|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
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Although Minnesota has been called the "Land of the Dakotas," the Sioux, as well as the Pawnees, roamed over the entire Mississippi Basin, previous to its settlement; and were found, at different times, in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. They are now located principally in South Dakota.
The word "Sioux" is of French origin. The tribes to whom it was applied called themselves "Dakotas," meaning "allied," or "joined together." The Indians in general, alluded to them as "cut-throats," drawing the hand across the throat in pantomime reference.
There were three great divisions of the nation; the I-san-ya'-ti, I-hank-ton'-wan, or Yankton, and the Ti-ton'-wan. Each division had its dialect.
Among these Arabs of America, the chiefs were not possessed of undue power. They might suggest, but seldom enforced; and usually depended for influence upon popularity with the people. The Indian is by far the most ardent advocate of liberty.
If a Dakota died, his nearest friend killed an enemy. The dead were laid upon scaffolds and allowed to remain a certain length of time, after which burial took place. The grief and devotion of a savage wife are brought out in the old legend of Eagle Eye and Scarlet Dove.
Eagle Eye was the son of a famous war prophet who lived many years ago. The young brave was a bitter foe, a warm friend and a wise counsellor. Scarlet Dove, whom he chose as a wife, was distinguished for goodness as well as for beauty; and in the eyes of her father, was worth the finest of horses and blankets. Eagle Eye did not hesitate to pay the required price; and, according to custom, prepared a lodge for his bride. Only a few moons after the marriage they joined a hunting party passing down the Mississippi River.
One day as the husband, watching for deer, crouched behind some bushes, a comrade accidentally shot an arrow into his heart. The lamentations of Scarlet Dove could be heard from afar. She cut and lacerated her flesh in a terrible manner; and wrapping the body of her loved one in skins, put it upon a temporary scaffold and sat beneath. The hunting party moved. She carried the dead upon her back, and at every camp erected a scaffold. At length they reached home, the sorrowing bride still bearing her precious burden. She procured forks and poles and built a strong scaffold. Hanging from this, was discovered a few days later, the body of Scarlet Dove.
Mirrors, when first introduced among the Dakotas, were regarded as sacred; and women were denied the privilege of gazing therein. As a consequence, the young men of the nation became the more remarkable for vanity, decking themselves out to an unusual degree with savage finery. An eagle feather, with a red spot denoted the killing of an enemy. A notch cut in the edges of a feather painted red indicated that the throat of an enemy had been cut. One who had seen a fight, even though he might not have participated was allowed to mount a feather. Horses' tails, beads, wampum and a variety of paints were also used by way of decoration.
The women were hard-working and submissive. Plural marriages being fertile sources of discontent, suicides were not infrequent.
Anepetusa was an unfortunate wife whose sad story has become a part of the traditional history of Minnesota. When young and beautiful she became the bride of a Dakota hunter. For a time all was peace and contentment in the lodge. Anepetusa was a happy wife, and her joy was increased by the birth of a child. The boy grew strong and handsome, as the years passed by; but, at length, a deep shadow fell across the threshold of the forest home. A second wife was purchased, and came to share the humble habitation. All the world seemed dark to the now-neglected woman. The child was her sole remaining comfort. An expression of deep sorrow settled upon the once beautiful features, yet no murmur escaped her lips. Grieving in silence, she followed her lord and master upon a hunting expedition. He appeared utterly indifferent to this devotion. They approached the Falls of St. Anthony. Taking the child by the hand, Anepetusa walked out into rapid water and entered a canoe. As they pushed into the swift current she chanted an unearthly dirge. A moment afterward the astonished husband saw her go over the falls. His heart was stricken with terror by the wild ringing of a death song that could be plainly distinguished above the roaring of the waterfall.
From that time forth, so the Dakotas said, the spirit of an Indian wife, with a child clinging around her neck, might be seen darting into the spray; and her death song was heard in the moaning of the winds and the raging of the waters.
Each Dakota was supposed to have four souls. At the extinction of physical life, one remained in or near the body, another was lodged in a bundle containing hair and clothes of the deceased, kept by relatives and thrown into the enemy's country, the third passed into the spirit land, and the fourth entered the body of a child, plant or animal.
The following petition, translated by a United States interpreter, was a typical prayer of these primitive people:
"Spirits, or ghosts, have mercy on me; and show me where I can find a bear."
