Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tipi Rings Or Stone Circles

A foggy morning at Whitestone Hill, N.D. One stone is visible in the foreground, the remaining stones in this circle are nearly covered up by years of soil and grass. 
Tipi Rings, Stone Circles
Features Attributed To Trickster
Edited by Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. – My good friend Aaron Barth, proprietor of The Edge Of The Village, recently asked me about stone circles, a feature regularly found on the Great Plains of North America.

In Memoir 19 of the Plains Anthropologist (1982), is a collection of papers about the “tipi ring” feature. Within those pages is an account of an archaeological survey of a tipi ring site; the tipi ring site, at least this one, featured a cache pit which seems to indicate to the writer to that people intended to return. I don’t believe that's entirely accurate. Another possibility is that food or other items were left as offerings to a higher power when someone long ago prayed there.

"...tipis were staked to the ground with pegs, not stones."

One thing for certain is that tipis were staked to the ground with pegs, not stones.

Next follows an edited excerpt from Colonel Alfred Welch’s papers about stone circles (references to locations have been removed). Welch had interviewed several people from the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation to create this wonderful summation of stone circles (not tipi rings):

All through the Missouri river country may be found certain systemically formed “Stone Rings or Circles.” These round patterns, or mosaics, are formed by stones placed side by side, describing a more or less well-formed circle.

They are of various diameters, the largest which we have measured being forty feet across and the smallest twelve feet across. Some of these circles are formed with a single line of stones, others have two well-defined circles, one within the other, and a few have been found with three or more lines of stone laid closely together, forming a “circle” which was wide like a paved walk.

"...they are rocks which have been used to hold the bottom of the lodges from being flapped by the wind." 

The commonly accepted version of the farmers upon whose lands these are to be found is that they are rocks which have been used to hold the bottom of the lodges from being flapped by the wind.

This idea, however, is discarded for the rings, or circles, are to be found where lodges would not have been erected, in all probability. An examination of…many others [stone circles] confirms us in the belief that they are ceremonial places. 

The regularity of the position of the stones indicates that they were not used as weights for tipi edges, for stones used for that purpose would have been rolled out of line when breaking camp, and they are too heavy for that purpose.

Lodges would certainly not have been put up in those particular locations during the winter time and, if they were there during the summer, the complete circumference of the lodge would not have been weighted down, but would have been left free to open to the side from which the cool winds blew. No half circles have been found. There is generally no wood readily available, and only sometimes the stone circles are located conveniently close to water.

They are not of glacial formation, as the great number of them and their regularity as to shape and entrance clearly indicates the work of human hands.  Entrances are a space of some two or three feet across, entirely free from stone, and in most cases is in the direct eastern part of the circle, or nearly so, and shows a positive purpose or design. In the center of circles a larger stone is sometimes found, which also indicates a definite purpose.

The stones of the circles are, in many cases, almost covered with the accumulation of wind-blown dust and sand. A few have been seen, where no stones were seen at all, the only indication of the formation being by the grass-free spot over the rocks. The supposition is that they are of great age and the natives claim that they were here when they came into the country.

"Any peculiar form of rock is supposed to have been made by Iŋktómi, even the flint arrowheads were made by him."

Conversations with the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta regarding them nearly always end with the remark that “Iŋktómi made them.” Among the Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta, Iŋktómi, the Spider or Trickster, was the wisest creature and possessed of wonderful powers of changing himself into any other form he desired. Great feats of strength are also ascribed to him. Any peculiar form of rock is supposed to have been made by Iŋktómi, even the flint arrowheads were made by him.

