Old Indian Days
Charles Eastman [#3 in our Eastman series]
Part 4 out of 4
and their adherents. Finally the two sons of
the wife belonging to the Wabashaw band
plotted against the son of the woman of the
Kaposia band, His-Red-Nation by name, after-
ward called Little Crow--the man who led the
They obtained a quantity of whisky and made
a great feast to which many were invited, in-
tending when all were more or less intoxicated
to precipitate a fight in which he should be
killed. It would be easy afterward to excuse
themselves by saying that it was an accident.
Mendota, near what is now the thriving city
of Saint Paul, then a queen of trading-posts
in the Northwest, was the rendezvous of the
Sioux. The event brought many together, for
all warriors of note were bidden from far and
near, and even the great traders of the day
were present, for the succession to the chieftain-
ship was one which vitally affected their inter-
ests. During the early part of the day all
went well, with speeches and eulogies of the
dead chief, flowing and eloquent, such as only
a native orator can utter. Presently two goodly
kegs of whisky were rolled into the council
Eyatonkawee was among the women, and
heard their expressions of anxiety as the voices
of the men rose louder and more threatening.
Some carried their children away into the woods
for safety, while others sought speech with their
husbands outside the council lodge and besought
them to come away in time. But more than
this was needed to cope with the emergency.
Suddenly a familiar form appeared in the door
of the council lodge.
"Is it becoming in a warrior to spill the blood
of his tribesmen? Are there no longer any
It was the voice of Eyatonkawee, that strong-
hearted woman! Advancing at the critical mo-
ment to the middle of the ring of warriors, she
once more recited her "brave deed" with all
the accompaniment of action and gesture, and
to such effect that the disorderly feast broke
up in confusion, and there was peace between
the rival bands of Sioux.
There was seldom a dangerous quarrel among
the Indians in those days that was not precipi-
tated by the use of strong liquor, and this sim-
ple Indian woman, whose good judgment was
equal to her courage, fully recognized this fact.
All her life, and especially after her favorite
brother had been killed in a drunken brawl in
the early days of the American Fur Company,
she was a determined enemy to strong drink,
and it is said did more to prevent its use among
her immediate band than any other person. Be-
ing a woman, her sole means of recognition was
the "brave deed" which she so wonderfully
described and enacted before the people.
During the lifetime of She-whose-Voice-is-
heard-afar--and she died only a few years ago
--it behooved the Sioux men, if they drank at
all, to drink secretly and in moderation. There
are many who remember her brave entrance
upon the scene of carousal, and her dramatic
recital of the immortal deed of her youth.
"Hanta! hanta wo! (Out of the way!)"
exclaim the dismayed warriors, scrambling in
every direction to avoid the upraised arm of
the terrible old woman, who bursts suddenly
upon them with disheveled hair, her gown torn
and streaked here and there with what looks
like fresh blood, her leather leggins loose and
ungartered, as if newly come from the famous
struggle. One of the men has a keg of whisky
for which he has given a pony, and the others
have been invited in for a night of pleasure.
But scarcely has the first round been drunk to
the toast of "great deeds," when Eyatonkawee
is upon them, her great knife held high in her
wrinkled left hand, her tomahawk in the right.
Her black eyes gleam as she declaims in a voice
"Look! look! brothers and husbands--the Sacs and Foxes are upon us!
Behold, our braves are surprised--they are unprepared!
Hear the mothers, the wives and the children screaming in affright!
"Your brave sister, Eyatonkawee, she, the newly made mother,
is serving the smoking venison to her husband,
just returned from the chase!
Ah, he plunges into the thickest of the enemy!
He falls, he falls, in full view of his young wife!
"She desperately presses her babe to her breast,
while on they come yelling and triumphant!
The foremost of them all enters her white buffalo-skin teepee:
Tossing her babe at the warrior's feet, she stands before him, defiant;
But he straightway levels his spear at her bosom.
Quickly she springs aside, and as quickly deals a deadly blow with her ax:
Falls at her feet the mighty warrior!
"Closely following on comes another,
unknowing what fate has met his fellow!
He too enters her teepee, and upon his feather-decked head her ax falls--
Only his death-groan replies!
"Another of heroic size and great prowess,
as witnessed by his war-bonnet of eagle-feathers,
Rushes on, yelling and whooping--for they believe that victory is with them!
The third great warrior who has dared to enter Eyatonkawee's teepee uninvited,
he has already dispatched her husband!
He it is whose terrible war-cry has scattered her sisters
among the trees of the forest!
"On he comes with confidence and a brave heart,
seeking one more bloody deed--
One more feather to win for his head!
Behold, he lifts above her woman's head his battle-ax!
No hope, no chance for her life! . . .
Ah! he strikes beyond her--only the handle of the ax falls
heavily upon her tired shoulder!
Her ready knife finds his wicked heart,--
Down he falls at her feet!
"Now the din of war grows fainter and further.
The Sioux recover heart, and drive the enemy headlong from their lodges:
Your sister stands victorious over three!
"She takes her baby boy, and makes him count with his tiny
hands the first 'coup' on each dead hero;
Hence he wears the 'first feathers' while yet in his oaken cradle.
"The bravest of the whole Sioux nation have given the war-whoop
in your sister's honor, and have said:
'Tis Eyatonkawee who is not satisfied with downing
the mighty oaks with her ax--
She took the mighty Sacs and Foxes for trees,
and she felled them with a will!'"
In such fashion the old woman was wont to
chant her story, and not a warrior there could
tell one to surpass it! The custom was strong,
and there was not one to prevent her when she
struck open with a single blow of her ax the keg
of whisky, and the precious liquor trickled upon
"So trickles under the ax of Eyatonkawee the
blood of an enemy to the Sioux!"
