Music: Faithkeeper, Part 1 by David & Steve Gordon
|A Holy Story
A Dakota Sioux Legend
Now I will tell the story of how a Holy Man, the greatest in the tribe, made mystery-power in days of old.
The people were encamped in a circle with the opening towards the east. In the middle of the circle they set up a great tipi made of several tipi's put
together. On one side of the tipi sat the women, on the other side the men. And they made ready a great feast. Beyond the central fire, opposite the
doorway, the Holy Man made mystery. With a stick like an arrow he made a line of holes in the ground a finger's length deep. Then he touched the
ground in front of all the people and came back to the doorway and sat down. And he bade the people hasten to prepare the mystery. So they took
the clay and filled the holes with it and covered the holes with earth. When they had done this the Holy Man touched ground. Then he came back to
the doorway and was about to sing. And the people watched the ground where the clay was buried and, behold, young plants began to sprout.
Then, before he sang, the Holy Man said:
Far to the west,
Far by the sky
Stands a blue Elk.
That Elk standing
watches over all the females
On the earth.
Far to the east,
Far by the sky
Stands a blue Elk.
That Elk standing
watches over all the females
On the earth.
Thus he spoke. And then he said, "Now I will sing," on the drum he sang a holy song. When he had sung he bade the people pull up the sprouts, and
they did so; one by one they pulled them up. And behold, roots were holy mystery-power. And the people took the mystery-power and laid it on
sprigs of sage, for sage is holy because it heals. This mystery would protect the warriors in war. No arrow could pierce them, no arrow could strike
them, unharmed would they pass through every danger.
So have I told of how a Holy Man made mystery to help the people.
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|A Warrior's Daughter
A Dakota Sioux Legend
In the afternoon shadow of a large tepee, with red-painted smoke lapels, sat a warrior father with crossed shins. His head was so poised that his eye
swept easily the vast level of land to the eastern horizon line.
He was the chieftain's bravest warrior. He had won by heroic deeds the privilege of staking his wigwam within the great circle of tepees. He was
also one of the most generous gift givers to the toothless old people. For this he was entitled to the red-painted smoke lapels on his cone shaped
dwelling. He was proud of his honors. He never wearied of rehearsing nightly his own brave deeds. Though by wigwam fires he prated much of his
high rank and widespread fame, his great joy was a wee black-eyed daughter of eight sturdy winters. Thus as he sat upon the soft grass with his wife
at his side, bent over her bead work, he was singing a dance song, and beat lightly the rhythm with his slender hands.
His shrewd eyes softened with pleasure as he watched the easy movements of the small body dancing on the green before him.
Tusee is taking her first dancing lesson. Her tightly-braided hair curves over both brown ears like a pair of crooked little horns which glisten in the
With her feet snugly close together, and a wee hand at her belt to stay the long string of beads which hang from her bare neck, she bends her knees
gently to the rhythm of her father's voice.
Now she ventures upon the earnest movement, slightly upward and side-wise, in a circle. At length the song drops into a closing cadence, and the
little woman, clad in beaded deerskin, sits down beside the elder one. Like her mother, she sits upon her feet. In a brief moment the warrior repeats
the last refrain. Again Tusee springs to her feet and dances to the swing of the few final measures.
Just as the dance was finished, an elderly man, with short, thick hair loose about his square shoulders, rode into their presence from the rear, and
leaped lightly from his pony's back. Dropping the rawhide rein to the ground, he tossed himself lazily on the grass. "Hunhe, you have returned
soon," said the warrior, while extending a hand to his little daughter.
Quickly the child ran to her father's side and cuddled close to him, while he tenderly placed a strong arm about her. Both father and child, eyeing the
figure on the grass, waited to hear the man's report.
"It is true," began the man, with a stranger's accent. "This is the night of the dance." "Hunha!" muttered the warrior with some surprise.
Propping himself upon his elbows, the man raised his face. His features were of the Southern type. From an enemy's camp he was taken captive
long years ago by Tusee's father. But the unusual qualities of the slave had won the Sioux warrior's heart, and for the last three winters the man had
had his freedom. He was made real man again. His hair was allowed to grow. However, he himself had chosen to stay in the warrior's family.