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara do not claim to have built these rings and, in fact, say that they did not construct them but that they were made by some people who were here before any of their people came into this country.  The entrances all being toward the east, the fact that they appear to have been constructed both on high hills and low vales, the appearance of a stone altar in the middle of so many of them – are significant and of interest to all students of “ancient mysteries” and “land marks.” 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Impact Of Killdeer Mountain Battle Felt 150 Years Later

Killdeer Mountain at sunset. Photo by Dakota Wind.
'Overlooked' History: Killdeer Mountain 
Battle Felt 150 years Later
By Nadya Faulx, for The Dickinson Press
KILLDEER, N.D. - Monday marks 150 years since the battle at Killdeer Mountain, an event that shaped North Dakota in ways felt more than a century later.

As one of the western-most Civil War-era battles, the Killdeer Mountain Battle was “a turning point in Dakota history,” said writer Jennifer Strange, co-coordinator of a commemoration event beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Dunn County Historical Society and Museum, where she also sits on the board.

But for many outside of the state — even inside the state — the conflict between the U.S. military and a gathering of Teton, Yanktonai and Dakota Indians doesn’t carry the same weight as other Civil War-era battles like Gettysburg or Antietam.

“It’s not much taught about, or, for that matter, discussed,” said Tom Isern, a North Dakota State University professor of history. “Here within North Dakota, there’s just a little postage stamp of a historic site. Hardly anybody goes there.

“It’s a very much neglected and overlooked chapter in history,” he said.

Some state historians say they hope that by commemorating the events of 1864, it will bring renewed attention to their impact on the state, particularly on Native American communities.

“It’s a good time to reflect on this,” said Diane Rogness, historic sites manager with the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The impact of the two-day battle in 1864 cannot be understated, she added.

“It’s very significant,” she said. “It changed the way of life for the Sioux and for the settlement of Dakota territory. It changed the world. It changed history.”

The Killdeer Mountain conflict as portrayed by C.L. Boeckmann.
Remembering The Battle
She and several others — including United Tribes Technical College instructor of Native Studies Dakota Good House and Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian Ladonna Brave Bull Allard — will speak at the Dunn County museum Saturday on a panel discussing the significance of the battle, which saw General Alfred Sully and 2,200 troops launch an attack on an estimated 1,600 Indians who had gathered at the sacred site of Killdeer Mountain.

Anywhere from 31 to 100 Indians were killed in the conflict, depending on whose historical account you read, as well as two U.S. soldiers. Troops targeted women, children and other non-combatants, even returning to burn down lodges and buffalo meat, and shoot abandoned dogs and horses, according to historians.

The bloody assault was and is regarded as a punitive campaign for the Dakota War of 1862, in which Sully and General Henry Sibley sent forces in to quell an uprising of Dakota Indians in Minnesota angered over late payments from the U.S. for their land. Sully and his men either didn’t know or didn’t care that most of the Indian tribes at Killdeer Mountain two years later had no involvement with the Dakota War, historians said.

Though Killdeer Mountain was theoretically punishment for the hostilities in Minnesota, it was beyond any provocation that took place in Minnesota, Isern said.

“This was about the fate of North Dakota territory,” he said.

Somewhat indirectly, the Battle of Killdeer Mountain opened the door for western railroad expansion, pushed many Native Americans onto reservations, and effectively shaped North Dakota 25 years before the territory was even a state.

Killdeer Mountain from the south side looking north. Photo by Dakota Wind.
A New Focus For An Old Battlefield
Historians and educators have put a renewed focus on Killdeer Mountain in recent years, both because of the lead up to the 150th anniversary of the battle, and because of the encroachment of the energy industry on the now-private land on which the battle took place.

New information is being discovered all the time, mostly in the form of U.S. military correspondence and documents, said Isern, but the American Indian perspective is often left out of the story.

More than a century later, the Native narrative that has been passed down orally for two generations or more is starting to help shape modern understanding of the conflict.

Good House said he has been meeting with tribal elders — many whose grandparents witnessed the conflict — who have continued to share the story of Killdeer Mountain with their own children and grandchildren.

“The most important thing is that we’re talking about it and we remember it so another generation or two don’t go by and we forget about it,” he said.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota could, in the future, update their North Dakota studies curriculum to included the American Indian perspective of not only Killdeer Mountain, but of other conflicts across the prairie between the U.S. military and Native Americans, he said.

