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 the satisfaction to see the scalps of the murdered Chippeways stretched on poles all through the village, around which she, sixty years old, looked forward with great joy to dance; though this was a small gratification compared with her recollection of having formerly cut to pieces the bodies of sundry murdered Chippeway children.

A dreadful creature she was! How vividly her features rise before me. Well do I remember her as she entered my room on a stormy day in January. Her torn moccasins were a mocking protection to her nearly frozen feet; her worn “okendo kenda” hardly covering a wrinkled neck and arms seamed with the scars of many a self-inflicted wound; she tried to make her tattered blanket meet across her chest, but the benumbed fingers were powerless, and her step so feeble, from fatigue and want of food, that she almost fell before the cheerful fire that seemed to welcome her. The smile with which she tried to return my greeting added hideously to the savage expression of her features, and her matted hair was covered with flakes of the drifting snow that almost blinded her.

Food, a pipe, and a short nap before the fire, refreshed her wonderfully. At first she would hardly deign an answer to our questions; now she becomes quite talkative. Her small keen eye follows the children as they play about the room; she tells of her children when they were young, and played around her; when their father brought her venison for food.

Where are they? The Chippeways (mark her as she compresses her lips, and see the nervous trembling of her limbs) killed her husband and her oldest son: consumption walked among her household idols. She has one son left, but he loves the white man’s fire-water ; he has forgotten his aged mother she has no one to bring her food the young men laugh at her, and tell her to kill game for herself.

At evening she must be going ten miles she has to walk to reach her teepee, for she cannot sleep in the white man’s house. We tell her the storm is howling it will be dark before she reaches home the wind blows keenly across the open prairie she had better lie down on the carpet before the fire and sleep. She points to the walls of the fort she does not speak; but her action says, “It cannot be; the Sioux woman cannot sleep beneath the roof of her enemies.”

She is gone God help the Sioux woman! the widow and the childless. God help her, I say, for other hope or help has she none.

Gods of the Dahcotahs

First in order of the gods of the Dahcotahs, comes the Great Spirit. He is the creator of all things, excepting thunder and wild rice. Then there is:

WakinyanMan of the West
Wehiyayanpa-micaxtaMan of the East
WazzaMan of the North
Itokaga-micaxtaMan of the South
Onkteri, or UnktaheGod of the Waters
Hayoka, or Haokathe antinatural god
Takuakanxkangod of motion
Canotidan, Little Dweller in WoodsThis god is said to live in a forest, in a hollow tree
Witkokaga, the Befoolerthat is, the god who deceives or fools animals so that they can be easily taken.


Dakota, Sioux,

Fort Snelling,

Eastman, Mary H. Dahcotah, Or Life and Legends of the Sioux around Ft. Snelling. New York: John Wiley. 1849.

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