighorn, later became a judge

Sihásapa: Black Sole Moccasins (Blackfeet) one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

Šákpe: The Six, a chief of the Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ (Dwellers At The Sacred Lake), one of the four Isáŋyathi (Santee; Eastern Sioux) tribes.

Šiná Tȟó Wakpána: Blue Blanket Creek, Walworth County, SD

Šúŋka Waŋžíla: Dog Only-One (Lone Dog), a Huŋkphápȟa warrior and a Waníyetu Wowápi (Winter Count) keeper

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta: Red Tomahawk , a Huŋkphápȟa warrior known more for being a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer and his role in the death of Sitting Bull.

Taȟčá Wakútepi: Where They Kill Deer (Killdeer Mountain), Dunn County, ND

Tȟaspáŋla Wakpála: Lit. Thorn-Apple Creek, Burleigh County, ND

Tȟatȟáŋka ĺyotake: Sitting Bull, a great leader of the Huŋkphápȟa

Tȟatȟáŋka Ská: White Bull, nephew of Sitting Bull, and a famous warrior

Thítȟuŋwaŋ: Dwellers On The Plains (Teton), the Thítȟuŋwaŋ is made up of the Huŋkphápȟa,Sihásapa, Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Oglála, Oóhenuŋpa, and Sičháŋǧu, their language is Lakȟóta

Wakȟáŋ: With-Energy, often translated as “Holy” or “Sacred”

Wakhéye Ská: White Lodge, a chief of the Sisíthuŋwaŋ

[1] “One Bull Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[2] Mr. Corbin Shoots The Enemy (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, September 2013.
[3] “John Grass Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[4] Larson, R., Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 45.
[5] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 41.
[6] Ibid. pp. 599. Šiná Dúta Wiŋ (Red Blanket Woman) account places Šákpe and his band of Bdewákhaŋthuŋwaŋ at the Apple Creek conflict, and this fight.
[7] “Red Tomahawk Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers.
[8] Mrs. Delma Helman (Húŋkpapȟa, Thítȟuŋwaŋ; Standing Rock Indian Reservation), in discussion with the author, Mobridge, S.D., July 2013.
[9] Mr. Mike McDonald (Dakȟóta; Spirit Lake Oyate), in discussion with the author, Fort Yates, N.D., Nov. 2014.
[10] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Waggoner, J., Witness: A Huŋkphápȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of The Lakotas (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 599.
[13] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).
[14] Utley, R., The Lance And The Shield: The Life And Times Of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt And Company, 1993), 55.
[15] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[16] LaPointe, E., Sitting Bull: His Life And Legacy (Gibbs Smith, 2009), p. 49.
[17] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[18] Pattee, J., Dakota Campaigns (South Dakota Historical Collections 5, 1910), 308.
[19] “No Two Horns [Hé Núŋpa WaníčA ] Interview,” thípi with pictographic records, Welch, Col. Alfred, Welch Dakota Papers, July 7, 1915.
[20] Kelly, F., Narrative Of My Captivity Among The Sioux (Mutual Publishing Company, 1871), pp. 274-278.
[21] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[22] Mr. Tim Hunts In Winter (Húŋkpathi, Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; Crow Creek Indian Reservation), in an e-dialog with the author, March 2014.
[23] Vestal, S., Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1932), p53-54; White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[24] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), New Sources Of Indian History (Gayley Press, 2008), p. 56.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Solar Eclipse Remembered As "Fire Cloud"

A partial solar eclipse as seen on the Northern Great Plains, Oct. 23, 2014.
Solar Eclipse Remembered As "Fire Cloud"
Cloud Cover Gives A Glimpse Of Event
By Dakota Wind
Great Plains, N.D. - In the Lakȟóta creation story, Wí (the Sun) and Haŋwí (the Moon) were created after Makȟóčhe (Grandmother Earth) and Škáŋ (the Source of All Power and All that Moves). 

Sometime after creation, Iktómi (the Trickster) convinced Ité (Face), the beautiful daughter of Wazíya (the Power of the North) and his wife Wakánaka (Old Woman) to commit an indiscretion with Wí and usurp the place of Haŋwí , even as Ité herself was married to Tȟaté (the Wind). 

