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(Many Paths)
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Brave Woman Counts Coup
Hunkpapa Woman Remembered
by As told by Jenny Leading Cloud, Edited by The First Scout

White River, Rosebud, SD - Over a hundred years ago, when the Seven Council Fires ("Sioux") were still living in Minnesota, there was a Teton band of Hunkpapa at Spirit Lake under an chief called Tawa Makoche (His Country). It was his country too, Indian Country, until the white soldiers with their cannon finally drove the Teton across the Missouri River.

In his youth the chief had been a great warrior. Later, when his fighting days were over, he was known as a wise leader, invaluable in council, a great giver of feasts, and a provider for the poor.

The chief had three sons and one daughter. The sons tried to emulate their father in deed by becoming great warriors as their father, but it was a difficult thing to do. Time and again they battled against the Crow with reckless bravery, exposing their selves in the front rank, fighting hand to hand, until one by one they were all killed. The sad chief had only his daughter left. Some say her name was Makata Win (On The Ground Woman). Others called her Ohitika Win (Brave Woman).

The young woman was beautiful and proud. Many young men sent their fathers to the old chief with gifts of fine horses that were preliminary to marriage proposals. Among those who desired Ohitika Win for a wife was a young warrior named Hé Lúta (Red Horn), himself the son of a chief, who sent his father again and again to arrange a marriage on his behalf.

Ohitika Win would not marry. "I will not take a husband," she said, "until I have counted coup on the Crow to avenge my brothers."

Another young man, Wambdi Cikala (Little Eagle), also loved Ohitika Win. He was too shy to declare his love because he was poor, and had never been able to distinguish himself.

At this time, the Crow made a great effort to establish their nation on the upper Missouri River, a country the Saone (Northern Teton) consider their own. The Hunkpapa decided to send out a strong war party to chase them back. Hé Lúta and Wambdi Cikala were in this same war party.

"I shall ride with you," Ohitika Win said. She put on her best dress of white buckskin, which was richly decorated with beadwork and quillwork; around her neck she wore a dentalium choker.

Ohitika Win then went before Tawa Makoche and addressed him, "Father, I must go to the place where my brothers died. I must count coup for them. Tell me that I can go."

Tawa Makoche wept with overwhelming pride and profound sadness. "You are my last child," he said, "I fear for you, and for a lonely age without children to comfort me. Your decision has long been determined. I see that you must go. Do it quickly. Wear my warbonnet into battle. Go and do not look back."

Ohitika Win then took her brothers weapons, her father's warbonnet and best horse, and rode out with the war party. They came upon a vast enemy camp, that it appeared to be the entire Crow nation – hundreds of men and thousands of horses. There were many more Crow than Hunkpapa, but they attacked nevertheless.

Ohitika Win was a sight to stir and motivate the warriors to great deeds. She gave Hé Lúta her oldest brother's lance and shield, and said, "Count coup for my brother." To Wambdi Cikala she gave her second brother's bow and arrows, and said, "Count coup for him who owned these." She gave her youngest brother's war club to another young warrior. For herself, Ohitika Win carried her father's coup stick wrapped in otter fur.

At first Ohitika Win held back in the fight. She supported the Hunkpapa by singing brave-heart songs and trilling (the tremulous cry which women use to encourage their men). When the Hunkpapa were driven back by overwhelming numbers, she rode into the midst of the fight. She didn't try to kill her enemies, but counted coup left and right. What Lak?óta warrior could think of retreat when a woman fought bravely beside them?

The press of the Crow and their horses pushed the Hunkpapa back a second time. The horse of Ohitika Win was hit by a musket ball and went down. She was one foot and defenseless when Hé Lúta passed her by. She was too proud to call out for help and he pretended not to see her. Wambdi Cikala then came riding out of the battle dust, dismounted, and told her to get on. She did so, thinking that they would ride double when he called out, "This horse is wounded, and is too weak to carry us both."

"I won't leave you to be killed," said Ohitika Win, when Wambdi Cikala struck the horse's rump with her brother's bow. The horse bolted and Wambdi Cikala went back into the fight on foot. Ohitika Win rallied the war party for a final charge. Their final push was so determined and fierce that the Crow retreated.

This was the battle in which the Crow were driven away from the Missouri River. It was a great victory for the Hunkpapa, and many brave young men had died. Among the dead was Wambdi Cikala, struck down with his face towards the enemy. The Hunkpapa warriors took the bow of Hé Lúta and broke it, then took his feathers and sent him home.

They placed the body of Wambdi Cikala on a scaffold, where the enemy camp had been. Then, they killed his horse to serve him in the spirit world. "Go willingly," they told the horse, "Your rider has need of you in the spirit world."

Ohitika Win gashed her arms and legs with a knife in her grief. She also cut her hair short and tore her dress. Thus, she mourned for Wambdi Cikala. They had not been husband and wife. In fact, he hardly dared look at her or speak to her, but now she asked everyone to treat her as a widow.

Ohitika Win never took a husband, and she never ceased to mourn the loss of Wambdi Cikala. "I am his widow, "she would tell people. She died of old age. She had done a great thing and her fame endures.

Camp of the Gros Ventre on the Prairies, by Karl Bodmer.


Hu?kpháp?a: Head Of The Camp Circle, Hunkpapa
K?a?gí: Crow
Ochéthi Šakówi?: Seven Council Fires
Mníšoše: Water Astir, Missouri River
Mníšota: Smoking Water, Minnesota
Mní Wak?á?: Water With Energy, Spirit Lake
Saone: Northern Teton (Hunkpapa, Oohenonpa, Miniconjou, Itazipco)
Thít?u?wa?: Dwellers On The Plains, Teton


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