Friday, May 30, 2014

The Hero Saved, The Trickster Punished

Ziŋtkála Ša, Red Bird, reads in this photo. 
The Hero Saved, The Trickster Punished
Shooting Of The Red Eagle

By Ziŋtkála Ša (Red Bird)
The following story, "Shooting of The Red Eagle," comes from Ziŋtkála Ša’s “Old Indian Legends,” and includes minor edits. D/Lakȟóta words, when used, are spelled using the Lakota Language Consortium’s standard orthography.

A man in buckskins sat upon the top of a little hillock. The setting sun shone bright upon a strong bow in his hand. His face was turned toward the round campground at the foot of the hill. He had walked a long journey hither. He was waiting for the chieftain’s men to spy him.

Soon four strong men ran forth from the center thiyúktaŋ (a.k.a. wikiup, wigwam) toward the hillock, where sat the man with the long bow.

“He is the avenger come to shoot the red eagle,” cried the runners to each other as they bent forward swinging their elbows together.[1]

They reached the side of the stranger, but he did not heed them. Proud and silent he gazed upon the cone-shaped wigwams beneath him. Spreading a handsomely decorated buffalo robe before the man, two of the warriors lifted him by each shoulder and placed him gently on it. Then the four men took, each, a corner of the blanket and carried the stranger with long proud steps, towards the chieftain’s thípi.[2]

Ready to greet the stranger, the tall chieftain stood at the entrance way. “Háu, you are the avenger with the magic arrow!” he said, extending to him a smooth soft hand.

Háu, great chieftain!” Replied the man, holding long the chieftain’s hand.[3] Entering the thípi, the chieftain motioned the young man to the right side of the doorway, while he sat down opposite him with a center fire burning between them. Wordless, like a bashful Indian maid, the avenger ate in silence the food set before him on the ground in front of his crossed shins.[4] When he had finished his meal he handed the empty bowl to the chieftain’s wife saying, “Mother-in-law,[5] here is your dish!”

Háŋ, my son!” answered the woman, taking the bowl.

With the magic arrow in his quiver the stranger felt not in the least too presuming in addressing the woman as his mother-in-law.

Complaining of fatigue, he covered his face with his blanket and soon within the chieftain’s thípi he fell asleep.

“The young man is not handsome after all!” whispered the woman in her husband’s ear.

“Ah, but after he has killed the red eagle he will be handsome enough!” answered the chieftain.

That night the star men in their burial procession in the sky reached the low northern horizon,[6] before the center fires within the thípi had flickered out. The ringing laughter which had floated up through the smoke lapels was now hushed, and only the distant howling of wolves broke the quiet of the village. But the lull between midnight and dawn was short indeed. Very early the oval-shaped doorflaps[7] were thrust aside and many brown faces peered out of the wigwams toward the top of the highest bluff.

A photo I took of the sun over Dead Buffalo Lake in North Dakota.

Now the sun rose up out of the east. The red painted avenger stood ready within the camp ground for the flying of the red eagle. That terrible bird appeared! He hovered over the round village as if he could pounce down upon it and devour the whole tribe.

When the first arrow shot up into the sky the anxious watchers thrust a hand quickly over their half-uttered “Hinú!”[8] The second and third arrows flew upward but missed by a wide space the red eagle soaring with lazy indifference over the little man with the long bow. All his arrows he spent in vain. “Ah! My blanket brushed my elbow and shifted the course of the arrow!” said the stranger as the people gathered around him.

During this happening, a woman on horseback halted her pony at the chieftain’s thípi. It was no other than the young woman who cut loose the tree-bound captive.

While she told the story the chieftain listened with downcast face.[9] “I passed him on my way. He is near!” she ended.