Many years ago a large body of the
Sioux were encamped at midsummer
in the valley of the Cheyenne. It
was customary at that period for the Indians
to tie up their ponies over night within the
circle of the teepees, whenever they were in
disputed territory, for they considered it no
wrong to steal the horses of the enemy. Hence
this long procession of young men and maidens,
returning at sunset to the camp with great bun-
dles of green grass hanging gracefully from their
The "green grass parade" became a regular
custom, and in fact a full-dress affair, since it
was found to afford unusual opportunities for
Blue Sky, the pretty daughter of the Sioux
chief, put on her best doeskin gown trimmed
with elks' teeth, and investing her favorite
spotted pony with his beaded saddle-blanket,
she went forth in company with one of her
maiden friends. Soon two young warriors over-
took the pair; and as they approached they
covered their heads with their robes, exposing
only the upper part of the face disguised with
paint and the single eagle feather standing
upright. One carried a bow and quiver full of
arrows; the other, a war-club suspended from
his right arm.
"Ah, hay, hun, hay!" saluted one of them;
but the modest maidens said never a word! It
was not their way to speak; only the gay calico
ponies pranced about and sportively threw back
their ears to snap at the horses of the two young
"'Tis a brave welcome your horses are giving
us!" he continued, while the two girls merely
looked at one another with perfect understand-
Presently Matoska urged his pony close to
the Blue Sky's side.
"It may be that I am overbold," he mur-
mured in her ear, "to repeat so soon my tale
of love! I know well that I risk a reprimand,
if not in words, then by a look or action!"
He paused to note the effect of his speech;
but alas! it is the hard rule of savage courtship
that the maiden may with propriety and dignity
keep silence as long as she wishes, and it is often
"I have spoken to no maiden," he resumed,
because I wished to win the war-bonnet before
doing so. But to you I was forced to yield!"
Again he paused, as if fearing to appear unduly
hasty; but deliberate as were speech and man-
ner, his eyes betrayed him. They were full of
intense eagerness mingled with anxiety.
"Sometimes I have imagined that I am in the
world with you alone, traveling over the prairie
of life, or sitting in our lonely white teepee,
as the oriole sits with his mate before their
swaying home. Yet I seemed to be never lonely,
because you were there!" He finished his plea,
and with outward calmness awaited her reply.
The maiden had not lost a word, but she was
still thinking. She thought that a man is much
like the wind of the north, only pleasant and
comfortable in midsummer! She feared that
she might some time have to furnish all the fuel
for their love's fires; therefore she held her
peace. Matoska waited for several minutes and
then silently withdrew, bearing his disappoint-
ment with dignity.
Meanwhile the camp was astir with the re-
turning youths and maidens, their horses' sides
fringed with the long meadow grass, singing
plaintive serenades around the circular rows of
teepees before they broke up for the night.
It was a clear and quiet night; the evening
fires were kindled and every teepee transformed
into an immense Chinese lantern. There was
a glowing ring two miles in circumference, with
the wooded river bottom on one side and the
vast prairie on the other. The Black Hills
loomed up in the distance, and the rapids of the
wild Cheyenne sent forth a varying peal of
music on the wind. The people enjoyed their
evening meal, and in the pauses of their talk
and laughter the ponies could be heard munch-
ing at the bundles of green grass just outside
Suddenly a chorus of yells broke cruelly the
peace of the camp, followed by the dashing
charge of the Crow Indian horsemen! It was
met as bravely and quickly by the Sioux; and
in the clear, pale moonlight the dusky warriors
fought, with the occasional flash of a firearm,
while silent weapons flew thick in the air like
dragon-flies at sunset.
The brave mothers, wives, and sisters gave
their shrill war-cry to inspire their men, and
show the enemy that even the Sioux women can-
not be daunted by such a fearful surprise!
When the morning sun sent its golden shafts
among the teepees, they saw it through glisten-
ing tears--happy tears, they said, because the
brave dead had met their end in gallant fight
--the very end they craved! And among those
who fell that night was Brave Hawk, the hand-
some brother of the Blue Sky.
In a few days the camp was moved to a point
further up the Cheyenne and deeper into the
bosom of the hills, leaving behind the deco-
rated grave lodges belonging to the honored
dead. A great council teepee was pitched, and
here the people met to credit those who had
earned them with the honors of the fight, that
they might thereafter wear the eagle feathers
which they had won.
"The first honor," declared the master of
ceremonies, "belongs to Brave Hawk, who fell
in the battle! He it was who compelled the
Crows to retreat, when he bravely charged upon
them and knocked from his horse the Crow
chief, their war leader."
"Ho, it is true!" exclaimed the warriors in
"The second honor," he resumed, "belongs
to Matoska, the White Bear!"
"Hun, hun, hay!" interposed another, "it
is I, Red Owl, who touched the body of the
Crow chief second to Brave Hawk!"
It was a definite challenge.
"The warriors who witnessed the act give
the coup to Matoska, friend!" persisted the
Red Owl was a brave youth and a close rival
of Matoska, both for war honors and for the
hand of the prettiest maiden in the tribe. He
had hoped to be recognized as one who fought
in defense of their homes by the side of Brave
Hawk; that would please the Blue Sky, he
thought; but the honor was conferred upon his
There was a cloud of suppressed irritation on
his dusky face as he sullenly departed to his
own tent--an action which displeased the coun-
cil-men. Matoska had not spoken, and this
caused him to appear to the better advantage.
The worst of it was that Blue Sky herself had
entered the ring with the "orphan steed," as
it was called--the war-horse of her dead
brother, and had therefore seen and heard every-
thing! Tanagila, or Hummingbird, the beau-
tiful charger, decorated according to custom
with the honors won by his master, was led away
by the girl amidst resounding war-whoops.
Unable to remain quiet, Red Owl went out
into the hills to fast and pray. It was sunset of
the next day when he again approached the
village, and behind a little ridge came suddenly
upon Matoska and the girl standing together.
It was the first time that they had met since
the "green grass parade," and now only by ac-
cident, as the sister of Brave Hawk was in deep
mourning. However, the lover had embraced
his opportunity, and the maiden had said that
she was willing to think of the matter. No
more words were spoken.
