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Wah-Zee-Yah Another of the Great Gods of the Dahcotah

Wah-Zee-Yah had a son who was killed by Etokah Wachastah, Man of the South. Wah-zee-yah is the god of the winter, and Etokah Wachastah is the god of the summer. When there is a cold spell early in the warm weather, the Dahcotahs say Wah-zee-yah is looking back. When the son of Wah-zee-yah was killed, there were six on each side; the Beings of the south were too strong for those of the north, and conquered them. When the battle was over, a fox was seen running off with one of the Beings of the north. These gods of the Dahcotahs are said to be inferior to the Great Spirit; but if an Indian wants to perform a deed of valor, he prays to Haokah the Giant. When they are in trouble, or in fear of anything, they pray to the Great Spirit. You frequently see a pole with a deer-skin, or a blanket hung to it; these are offerings made to the Great Spirit, to propitiate him. White Dog, who lives near Fort Snelling, says he has often prayed to the Great Spirit to keep him from sin, and to enable him and his family to do right. When he wishes to make an offering to the Great Spirit, he takes a scarlet blanket, and paints a circle of blue in the centre, (blue is an emblem of peace,) and puts ten bells, or silver brooches to it. This offering costs him $20. Christians are too apt to give less liberally to the true God. When White Dog goes to war, he makes this offering. White Dog says...

Eta Keazah or Sullen Face

Wenona was the light of her father’s wigwam the pride of the band of Sissetons, whose village is on the shores of beautiful Lake Travers. However cheerfully the fire might burn in the dwelling of the aged chief, there was darkness, for him when she was away and the mother’s heart was always filled with anxiety, for she knew that Wenona had drawn upon her the envy of her young companions, and she feared that some one of them would cast a spell1 upon her child, that her loveliness might be dimmed by sorrow or sickness. The warriors of the band strove to outdo each other in noble deeds, that they might feel more worthy to claim her hand; while the hunters tried to win her good will by presents of buffalo and deer. But Wenona thought not yet of love. The clear stream that reflected her form told her she was beautiful; yet her brother was the bravest warrior of the Sissetons; and her aged parents too was not their love enough to satisfy her heart! Never did brother and sister love each other more; their features were the same, yet man’s sternness in him was changed to woman’s softness in her. The “glance of the falcon” in his eye was the “gaze of the dove” in hers. But at times the expression of his face would make you wonder that you ever could have thought him like his twin sister. When he heard the Sisseton braves talk of the hunts they had in their youth, before the white man drove them from the hunting-grounds of their forefathers;...

The Dahcotah Bride

The valley of the Upper Mississippi presents many attractions to the reflecting mind, apart from the admiration excited by its natural beauty. It is at once an old country and a new the home of a people who are rapidly passing away and of a nation whose strength is ever advancing. The white man treads upon the footsteps of the Dahcotah the war dance of the warrior gives place to the march of civilization and the saw-mill is heard where but a few years ago were sung the deeds of the Dahcotah braves. Years ago, the Dahcotah hunted where the Mississippi takes its rise the tribe claiming the country as far south as St. Louis. But difficulties with the neighboring tribes have diminished their numbers and driven them farther north and west; the white people have needed their lands, and their course is onward. How will it end? Will this powerful tribe cease to be a nation on the earth? Will their mysterious origin never be ascertained? And must their religion and superstitions, their customs and feasts pass away from memory as if they had never been? Who can look upon them without interest? hardly the philosopher surely not the Christian. The image of God is defaced in the hearts of the savage. Cain-like does the child of the forest put forth his hand and stain it with a brother’s blood. But are there no deeds of darkness done in our own favored land? But the country of the Dahcotah, let it be new to those who fly at the beckon of gain who would speculate in the blood...