"Hunha!" again ejaculated the warrior father. Then turning to his little daughter, he asked, "Tusee, do you hear that?"
"Yes, father, and I am going to dance tonight!"
With these words she bounded out of his arm and frolicked about in glee. Hereupon the proud mother's voice rang out in a chiding laugh.
"My child, in honor of your first dance your father must give a generous gift. His ponies are wild, and roam beyond the great hill. Pray, what has he
fit to offer?" she questioned, the pair of puzzled eyes fixed upon her.
"A pony from the herd, mother, a fleet-footed pony from the herd!" Tusee shouted with sudden inspiration.
Pointing a small forefinger toward the man lying on the grass, she cried, "Uncle, you will go after the pony tomorrow!" And pleased with her
solution of the problem, she skipped wildly about. Her childish faith in her elders was not conditioned by a knowledge of human limitations, but
thought all things possible to grown-ups.
"Hahob!" exclaimed the mother, with a rising inflection, implying by the expletive that her child's buoyant spirit be not weighted with a denial.
Quickly to the hard request the man replied, "How! I go if Tusee tells me so!"
This delighted the little one, whose black eyes brimmed over with light. Standing in front of the strong man, she clapped her small brown hands with
"That makes me glad! My heart is good! Go, uncle, and bring a handsome pony!" she cried. In an instant she would have frisked away, but an
impulse held her tilting where she stood. In the man's own tongue, for he had taught her many words and phrases, she exploded, "Thank you, good
uncle, thank you!" then tore away from sheer excess of glee.
The proud warrior father, smiling and narrowing his eyes, muttered approval, "Howo! Hechetu!"
Like her mother, Tusee has finely penciled eyebrows and slightly extended nostrils; but in her sturdiness of form she resembles her father. A loyal
daughter, she sits within her tepee making beaded deerskins for her father, while he longs to stave off her every suitor as all unworthy of his old
heart's pride. But Tusee is not alone in her dwelling. Near the entrance-way a young brave is half reclining on a mat. In silence he watches the
petals of a wild rose growing on the soft buckskin.
"I asked him for his only daughter."
Quickly the young woman slips the beads on the silvery sinew thread, and works them into the pretty flower design. Finally, in a low, deep voice, the
young man begins: "The sun is far past the zenith. It is now only a man's height above the western edge of land. I hurried hither to tell you
tomorrow I join the war party."
He pauses for reply, but the maid's head drops lower over her deerskin, and her lips are more firmly drawn together. He continues: "Last night in
the moonlight I met your warrior father. He seemed to know I had just stepped forth from your tepee. I fear he did not like it, for though I greeted
him, he was silent. I halted in his pathway. With what boldness I dared, while my heart was beating hard and fast, I asked him for his only daughter.
"Drawing himself erect to his tallest height, and gathering his loose robe more closely about his proud figure, he flashed a pair of piercing eyes upon
me. 'Young man,' said he, with a cold, slow voice that chilled me to the marrow of my bones, 'hear me. Naught but an enemy's scalp-lock, plucked
fresh with your own hand, will buy Tusee for your wife.' Then he turned on his heel and stalked away." Tusee thrusts her work aside. With earnest
eyes she scans her lover's face. "My father's heart is really kind. He would know if you are brave and true," murmured the daughter, who wished no
ill-will between her two loved ones.
Then rising to go, the youth holds out a right hand. "Grasp my hand once firmly before I go, Hoye. Pray tell me, will you wait and watch for my
return?" Tusee only nods assent, for mere words are vain. At early dawn the round camp-ground awakes into song. Men and women sing of
bravery and of triumph. They inspire the swelling breast of the painted warriors mounted on prancing ponies bedecked with the green branches of
Riding slowly around the great ring of cone-shaped tepees, here and there, a loud-singing warrior swears to avenge a former wrong, and thrusts a
bare brown arm against the purple east, calling the Great Spirit to hear his vow. All having made the circuit, the singing war party gallops away
Astride their ponies laden with food and deerskins, brave elderly women follow their warriors. Among the foremost rides a young woman in
elaborately beaded buckskin dress. Proudly mounted, she curbs with the single rawhide loop a wild-eyed pony.