That very night the council drum was struck
three times, followed by the warriors' cheer.
Everybody knew what that meant. It was an
invitation to the young men to go upon the
war-path against the Crows!
Blue Sky was unconsciously startled by this
sudden announcement. For the first time in her
life she felt a fear that she could not explain.
The truth was that she loved, and was not yet
fully aware of it. In spite of her fresh grief,
she had been inexplicably happy since her last
meeting with Matoska, for she had seen in him
that which is so beautiful, so compelling in man
to the eyes of the woman who loves. He, too,
now cherished a real hope, and felt as if he
could rush into the thickest of the battle to
avenge the brother of his beloved!
In a few days the war-party had reached the
Big Horn and sent out advance scouts, who re-
ported a large Crow encampment. Their hun-
dreds of horses covered the flats like a great
herd of buffalo, they said. It was immediately
decided to attack at daybreak, and on a given
signal they dashed impetuously upon the for-
midable camp. Some stampeded and drove
off a number of horses, while the main body
plunged into the midst of the Crows.
But the enemy were not easily surprised.
They knew well the Sioux tactics, and there was
a desperate struggle for supremacy. War-club
was raised against war-club, and the death-song
of the arrow filled the air! Presently the Sioux
were forced to retreat, with the Crows in hot
pursuit, like wolves after their prey.
Red Owl and Matoska had been among the
foremost in the charge, and now they acted as
a rear-guard, bravely defending the retreat of
their little army, to the admiration of the enemy.
At last a Crow raised his spear against Matoska,
who in a flash dismounted him with a stroke of
his oaken bow; but alas! the blow snapped
the bow-string and left him defenseless. At the
same instant his horse uttered a scream and fell,
throwing its rider headlong!
There was no one near except Red Owl, who
clapped his heels to his pony and joined in the
retreat, leaving Matoska behind. He arose,
threw down his quiver, and advanced alone to
meet the oncoming rush of the Crows!
The Sioux had seen him fall. In a few mo-
ments he was surrounded by the enemy, and
they saw him no more.
The pursuit was stopped, and they paused
upon a hilltop to collect the remnant of their
force. Red Owl was the last to come up, and
it was observed that he did not look like himself.
"Tell us, what were Matoska's last words?"
they asked him.
But he silently dismounted and sent an arrow
through his faithful steed, to the astonishment
of the warriors. Immediately afterward he
took out his knife and stabbed himself to the
"Ah!" they exclaimed, "he could not live
to share our humiliation!"
The war-party returned defeated and cast
down by this unexpected ending to their adven-
ture, having lost some of their bravest and best
men. The camp was instantly thrown into
mourning. Many were in heavy grief, but none
was more deeply stricken than the maiden called
the Blue Sky, the daughter of their chief.
She remained within her teepee and wept in
secret, for none knew that she had the right to
mourn. Yet she believed that her lover had
met with misfortune, but not death. Although
his name was announced among those warriors
who fell in the field, her own heart assured her
that it was not so. "I must go to him," she
said to herself. "I must know certainly whether
he is still among the living!"
The next evening, while the village was yet
in the confusion of great trouble and sorrow,
Blue Sky rode out upon her favorite pony as
if to take him to water as usual, but none saw
her return! She hastened to the spot where
she had concealed two sacks of provisions and
her extra moccasins and materials for sewing.
She had no weapon, save her knife and a small
hatchet. She knew the country between the
Black Hills and the Big Horn, and knew that
it was full of perils for man and much more for
woman. Yet by traveling only at night and
concealing herself in the daytime she hoped to
avoid these dangers, and she rode bravely forth
on the trail of the returning warriors.
Her dog, Wapayna, had followed the maiden,
and she was not sorry to have so faithful a
companion. She cautioned him not to bark at
or attack strange animals unless they attacked
first, and he seemed to understand the propriety
of remaining on guard whenever his mistress
She reached the Powder River country in
safety, and here she had more than once to
pick her way among the buffaloes. These wily
animals seemed to realize that she was only a
woman and unarmed, so that they scarcely kept
out of her path. She also crossed the trails of
riders, some of them quite fresh, but was fortu-
nate enough not to meet any of them.
At last the maiden attained the divide be-
tween the Tongue and the Big Horn rivers.
Her heart beat fast, and the sudden sense of her
strange mission almost overwhelmed her. She
remembered the only time in her life that the
Sioux were upon that river, and so had that bit
of friendly welcome from the valley--a recol-
lection of childhood!
It was near morning; the moon had set and
for a short time darkness prevailed, but the
girl's eyes had by this time become accustomed
to the dark. She knew the day was at hand,
and with its first beams she was safely tucked
into one of those round turns left by the river
long ago in changing its bed, now become a
little grassy hollow sheltered by steep banks,
and hidden by a fringe of trees. Here she
picketed her pony, and took her own rest. Not
until the afternoon shadows were long did she
awake and go forth with determination to seek
for the battlefield and for the Crow encamp-
It was not long before she came upon the
bodies of fallen horses and men. There was
Matoska's white charger, with a Sioux arrow in
his side, and she divined the treachery of Red
Owl! But he was dead, and his death had
atoned for the crime. The body of her lover
was nowhere to be found; yet how should they
have taken the bravest of the Sioux a cap-
"If he had but one arrow left, he would stand
and fight! If his bow-string were broken, he
would still welcome death with a strong heart,"
The evening was approaching and the Crow
village in plain sight. Blue Sky arranged her
hair and dress as well as she could like that of
a Crow woman, and with an extra robe she
made for herself a bundle that looked as if it
held a baby in its many wrappings. The com-
munity was still celebrating its recent victory
over the Sioux, and the camp was alive with
songs and dances. In the darkness she ap-
proached unnoticed, and singing in an under-
tone a Crow lullaby, walked back and forth
among the lodges, watching eagerly for any
signs of him she sought.