All unusual occurrences were regarded as good or evil omens. In crossing a lake or other body of water, the Dakotas filled their pipes and invoked the winds to be calm. According to Schoolcraft, they did not believe in the transmigration of souls. Worship was "in a natural state. There were no images of wood. A stone was picked up, placed a few rods from the lodge, an offering of tobacco or feathers was made, and an entreaty for protection from some threatened evil.
O-an-tay'-hee, the Supreme god, was regarded with the utmost reverence. His name, like that of Jehovah of the Israelites, was seldom spoken. He created the earth. Assembling the aquatic tribes, he commanded them to bring up dirt from beneath the water, at the same time proclaiming death to the disobedient. This would indicate that the Indian, as well as the modern scientist, realized the fact that the earth was in a liquid state at one period. The beaver and other animals forfeited their lives. At last the muskrat went down and, after a long delay, returned with some dirt, from which the earth was formed.
Taking one of his own offspring, O-an-tay'-hee ground him to powder and sprinkled it upon the earth; many worms came forth; they were collected and scattered again and matured into infants; these, having been collected and scattered, became full-grown Dakotas. The bones of the mastodon were assumed to be those of O-an-tay'-hee; and in some medicine bags, small portions were preserved among the sacred articles.
Hay-o-kah was a powerful deity, who could kill anything he looked upon, with his piercing eyes. There were four persons in this godhead. The first was tall and slender, with two faces. In his hands were a bow streaked with red lightning and a rattle of deer claws. The second, a little old man with a cocked hat and large ears, held a yellow bow. The third had a flute suspended from his neck; and the fourth, invisible and mysterious, was the gentle breeze which "swayed the grass and rippled the water."
Taku-shkan-shkan, unseen but ever present, was a revengeful, dissimulating, wicked searcher of hearts. His favorite resorts were the four winds.
Wah-keen-yan, a god in the form of a huge bird whose flapping wings made thunder, lived in a tepee on a mound rising from a mountain-top in the far West. His tepee, guarded by sentinels clothed in red down, had four openings. A butterfly was stationed at the east, a bear at the west, a fawn at the south and a reindeer at the north. He fashioned the first spear and tomahawk and attempted to kill the offspring of O-an-tay'-hee, his bitter enemy. When lightning struck, it was supposed that the latter was near the surface of the earth and Wah-keen-yan had fired a hot thunderbolt at him.
Captain Eastman writes of Unk-ta-he, the God of Water, and Chah-o-ter'-dah, the Forest God, who lived in a tree on a high eminence. His house was situated at its base. By a strange power of attraction, he drew birds, who performed the duties of guards.
Chah-o-ter'-dah was the relentless foe of the Thunder God. Indian fancy has pictured many a spirited battle between the two. It was said that the God of Thunder often came racing along, hurling lightning at a tree, to kill the Forest God, who, having been warned, had taken refuge in the water. Then Chah-o-ter'-dah ascended a tree and hurled his lightning at his adversary to bring him down to submission. The Forest God possessed a crooked gun, with which it was possible to shoot in any direction around the earth.
The God of the Grass, Whitte-kah-gah, was formed from a weed, pa-jee-ko-lah, which had the power of causing men to have fits, as well as to give success in hunting.
Wa-hun-de-dan (Aurora Borealis, or Old Woman) was the goddess of war.
The Dakotas believed in numerous fairies of the land and water, in the shape of animals, with ability to perform various services for mankind; and in frightful giants, in whose honor were established many feasts and dances. There was a clan called the "Giant's Party." Men only participated in the ceremonies of this organization. On stated occasions, they went hopping and singing around the fire, over which kettles of meat were boiling. Every few moments, one would put in a hand and pull out a piece of meat, which he ate, scalding hot. After it was all eaten, the dancers splashed hot water on one another's backs, crying out "Oh, how cold it is!"
The impression among the people was that the god would not permit his clan to be injured by these rites.
In some feasts of the Dakotas, everything was sacred. Not a morsel of meat was permitted to fall to the ground, otherwise the spirits would be displeased and some calamity might befall. Bones were gathered up and burned, or thrown into the water, out of reach of the dogs and so they could not be trampled on by the women. Sometimes a present was bestowed upon the one who ate his dishful first. This caused much haste, as soon as eating began, accompanied by a great blowing, stirring and grunting.
