Wednesday, March 26, 2014

She Lived And Died Two Times

It was the custom of the Plains Indian peoples to place their deceased loved ones upon scaffolds like this. 
She Lived And Died Two Times
The Resuscitation of The Only Daughter
Collected by Marie L. McLaughlin, edited by Dakota Wind
STANDING ROCK, N.D. & S.D. - The following story comes from Marie L. McLaughlin’s “Myths And Legends Of The Sioux.” The story of “The Resuscitation of The Only Daughter” is retold here with minor edits. 

There once lived an old couple who had only one daughter. She was a beautiful maiden and was much courted by the young men of the tribe but she preferred single life. She always had one answer to her courtiers’ romantic overtures to win her affection. “No.”

One day the maiden fell ill, and her illness grew worse with each passing day. All the Waphíye (Healers) were called in, but no one could heal her, and she died two weeks after taking ill. 

Relatives and friends wrapped their deceased loved one in robes, and later blankets, then raised them onto a burial scaffold. 

There was great mourning in the wičhóthi (camp). They wrapped her body in fine robes and blankets and took her far away from the wičhóthi, then they laid her upon a burial scaffold. After the funeral her parents conducted a Wíȟpeyapi (a Give-Away) in which they gave away all of their horses, fine robes, blankets, and all the belongings of the dead young woman. Then they cut their hair off close to their heads, and attired themselves in the poorest apparel they could secure.

A year later the friends and relatives of the old couple asked them set aside their mourning. “You have mourned long enough,” they would say. “Put aside your mourning and try and enjoy a few more pleasures of this life while you live. You are both growing old and can’t live very many more years, so make the best of your time.”

The old couple listened to their advice but would shake their heads and reply, “We have nothing to live for. Nothing would bring us pleasure since we have lost the light of our lives.”

So the old couple continued mourning the loss of their daughter. 

"Funeral Scaffold Of A Sioux Chief Near Fort Pierre," by Karl Bodmer, 

Two years had passed since the death of the beautiful young woman, when one evening a wóle wičháša (a hunter) and his wife passed by her burial scaffold. They were returning from a hunt and were heavily loaded down with game, and so could not travel very fast. Somewhat near the burial scaffold a small clear stream trickled forth from a spring, which caused the plants and grass to grow especially green and sweet.

Here Wóle Wičháša tethered his horses and established wičhóthi, though to make camp on one’s return is aglíthi. He set about helping his wife to erect the small thípi which they brought along for convenience of traveling.

When it became quite dark, Wóle Wičháša’s dogs wildly barked and growled. “Look and see what the dogs are barking at,” Wóle Wičháša said to his wife. She looked out through the lodge door, drew back and replied, “There is a figure of a woman advancing from the direction of the young woman’s scaffold.”

“It must be the dead young woman. Let her come, and don’t’ act as if you were afraid,” said Wóle Wičháša. They soon heard her approaching footsteps which ceased outside the door. Wóle Wičháša looked down and through the lodge door and saw a pair of small moccasins. He announced to their visitor, “Come in, whoever you are, and have something to eat.”

The film "Warm Bodies" explores the possibility of the undead returning to life through an act of love, but the story of "Resuscitation Of The Only Daughter" did it first.

At this invitation their visitor entered slowly and sat down by the door. The visitor’s head was covered; a fine robe was drawn tightly over her face. Wóle Wičháša’s wife dished up a fine supper, placed it before their visitor, and said, “Eat, my friend, you must be hungry.”

The visitor never moved, nor did she uncover to eat.

“Let us turn our backs towards the door and our visitor may eat,” Wóle Wičháša said. So his wife turned her back towards their visitor and cleaned some of their game. Wóle Wičháša filled his pipe, turned away and smoked in silence.

Finally the visitor pushed her empty dish back to the woman, who took it, washed it, and put it away.

The visitor remained at the door, not a sound came from her, and neither did she breathe. At last Wóle Wičháša said, “Are you the young woman that was placed upon that scaffold two years ago?”