At last she came near to the council lodge.
There she beheld his face like an apparition
through the dusk and the fire-light! He was
sitting within, dressed in the gala costume of a
"O, he is living! he is living!" thought the
brave maiden. "O, what shall I do?" Un-
consciously she crept nearer and nearer, until
the sharp eyes of an Indian detected the slight
difference in her manner and dress, and he at
once gave the alarm.
"Wah, wah! Epsaraka! Epsaraka! A
Sioux! A Sioux!"
In an instant the whole camp had surrounded
the girl, who stood in their midst a prisoner,
yet undaunted, for she had seen her lover, and
the spirit of her ancestors rose within her.
An interpreter was brought, a man who was
half Crow and half Sioux.
"Young and pretty daughter of the Sioux!"
exclaimed the chief, "tell us how you came here
in our midst undetected, and why!"
"Because," replied the Blue Sky, "your
brave warriors have slain my only brother, and
captured my lover, whom you now hold a pris-
oner. It is for his sake that I have thus risked
my life and honor!"
"Ho, ho! You are the bravest woman I
have ever seen. Your lover wag betrayed into
our hands by the treachery of one of his own
tribe, who shot his horse from behind. He
faced us without fear, but it was not his courage
that saved his life. He resembles my own son,
who lately fell in battle, and according to the
custom I have adopted him as my son!"
Thus the brave maiden captured the heart
of the wily Crow, and was finally allowed to
return home with her lover, bearing many and
rich presents. Her name is remembered among
the two tribes, for this act of hers resulted in a
treaty of peace between them which was kept
for a generation.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF LONG EARS
Away beyond the Thin Hills, above the
Big Lone Tree upon the Powder River,
the Uncpapa Sioux had celebrated their
Sun Dance, some forty years ago. It was mid-
summer and the red folk were happy. They
lacked for nothing. The yellowish green flat
on either side of the Powder was studded with
wild flowers, and the cottonwood trees were in
full leaf. One large circle of buffalo skin tee-
pees formed the movable village. The Big
Horn Mountains loomed up against the deep
blue sky to the westward, and the Black Hills
appeared in the far southeast.
The tribal rites had all been observed, and
the usual summer festivities enjoyed to the full.
The camp as it broke up divided itself in three
parts, each of which had determined to seek a
One band journeyed west, toward the Tongue
River. One followed a tributary of the Pow-
der to the south. The third merely changed
camp, on account of the grazing for ponies,
and for four days remained near the old
The party that went west did not fail to real-
ize the perilous nature of their wanderings, for
they were trespassing upon the country of the
On the third day at sunrise, the Sioux crier's
voice resounded in the valley of the Powder,
announcing that the lodges must be razed and
the villagers must take up their march.
Breakfast of jerked buffalo meat had been
served and the women were adjusting their
packs, not without much chatter and apparent
confusion. Weeko (Beautiful Woman), the
young wife of the war-chief Shunkaska, who
had made many presents at the dances in honor
of her twin boys, now gave one of her remain-
ing ponies to a poor old woman whose only
beast of burden, a large dog, had died during
This made it necessary to shift the packs of
the others. Nakpa, or Long Ears, her kitten-
like gray mule, which had heretofore been hon-
ored with the precious burden of the twin babies,
was to be given a heavier and more cumbersome
load. Weeko's two-year-old spotted pony was
selected to carry the babies.
Accordingly, the two children, in their gor-
geously beaded buckskin hoods, were sus-
pended upon either side of the pony's saddle.
As Weeko's first-born, they were beautifully
dressed; even the saddle and bridle were dain-
tily worked by her own hands.
The caravan was now in motion, and Weeko
started all her ponies after the leader, while
she adjusted the mule's clumsy burden of ket-
tles and other household gear. In a mo-
"Go on, let us see how you move with your
new load! Go on!" she exclaimed again, with
a light blow of the horse-hair lariat, as the an-
imal stood perfectly still.
Nakpa simply gave an angry side glance at
her load and shifted her position once or twice.
Then she threw herself headlong into the air
and landed stiff-legged, uttering at the same time
her unearthly protest. First she dove straight
through the crowd, then proceeded in a circle,
her heels describing wonderful curves and
sweeps in the air. Her pack, too, began to
come to pieces and to take forced flights from
her undignified body and heels, in the midst of
the screams of women and children, the barking
of dogs, and the war-whoops of the amused
The cowskin tent became detached from her
saddle, and a moment later Nakpa stood free.
Her sides worked like a bellows as she stood
there meekly indignant, apparently considering
herself to be the victim of an uncalled-for mis-
"I should put an arrow through her at once,
only she is not worth a good arrow," said
Shunkaska, or White Dog, the husband of
Weeko. At his wife's answer, he opened his
eyes in surprised displeasure.
"No, she shall have her own pack again.
She wants her twins. I ought never to have
taken them from her!"
Weeko approached Nakpa as she stood alone
and unfriended in the face of her little world,
all of whom considered that she had committed
the unpardonable sin. As for her, she evidently
felt that her misfortunes had not been of her
own making. She gave a hesitating, sidelong
look at her mistress.
"Nakpa, you should not have acted so. I
knew you were stronger than the others, there-
fore I gave you that load," said Weeko in a
conciliatory tone, and patted her on the nose.
"Come, now, you shall have your own pet
pack," and she led her back to where the young
pony stood silently with the babies.
Nakpa threw back her ears and cast savage
looks at him, while Shunkaska, with no small
annoyance, gathered together as much as he
could of their scattered household effects. The
sleeping brown-skinned babies in their chrysalis-
like hoods were gently lowered from the pony's
back and attached securely to Nakpa's padded
wooden saddle. The family pots and kettles
were divided among the pack ponies. Order
was restored and the village once more in mo-
"Come now, Nakpa; you have your wish.
You must take good care of my babies. Be
good, because I have trusted you," murmured
the young mother in her softest tones.