Indignant at the bold imposter, the wrathful eyes of the chieftain snapped fire like red cinders in the night time. His lips were closed. At length to the woman he said, “Háu, you have done me a good deed.” Then with a quick decision he gave command to a fleet horseman to meet the avenger. “Clothe him in these, my best buckskins,” he said, pointing to a bundle within the wigwam.[10]

In the meanwhile strong men seized Iktómi[11] and dragged him by his long hair to the hilltop. There upon a mock-pillared grave[12] they bound his hands and feet. Adults and children sneered and hooted at Iktómi’s disgrace. For a half-day he lay there, the laughing stock of the people. Upon the arrival of the real avenger, Iktómi was released and chased away beyond the outer limits of the camp ground.

On the following morning at daybreak, peeped the people out of half-open doorflaps.

There again in the midst of the large camp ground was a man in beaded buckskins. In his hand was a strong bow and red-tipped arrow. Again the big red eagle appeared on the edge of the bluff. He plumed his feathers and flapped his huge wings.

"He placed the arrow on the bow," appears in the Bison Book edition of "Old Indian Legends," the Bison Book edition, by Angel De Cora.

The young man crouched low to the ground. He placed the arrow on the bow, drawing a poisoned flint for the eagle.

The bird rose into the air. He moved his outspread wings one, two, three times and lo! The eagle tumbled from the great height and fell heavily to the earth. An arrow struck in his breast! He was dead!

So quick was the hand of the avenger, so sure his sight, that no one had seen the arrow fly from his long bent bow.

The village was dumb with awe and amazement. And when the avenger, plucking a red eagle feather, placed it in his black hair, a loud shout of the people went up to the sky. Then hither and thither ran singing men and women prepared a great feast for the avenger.

Thus he won the beautiful Indian princess[13] who never tired of telling to her children the story of the big red eagle.

[1] Pointing, as with one’s index finger, was considered rude and impolite. To this day the polite Lakȟóta, points a variety of ways including one’s elbows (as is the case in this story), by cupping one’s hand and gesturing in the general direction of one’s attention, by pointing somewhat indirectly with one’s smallest finger, or with one’s lips, the latter to some mild amusement to those nearby. 

[2] A very high honor, to be carried into the village in this manner.

[3] Shaking hands isn’t generally an everyday Lakȟóta practice. When the occasion arose to shake hands it was with the left hand, the hand closest to one’s heart that was used. When a Lakȟóta shakes hands, it is careful and light, never a crushing or firm grip.

[4] Before chairs, the Lakȟóta man sat down upon the ground with crossed legs and straight back. Women sat upon the ground, knees together, calves tucked beneath their legs, feet extended behind or off to their side.

[5] Uŋčíši is “mother-in-law.” As a rule, a man never spoke to his mother-in-law. If a man took issue with his in-laws, he spoke through his wife, and they in turn spoke through her. The reverse is true. Not speaking to one’s in-laws was considered polite and respectful.

[6] The stars, Wičáȟpi, were/are considered to be a nation of people. When one dies, or takes his or her last journey, his or her spirit goes to the heavens where he or she is received by all those who’ve gone before. The brightest stars in the Wanáği Tȟačháŋku (The Spirit Road, aka the Milky Way) are said to be the campfires of the spirits.

[7] Thiyópa, the door or door flap of the thiíkčeya (thípi, tipi, teepee).

[8] An exclamation of surprise, usually uttered by women.

[9] The Lakȟóta consider it impolite to make and maintain direct eye contact.

[10] Ziŋtkála Ša’s use of this word is probably in reference to what most Americas knew also as a “wikiup,” a temporary lodge made by bending saplings into a small dome. Sometimes it was covered with a robe or blanket. The Lakȟóta call this type of temporary lodging thiyúktaŋ.

[11] The Trickster! He had been masquerading as the Avenger so that he could marry the chieftain’s daughter!

[12] Ziŋtkála Ša uses an interesting turn of English words to describe a wičháagnakapi, or burial scaffold. In this case, the mock scaffold may have been erected to provide temporary share in the village.