Though the Civil War-era battles “did nothing but shape anti-American sentiment” among Native American tribes, by continuing to share the story in oral tradition, “I feel like there’s a burden that’s lifted,” Good House said.

“When we talk about history or significant sites or conflicts where terrible things happened, we need to remember those things happened,” he said. “But those things didn’t happen to us today or yesterday or just last year.”

Strange said the goal of Saturday’s event — featuring storytelling, a bison roast and a writing workshop — is to be “inclusive, educational and respectful of all cultures.”

The spiritual significance of Killdeer Mountain, where for years separate bands of Sioux Indians would gather, often for coming-of-age vision quests for young males, lends an added element to the battle that took place there.

A narrative is still taking shape of what happened at Killdeer Mountain 150 years ago, and what it means for North Dakota today.

“In some ways it’s not as climactic, I don’t think, as some have made it out to be,” Isern said, “but in other ways, it’s more so.

“I think it still remains to be placed in full context,” he said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt's Two Wives Of The Badlands

Roosevelt, pictured here in 1884. 
Theodore Roosevelt's Native Wives
Left Behind To Pursue Politics
By Dakota Wind
BADLANDS, N.D. - On November 6, 1934, an Arikara named Sand Hill Crane (a former US Scout too) gave an interview to Colonel Alfred Welch about Theodore Roosevelt and his two native wives. Here's what he said:

“Yes, I know about Roosevelt and the Gros Ventre [Hidatsa] woman he took. He got her. That was the way we did it then. He gave some horses for her. Her name was Brown Head. She was Hidatsa. She’s dead now," said Sand Hill Crane. After Roosevelt left Brown Head, she became the wife of Foolish Woman, a member of the Hidatsa and Sand Hill Crane's cousin, but shortly after their marriage, Brown Head died. 

Then Sand Hill Crane went on to explain, “He got another one. Her name was See The Woman. She was one-half French and one-half Hidatsa. She’s alive yet up at Shell Creek. Yes, I knew him well. He was all right. When he went away he gave the women some horses and things." After Roosevelt's convalescent stay in the Badlands, he returned to the east and entered the political arena. Of Roosevelt's relationship with the two women, Sand Hill Crane shared this, "
So he went away. Then he became a big man. We never said anything about these women to anyone. That’s the way the white men did then in the country."

Roosevelt believed that the American Indians had no claim to the land, and had no desire to hold property. It is evident too, that he didn't think his marriages to Brown Head and See The Woman were valid either, as he left them behind when he sufficiently recovered from the loss of his wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother, Mittie Roosevelt. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Killdeer Mountain Conflict

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman. 
General Sully’s 1864 Punitive Campaign
Conflicts 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 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.[i]

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), Whitestone Hill.[ii]

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.[iii] 

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 U.S. 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.”[iv]

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 Sully and his command caught up to them at Big Mound. The Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta under Phizí (Gall) had crossed the Mníšoše (Missouri River) 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. martial 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.”

Tačháŋȟpi Lúta then referred to the ĺsaŋyathi (Santee) as “hostile,” but that the Huŋkphápȟa camped with them and joined together in the hunt. He doesn’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 and turned north.

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

After the escape at Apple Creek, ĺŋkpaduta and Wakhéye Ská moved their camps in an arc, first northerly, then back east and south, and kept a respectable distance between the Isáŋyathi and Sibley’s retreat. Then the Isáŋyathi journeyed to Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána to make camp and hunt with the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna the following month. Sully found the camp 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.”[v] 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 1890s. 

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 the vesper of sunset, they emerged from the river safely onto Burnt Boat Island (later called Sibley Island).[vi]

The Sibley campaign was the Huŋkphápȟa’s first encounter with U.S. soldiers, 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.[vii]

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.”[viii]

But the camp was moved. At least the Lakȟótas’ was, from the west side of Taȟčá Wakútepi to the southeast side, below Medicine Hole the day before Sully’s arrival,[ix] 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,[x] 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.