"Really, Weeko, you have some common
ground with Nakpa, for you both always want
to have your own way, and stick to it, too! I
tell you, I fear this Long Ears. She is not to
be trusted with babies," remarked Shunkaska,
with a good deal of severity.
But his wife made no reply, for she well
knew that though he might criticise, he would
not actually interfere with her domestic ar-
He now started ahead to join the men in ad-
vance of the slow-moving procession, thus leav-
ing her in undivided charge of her household.
One or two of the pack ponies were not well-
trained and required all her attention. Nakpa
had been a faithful servant until her escapade
of the morning, and she was now obviously sat-
isfied with her mistress' arrangements. She
walked alongside with her lariat dragging, and
perfectly free to do as she pleased.
Some hours later, the party ascended a slope
from the river bottom to cross over the divide
which lay between the Powder River and a trib-
utary stream. They had hitherto followed that
river in a westerly direction, but here it took
its course southward, winding in a blue streak
until lost to view among the foot-hills of the
Big Horn Mountains. The ford was deep, with
a swift current. Here and there a bald butte
stood out in full relief against the brilliant blue
sky. The Sioux followed a deep ravine until
they came almost up to the second row of
"Whoo! whoo!" came the blood-curdling
signal of danger from the front. It was no un-
familiar sound--the rovers knew it only too
well. It meant sudden death--or at best a cruel
struggle and frantic flight.
Terrified, yet self-possessed, the women
turned to fly while yet there was time. Instantly
the mother looked to Nakpa, who carried on
either side of the saddle her precious boys. She
hurriedly examined the fastenings to see that
all was secure, and then caught her swiftest
pony, for, like all Indian women, she knew just
what was happening, and that while her hus-
band was engaged in front with the enemy, she
must seek safety with her babies.
Hardly was she in the saddle when a heart-
rending war-whoop sounded on their flank, and
she knew that they were surrounded! Instinct-
ively she reached for her husband's second
quiver of arrows, which was carried by one of
the pack ponies. Alas! the Crow warriors were
already upon them! The ponies became un-
manageable, and the wild screams of women
and children pierced the awful confusion.
Quick as a flash, Weeko turned again to her
babies, but Nakpa had already disappeared!
Then, maddened by fright and the loss of her
children, Weeko became forgetful of her sex
and tenderness, for she sternly grasped her hus-
band's bow in her left hand to do battle.
That charge of the Crows was a disastrous
one, but the Sioux were equally brave and des-
perate. Charges and counter-charges were
made, and the slain were many on both sides.
The fight lasted until darkness came. Then
the Crows departed and the Sioux buried their
When the Crows made their flank charge,
Nakpa apparently appreciated the situation. To
save herself and the babies, she took a desperate
chance. She fled straight through the attack-
When the warriors came howling upon
her in great numbers, she at once started
back the way she had come, to the camp left
behind. They had traveled nearly three days.
To be sure, they did not travel more than fifteen
miles a day, but it was full forty miles to cover
"Look! look!" exclaimed a warrior, "two
babies hung from the saddle of a mule!"
No one heeded this man's call, and his arrow
did not touch Nakpa or either of the boys, but
it struck the thick part of the saddle over the
"Lasso her! lasso her!" he yelled once
more; but Nakpa was too cunning for them.
She dodged in and out with active heels, and
they could not afford to waste many arrows on
a mule at that stage of the fight. Down the
ravine, then over the expanse of prairie dotted
with gray-green sage-brush, she sped with her
"Whoo! whoo!" yelled another Crow to
his comrades, "the Sioux have dispatched a
runner to get reinforcements! There he goes,
down on the flat! Now he has almost reached
the river bottom!"
It was only Nakpa. She laid back her cars
and stretched out more and more to gain the
river, for she realized that when she had crossed
the ford the Crows would not pursue her far-
Now she had reached the bank. With the
intense heat from her exertions, she was ex-
tremely nervous, and she imagined a warrior
beind every bush. Yet she had enough sense
left to realize that she must not satisfy her
thirst. She tried the bottom with her fore-foot,
then waded carefully into the deep stream.
She kept her big ears well to the front as
she swam to catch the slightest sound. As she
stepped on the opposite shore, she shook herself
and the boys vigorously, then pulled a few
mouthfuls of grass and started on.
Soon one of the babies began to cry, and the
other was not long in joining him. Nakpa did
not know what to do. She gave a gentle whinny
and both babies apparently stopped to listen;
then she took up an easy gait as if to put them
These tactics answered only for a time. As
she fairly flew over the lowlands, the babies'
hunger increased and they screamed so loud that
a passing coyote had to sit upon his haunches
and wonder what in the world the fleeing long-
eared horse was carrying on his saddle. Even
magpies and crows flew near as if to ascertain
the meaning of this curious sound.
Nakpa now came to the Little Trail Creek,
a tributary of the Powder, not far from the old
camp. No need of wasting any time here, she
thought. Then she swerved aside so suddenly
as almost to jerk her babies out of their cradles.
Two gray wolves, one on each side, approached
her, growling low--their white teeth show-
Never in her humble life had Nakpa been
in more desperate straits. The larger of the
wolves came fiercely forward to engage her
attention, while his mate was to attack her be-
hind and cut her hamstrings. But for once the
pair had made a miscalculation. The mule used
her front hoofs vigorously on the foremost wolf,
while her hind ones were doing even more
effective work. The larger wolf soon went
limping away with a broken hip, and the one
in the rear received a deep cut on the jaw which
proved an effectual discouragement.
A little further on, an Indian hunter drew
near on horseback, but Nakpa did not pause or
slacken her pace. On she fled through the long
dry grass of the river bottoms, while her babies
slept again from sheer exhaustion. Toward
sunset, she entered the Sioux camp amid great
excitement, for some one had spied her afar
off, and the boys and the dogs announced her
"Whoo, whoo! Weeko's Nakpa has come
back with the twins! Whoo, whoo!" exclaimed
the men. "Tokee! tokee!" cried the women.
