Monday, March 24, 2014

The Future Revealed In Pictogaphs

A panoramic view from atop a butte on Standing Rock overlooking Phalani Wakpa (Grand River). The pictographs that appear on the butte are said to change with each visit. 
The Future Revealed In Pictographs
The Mysterious Butte

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.” This story of “The Mysterious Butte” is retold here with minor edits.

A young man was hunting and came to a steep hill. The east side of the hill suddenly dropped off to a very steep bank. He stood on this bank, and at the base he noticed a small opening. On going down to examine it more closely, he found it was large enough to admit a horse or buffalo. On either side of the door were figures of different animals engraved into the wall.

He entered the opening and there, scattered about on the floor, lay many bracelets, pipes and many other things of ornament, as though they had been offerings to some great spirit. He passed through this first room and on entering the second it was so dark that he could not see his hands before his face, so becoming scared, he hurriedly left the place, and returning home told what he had seen.

Upon hearing this the chief selected four of his most daring warriors to go with this young man and investigate and ascertain whether the young man was telling the truth or not. The five proceeded to the butte, and at the entrance the young man refused to go inside, as the figures on either side of the entrance had changed. 

"The Mysterious Butte," artist unknown. Pictograph accompanies the story, "The Mysterious Butte," in McLaughlin's "Myths And Legends Of The Sioux."

The four entered and seeing that all in the first chamber was as the young man had told, they went on to the next chamber and found it so dark that they could not see anything. They continued on, however, feeling their way along the walls. They finally found an entrance that was so narrow that they had to squeeze into it sideways. They felt their way around the walls and found another entrance, so low down that they had to crawl on their hands and knees to go through into the next chamber.

On entering the last chamber they found a very sweet smell coming from the opposite direction. Feeling around and crawling on their hands and knees, they discovered a hole in the floor leading downward. It was from this hole that the sweet smell wafted to them. They hurriedly held a council, and decided to go no further, but return to the camp and report what they had found.

On getting to the first chamber one of the young men said, “I am going to take these bracelets to show that we are telling the truth.”

“No,” said the other three, “This being the abode of some great spirit, you may have some accident befall you for taking what is not yours.”

“Ah! You fellows are like old women,” said the young man and took a fine bracelet and encircled his wrist with it.

When they reached the village they reported what they had seen. The young man exhibited the bracelet to prove that it was the truth they had told.

Shortly after this, these four young men were out setting traps for wolves. They raised one end of a heavy log and placed a stick under, which braced the log. A large piece of meat was place within five feet away of the log and covered with poles and willows which created a small space. Where the upright stick was placed, an opening was left, large enough to admit a wolf. The wolf, scenting the meat and unable to immediately get it through obstruction of poles and willows, would crowd into the hole and work his body forward in an attempt to get the meat, but would trip the brace and the trigger the log to fall, which would hold the wolf fast under its weight.

The young man with the bracelet placed his bait under the log when he somehow tripped the brace, causing the log to fall on his wrist on which he wore the bracelet. He could not release himself and called loud and long for assistance. His friends heard his call and came to his assistance. They lifted the log and the rescued young man’s discovered that his wrist was broken. “Now, they said, “you have been punished for taking the bracelet out of the chamber of the mysterious butte.”

Sometime after this a curious young man went to the butte and saw an engraving on the wall of a woman holding up the pole of a meat rack of which one side broke and collapsed from the weight of so much meat. Around this pictograph appeared many bison hooves, which indicated a large successful hunt.

A sun symbol appeared on my visit to the butte. A smaller stone upon the larger features pictography as well. 

He returned to the camp and reported what he had seen.

The next day an enormous herd of buffalo came near to his village and an adjacent village, and a great many were killed. The women butchered and dried the meat. One camp had butchered more than the other. In the camp with an abundance of meat there was a woman who hung meat upon a long tent pole which broke the pole broke in half. She was obliged to stand and hold the pole of drying meat, just as the young man saw on the mysterious butte.

Ever after that the Indians paid weekly visits to this butte, and there read the signs that governed their plans.

The tribe considered the mysterious butte to be their oracle.

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