The Medicine Dance, instituted by O-an-tay'-hee, was conducted as the proceedings of a secret society. War prophets and medicine men, waw keen, were revered as demi-gods. They were believed to have led spiritual existences, enclosed in seeds, something like those of the thistle, which were wafted to the abode of the gods, with whom the waw keen sustained confidential relations. They received instruction in the magic of the spirit-land and went out to study all nations; then, selecting a location, were born into the world.
When, at the proper time, a person signified his desire to join the priesthood, he was initiated by the Medicine Dance. First, the candidate must take a hot bath, four days in succession; then he was taught the uses of medicine and its mysteries by the old men of the society; after which, he was provided with a dish and spoon. On one side of the dish was carved the head of some animal, in which lived the Spirit of Eeyah, the Glutton God. The owner always thereafter carried the dish to the Medicine Dance. He was taught the use of paints and must always appear in the dance, decorated in the same manner. The paint was supposed to have supernatural virtue and caused an object to become invisible or invulnerable. In battle, it was regarded as a life preserver.
Before beginning the dance of initiation, ten or twenty prominent members spent the night dancing and feasting. In the morning, the tent was opened. The candidate, painted and nude, with the exception of breech-cloth and moccasins, was seated on a pile of blankets, an elder being stationed in the rear. The master of ceremonies, bag in hand, approached, ejaculating, "Heen, heen, heen!" and raising the bag to a painted spot upon the breast of the novice. Suddenly the latter was pushed forward and covered with blankets. The dancers collected around him. The leader, throwing off the covering, chewed a piece of the bone of O-an-tay-hee and sprinkled it over him. Dancing around the candidate, the members patted his breast until he heaved up a shell, Which had been placed in his throat. Life was now fully restored; and the shell was passed from hand to hand for examination. Ceremonies closed with more dancing, continued until four sets of singers, with gourds, drums and rattles, had been exhausted.
War parties were made up by anyone injured. The head of the party was a great medicine man or prophet, or one distinguished in some way. The war chief made a dance every three or four nights, before the party marched. All who chose might join, and any one was at liberty to return, should he so desire, after the party started. War paint was red and black in color, and the dance was executed by men.
Women performed the Scalp Dance, in which scalps, mounted upon poles, were carried. The Sun Dance was another popular festivity, and has been said to be the cause of the weak eyes, noticeable among the devotees.
Ta-ton-ka-I-yo-ton-ka (Sitting Bull)
When the Sioux were in a complete state of barbarism, strange as it may seem, they maintained a high standard of morality. Violation of the code was invariably followed by complete loss of rights in the tribe. At certain celebrations, maidens proclaimed their purity by joining in the dance. Coming in contact with the white race, the Indians first adopted their vices, then, as civilization advanced and the younger members of the tribes returned from the schools and colleges, they began to emulate the virtues of their conquerors.
Taking the Degree of Manhood was a savage custom adhered to by the Dakotas until a recent date. When youths had attained proper age, they proved a right to the degree by torturing themselves in different ways. Sometimes a skewer was driven through the arm and heavy articles hung upon the projecting ends. The flesh was cut and bruised. If an aspirant bore the pain without flinching, he was deemed worthy of all privileges accorded to men. These practices have been discontinued by order of the United States Government.
Travelers in the Sioux country are frequently entertained with recitals of
Sitting Bull, the famous commander at the Custer massacre, was, during his prosperous years, the chief of chiefs, or supreme head of the nation. He first inherited the office, and was able to retain it because of mental superiority and by reason of the fact that, until the last hope was gone, he assumed an uncompromising position in regard to the encroachment of the whites. Then, too, Ta-ton-ka-I-yo-ton-ka was a medicine man, capable of arousing religious fervor. That he was cruel toward the enemies of his people cannot be denied; but, according to the red man's philosophy, that was simple bravery and loyalty.
The authority of a leader was seldom questioned, although a petty chief was privileged to disregard orders, should he so desire.
Sitting Bull left an autobiography in pictograph. It contained a description of conflicts in which the hero had counted coup on numerous enemies, both white and Indian, and secured their scalps. There were also records of horse-stealing. The signature consisted of the picture of a buffalo in a sitting posture. Little is known of the early history of the chief; his own accounts vary; he seemed to be well educated and could converse fluently in French and English, as well as in the different Indian languages.
