Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Legend Of Sica Hollow

Sica Hollow State Park, in South Dakota.
The Legend Of Sica Hollow
Remembering The Good Land
By Dakota Wind
SICA HOLLOW STATE PARK, S.D. – ŠíčA Hollow is a rise of gently rolling hills that are thickly wooded with cottonwood, ash, and some oak. Cool crystal streams of water burst out of the hillsides in a series of little waterfalls. The sounds of babbling brooks carry only as far as the nearest trees and hills allow. Winding footpaths and horse trails run seemingly at random throughout the park and everywhere daylight and shadow fell.

An extended Dakȟóta family had gathered in the forest shade alongside a stream for prayer and community as they celebrated the naming of two of their own. The family patriarch, a Dakȟóta spiritual leader officiated the naming ceremony. They didn’t allow photography or other media to record the event, but I think I can share this: my friend stood upon a star quilt laid there upon the ground, and as he received his Dakȟóta name the sun broke through the cloudy overcast and shown down so intently, that an afterimage of a star quilt was burned into my eyes for a quarter of an hour afterwards. 

"...I saw a tree bent in an arch over the path."

I had decided to take a brief walk through the woods, when in my path I saw a tree bent in an arch over the path. I wondered at the way it grew, and so asked the eldest Dakȟóta in attendance about it. She said if there was one, she couldn’t recall, but told me to go back and take a cutting from the root and to plant it back home.

The park is named “Sica Hollow” and I suspected that there must be a story there and asked that uŋčí (grandmother) about it. She said that a long time ago it was called Makȟóčhe Wašte (The Good Country). My friend sent me some information about the park name he acquired from Blue Cloud Abbey. A monk of the abbey, Fr. Stanislaus Maudlin, had recorded an unattributed story of ŠíčA Hollow. It follows here with minor edits:

Fr. Stanislaus Maudlin, O.S.B. (above), was honored with the Dakȟóta name Waŋbdí Wičháša (Eagle Man).

There is a place that today is called ŠíčA Hollow. It is deep and dark, and long memories live there. Few people, except the Sisíthuŋwaŋ (Sisseton), know its entrance, and these people keep its story a secret.

Once it was a shelter for many camps. Quiet smokes rose up to the prairie. Wazíya (North Wind) tried every opening into the Hollow, but the great trees held back his white breath.

Deer and antelope slipped into the folds of the Makȟóčhe Wašte. They found open water and salt, when all the earth above was hard with ice.

Great thipȟéstola (lodges) lay under buffalo robes, and the old men sat every day in their thípiyókhiheya (council lodge). Their bones were warm, and their pipes prayed to tȟuŋkášila (grandfather), who had blessed them.

But a stranger came from the west into the Makȟóčhe Wašte.

His bow was broken and his moccasins were worn. He had no family. He made a sign to say his name was Napé (Hand). He was not tall, and his eyes were thin. The young girls looked at him, and something told them to be afraid.

He ate much, and did not show thanks. He laughed under his breath at the wičháȟčala (elder men), and no one saw him pray. He did not smile like good men do, nor did he tell stories.

The winúȟčala (elder women) said he should be sent away. But it was cold outside of Makȟóčhe Wašte, and thick ice covered the Bdé Íŋyaŋȟčake (Granite Lake, Big Stone Lake). The wičháȟčala said he would go when it was warm.

After several moons the great light in the sky, Wí (the Sun), began to move back to the north. Uŋčí Makȟá (Grandmother Earth) began to open and let out her young. Young braves quit their winter games and crept out of Makȟóčhe Wašte to search for fresh meat and for the eggs of water birds that flew at night from the south.

Napé was older and slyer, and he showed the young boys many tricks. He hid like a lynx in the grass. His eye drew the game to him. He was proud and laughed at the mistakes of the young men.

Around the prairie camp fire, when the old men could not hear, he said, "Why do you follow the old ways? What little glory do you have? In the dark of the night I can bring you to big kills that will make you warriors, feared by everyone. You will be great chiefs and wear scalps at your belts. Not the tails of rabbits. Will you listen to me, and keep my secrets away from the council fires?"

It was spring, and the young braves' hearts were beating for the beautiful maidens hidden in their mothers' thipȟéstola. A great kill would prove manhood, and the maidens would surrender to marriage.