It so happened then, that at a feast in the lodge of Haŋwí, that Ité seated herself next to Wí. When Haŋwí entered her lodge and found Ité in her place they all laughed at the situation, and Haŋwí drew her shawl over her own face in shame. 

After the feast, Škáŋ presided over all as judge and pronounced that Wí should be rendered from the embrace and comfort of Haŋwí, and from that time forward, Wí ruled the day, and Haŋwí the night. However, Haŋwí might appear in daylight because Wí is her husband and she may want to see him, but when they appear together in the sky, Haŋwí, to this day, draws her shawl over her face in shame. 

Ité received her due. Škáŋ allowed her to keep her beauty, but only one half of her would retain it, the other half was rendered so hideous that any who looked upon her would be terrified. From that time on, she was called Anúŋg Ité (Double Face). She was also parted from her husband Tȟaté and their children, the Tȟatíye Tópa (the Four Winds) and their youngest son, the fifth wind, Tȟatéiyumni (Whirlwind). 

Iktómi was banished to the edge of the world, and would forever remain friendless. 

"The Morning-Sun A-Died [1869]," The Swan Winter Count. 

The Sun Died
On August 7, 1869, a full solar eclipse darkened the Great Plains. Ten Lakȟóta winter counts from all seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton) tribes remember this outstanding event. Nearly all remember the event as Wí’kte, or "The sun died."

An earlier eclipse, this one in the 1830s, is remembered by the Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta as Maȟphíya Yapȟéta, or “Fire Cloud.” The Huŋkphápȟa leader is named for this event, as was his son in turn. Fire Cloud later fought at the Little Bighorn.

Dr. Washington Matthews, the post surgeon at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, recalled that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) chief Matȟó Núŋpa (Two Bear) and his band camped outside the fort for the express purpose of viewing the eclipse and discourse with the soldiers about it. They viewed the eclipse through smoked glass. One of the mysteries of creation seemingly explained by way of science, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna solemnly parted ways with the soldiers.

Matȟó Núŋpa later fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

A rainbow in the clouds preceded the eclipse.

A Rainbow In The Cloud
The morning was relatively calm. Quiet and cloudless, but as morning passed into afternoon clouds marred the autumnal landscape. Immediately following work I raced my little beast north of town. Dark clouds on the western horizon crawled ominously across the sky, threatening to overtake the heavens.

A rainbow appeared in the clouds above and gently illuminated the gray with a pearly luster.

The Lakȟóta have the tradition to politely point at rainbows with one's elbow or one's lips. If you point with your finger, they say, your finger will swell up. The story behind the swollen finger lies in an old tale about spirits that live in the rainbow who discovered a boy who had ascended their arch and entered their world. He was never seen again, and rainbows became intangible ever after.

The clouds only seemed to get darker.

One cloud split and light cascaded down like downy feathers. High above the open sky another cloud, pale and high, made the sun itself appear as if it were swimming, rays of light played with shadow upon the prairie. Then I looked past the veil and saw the sun.

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

Another friend's uncle, Mr. Jon Eagle, translates eclipse as Wí’Atá, which translates as "Sun Entire." Atá serves as an intensifier in many sentences, as to say here, "completely," or "greatly." Perhaps even here, it could mean a full solar eclipse. Clearly there are many ways of regarding the solar eclipse within the Lakȟóta language. I for one, like the various descriptions for talking about nature and the world. 

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

I learned that the Dakȟóta refer to the eclipse as Wí’te, or “New Moon.” The New Lakota Dictionary 2nd Edition has two entries for eclipse: Aháŋzi, or “Shadow,” and AóhanziyA, or “To cast a shadow upon.” My personal preference is Fire Cloud.

Aháŋzi: Shadow

Aŋpétuwí Tókȟaȟ'aŋ: Disappearing Sun

AóhanziyA: To Cast A Shadow Upon

Maȟphíya Yapȟéta: Fire Cloud

WakhápheyA: Of A Singular Appearance

Wí’Atá: Sun Entire

Wí’kte: The Sun Died

Wí’te: "New Moon"