She bowed her head in assent.

“Are you going to sleep here tonight?” asked Wóle Wičháša, “If you are, my wife will make a bed for you.”

The visitor shook her head in negation.

“Are you going to come again tomorrow night to us?”

She nodded affirmatively. 

Vermillion, or red ochre paint, can be acquired from a variety of sources such as red clay, or crushing hematite stone into a fine powder.

For three nights in succession she visited Wóle Wičháša’s camp. On the third night Wóle Wičháša noticed that she was breathing. He also saw one of her hands protruding from the robe. Her blackened skin stuck fast to the bones of her hand. On seeing this, Wóle Wičháša arose and retrieved his medicine bag which hung on a tripod in the lodge. He opened it and removed some roots, skunk oil, and vermillion, then mixed them all together.

Wóle Wičháša finished and offered, ““If you will let us rub your face and hands with this medicine it will put new life into your skin. It will put flesh on you and your complexion will return.” She assented and Wóle Wičháša rubbed medicine onto her hands and face. After he finished his application, she rose and returned to her scaffold. 

The next day Wóle Wičháša struck camp and moved towards the home wičhóthi. When night came, the dogs barked and growled in commotion. Wóle Wičháša’s wife looked out and saw the young woman approach.

The young woman entered their lodge and sat down. Wóle Wičháša noticed that the young woman did not keep her robe as tight over her face as on her first visit. When the wife gave her something to eat, the young woman reached out, took the dish which exposed her hands, which hey noticed were natural once more.

After she had finished her meal, Wóle Wičháša asked, “Did my medicines help you?”

She nodded affirmatively.

“Do you want my medicine applied over your entire body?”

She nodded again.

“I will make enough for you, then, I will go outside and let my wife rub it on you.”

A Santee Dakȟóta floral medicine bag. 

After making more of the medicine Wóle Wičháša removed himself and left his wife to care for the young woman. When his wife completed the task she called Wóle Wičháša to return. He entered, sat down, and said to the young woman, “Tomorrow we will reach the wičhóthi.. Do you want to go with us?”

She shook her head in negation.

“Will you come to our lodge tomorrow night after we have set up in the wičhóthi.?”

She nodded her head in assent.

“Then will you see your parents?”

She nodded once more, rose, and disappeared into the darkness.

Early the next morning they broke camp and traveled into the afternoon when they arrived at the wičhóthi. Wóle Wičháša’s wife immediately went to inform the old couple of what happened. At sunset the old couple came to the Wóle Wičháša’s tipi. They were invited in and were served a fine supper. 

George Catlin sketched a scene of a moving Lakȟóta camp. Catlin noted that horses and dogs alike were outfitted with travois, and the grand procession stretched for miles.

Soon after they had finished eating, the dogs barked and growled in commotion.

“She is returning now, so be brave and you will soon see your lost daughter,” Wóle Wičháša said. He had just finished speaking when she entered the lodge as natural as she was in life. Her parents met her with kisses and clung dearly to her.

They wanted her to return home with them, but she wanted to stay with Wóle Wičháša who had brought her back to life. So, she married him, and became his second wife. A short time after taking the young woman for his wife, Wóle Wičháša joined a war party and never returned. He was killed on the battlefield.

A year after her Wóle Wičháša’s death she remarried. Her second husband was killed in pursuit of some enemies who stole some of their horses. She married yet a third time and this husband also died on the battlefield.

She was still a beautiful woman at the time of her third husband’s death. She never again remarried, as the men feared her now. They remarked that she was holy, and that anyone who married her would be killed by the enemy.

She took to healing the sick and gained the reputation of being the most skilled healer among the people. She lived to a ripe old age and when she felt death approaching she had them take her to where she had rested once before. She crawled to the top of her burial scaffold, wrapped her blankets and robes about her, covered her face carefully, and fell into that sleep from which there is no more awakening.

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