"Listen, then, to me and prepare your war clubs. Soon the Valley trail will be dusty with camps moving north to the Lakes of Rice. If you follow me, you will strike many coups, and you will have many eagle feathers in your hair. You will be men, not old skeletons who sit and dream in the lodges."

This talk stirred the blood of the youths, and they made war clubs and waited. Every dawn they watched the Valley in order to make their first kill.

And it was easy.

The people of Makȟóčhe Wašte had a always been good. The camps who passed them sent signals of friendship and slept safe on the open earth.

Now no more. Napé had taught the boys to strike.

Travelers woke to wail over their dead. They ran for their lives into the tall grass, holding their hands over the mouths of the little ones. Blood ran everywhere. It fell into the River, and even today this river is called Šá (Red).

The horror spread into the Makȟóčhe Wašte. Children ran for fear when they saw the dripping scalps. Women and girls spat on the tracks where the boys walked. The wičháȟčala called for a Council and for the wičháša wakȟáŋ (medicine man).

"How can we make up for what our Sons have done? How can we wash Makȟóčhe Wašte from this crime? What will be our Sacrifice? We want Makȟóčhe Wašte to be as it was long ago.

The wičháša wakȟáŋ listened to the old men. He went to his own lodge to listen to Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka (Great Spirit). He sat with his whistle and rattle and burning sweetgrass. He did not sleep, but his eyes were closed. He waited for Wakíŋyaŋ (a thunder-being) to bring him a message.

And Napé did not sleep. He and his killers lit a big fire in the middle of the camp. They leaped and killed again and again. They bragged and shouted to the girls, "Lift up the wihúta (base of a thípi) and follow us out into the grass. Your children will have our blood in them and everyone will tremble when they call out."

But the camp listened only to the wičháša wakȟáŋ and prayed with him. An evil had come into their Peace, and only Wakíŋyaŋ could cleanse it from them.

A wind stirred . The whistle and rattle in the lodge stilled. Tȟuŋkášila (Grandfather; Great Spirit) had heard his people. He had accepted their sacrifice. His messenger was coming.

Through the smoke holes women saw the dark wings of Wakíŋyaŋ. A flash and then another come from his eyes.

Sudden fear touched the shoulders of Napé. He crouched and shook like a water reed. Madness took him, but he could not escape. He ran and ran, but the wings of Wakíŋyaŋ beat him back into the flood that rained from the cloud.

Vines reached out for him and took him by his ankles. The water rose to his screaming mouth and to his gaping eyes. He was too evil to cry for mercy, and the talons of Wakíŋyaŋ ripped out his sight, so he would never see Wanáği Wičhóti (where the spirits dwell; “Happy Hunting Grounds”).

Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka did not take all the sacrifice offered to him by his people in Makȟóčhe Wašte. Most sat in their thipȟéstola and went to Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka with a prayer.

But one was saved. By her father she was called Thíŋgléška (Fawn).

When the wičháša wakȟáŋ had began his prayer Thíŋgléška slipped into the door of her mother's thipȟéstola. Her hair was black as a raven and long. With a bone she began to comb it and oil it. She set it into two braids and tied the ends with a bit of ermine. From her bundle she drew her tassled dress and high white moccasins. Her Medicine was calling her to flee the rising water.

Up and up the steep slope she flew. The water rose higher behind her. All the world was covered. On the top of the highest hill she stood bright and smooth-skinned in the sun light. She was alone, the only one of her tribe not touched by man or by the evil that Napé had brought to her people.

She began her song, and Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka behind Wí listened:

"I am grieved for the evil that my brothers did. Your beautiful land is destroyed. I stand alone with you. Let me sing my song, before I join my sisters. You were good to us before evil entered our Peace. Now I grieve. I ask your kindness. Tȟuŋkášila make this ground, where I stand, holy again. Remember this little spot and send your love here. From this ground make a new people and they will worship you always. Now I go to you."

Her song and her great grief made Thíŋgléška drop to the ground and she slept. Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka saw her, and he sent a white cloud to cover her. She slept many days, and the cloud covered her.

She could not feel it, but from the cloud new life stirred in her. She felt no pain either, but a motion awakened her. It was a child hungry for her milk.

A tall brave looked down on her and touched her face.

Below her the hollow was clean and bright again. Only the memory lingers, ŠíčA Hollow. Some day even this bad name will be changed and be forgotten. Gentle smokes will rise again. It will be called by its old name: Makȟóčhe Wašte (the Good Country).