The Dahcotah Convert Wabashaw

“Tell me,” said, Hiatu-we-noken-chah, or ‘woman of the night,’ “the Great Spirit whom you have taught me to fear, why has he made the white woman rich and happy, and the Dahcotah poor and miserable?” She spoke with bitterness when she remembered the years of sorrow that had made up the sum of her existence. But how with the missionary’s wife? had her life been one bright dream had her days been always full of gladness her nights quiet and free from care? Had she never longed for the time of repose, that darkness might cover her as with a mantle and when ‘sleep forsook the wretched,’ did she not pray for the breaking of the day, that she might again forget all in the performance of the duties of her station? Could it be that the Creator had balanced the happiness of one portion of his children against the wretchedness of the rest? Let her story answer. Her home is now among the forests of the west. As a child she would tremble when she heard of the savage whose only happiness was in shedding the blood of his fellow creatures. The name of an “Indian” when uttered by her nurse would check the boisterous gayety of the day or the tedious restlessness of the night. As she gathered flowers on the pleasant banks of the Sciota, would it not have brought paleness to her cheek to have whispered her that not many years would pass over her, before she would be far away from the scenes of her youth? And as she uttered the marriage vow, how...

Oye-Kar-Mani-Vim, The Track Maker

It was in the summer of 183-, that a large party of Chippeways visited Fort Snelling. There was peace between them and the Sioux. Their time was passed in feasting and carousing; their canoes together flew over the waters of the Mississippi. The young Sioux warriors found strange beauty in the oval faces of the Chippeway girls; and the Chippeways discovered (what was actually the case) that the women of the Dahcotahs were far more graceful than those of their own nation. But as the time of the departure of the Chippeways approached, many a Chippeway maiden wept when she remembered how soon she would bid adieu to all her hopes of happiness. And Flying Shadow was saddest of them all. She would gladly have given up everything for her lover. What were home and friends to her who loved with all the devotion of a heart untrammeled by forms, fresh from the hand of nature? She listened to his flute in the still evening, as if her spirit would forsake her when she heard it no more. She would sit with him on the bluff which hung over the Mississippi, and envy the very waters which would remain near him, when she was far away. But her lover loved his nation even more than he did her; and though he would have died to have saved her from sorrow, yet he knew she could never be his wife. Even were he to marry her, her life would ever be in danger. A Chippeway could not long find a home among the Dahcotahs. The Track-maker bitterly regretted that they...

Wenona, The Virgin’s Feast

Never did the sun shine brighter than on a cold day in December, when the Indians at “Little Crow’s” village were preparing to go on a deer hunt. The Mississippi was frozen, and the girls of the village had the day before enjoyed one of their favorite amusements a ball-play on the ice. Those who owned the bright cloths and calicoes which were hung up before their eyes, as an incentive to win the game, were still rejoicing over their treasures; while the disappointed ones were looking sullen, and muttering of partiality being shown to this one because she was beautiful, and to that, because she was the sister of the chief. “Look at my head!” said Harpstenah; “Wenona knew that I was the swiftest runner in the band, and as I stooped to catch the ball she struck me a blow that stunned me, so that I could not run again.” But the head was so ugly, and the face too, that there was no pity felt for her; those dirty, wrinkled features bore witness to her contempt for the cleansing qualities of water. Her uncombed hair was hanging in masses about her ears and face, and her countenance expressed cruelty and passion. But Harpstenah had nothing to avenge; when she was young she was passed by, as there was nothing in her face or disposition that could attract; and now in the winter of life she was so ugly and so desolate, so cross and so forlorn, that no one deemed her worthy even of a slight. But for all that, Harpstenah could hate, and with all...

Tah-We-Chu-Kin, The Wife

In February, 1837, a party of Dahcotahs (Warpetonian) fell in with Hole-in-the-Day, and his band. When Chippeways and Dahcotahs meet there is generally bloodshed; and, however highly Hole-in-the-Day may be esteemed as a warrior, it is certain that he showed great treachery towards the Dahcotahs on many occasions. Now they met for peaceable purposes. Hole-in-the-Day wished permission to hunt on the Dahcotah lands without danger from the tomahawk of his enemies. He proposed to pay them certain articles, which he should receive from the United States Government when he drew his annuities, as a return for the privilege he demanded. The Dahcotahs and Chippeways were seated together. They had smoked the pipe of peace. The snow had drifted, and lay piled in masses behind them, contrasting its whiteness with their dark countenances and their gay ornaments and clothing. For some years there had been peace between these two tribes; hating each other, as they did, they had managed to live without shedding each other’s blood. Hole-in-the-Day was the master spirit among the Chippeways. He was the greatest hunter and warrior in the nation; he had won the admiration of his people, and they had made him chief. His word was law to them; he stood firmly on the height to which he had elevated himself. He laid aside his pipe and arose. His iron frame seemed not to feel the keen wind that was shaking the feathers in the heads of the many warriors who fixed their eyes upon him. He addressed the Dahcotah warriors. “All nations,” said he, “as yet continue the practice of war, but as for...