A sister to Weeko who was in the village
came forward and released the children, as
Nakpa gave a low whinny and stopped. Ten-
derly Zeezeewin nursed them at her own moth-
erly bosom, assisted by another young mother
of the band.
"Ugh, there is a Crow arrow sticking in the
saddle! A fight! a fight!" exclaimed the war-
"Sing a Brave-Heart song for the Long-Eared
one! She has escaped alone with her charge.
She is entitled to wear an eagle's feather! Look
at the arrow in her saddle! and more, she has
a knife wound in her jaw and an arrow cut
on her hind leg.--No, those are the marks of
a wolf's teeth! She has passed through many
dangers and saved two chief's sons, who will
some day make the Crows sorry for this day's
The speaker was an old man who thus ad-
dressed the fast gathering throng.
Zeezeewin now came forward again with an
eagle feather and some white paint in her hands.
The young men rubbed Nakpa down, and the
feather, marked with red to indicate her wounds,
was fastened to her mane. Shoulders and hips
were touched with red paint to show her en-
durance in running. Then the crier, praising
her brave deed in heroic verse, led her around
the camp, inside of the circle of teepees. All
the people stood outside their lodges and lis-
tened respectfully, for the Dakota loves well to
honor the faithful and the brave.
During the next day, riders came in from the
ill-fated party, bringing the sad news of the
fight and heavy loss. Late in the afternoon
came Weeko, her face swollen with crying, her
beautiful hair cut short in mourning, her gar-
ments torn and covered with dust and blood.
Her husband had fallen in the fight, and her
twin boys she supposed to have been taken cap-
tive by the Crows. Singing in a hoarse voice
the praises of her departed warrior, she entered
the camp. As she approached her sister's tee-
pee, there stood Nakpa, still wearing her hon-
orable decorations. At the same moment,
Zeezeewin came out to meet her with both
babies in her arms.
"Mechinkshee! meechinkshee! (my sons,
my sons!)" was all that the poor mother could
say, as she all but fell from her saddle to the
ground. The despised Long Ears had not be-
trayed her trust.
THE WAR MAIDEN
The old man, Smoky Day, was for
many years the best-known story-teller
and historian of his tribe. He it was
who told me the story of the War Maiden.
In the old days it was unusual but not unheard
of for a woman to go upon the war-path--per-
haps a young girl, the last of her line, or a
widow whose well-loved husband had fallen on
the field--and there could be no greater incen-
tive to feats of desperate daring on the part of
"A long time ago," said old Smoky Day,
"the Unkpapa and the Cut-Head bands of
Sioux united their camps upon a vast prairie
east of the Minne Wakan (now called Devil's
Lake). It was midsummer, and the people
shared in the happiness of every living thing.
We had food in abundance, for bison in count-
less numbers overspread the plain.
"The teepee village was laid out in two great
rings, and all was in readiness for the midsum-
mer entertainments. There were ball games,
feasts and dances every day, and late into the
night. You have heard of the festivities of
those days; there are none like them now," said
the old man, and he sighed heavily as he laid
down the red pipe which was to be passed from
hand to hand during the recital.
"The head chief of the Unkpapas then was
Tamakoche (His Country). He was in his
time a notable warrior, a hunter and a feast-
maker, much beloved by his people. He was
the father of three sons, but he was so anxious
to make them warriors of great reputation that
they had all, despising danger, been killed in
"The chief had also a very pretty daughter,
whose name was Makatah. Since all his sons
were slain he had placed his affections solely
upon the girl, and she grew up listening to the
praises of the brave deeds of her brothers, which
her father never tired of chanting when they
were together in the lodge. At times Makatah
was called upon to dance to the 'Strong-Heart'
songs. Thus even as a child she loved the
thought of war, although she was the prettiest
and most modest maiden in the two tribes. As
she grew into womanhood she became the belle
of her father's village, and her beauty and spirit
were talked of even among the neighboring
bands of Sioux. But it appeared that Makatah
did not care to marry. She had only two am-
bitions. One was to prove to her father that,
though only a maid, she had the heart of a war-
rior. The other was to visit the graves of her
brothers--that is, the country of the enemy.
"At this pleasant reunion of two kindred peo-
ples one of the principal events was the Feast
of Virgins, given by Makatah. All young
maidens of virtue and good repute were invited
to be present; but woe to her who should dare
to pollute the sacred feast! If her right to be
there were challenged by any it meant a public
disgrace. The two arrows and the red stone
upon which the virgins took their oath of chas-
tity were especially prepared for the occasion.
Every girl was beautifully dressed, for at that
time the white doeskin gowns, with a profusion
of fringes and colored embroidery, were the
gala attire of the Sioux maidens. Red paint was
added, and ornaments of furs and wampum.
Many youths eagerly surveyed the maiden gath-
ering, at which the daughter of Tamakoche out-
shone all the rest.
"Several eligible warriors now pressed their
suits at the chieftain's lodge, and among them
were one or two whom he would have gladly
called son-in-law; but no! Makatah would not
listen to words of courtship. She had vowed,
she said, to the spirits of her three brothers--
each of whom fell in the country of the Crows
--that she would see that country before she
became a wife.
"Red Horn, who was something of a leader
among the young men, was a persistent and de-
termined suitor. He had urged every influential
friend of his and hers to persuade her to listen
to him. His presents were more valuable than
those of any one else. He even made use of
his father's position as a leading chief of the
Cut-Head band to force a decision in his favor;
and while the maiden remained indifferent her
father seemed inclined to countenance this
young man's pretensions.
"She had many other lovers, as I have said,"
the old man added, "and among them was one
Little Eagle, an orphan and a poor young man,
unknown and unproved as a warrior. He was so
insignificant that nobody thought much about
him, and if Makatah regarded him with any
favor the matter was her secret, for it is certain
that she did not openly encourage him.