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.”[xi]

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.[xii]

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

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[xiv].

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 (Walter Campbell) that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Isáŋyathi were as strangers to the Lakȟóta, and that they lost thirty when their line of defense broke.[xv]

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 along side 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.”[xvi]

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.”[xvii] 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.[xviii]

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.
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

Huŋkphápȟa: 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

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

Pa ÍpuzA Napé Wakpána: Dry Bone Hill Creek (Whitestone Hill Creek)

Phizí: Gall, a war chief of the Huŋkphápȟa (Hunkpapa), one of the seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ tribes

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

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)

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

[i] In an interview conducted by Colonel Alfred Welch with One Bull, July 14, 1934.
[ii] From Mr. Corbin Shoots The Enemy, September 2013.
[iii] Welch, A. B., Welch Dakota Papers (welchdakotapapers.com).
[iv] Larson, R., Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), 45.
[v] Welch, A. B., Welch Dakota Papers (welchdakotapapers.com).
[vi] Interview with Delma Helman, July 2013.
[vii] Vestal, S. (Campbell, W.), Sitting Bull: Champion Of The Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1957).
[viii] Utley, R., The Lance And The Shield: The Life And Times Of Sitting Bull (Henry Holt And Company, 1993), 55.
[ix] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[x] LaPointe, E., Sitting Bull: His Life And Legacy (Gibbs Smith, 2009), p. 49.
[xi] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[xii] Pattee, J., Dakota Campaigns (South Dakota Historical Collections 5, 1910), 308.
[xiii] Hé Núŋpa WaníčA (No Two Horns), thípi with pictographic records, July 7, 1915.
[xiv] Kelly, F., Narrative Of My Captivity Among The Sioux (Mutual Publishing Company, 1871), pp. 274-278.
[xv] White Bull, box 105, notebook 24, pp. 1-6, Walter S. Campbell Collection, University of Oklahoma Library, Norman, OK.
[xvi] From Mr. Tim Hunts In The Winter, March, 2014.
[xvii] 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.
[xviii] Vestal, S., New Sources Of Indian History (Gayley Press, 2008), p. 56.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Repairing A Tipi

A view of Kitson through a tear in a tipi on display in the North Dakota Heritage Center. Kitson mended the tear using traditional methods.
Repairing A Lodge
Standing Rock Woman Fixes Tipi
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – The North Dakota Heritage Center has opened two of its galleries this spring to thousands of visitors from locals to visitors from overseas. The galleries hum and echo with the conversation of hundreds of visitors in an hour. Students in summer school ask questions and look at exhibits with quiet determination if they’re working on an on-site activity.

The Early Peoples gallery features a strong language component in its exhibit design. Part of this design are two displays that receive the most attention: the cyclorama of Yellow Earth Village, which is a huge panoramic painting of a what is known by locals as “Double Ditch,” and a full-size genuine brain-tanned bison hide thipȟéstola (a thípi, or tipi). Visitors, especially young ones want to enter the lodge as soon as they lay eyes upon it.

The thípi was made in 1990 for the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) by Larry Belitz, an enrolled member of the Oglála Lakȟóta on the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The SHSND at one time shone big lamps within the lodge to give it a beautiful glow, but the glow dried it out according to Mr. Mark Halverson, Curator of Collections and Research, “The lamps served only to dry the hide,” which has made it as brittle as paper.

A view of the lodge looking up from the inside. 

Because of its brittle condition, and its popularity with the crowd, the thípi began to tear in a few places. Despite closing the thípi off to visitors and displaying signage discouraging visitors to not touch the display, the lodge developed a tear along a seam, possibly due to young visitors who can’t read, or by foreign visitors unable to read English, or by belligerent excited visitors who can’t keep their paws off the lodge. In any event, it took only one tear.