It is Tusee on her father's warhorse. Thus the war party of Indian men and their faithful women vanish beyond the southern skyline.
A day's journey brings them very near the enemy's borderland. Nightfall finds a pair of twin tepees nestled in a deep ravine. Within one lounge the
painted warriors, smoking their pipes and telling weird stories by the firelight, while in the other watchful women crouch uneasily about their center
By the first gray light in the east the tepees are banished. They are gone. The warriors are in the enemy's camp, breaking dreams with their
tomahawks. The women are hid away in secret places in the long thick ravine. The day is far spent, the red sun is low over the west.
At length straggling warriors return, one by one, to the deep hollow. In the twilight they number their men. Three are missing. Of these absent ones
two are dead; but the third one, a young man, is a captive to the foe. "He-he!" lament the warriors, taking food in haste.
In silence each woman, with long strides, hurries to and fro, tying large bundles on her pony's back. Under cover of night the war party must hasten
homeward. Motionless, with bowed head, sits a woman in her hiding-place. She grieves for her lover.
In bitterness of spirit she hears the warriors' murmuring words. With set teeth she plans to cheat the hated enemy of their captive. In the meanwhile
low signals are given, and the war party, unaware of Tusee's absence, steal quietly away. The soft thud of pony-hoofs grows fainter and fainter.
The gradual hush of the empty ravine whirring noisily in the ear of the young woman. Alert for any sound of footfalls nigh, she hold her breath to
listen. Her right hand rests on a long knife in her belt. Ah, yes, she knows where her pony is hid, but not yet has she need of him. Satisfied that no
danger is nigh, she prowls forth from her place of hiding. With a panther's tread and pace she climbs the high ridge beyond the low ravine. From
thence she spies the enemy's camp-fires. Rooted to the barren bluff the slender woman's figure stands on the pinnacle of night, outlined against a
starry sky. The cool night breeze wafts to her burning ear snatches of song and drum. With desperate hate she bites her teeth.
Tusee beckons the stars to witness. With impassioned voice and uplifted face she pleads: "Great Spirit, speed me to my lover's rescue! Give me swift
cunning for a weapon this night! All-powerful Spirit, grant me my warrior-father's heart, strong to slay a foe and mighty to save a friend!" In the
midst of the enemy's camp-ground, underneath a temporary dance-house, are men and women in gala-day dress. It is late in the night, but the
merry warriors bend and bow their nude, painted bodies before a bright center fire. To the lusty men's voices and the rhythmic throbbing drum, they
leap and rebound with feathered head gears waving.
Women with red-painted cheeks and long, braided hair sit in a large half-circle against the willow railing. They, too, join in the singing, and rise to
dance with their victorious warriors.
Amid this circular dance arena stands a prisoner bound to a post, haggard with shame and sorrow. He hangs his disheveled head.
He stares with unseeing eyes upon the bare earth at his feet. With jeers and smirking faces the dancers mock the Dakota captive. Rowdy braves and
small boys hoot and yell in derision.
Silent among the noisy mob, a tall woman, leaning both elbows on the round willow railing, peers into the lighted arena. The dancing center fire
shines bright into her handsome face, intensifying the night in her dark eyes. It breaks into myriad points upon her beaded dress. Unmindful of the
surging throng jostling her at either side, she glares in upon the hateful, scoffing men. Suddenly she turns her head. Tittering maids whisper near her
ear: "There! There! See him now, sneering in the captive's face. 'Tis he who sprang upon the young man and dragged him by his long hair to yonder
post. See! He is handsome! How gracefully he dances!"
The silent young woman looks toward the bound captive. She sees a warrior, scarce older than the captive, flourishing a tomahawk in the Dakota's
face. A burning rage darts forth from her eyes and brands him for a victim of revenge. Her heart mutters within her breast, "Come, I wish to meet
you, vile foe, who captured my lover and tortures him now with a living death."