"One day it was reported in the village that
their neighbors, the Cut-Head Sioux, would or-
ganize a great attack upon the Crows at the
mouth of the Redwater, a tributary of the Mis-
souri. Makatah immediately inquired of her
male cousins whether any of them expected to
join the war-party.
"'Three of us will go,' they replied.
"'Then,' said the girl, 'I beg that you will
allow me to go with you! I have a good horse,
and I shall not handicap you in battle. I only
ask your protection in camp as your kinswoman
and a maid of the war-party.'
"'If our uncle Tamakoche sanctions your
going,' they replied, 'we shall be proud to have
our cousin with us, to inspire us to brave
"The maiden now sought her father and
asked his permission to accompany the war-
"'I wish,' said she, 'to visit the graves of my
brothers! I shall carry with me their war-bon-
nets and their weapons, to give to certain young
men on the eve of battle, according to the an-
cient custom. Long ago I resolved to do this,
and the time is now come.'
"The chief was at this time well advanced
in years, and had been sitting quite alone in his
lodge, thinking upon the days of his youth, when
he was noted for daring and success in battle.
In silence he listened as he filled his pipe, and
seemed to meditate while he smoked the fra-
grant tobacco. At last he spoke with tears in
"'Daughter, I am an old man! My heart
beats in my throat, and my old eyes cannot keep
back the tears. My three sons, on whom I had
placed all my hopes, are gone to a far country!
You are the only child left to my old age, and
you, too, are brave--as brave as any of your
brothers. If you go I fear that you may not
return to me; yet I cannot refuse you my per-
"The old man began to chant a war-song,
and some of his people, hearing him, came in to
learn what was in his mind. He told them all,
and immediately many young men volunteered
for the war-party, in order to have the honor
of going with the daughter of their chief.
"Several of Makatah's suitors were among
them, and each watched eagerly for an oppor-
tunity to ride at her side. At night she pitched
her little teepee within the circle of her cousins'
campfires, and there she slept without fear.
Courteous youths brought to her every morning
and evening fresh venison for her repast. Yet
there was no courting, for all attentions paid to
a maiden when on the war-path must be those
of a brother to a sister, and all must be equally
received by her.
"Two days later, when the two parties of
Sioux met on the plains, the maiden's presence
was heralded throughout the camp, as an in-
spiration to the young and untried warriors of
both bands to distinguish themselves in the field.
It is true that some of the older men considered
it unwise to allow Makatah to accompany the
"'The girl,' said they to one another, 'is
very ambitious as well as brave. She will surely
risk her own life in battle, which will make the
young men desperate, and we shall lose many
"Nevertheless they loved her and her father;
therefore they did not protest openly.
"On the third day the Sioux scouts returned
with the word that the Crows were camping,
as had been supposed, at the confluence of the
Redwater and the Missouri Rivers. It was a
great camp. All the Crow tribe were there,
they said, with their thousands of fine horses.
"There was excitement in the Sioux camp,
and all of the head men immediately met in
council. It was determined to make the attack
early on the following morning, just as the sun
came over the hills. The councilors agreed that
in honor of the great chief, her father, as well
as in recognition of her own courage, Makatah
should be permitted to lead the charge at the
outset, but that she must drop behind as they
neared the enemy. The maiden, who had one
of the fleetest ponies in that part of the country,
had no intention of falling back, but she did
not tell any one what was in her mind.
"That evening every warrior sang his war-
song, and announced the particular war-charm
or 'medicine' of his clan, according to the cus-
tom. The youths were vying with one another
in brave tales of what they would do on the
morrow. The voice of Red Horn was loud
among the boasters, for he was known to be a
vain youth, although truly not without reputa-
tion. Little Eagle, who was also of the com-
pany, remained modestly silent, as indeed be-
came one without experience in the field. In
the midst of the clamor there fell a silence.
"'Hush! hush!' they whispered. 'Look,
look! The War Maiden comes!'
"All eyes were turned upon Makatah, who
rode her fine buckskin steed with a single lariat.
He held his head proudly, and his saddle was
heavy with fringes and gay with colored em-
broidery. The maiden was attired in her best
and wore her own father's war-bonnet, while
she carried in her hands two which had be-
longed to two of her dead brothers. Singing
in a clear voice the songs of her clan, she com-
pleted the circle, according to custom, before
she singled out one of the young braves for spe-
cial honor by giving him the bonnet which she
held in her right hand. She then crossed over
to the Cut-Heads, and presented the other bon-
net to one of their young men. She was very
handsome; even the old men's blood was stirred
by her brave appearance!
"At daybreak the two war-parties of the
Sioux, mounted on their best horses, stood side
by side, ready for the word to charge. All of
the warriors were painted for the battle--pre-
pared for death--their nearly nude bodies deco-
rated with their individual war-totems. Their
well-filled quivers were fastened to their sides,
and each tightly grasped his oaken bow.
"The young man with the finest voice had
been chosen to give the signal--a single high-
pitched yell. This was an imitation of the one
long howl of the gray wolf before he makes
the attack. It was an ancient custom of our
"'Woo-o-o-o!'--at last it came! As the
sound ceased a shrill war-whoop from five hun-
dred throats burst forth in chorus, and at the
same instant Makatah, upon her splendid buck-
skin pony, shot far out upon the plain, like an
arrow as it leaves the bow. It was a glorious
sight! No man has ever looked upon the like
The eyes of the old man sparkled as he spoke,
and his bent shoulders straightened.
"The white doeskin gown of the War
Maiden," he continued, "was trimmed with
elk's teeth and tails of ermine. Her long black
hair hung loose, bound only with a strip of
otter-skin, and with her eagle-feather war-bonnet
floated far behind. In her hand she held a long
coup-staff decorated with eagle-feathers. Thus
she went forth in advance of them all!