[13] Ziŋtkála Ša uses the term “princess” to describe the chieftain’s daughter. The Lakȟóta do not have royalty. The use of the term here reflects when the story was recorded by Ziŋtkála Ša at the turn of 1900.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Woman Saves The Hero

Kȟóda ni Dakȟóta! [Friend You Are Dakȟóta!]" sings tȟašíyagmuŋka, the western meadowlark. Photo by Blake Matheson for Observe Your Preserve.
A Woman Saves The Hero
The Tree Bound
By Ziŋtkála Ša (Red Bird)

A photo of Gertude Simmons Bonnin, known as Ziŋtkála Ša, or Red Bird, by Gertrude Kasebier, 1898.
The following story comes from Ziŋtkála Ša’s “Old Indian Legends.” Ziŋtkála Ša was born on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in what became South Dakota. She attended White’s Manual Labor Institute in Indiana, Earlham College, played violin with the New England Conservatory of Music, taught music at Carlisle Industrial School (she was latter dismissed when she challenged the institute’s founder that natives could aspire to more than menial labor), and briefly worked as a clerk for the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation before marrying and moving to the Unitah-Ouray Reservation in Utah. Ziŋtkála Ša was also a founding member of the National Congress of American Indians.

It was a clear summer day. The blue blue sky dropped low over the edge of the green level land. A large yellow sun hung directly overhead.

The singing birds filled the summer space between earth and sky with sweet music. Again and again sang a yellow-breasted birdie[1], “Kȟóda ni Dakȟóta!” which was, “Friend you are Dakota!” Perchance the birdie meant the avenger[2] with the magic arrow, for there across the plain he strode. He was handsome in his paint and feathers, proud with his great buckskin quiver on his back and a long bow in his hand. Afar to an eastern group of cone-shaped thípis[3] he was going. There over the Indian village hovered a large red eagle threatening the safety of the people. Every morning rose this terrible red bird out of a high chalk bluff and spreading out his gigantic wings soared slowly over the round camp ground. Then it was that the people, terror-stricken, ran screaming into their blankets, they sat trembling with fear. No one dared to venture out till the red eagle had disappeared beyond the west, where meet the blue and green.

In vain tried the chieftain of the tribe to find among his warriors a powerful marksman who could send a death arrow to the man-hungry bird. At last to urge his men to their utmost skill he bade his crier proclaim a new reward.

Of the chieftain’s two beautiful daughters he would have his choice who brought the dreaded red eagle with arrow in its breast.

George Catlin's "Archery of The Mandan." The scene probably looked similar to this, with men readying their arrows skyward. 

Upon hearing these words, the men of the village, both young and old, both heroes and cowards, trimmed new arrows for the contest. At gray dawn there stood indistinctly under the shadow of the bluff many human figures; silent as ghosts and wrapped in robes girdled tight about their waists, they waited with chosen bow and arrow.

From within the dwellings many eyes peeped through the small holes in the front lapels of the thípi. With shaking knees and hard-set teeth, the women peered out upon the Dakȟóta men prowling about with bows and arrows.

At length when the morning sun also peeped over the eastern horizon at the armed Dakȟóta, the red eagle walked out upon the edge of the cliff. Pluming his gorgeous feathers, he ruffled his neck and flapped his strong wings together. Then he dived into the air. Slowly he winged his way over the round camp ground; over the men with their strong bows and arrows! In an instant the long bows were bent. Strong straight arrows with red feathered tips sped upward to the blue sky. Ah! Slowly moved those indifferent wings, untouched by the poison-beaked arrows. Off to the west beyond the reach of arrow, beyond the reach of eye, the red eagle flew away.

A sudden clamor of high-pitched voices broke the deadly stillness of the dawn. The women talked excitedly about the invulnerable red of the eagle’s feathers, while the would-be heroes sulked within their wigwams[4]. “Hĕ-hĕ-hĕ!”[5] groaned the chieftain.