Here the singers hush their voices, and the dancers scatter to their various resting-places along the willow ring. The victor gives a reluctant last twirl
of his tomahawk, then, like the others, he leaves the center ground. With head and shoulders swaying from side to side, he carries a high-pointing
chin toward the willow railing. Sitting down upon the ground with crossed legs, he fans himself with an outspread turkey wing.
Now and then he stops his haughty blinking to peep out of the corners of his eyes. He hears some one clearing her throat gently. It is unmistakably
for his ear. The wing-fan swings irregularly to and fro. At length he turns a proud face over a bare shoulder and beholds a handsome woman
smiling. "Ah, she would speak to a hero!" thumps his heart wildly.
The singers raise their voices in unison. The music is irresistible. Again lunges the victor into the open arena. Again he leers into the captive's face.
At every interval between the songs he returns to his resting-place. Here the young woman awaits him. As he approaches she smiles boldly into his
eyes. He catches a low whisper. A hand taps him lightly on the shoulder. The handsome woman speaks to him in his own tongue. "Come out into
the night. I wish to tell you who I am."
He must know what sweet words of praise the handsome woman has for him. With both hands he spreads the meshes of the loosely-woven willows,
and crawls out unnoticed into the dark.
Before him stands the young woman. Beckoning him with a slender hand, she steps backward, away from the light and the restless throng of
onlookers. He follows with impatient strides. She quickens her pace. He lengthens his strides. Then suddenly the woman turns from him and darts
away with amazing speed. Clinching his fists and biting his lower lip, the young man runs after the fleeing woman. In his maddened pursuit he
forgets the dance arena.
Beside a cluster of low bushes the woman halts. The young man, panting for breath and plunging headlong forward, whispers loud, "Pray tell me,
are you a woman or an evil spirit to lure me away?"
Turning on heels firmly planted in the earth, the woman gives a wild spring forward, like a panther for its prey. In a husky voice she hissed between
her teeth, "I am a Dakota woman!"
From her unerring long knife the enemy falls heavily at her feet. The Great Spirit heard Tusee's prayer on the hilltop. He gave her a warrior's strong
heart to lessen the foe by one.
A bent old woman's figure, with a bundle like a grandchild slung on her back, walks round and round the dance-house. The wearied onlookers are
leaving in twos and threes. The tired dancers creep out of the willow railing, and some go out the entrance way, till the singers, too, rise from the
drum and are trudging drowsily homeward. Within the arena the center fire lies broken in red embers. The night no longer lingers about the willow
railing, but, hovering into the dance-house, covers here and there a snoring man whom sleep has overpowered where he sat.
The captive in his tight-binding rawhide ropes hangs in hopeless despair. Close about him the gloom of night is slowly crouching. Yet the last red,
crackling embers cast a faint light upon his long black hair, and, shining through the thick mats, caress his wan face with undying hope.
Still about the dance-house the old woman prowls. Now the embers are gray ashes. The old bent woman appears at the entrance way. With a
cautious, groping foot she enters. Whispering between her teeth a lullaby for her sleeping child in her blanket, she searches for something forgotten.
Noisily snored the dreaming men in the darkest parts. As the lisping old woman draws nigh, the captive again opens his eyes.
A forefinger she presses to her lip. The young man arouses himself from his stupor. His senses belie him. Before his wide-open eyes the old bent
figure straightens into its youthful stature. Tusee herself is beside him. With a stroke upward and downward she severs the cruel cords with her
sharp blade. Dropping her blanket from her shoulders, so that it hangs from her girdled waist like a skirt, she shakes the large bundle into a light
shawl for her lover. Quickly she spreads it over his bare back.
"Come!" she whispers, and turns to go; but the young man, numb and helpless, staggers nigh to falling.
The sight of his weakness makes her strong. A mighty power thrills her body. Stooping beneath his outstretched arms grasping at the air for
support, Tusee lifts him upon her broad shoulders. With half-running triumphant steps she carries him away into the open night.
|How Catfish Got A Flat Head
A Dakota Sioux Legend
Long ago, when the fish and the animals could talk, the chief of the catfish called council. He said to all, "Hau, brothers. I am very tired of eating
things from the mud at the bottom of the lake. I think we should have meat as do the wolves. Let us watch for the moose when he wades into the lake
to eat the lily pads and let us spear him and kill him for meat. He comes when the sun is at the edge of the sky, so we will hide among the lilies and
grasses and spear him when he comes."
