Friday, October 24, 2014

Solar Eclipse Remembered As "Fire Cloud"

A partial solar eclipse as seen on the Northern Great Plains, Oct. 23, 2014.
Solar Eclipse Remembered As "Fire Cloud"
Cloud Cover Gives A Glimpse Of Event
By Dakota Wind
Great Plains, N.D. - In the Lakȟóta creation story, Wí (the Sun) and Haŋwí (the Moon) were created after Makȟóčhe (Grandmother Earth) and Škáŋ (the Source of All Power and All that Moves). 

Sometime after creation, Iktómi (the Trickster) convinced Ité (Face), the beautiful daughter of Wazíya (the Power of the North) and his wife Wakánaka (Old Woman) to commit an indiscretion with Wí and usurp the place of Haŋwí , even as Ité herself was married to Tȟaté (the Wind). 

It so happened then, that at a feast in the lodge of Haŋwí, that Ité seated herself next to Wí. When Haŋwí entered her lodge and found Ité in her place they all laughed at the situation, and Haŋwí drew her shawl over her own face in shame. 

After the feast, Škáŋ presided over all as judge and pronounced that Wí should be rendered from the embrace and comfort of Haŋwí, and from that time forward, Wí ruled the day, and Haŋwí the night. However, Haŋwí might appear in daylight because Wí is her husband and she may want to see him, but when they appear together in the sky, Haŋwí, to this day, draws her shawl over her face in shame. 

Ité received her due. Škáŋ allowed her to keep her beauty, but only one half of her would retain it, the other half was rendered so hideous that any who looked upon her would be terrified. From that time on, she was called Anúŋg Ité (Double Face). She was also parted from her husband Tȟaté and their children, the Tȟatíye Tópa (the Four Winds) and their youngest son, the fifth wind, Tȟatéiyumni (Whirlwind). 

Iktómi was banished to the edge of the world, and would forever remain friendless. 

"The Morning-Sun A-Died [1869]," The Swan Winter Count. 

The Sun Died
On August 7, 1869, a full solar eclipse darkened the Great Plains. Ten Lakȟóta winter counts from all seven Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Teton) tribes remember this outstanding event. Nearly all remember the event as Wí’kte, or "The sun died."

An earlier eclipse, this one in the 1830s, is remembered by the Huŋkphápȟa Lakȟóta as Maȟphíya Yapȟéta, or “Fire Cloud.” The Huŋkphápȟa leader is named for this event, as was his son in turn. Fire Cloud later fought at the Little Bighorn.

Dr. Washington Matthews, the post surgeon at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, recalled that the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) chief Matȟó Núŋpa (Two Bear) and his band camped outside the fort for the express purpose of viewing the eclipse and discourse with the soldiers about it. They viewed the eclipse through smoked glass. One of the mysteries of creation seemingly explained by way of science, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna solemnly parted ways with the soldiers.

Matȟó Núŋpa later fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

A rainbow in the clouds preceded the eclipse.

A Rainbow In The Cloud
The morning was relatively calm. Quiet and cloudless, but as morning passed into afternoon clouds marred the autumnal landscape. Immediately following work I raced my little beast north of town. Dark clouds on the western horizon crawled ominously across the sky, threatening to overtake the heavens.

A rainbow appeared in the clouds above and gently illuminated the gray with a pearly luster.

The Lakȟóta have the tradition to politely point at rainbows with one's elbow or one's lips. If you point with your finger, they say, your finger will swell up. The story behind the swollen finger lies in an old tale about spirits that live in the rainbow who discovered a boy who had ascended their arch and entered their world. He was never seen again, and rainbows became intangible ever after.

The clouds only seemed to get darker.

One cloud split and light cascaded down like downy feathers. High above the open sky another cloud, pale and high, made the sun itself appear as if it were swimming, rays of light played with shadow upon the prairie. Then I looked past the veil and saw the sun.

A friend of mine shared a conversation with me between her and her father, Mr. Warren Horse Looking. Mr. Horse Looking explained the eclipse as the sun disappearing. In Lakȟóta: Aŋpétuwí Tókȟaȟ'aŋ (Disappearing Sun).

Another friend's uncle, Mr. Jon Eagle, translates eclipse as Wí’Atá, which translates as "Sun Entire." Atá serves as an intensifier in many sentences, as to say here, "completely," or "greatly." Perhaps even here, it could mean a full solar eclipse. Clearly there are many ways of regarding the solar eclipse within the Lakȟóta language. I for one, like the various descriptions for talking about nature and the world. 

My haŋkáši (female cousin) Leslie (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; Dakota), shared with me that she learned eclipse as "KhaphéyA," a contraction of WakhápheyA, which means "Of A Singular Appearance," which I think beautifully explains the sun and moon during a solar eclipse.

I learned that the Dakȟóta refer to the eclipse as Wí’te, or “New Moon.” The New Lakota Dictionary 2nd Edition has two entries for eclipse: Aháŋzi, or “Shadow,” and AóhanziyA, or “To cast a shadow upon.” My personal preference is Fire Cloud.

Aháŋzi: Shadow

Aŋpétuwí Tókȟaȟ'aŋ: Disappearing Sun

AóhanziyA: To Cast A Shadow Upon

Maȟphíya Yapȟéta: Fire Cloud

WakhápheyA: Of A Singular Appearance

Wí’Atá: Sun Entire

Wí’kte: The Sun Died

Wí’te: "New Moon"