On the evening of the same day sat a group of hunters around a bright burning fire. They were talking of a strange young man whom they spied while out upon a hunt for deer beyond the bluffs. They saw the stranger taking aim. Following the point of his arrow with their eyes, they beheld a herd of buffalo.[6] The arrow sprang from the bow! It darted into the skull of the foremost buffalo. But unlike other arrows it pierced through the head of the creature and spinning in the air lit into the next buffalo head. One by one the buffalo fell upon the sweet grass they were grazing. With straight quivering limbs they lay on their sides. The young man stood calmly by, counting on his fingers the buffalo as they dropped dead to the ground. When the last one fell, he ran thither and picking up his magic arrow wiped it carefully on the soft grass. He slipped it into his long fringed quiver.

“He is going to make a feast for some hungry tribe of men or beasts!” cried the hunters among themselves as they hastened away.

They were afraid of the stranger with the sacred bow. When the hunters’ tale of the stranger’s arrow reached the ears of the chieftain, his face brightened with a smile. He sent forth his fleet horsemen, to learn of him his birth, his name, and his deeds.

“If he is the avenger with the magic arrow, sprung up from the earth out of a clot of buffalo blood, bid him come hither. Let him kill the red eagle with his magic arrow. Let him win for himself one of my beautiful daughters,” he said to his messengers, for the old story of the badger’s man-son was known all over the level lands.

After four days and nights the braves returned.  “He is coming,” they said. “We have seen him. He is straight and tall; handsome in face, with large black eyes. He paints his round cheeks with bright red, and wears the penciled lines of red over his temples like our men of honored rank. He carries on his back a long fringed quiver in which he keeps his magic arrow. His bow is long and strong. He is coming now to kill the big red eagle.” All around the camp ground from mouth to ear passed those words of the returned messengers.

In one story, Iktómi, the trickster, wanted spots like the fawn. The fawns burned him in a fire and left him there instead. 

Now it chanced that immortal Iktómi,[7] fully recovered from the brown burnt spots,[8] overheard the people talking. At once he was filled with a new desire. “If only I had the magic arrow, I would kill the red eagle and win the chieftain’s daughter for a wife,” he said in his heart.

Back to his lonely wigwam he hastened. Beneath the tree in front of his thípi he sat upon the ground with chin between his drawn-up knees. His keen eyes scanned the wide plain. He was watching for the avenger.

“’He is coming!’ said the people,” muttered old Iktómi. All of a sudden he raised an open palm to his brow and peered afar into the west. The summer sun hung bright in the middle of a cloudless sky. There across the green prairie was a man walking bareheaded toward the east.

“Ha! Ha![9] ‘tis he! The man with the magic arrow!” laughed Iktómi. And when the bird with the yellow breast sang loud again, “Kȟóda ni Dakȟóta! Friend you are Dakȟóta!” Iktómi put his hand over his mouth as he threw his head far backward, laughing at both the bird and man.

“He is your friend, but his arrow will kill one of your kind! He is a Dakȟóta, but soon he’ll grow into the bark on this tree! Ha! Ha! Ha!” he laughed again.

The young avenger walked with swaying strides nearer and nearer toward the lonely wigwam and tree. Iktómi heard the swish! shwish! of the stranger’s feet through the tall grass. He was passing now beyond the tall tree, when Iktómi, springing to his feet, called out, “Háu, my friend! I see you are dressed in handsome deerskins and have red paint on your cheeks. You are going to some feast or dance, may I ask?” Seeing only the young man Iktómi smiled and went on, “I have not had a mouthful of food this day. Have pity on me, young brave, and shoot yonder bird for me!” With these words Iktómi pointed toward the tree-top, where sat a bird on the highest branch. The young avenger, always ready to help those in distress, sent an arrow upward and the bird fell. In the next branch it was caught between the forked prongs.

A dead cottonwood tree in an open field. 

