Location: Fort Snelling

The Maiden’s Rock or Wenona’s Leap

Lake Pepin is a widening of the Mississippi river. It is about twenty miles in length, and from one to two miles wide. The country along its banks is barren. The lake has little current, but is dangerous for steamboats in a high wind. It is not deep, and abounds in fish, particularly the sturgeon. On its shores the traveler gathers white and red agates, and sometimes specimens streaked with veins of gold color. The lover reads the motto from his mistress’ seal, not thinking that the beautiful stone which made the impression, was found on the banks of Lake Pepin. At the south end of the lake, the Chippeway river empties into the Mississippi. The Maiden’s rock is a high bluff, whose top seems to lean over towards the water. With this rock is associated one of the most interesting traditions of the Sioux. But the incident is well-known. Almost every one has read it a dozen times, and always differently told. Some represent the maiden as delivering an oration from the top of the rock, long enough for an address at a college celebration. It has been stated that she fell into the water, a circumstance which the relative situation of the rock and river would render impossible. Writers have pretended, too, that the heroine of the rock was a Winnebago. It is a mistake, the maiden...

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U-Me-Ne-Wah-Chippe or To Dance Around

I have noticed the many singular notions of the Sioux concerning thunder, and especially the fact that they believe it to be a large bird. They represent it thus. This figure is often seen worked with porcupine quills on their ornaments. Ke-on means to fly. Thunder is called Wah-ke-on or All-flier. U-mi-ne-wah-chippe is a dance given by some one who fears thunder and thus endeavors to propitiate the god and save his own life. A ring is made, of about sixty feet in circumference, by sticking saplings in the ground, and bending their tops down, fastening them together. In the centre of this ring a pole is placed. The pole is about fifteen feet in height and painted red. From this swings a piece of birch bark, cut so as to represent thunder. At the foot of the pole stand two boys and two girls. The two boys represent war: they are painted red, and hold war-clubs in their hands. The girls have their faces painted with blue clay: they represent peace. On one side of the circle a kind of booth is erected, and about twenty feet from it a wigwam. There are four entrances to this circle. When all the arrangements for the dance are concluded, the man who gives the dance emerges from his wigwam dressed up as hideously as possible, crawling on all fours towards...

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Dakota Indian Doctors

When an Indian is sick and wants “the Doctor” as we say, or a medicine man, as they say, they call them also priests, doctors and jugglers, a messenger is sent for one, with a pipe filled in one hand, and payment in the other; which fee may be a gun, blanket, kettle or anything in the way of present. The messenger enters the wigwam (or teepee, as the houses of the Sioux are called) of the juggler, presents the pipe, and lays the present or fee beside him. Having smoked, the Doctor goes to the teepee of the patient, takes a seat at some distance from him, divests himself of coat or blanket, and pulls his leggings to his ankles. He then calls for a gourd, which has been suitably prepared, by drying and putting small beads or gravel stones in it, to make a rattling noise. Taking the gourd, he begins to rattle it and to sing, thereby to charm the animal that has entered the body of the sick Sioux. After singing hi-he-hi-hah in quick succession, the chorus ha-ha-ha, hahahah is more solemnly and gravely chanted. On due repetition of this the doctor stops to smoke; then sings and rattles again. He sometimes attempts to draw with his mouth the disease from an arm or a limb that he fancies to be affected. Then rising, apparently...

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Dakota Indian Children

The children among the Sioux are early accustomed to look with indifference upon the sufferings or death of a person they hate. A few years ago a battle was fought quite near Fort Snelling. The next day the Sioux children were playing football merrily with the head of a Chippeway. One boy, and a small boy too, had ornamented his head and ears with curls. He had taken the skin peeled off a Chippeway who was killed in the battle, wound it around a stick until it assumed the appearance of a curl, and tied them over his ears. Another child had a string around his neck with a finger hanging to it as an ornament. The infants, instead of being amused with toys or trinkets, are held up to see the scalp of an enemy, and they learn to hate a Chippeway as soon as to ask for food. After the battle, the mother of a Sioux who was severely wounded found her way to the fort. She entered the room weeping sadly. Becoming quite exhausted, she seated herself on the floor, and said she wanted some coffee and sugar for her sick son, some linen to bind up his wounds, a candle to burn at night, and some whiskey to make her cry! Her son recovered, and the mother, as she sat by and watched him, had...

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Dahcotah, Or Life and Legends of the Sioux around Ft. Snelling

The materials for the following pages were gathered during a residence of seven years in the immediate neighborhood nay in the very midst of the once powerful but now nearly extinct tribe of Sioux or Dahcotah Indians. Fort Snelling is situated seven miles below the Falls of St. Anthony, at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peter’s rivers built in 1819, and named after the gallant Colonel Snelling, of the army, by whom the work was erected. It is constructed of stone; is one of the strongest Indian forts in the United States; and being placed on a...

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The Indian in a Trance

About forty years ago, Ahak-tah, “The Male Elk,” was taken sick with a sore throat. It was in the winter too, and sickness and cold together are hard to bear. Want was an evil from which they were suffering; though the Dahcotahs were not so poor then as they are now. They had not given so much of their lands to the white people; and they depended more upon their own exertions for support than they do at present. The medicine men did all they could to cure Ahaktah; they tried to charm away the animal that had entered into his body; they used the sacred rattle. But Ahaktah’s throat got worse; he died, and while his wives and children wept for him, he had started on his long journey to the land of spirits. He was wrapped in scarlet cloth, and laid upon a scaffold. His wives sat weeping in their teepee, when a cry from their young children drew their attention to the door. There stood he for whom they mourned. The dead man again took his place among those who sat beside the household fire. Tears of grief were shed no more food was given to Ahaktah, and when he was refreshed he thus addressed his wondering family: “While you were weeping for me, my spirit was on its way to the great city where our...

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Haokah Ozape, The Dance to the Giant

The dance to the Giant is now rarely celebrated among the Dahcotahs. So severe is the sacrifice to this deity, that there are few who have courage to attempt it; and yet Haokah is universally reverenced and feared among the Sioux. They believe in the existence of many Giants, but Haokah is one of the principal. He is styled the anti-natural god. In summer he feels cold, in winter he suffers from the heat; hot water is cold to him, and the contrary. The Dahcotah warrior, however brave he may be, believes that when he dreams of Haokah, calamity is impending and can only be avoided by some sort of sacrifice to this god. The incident on which this story is founded, occurred while I resided among the Sioux. I allude to the desertion of Wenona by her lover. It serves to show the blind and ignorant devotion of the Dahcotah to his religion. And as man is ever alike in every country, and under every circumstance of life as he often from selfish motives tramples upon the heart that trusts him so does woman utterly condemn a sister, feeling no sympathy for her sorrow, but only hatred of her fault. Jealous for the honor of the long-reverenced feasts of the Dahcotahs the “Deer Killer” thought not for a moment of the sorrow and disgrace he would bring upon...

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