"War cries of men and screams of terrified
women and children were borne upon the clear
morning air as our warriors neared the Crow
camp. The charge was made over a wide plain,
and the Crows came yelling from their lodges,
fully armed, to meet the attacking party. In
spite of the surprise they easily held their own,
and even began to press us hard, as their num-
ber was much greater than that of the Sioux.
"The fight was a long and hard one.
Toward the end of the day the enemy made a
counter-charge. By that time many of our po-
nies had fallen or were exhausted. The Sioux
retreated, and the slaughter was great. The
Cut-Heads fled womanlike; but the people
of Tamakoche fought gallantly to the very
"Makatah remained with her father's peo-
ple. Many cried out to her, 'Go back! Go
back!' but she paid no attention. She carried
no weapon throughout the day--nothing but
her coup-staff--but by her presence and her cries
of encouragement or praise she urged on the
men to deeds of desperate valor.
"Finally, however, the Sioux braves were
hotly pursued and the retreat became general.
Now at last Makatah tried to follow; but
her pony was tired, and the maiden fell farther
and farther behind. Many of her lovers passed
her silently, intent upon saving their own lives.
Only a few still remained behind, fighting des-
perately to cover the retreat, when Red Horn
came up with the girl. His pony was still fresh.
He might have put her up behind him and car-
ried her to safety, but he did not even look at
her as he galloped by.
"Makatah did not call out, but she could not
help looking after him. He had declared his
love for her more loudly than any of the others,
and she now gave herself up to die.
"Presently another overtook the maiden. It
was Little Eagle, unhurt and smiling.
"'Take my horse!' he said to her. 'I shall
remain here and fight!'
"The maiden looked at him and shook her
head, but he sprang off and lifted her upon his
horse. He struck him a smart blow upon the
flank that sent him at full speed in the direction
of the Sioux encampment. Then he seized the
exhausted buckskin by the lariat, and turned
back to join the rear-guard.
"That little group still withstood in some
fashion the all but irresistible onset of the
Crows. When their comrade came back to
them, leading the War Maiden's pony, they
were inspired to fresh endeavor, and though
few in number they made a counter-charge with
such fury that the Crows in their turn were
forced to retreat!
"The Sioux got fresh mounts and returned
to the field, and by sunset the day was won!
Little Eagle was among the first who rode
straight through the Crow camp, causing terror
and consternation. It was afterward remem-
bered that he looked unlike his former self and
was scarcely recognized by the warriors for the
modest youth they had so little regarded.
"It was this famous battle which drove that
warlike nation, the Crows, to go away from the
Missouri and to make their home up the Yel-
lowstone River and in the Bighorn country.
But many of our men fell, and among them the
brave Little Eagle!
"The sun was almost over the hills when the
Sioux gathered about their campfires, recounting
the honors won in battle, and naming the brave
dead. Then came the singing of dirges and
weeping for the slain! The sadness of loss was
mingled with exultation.
"Hush! listen! the singing and wailing have
ceased suddenly at both camps. There is one
voice coming around the circle of campfires. It
is the voice of a woman! Stripped of all her
ornaments, her dress shorn of its fringes, her
ankles bare, her hair cropped close to her neck,
leading a pony with mane and tail cut short, she
is mourning as widows mourn. It is Makatah!
"Publicly, with many tears, she declared her-
self the widow of the brave Little Eagle,
although she had never been his wife! He it
was, she said with truth, who had saved her peo-
ple's honor and her life at the cost of his own.
He was a true man!
"'Ho, ho!' was the response from many of the older warriors;
but the young men, the lovers of Makatah, were surprised
and sat in silence.
"The War Maiden lived to be a very old woman,
but she remained true to her vow. She never
accepted a husband; and all her lifetime
she was known as the widow of the brave Little Eagle."
A-no-ka-san, white on both sides (Bald Eagle).
Cha-ton'-ska, White Hawk.
Chin-to, yes, indeed.
E-yo-tank-a, rise up, or sit down.
Ha-na-ka-pe, a grave.
Han-ta-wo, Out of the way!
He-che-tu, it is well.
He-yu-pe-ya, come here!
Hi! an exclamation of thanks.
Hunk-pa-tees, a band of Sioux.
Ka-po-sia, Light Lodges, a band of Sioux.
Ma-ga-ska-wee, Swan Maiden.
Ma-ka-tah, Earth Woman.
Ma-to-ska, White Bear.
Ma-to-sa-pa, Black Bear.
Me-chink-she, my son or sons.
Min-ne-wa-kan, Sacred Water (Devil's Lake.)
Nak-pa, Ears or Long Ears.
Ne-na e-ya-ya! run fast!
O-glu-ge-chan-a, Mysterious Wood-Dweller.
Shunk-a-ska, White Dog.
Shunk-ik-chek-a, domestic dog.
Ske-ske-ta-tonk-a, Sault Sainte Marie.
Sta-su, Shield (Arickaree).
Ta-ake-che-ta, his soldier.
Ta-ma-ko-che, His Country.
Ta-tank-a-o-ta, Many Buffaloes.
Ta-te-yo-pa, Her Door.
Ta-wa-su-o-ta, Many Hailstones.
Te-yo-tee-pee, Council lodge.
To-ke-ya nun-ka hu-wo? where are you?
Unk-pa-pa, a band of Sioux.
U-ya-yo! come here!
Wa-ba-shaw, Red Hat (name of a Sioux chief).
Wa-ha-dah, Buyer of Furs.
Wah-pay-ton, a band of Sioux.
Wa-kan, sacred, mysterious.
Wak-pay-ku-tay, a band of Sioux.
Wa-pay-na, Little Barker.
Wee-ko, Beautiful Woman.
We-no-na, Firstborn Daughter.
We-sha-wee, Red Girl.
We-wop-tay, a sharpened pole.
We-yan-na, little woman.
We-zee, Smoky Lodge.
Yank-ton-nais, a band of Sioux.
Zee-zee-win, Yellow Woman.
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