“My friend, climb the tree and get the bird. I cannot climb so high. I would get dizzy and fall,” pleaded Iktómi. The avenger began to scale the tree, when Iktómi dried to him, “My friend, your beaded buckskins may be torn by the branches. Leave them safe upon the grass till you are down again.”

“You are right,” replied the young man, quickly slipping off his long fringed quiver. Together with his dangling pouches and tinkling ornaments, he placed it on the ground. Now he climbed the tree unhindered. Soon from the top he took the bird. “My friend, toss to me your arrow that I may have the honor of wiping it clean on soft deerskin!” exclaimed Iktómi.

“Háu!” said the brave, and threw the bird and arrow to the ground.

At once Iktómi seized the arrow. Rubbing it first on the grass and then on a piece of deerskin, he muttered indistinct words all the while. The young man, stepping downward from limb to limb, hearing the low muttering, said, “Iktómi, I cannot hear what you say!”

“Oh, my friend, I was only talking of your big heart.”

Again stooping over the arrow Iktómi continued his repetition of charm words. “Grow fast, grow fast to the bark of the tree,” he whispered. Still the young man moved slowly downward. Suddenly dropping the arrow and standing erect, Iktómi said aloud, “Grow fast to the bark of the tree!” Before the brave could leap from the tree he became tight-grown to the bark.

“Ah! Ah!” laughed the bad Iktómi. “I have the magic arrow! I have the beaded buckskins of the great avenger!” Hooting and dancing beneath the tree, he said, “I shall kill the red eagle. I shall wed the chieftain’s beautiful daughter!”

“Oh, Iktómi, set me free!” begged the tree-bound Dakȟóta brave. But Iktómi’s ears were like the fungus on a tree. He did hear with them.

"There among them stood Iktómi in brown buckskins," by Angel De Cora for the University of Nebraska Press Bison Book edition of "Old Indian Legends." 

Wearing the handsome buckskins and carrying proudly the magic arrow in his right hand, he started off eastward. Imitating the swaying strides of the avenger, he walked away with a face turned slightly skyward.

“Oh, set me free! I am glued to the tree like its own bark! Cut me loose!” moaned the prisoner.

A young woman, carrying a bundle of tightly bound willow on her strong back, passed near by the lonely thípi. She heard the wailing man’s voice. She paused to listen to the sad words. Looking around she saw nowhere a human creature. “It may be a spirit,” she thought.

“Oh! Cut me loose! Set me free! Iktómi has played me false! He has made me bark of his tree!” cried the voice again.

The young woman dropped her pack of willow to the ground. With her stone axe she hurried to the tree. There before her astonished eyes clung a young brave close to the tree.

Too shy for words, yet too kind-hearted to leave the stranger tree-bound, she cut loose the whole bark. Like an open jacket she drew it to the ground. With it came the young man also. Free once more, he started away. Looking backward, a few paces from the young woman, he waved his hand upward and downward, before her face. This was a sign of gratitude used when words failed to interpret strong emotion.

When the bewildered woman reached her dwelling, she mounted a pony and rode swiftly across the rolling land. To the camp ground in the east, to the chieftain troubled by the red eagle, she carried her story.

[1] The D-Lakȟóta refer to this particular bird as tȟašíyagmunka, the meadowlark, which some say sings in the D-Lakȟóta language.

[2] The “Avenger” was “born” of a clot of blood after Badger prayed to the Great Spirit for retribution against a family of bears who had taken his home. The story of the Avenger’s birth can be found in Ziŋtkála Ša’s book “Old Indian Legends.” The story is called “The Badger and The Bear.”

[3] Thiíkčeya or Thipȟéstola are two proper words for the thípi (variously spelled as “tipi” or “teepee).

[4] Ziŋtkála Ša’s use of this word is probably in reference to what most Americas knew also as a “wikiup,” a temporary lodge made by bending saplings into a small dome. Sometimes it was covered with a robe or blanket. This type of temporary lodging is called thiyúktaŋ.