Repair work on the tear was inevitable. The tear grew daily before it could be mended and it drew attention like bears to honey. Each swipe tore at the seam, until a gaping hole developed. It was awful to see.

Enter: D. Joyce Kitson.

Kitson prepares a patch and welts using brain-tanned bison hide, and bison sinew.

Kitson is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Her traditional Lakȟóta name is Pȟehíŋ Šá Wiŋ (Red Hair Woman), a name carried by her grandmother Matilda Vaulters-Good Iron. Kitson is a master quillworker with works at the National Museum of The American Indian, the North Dakota Heritage Center, and various collections, private and public, here in state and abroad. She also practices the traditional methods of brain-tanning hides, and collecting natural earth pigments.

Kitson is quick to acknowledge who she learned the traditional crafts from. She learned how to tan bison hides from her maternal uŋčí (grandmother) Alice Wears Horns-Vaulters, and uŋčí Zona Lones Arrow. Kitson learned two quillwork methods, one using bird quills in which the feather shaft has been stripped, and the other method involving porcupine quills. Quillwork, Kitson learned from Naomi Black Hawk, Mary Elk, and Alice Blue Legs-New Holy.

Kitson offers formal classes through Sitting Bull College about tanning and smoking hides. She also works through the North Dakota Council on The Arts too, and apprentices two to three learners each year. Her apprentices not only learn how to quill and/or tan, but she requires them to create personal objects for themselves such as awl and quill cases.

Kitson carefully places the patch and welt. The welt will help to preserve the seam where she joins the patch.

“I’m a lifelong learner, as much as I’m a teacher,” says Kitson. She recalled her first teaching experience when she was just sixteen years old at the Fargo-Moorhead Native American Center. Kitson had forty students who she taught the tanning tradition. She is also a mother of five, and taught her children as well.

I don’t press her for details but Kitson acknowledges that she lived a hard life, and enthusiastically professes her faith in God. She freely goes back and forth between reverently calling God “God” and the Lakȟóta address of “Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka." She sees both as one and the same.

Her faith permeates her crafts. “The work shouldn’t be laborious,” she says between drawing sinew through her mouth and fingers, “It should be an honor to work on these hides.” According to Kitson it takes six to eight hours to tan a hide depending upon how big the hide is and whether or not she has assistance.

After prepared the sinew and placing the welt and patch, Kitson begins a whip stitch.

Kitson lives a clean life, “To honor my ancestors, to honor the Authority,” she says. She believes whole-heartedly that if one honors one’s ancestors and the Creator that one, in turn, will be honored and blessed. Right now, Kitson shares, we must honor our youth.

As Kitson works on the thipȟéstola I ask her if she has any stories, “lore” one might say, associated with it. She believes that Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka sends her dreams and visions, sometimes regarding people she should pray for, sometimes a pattern to create with quillwork.

Then Kitson revisited my thipȟéstola query and said, “A thípi is a spiritual covering. It is spiritual protection.” She then shared that once she was walking up Mathó Pahá (Bear Butte), the sky serving as lodge in this story, when she was gifted with a vision about the butte as a pregnant woman about to give birth. The trees and animals upon it signified the birth of the Seventh Generation, and that all the life born thereafter would be gifted with dreams.

Almost done with the patch. Upon assessment of the lodge, there will need to be two more patches, one on the back and another on the top of the entry.

In a related story about the lodge, Kitson shared, her mother had a dream a long time ago about being within a thipȟéstola. “The sky opened up like a book,” she said, “and water poured down.” Her iná (mother) dashed within the lodge and attempted to close the thiyópa (the thípi door) with a safety pin to keep the waters out. Her iná prayed about this dream and received the revelation that the water was the Holy Spirit, and that the people were not yet ready for the Word.

Kitson finished patching the thipȟéstola. The hide visibly delicate in various places, the SHSND can anticipate future repair work on it as long as the lodge is on display and within reach of the general public’s paws.

Kitson shared one more thing as she repaired the lodge, “I would like to create one.”