The Custer massacre took place in 1877. After the Sioux war had ended and the savages had surrendered, placing themselves under the protection of the Government, they were retained as prisoners at Fort Randall, South Dakota. The commandant caused a stockade to be erected, but Sitting Bull refused to enter it, selecting, in preference, a strip of bottom land close to the river, for winter quarters, in order that there might be plenty of fire-wood near at hand. In summer, a pleasant location about three hundred yards from the garrison, was chosen, where a guard, composed of one non-commissioned officer and nine men, was stationed. At that time a majority of the prisoners had not learned cleanliness, and for the purpose of improving sanitary conditions, the quarters were inspected daily by the post surgeon and the officer of the day. Every one was compelled to wash each morning. A soldier asserts that some of the Indians appeared heart-broken and became sick and died. Might it not be more just to explain that daily baths in the river, in a cold climate, were the causes of mortality?
A death was followed by the customary rites. On every hill in the vicinity of the camp a woman might be seen and heard, mourning and howling, in the hope that the departed would return to make an assignment of his effects, which were few, inasmuch as the most valuable articles had been lowered into the grave. Among them were usually placed a knife, tin cup, moccasins, blanket and piece of buckskin. The ancient rule of laying the dead upon a scaffold was not permitted to be put into practice.
Burials took place in the day, and at night grand dances were held. Indians on the opposite side of the river were invited to participate. Tin cans, which had been collected and taken to the tepees, served as musical instruments. The noise and confusion were sometimes deafening, dances being kept up almost continuously. Both men and women spent much time in making arrow tips from old iron hoops.
While at Fort Randall, Sitting Bull received an order from the quartermaster for three sacks of hay. Accompanied by a slave wife and a favorite, be presented the order. The large army bed sacks were calmly handed to the man in charge, who refused to fill them, telling the Indian to attend to that himself. The Sioux then turned to the slave wife, commanding her to perform the menial office. She did so with most abject humility, tying the bundle with a piece of rawhide; then the poor creature crawled beneath the huge mass, pushing her head under it first and gradually forcing the burden upon her back. This accomplished, she rose slowly upon hands and knees and at last regained her feet. Being asked, indignantly, why he did not assist the woman, the great chief answered with an expressive grunt.
An army officer, Major McLaughlin, secured several autographs of the celebrated leader, but found it impossible to induce him to sit for a photograph, until he had obtained twenty-five dollars and a white shirt. The shirt proved too small, but the chief fastened it at the hack of the neck with a buckskin string. Despite these weaknesses, he was dignified in behavior and apparently unmoved by curiosity, although the room of the officer contained many objects new and strange to him.
During a severe storm, lightning struck a tree near the Indian camp, forty or fifty yards from the tent of Ta-ton-ka-I-yo-ton-ka; He immediately broke camp and removed to summer quarters, saying the evil spirit was after his people. Nothing could convince him that the Great Spirit was not angry with him for leaving Canada, when he crossed to the American side and surrendered, after the Custer massacre, at the Little Big Horn. He said that all the water in the Missouri River could not wash out the white man's stains of crime.
Spotted Tail and Red Cloud were also dangerous to the peace of the northwestern country. Spotted Tail had two attractive daughters, one of whom died on the way to Fort Laramie, while the Indians were going in to surrender. Thomas Dorion, the man who went out as a messenger of peace, desired to marry the girl and she expressed a willingness to become his wife. It was largely due to her influence with her father, that he and Red Cloud consented to accompany the emissary to Fort Laramie to hold council and make a treaty. Her sad life and premature death, which was, no doubt, the result of exposure and the vicissitudes of war, aroused great sympathy. The other daughter, Water Carrier, was much admired by the army officers and received many valuable presents. One of her relatives asserts that the officers seemed infatuated, but that she never manifested any reciprocity. Water Carrier was deeply attached to her father's people and became the wife of Lone Elk. They live at the Rosebud Agency, South Dakota.
The Sioux, like all tribes, are rapidly discarding their ancient beliefs. Government schools have done effective work; and while the number of "squaw men," or those who marry into the nation, is less than in the tribes of the Indian Territory, there is yet a liberal infusion of white blood. The dances, in a revised form, are, of recent years, indulged in by way of recreation or for the amusement of spectators.
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