[5] A traditional Lakȟóta interjection used by men is, “Aŋhé,” to express satisfaction or self-satisfaction. “Hĕ-hĕ-hĕ,” may be an Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ (End Village Dwellers; one of the Seven Council Fires) variation of the Lakȟóta expression. Ziŋtkála Ša however uses this word before “groaned,” which seems to imply in “exasperation,” but the expression could very well be “grunted,” in which case “groan” would seem to be the most appropriate word to how the chief said the interjection, and he could be satisfied that his warriors are taking action rather than huddling in their lodges.

[6] Bison. Another collective noun for bison is “Gang.”  The Lakȟóta refer to bison as Ptéčaka (Bison), Tȟatȟáŋka (Bison Bull), or simply Pté (Bison Cow).

[7] The Trickster in traditional Lakȟóta stories.

[8] In reference to the story in which Iktómi wanted brown spots like a young fawn. Young fawns buried Iktómi under a pile of leaves and cedar, started it afire and left him for their mothers thinking that the Trickster would get out of the flames when it became too hot. See Ziŋtkála Ša’s story “Iktomi and The Fawn.”

[9] Iȟáȟa is the expression to describe the kind of laughter in ridicule of someone or something.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

S.D. Nelson, Artist & Author Returns To Standing Rock

Nelson painted this wonderful representation of warriors astride horses following the Little Bighorn conflict. 
Maȟpíya Kiŋy’Aŋ Glí Aké
Flying Cloud Returns Again

By Dakota Wind
FORT YATES, N.D. – Songbirds wake the world with a thousand songs echoing up and down the Missouri River valley. The night quietly passed leaving only the brightest stars to flicker and flash in the frosty air. The sun reclaimed the heavens and stepped into the sky on the rim of the world. The last stars flashed and surrendered heaven to the sun, and at that moment, the birds’ songs seemed to grow louder, not just in singing in the new day, but singing in warmth and joy.

I put my playlist on random on the drive to Fort Yates, and it seems like this morning everything comes together. U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” fills my car with The Edge’s soaring guitar and my heart with ease. It isn’t possible, but I like to imagine that Bono wrote the lyrics after visiting Standing Rock.

Dirt and gravel roads flow over rolling hills and disappear straight into the sky. Lake Oahe, a man-made lake, dominates and defines the eastern border of reservation. The water is bright and blue in contrast to the days before the dams when the river was brown, swift, and dangerous.

I pull my little silver pony up to the high school and wait for the last song to fade before I go in. Teachers are herding their classes into the main entrance with last minute reminders to be respectful and actively listen to S.D. Nelson. They respond with muted acquiescence, some nudge others and make the universal sign for quiet by drawing extended index fingers up to pursed lips. They’re quiet for about a minute until they file into the auditorium, where in their excitement the somber silence is ended with the growing hum of anticipation.

Nelson signs autographs for some of the students. 

Nelson is there, greeting students with smiles. He hands out bookmarks, custom made for the occasion in admission, “I had them made for you,” for his visit to Standing Rock. Copies of his books have been liberally placed along the edge of the stage for all to see, but when he begins his program, he focuses on just a few illustrations from about three of the books.

An educator renders an introduction of Nelson, but many here already know him by his work, but also because they’ve heard he’s from Standing Rock and spent childhood summers there at his grandmother’s home. Nelson is more than just an artist who happens to be from Standing Rock. He really is a member of the tribe, his traditional name is Maȟpíya Kiŋy’Aŋ, which means “Flying Cloud,” after a grandfather who was a storyteller and a horse stealer.

For the next hour, Nelson shares stories of windswept summers at his Grandmother Josephine’s home on the reservation, traveling across the country and world (his father was an enlisted man), his lifelong interest in art, his gratitude to Standing Rock for supporting him in his academics at Minnesota State University (Moorhead, MN), his career as a high school art teacher, and fatherhood.

