Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Thunderbirds and Water Dragons

From the cover of Eastman's book "Wigwam Evenings." Image by Paul Goble.
Wakíŋyaŋ (Thunderbirds), Uŋktéhi (Dragons)
At War Since Creation
By Ohíyesa (The Winner), Dr. Charles A. Eastman
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. & S.D. - The following story comes from Dr. Charles Eastman's "Wigwam Evenings: Sioux Folktales Retold." Minor edits include spellings of Dakȟóta words using the Lakȟóta Language Consortium's standard orthography.

Wakíŋyaŋ is the Great Bird of storm and tempest, who was appointed in the beginnings of things to keep the earth and upper air pure and clean. Although there is sometimes death and destruction in his path, yet he is a servant of the Great Mystery and his work is good.

Yet he rules only one half of the year. The other half is ruled by Wazíya, the Spirit of Cold, and he too purifies the air and the water.

When Wazíya, the North Wind, the Cold-Maker, comes, the animals put on thicker robes and some even change their eye color to be like the white blanket that he lays over the earth. Then the waters are imprisoned for a season, and all things sleep and rest.

Then comes Heyókȟa, the South Wind, also called the Fool Wind, he who is the herald of the Thunder Bird and causes all the trees and the plains to put on their garments of green.

For ages there had been war between the Thunder Bird, the ruler of the upper air, and the Water Monster, or Uŋktéhi, the ruler of the deep. Whenever a black cloud appeared in the sky and cast its threatening shadow upon the water, all the fish knew it for a warning to descend to the floor of their watery abode, the deep, dark realm, away from the power of his arrows.

Even the sea birds must seek their sheltered coves and hiding places, pull tight their downy blankets and be still, for now Wakíŋyaŋ would sweep sea and air with his mighty wing, and punish the disobedient.

All was quiet before his approach. His breath was the tempest, the roll of thunder his drumbeat, the lightening’s flash his tomahawk. At his approach, the dace of the deep was thrown into a mighty commotion. Column after column of white warriors advanced boldly upon the land, and broke upon the rocky shores with a loud war hoop. Such was the combat of the Spirits of Air and Water, at which all living creatures hid themselves and trembled.

At last the great peace maker, , the Sun, appeared, holding in his hand the Wígmuŋke, the Rainbow, like a flag of many colors, a sign that the battle is over. He sent each of the warriors to his own place. Gentle airs came down from above to meet and play with the little waves that danced upon the blue water. He who is our Father, the father of our bodies, whose wife is Uŋčí Makȟá (Grandmother Earth), our Mother the Earth, wishes safety and peace for all his children, therefore he still watches the unruly ones from the middle of the sky, and their battles are quickly ended. 

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