Oeche-Monesah, The Wanderer

Chaske was tired of living in the village, where the young men, finding plenty of small game to support life, and yielding to the languor and indolence produced by a summer’s sun, played at checker’s, or drank, or slept, from morn till night, and seemed to forget that they were the greatest warriors and hunters in the world. This did very well for a time; but, as I said, Chaske got tired of it. So he determined to go on a long journey, where he might meet with some adventures. Early one morning he shouldered his quiver of arrows, and drawing out one arrow from the quiver, he shot it in the direction he intended to go. “Now,” said he, “I will follow my arrow.” But it seemed as if he were destined never to find it, for morning and noon had passed away, and the setting sun warned him, not only of the approach of night, but of mosquitoes too. He thought he would build a fire to drive the mosquitoes away; besides, he was both hungry and tired, though he had not yet found his arrow, and had nothing to eat. When he was hesitating as to what he should do, he saw in the bushes a dead elk, and behold! his arrow was sticking in its side. He drew the arrow out, then cut out the tongue, and after making a fire, he put the tongue upon a stick to roast. But while the tongue was roasting, Chaske fell asleep and slept many hours. At day-break a woman came up to him and shook him, as...

Wabashaw or the Leaf

Wabashaw, (or The Leaf,) is the name of one of the Dahcotah Chiefs. His village is on the Mississippi river, 1,800 miles from its mouth. The teepees are pitched quite near the shore, and the many bluffs that rise behind them seem to be their perpetual guards. The present chief is about thirty-five years old as yet he has done not much to give him a reputation above the Dahcotahs about him. But his father was a man whose life and character were such as to influence his people to a great degree. Wabashaw the elder, (for the son inherits his father’s name,) is said by the Dahcotahs to have been the first chief in their tribe. Many years ago the English claimed authority over the Dahcotahs, and an English traveler having been murdered by some Dahcotahs of the band of which Wabashaw was a warrior, the English claimed hostages to be given up until the murderer could be found. The affairs of the nation were settled then by men who, having more mind than the others, naturally influenced their inferiors. Their bravest men, their war chief too, no doubt exercised a control over the rest. Wabashaw was one of the hostages given up in consequence of the murder, and the Governor of Canada required that these Dahcotahs should leave the forests of the west, and remain for a time as prisoners in Canada. Little as is the regard for the feelings of the savage now, there was still less then. Wabashaw often spoke of the ill treatment he received on his journey. It was bad enough to be...

Tonwa-Yah-Pe-Kin, the Spies

It was in the spring of 1848, that several Dahcotahs were carefully making their way along the forests near the borders of the Chippeway country. There had recently been a fight near the spot where they were, and the Dahcotahs were seeking the bodies of their friends who had been slain, that they might take them home to bury them. They moved noiselessly along, for their enemies were near. Occasionally, one of them would imitate the cry of a bird or of some animal, so that if the attention of their enemies should be drawn to the spot, the slight noise they made in moving might be attributed to any but the right cause. They had almost given up the hope of finding their friends, and this was the close of their last day’s efforts to that intent. In the morning they intended to return to their village. It was a bright clear evening, and the rays of the setting sun fell upon some objects further on. For a time the Dahcotahs gazed in silence; but no movement gave sign of what it was that excited their curiosity. All at once there was a fearful foreboding; they remembered why they were there, and they determined to venture near enough to find out what was the nature of the object on which the rays of the sun seemed to rest as if to attract their notice. A few more steps and they were relieved from their terrible suspense, but their worst fears were realized. The Dahcotahs recently killed had been skinned by the Chippeways, while their bodies were yet warm...
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