Nelson likens his paintings to "looking at the world with 'Indian eyes'." It was standing room only in the auditorium.

The hour’s most powerful moment, however, came when Nelson shared his paintings for a children’s book about Ira Hayes, a Navajo who served during World War II and was part of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. Nelson spoke highly of Hayes patriotism, then added that Haye’s greatest struggle was one he ultimately lost. Alcoholism.

Nelson is a recovering alcoholic, “I’m a sober alcoholic. I’ve been sober now for twenty-eight years,” and added, “alcohol is not the kind of water you want to put on the tree of life.”

His program took a motivational turn as he shared photos of his daughter’s track and field career. Nelson urged everyone to participate in sports, to live clean, and “to live for the future.” He encouraged all the youth to think about a career, that a career “is what you do…make a commitment…to yourself, your family, and your tribe.”

I walked out of that auditorium and into the light of high noon, Journey’s “City Of Hope” on my playlist as I drove through Fort Yates. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Character Of Corn Reveals Personality Traits

Pictograph of corn from the Rosebud Winter Count.
Virtue And Vice Within Ear Of Corn
Personality Traits Revealed At Harvest
By Marie L. McLaughlin
GREAT PLAINS - “The Signs Of Corn" comes from Marie L. McLaughlin’s “Myths And Legends Of The Sioux.”

When corn[1] is to be planted by the Indians,[2] sorting and cleaning the best seed is women’s work, just as it is to plant and maintain the garden, as it was down in the olden days.

After the best seed was selected, the planters measured the corn, laid down a layer of hay, then a layer of corn. Over this corn they sprinkled warm water and covered it with another layer of hay, they bound the hay into a bundle and hung it up in a spot where the warm rays of the sun struck it.

While the bundle hung in the sun, the ground was prepared to receive the corn. Having finished the task of preparing the ground, the woman took down her seed corn which had by this time sprouted.

Before she planted the first mound, she extended her hoe heavenwards and asked the Great Spirit[3] to bless her work, that she may have a good yield. After her prayer she took four kernels and planted one at the north, one at the south, another at the east and yet again at the west sides of the first hill. This was a formal petition to the Great Spirit to give summer rain and sunshine to bring forth a good crop.

Then she planted her corn.

Dakota women and children guarding corn at the Upper Sioux Agency in Granite Falls, MN, taken the day before the Minnesota Dakota Conflict, by Adrien John Ebell, August 1862.

At harvest in the fall, the women discern the personality of who planted which corn, by examining the character of the ears of corn.

1st. When the kernels grow in straight rows and the cob is full, this signifies that the planter of this corn is of an exemplary character, and is very truthful and thoughtful.

2nd. When the kernels grow in irregular and broken rows, this indicated that the planter is considered careless, thoughtless, disorderly, and slovenly about her house and person.

3rd. When an ear of corn bears a few scattering kernels with spaces producing no corn, it is said that is a good sign that the planter will live to a ripe old age. So old will they be that like the corn; their teeth will be few and far between.

4th. When a stalk bears a great many nubbins, or small ears growing around a large one, it is a sign that the planter is from a large and respectable family.

After the corn is gathered, it is boiled into sweet corn and made into hominy[4]; parched and mixed with buffalo tallow and rolled into round balls,[5] and used at feasts, or carried by the warriors on the warpath as food.

When there has been a good crop of corn, an ear is always tied at the top of the medicine pole, of the sun dance, in thanks to the Great Spirit for his goodness to them in sending a bountiful crop.

[1] Wagméza: corn or maize.

[2] McLaughlin uses the terms Indian/s and Sioux interchangeably with Dakȟóta (Allies) and Očhéti Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires).

[3] Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka (Great Mystery; Great Spirit), Tȟuŋkášila (Grandfather) are generally used in prayer to address the creator. Wawíčhaȟya (Creator) is sometimes used.

[4]In those days, corn was soaked in ash which de-hulled the corn.

[5] Wasná.