The other old catfish agreed and the whole tribe hid along the lake where the lilies and pads grew the thickest.
When the sun was at the edge of the sky the moose came. He did not go into the lake right away but ate at the edge where the sweet grasses were. At
last he entered the lake and the chief catfish said, "Now, he is in! I will spear him as soon as he gets farther from the shore where the water is deeper."
They all waited until the moose was in deep water and then the Catfish chief speared him as hard as he could!
The big moose bellowed with pain and jumped around in the water. He was hurt and frightened at the same time.
"Ho!" he said. "Ho! What is this? Who has speared me in my leg? I will find out who has done this!"
He then stuck his head right down into the water until he could see beneath the surface. There, in the grasses, he saw the catfish tribe getting ready to
spear him again.
They were going to kill him for his meat! This made him very angry! His eyes turned red and his heart was bad toward the catfish tribe. He
bellowed his war cry and said, "Ho! Listen to me! Catfish has speared me in my leg! I will make war on them! I will trample this tribe into the mud!
Ho! Hear me! I will go to war!"
He began to jump up and down all over the edge of the lake and trample all the catfish he could find. He crushed them with his big hooves and
trampled them deep into the mud, shouting, "Ho! Catfish speared me in the leg! Ho! I will trample his tribe into the mud!"
He did not stop until all the catfish were trampled into the muddy bottom of the lake. Then he left satisfied he had avenged the wrong done to him.
After the moose left, some of the catfish managed to wriggle out of the mud and get away. Now there are catfish in all lakes and rivers but every one
has a flat head because of the war from the big moose that flattened the heads of their grandfathers.
In old times there were very large catfish but now they are very small. They still all carry spears. To this day, they are black and are flat headed and
they are so afraid that they stay hidden in the daytime and only swim at night, which serves them right for trying to kill the big moose long ago.
|How the Fawn Got Its Spots
A Dakota Sioux Legend
Long ago, when the world was new, Wakan Tanka, The Great Mystery, was walking around. As he walked he spoke to himself of the many things
he had done to help the four-legged ones and the birds survive.
"It is good," Wakan Tanka said. "I have given Mountain Lion sharp claws and Grizzly Bear great strength; it is much easier now for them to survive.
"I have given Wolf sharp teeth and I have given his little brother, Coyote, quick wits; it is much easier now for them to survive.
"I have given Beaver a flat tail and webbed feet to swim beneath the water and teeth which can cut down the trees and I have given slow-moving
Porcupine quills to protect itself. Now it is easier for them to survive.
"I have given the Birds their feathers and the ability to fly so that they may escape their enemies. I have given speed to the Deer and the Rabbit so that
it will be hard for their enemies to catch them. Truly it is now much easier for them to survive."
However, as Wakan Tanka spoke, a mother Deer came up to him. Behind her was her small Fawn, wobbling on weak new legs.
"Great One," she said. "It is true that you have given many gifts to the four-leggeds and the winged ones to help them survive. It is true that you gave
me great speed and now my enemies find it hard to catch me. My speed is a great protection, indeed. But what of my little one here? She does not yet
have speed. It is easy for our enemies, with their sharp teeth and their claws to catch her. If my children so not survive, how can my people live?"
"Wica yaka peko!" said Wakan Tanka. "You have spoken truly; you are right. Have your little one come here and I will help her."
Then Wakan Tanka made paint from the earth and the plants. He painted spots upon the fawn's body so that when she lay still her color blended in
with the earth and she could not be seen. Then Wakan Tanka breathed upon her, taking away her scent.
"Now," Wakan Tanka said, "your little ones will always be safe if they only remain still when they are away from your side. None of your enemies
will see your little ones or be able to catch their scent."
So it has been from that day on. When a young deer is too small and weak to run swiftly, it is covered with spots that blend in with the earth. It has
no scent and it remains very still and close to the earth when its mother is not by its side. And when it has grown enough to have the speed Wakan
Tanka gave its people, then it loses those spots it once needed to survive.