The Teton Lakota were great travelers, their journeys covering
much of North America. They knew the location of salt deposits.
They knew where to find pigments for their paints. They made journeys
to the northern woods to gather the sweet juices of the maple tree.
They lived by the hunt, so they followed the grazing herds of buffalo,
and from early springtime to autumn they gathered fruit and edible
Thus, it is told, one time a caravan of Teton Lakota was slowly
moving toward the Black Hills to harvest the many varieties of fruit
abounding there. Such journeys were always leisurely, well-ordered
and pleasurable. Everyone, young and old, was in an anticipatory
mood. The excitement of new country, new experiences and the prospect
of what lay beyond yonder hill held a thrill of expectation for
all. The vanguard scouts went far ahead. Their task was to blaze
a trail for the others to travel, while also scouting for water
facilities, hunting prospects, natural protective fortifications
and good camping sites.
The flanking scouts moved up and down each side of the moving
caravan, keeping a sharp eye for possible enemy movements, watching
also for animals to supply fresh meat for the caravan. Within this
cordon of alert scouts the marchers were safe from surprise attack.
The leaders of the march kept the long column informed of travel
orders by heralds who shuttled back and forth as the caravan moved
along. Dignitaries, pack carriers and the Petilegha Yuha - carriers
of the perpetual fire - brought up the rear. The sick and weak rode
Socializing was a pleasurable aspect of the march. Matrons moved
in groups and exchanged news while caring for the children. New
babies arrived without trouble as the caravan moved along. Braves
not assigned to duty paired off with young maids. Youths hunted;
young children romped and played as they moved along.
When the sun was directly overhead, the caravan halted. All
along the column there were hurried preparations for the noon meal.
The leaders sat in council and studied the reports of the scouts.
Accordingly, further orders were heralded all along the line.
After many days of marching, the Lakota caravan encountered
rugged terrain. To the southeast the Black Hills appeared, hazily
black. Bears were numerous in the rough piney hills, but as they
rarely attacked human beings unless wounded, sick or hungry, no
one feared them.
Then one day, as the travelers moved cautiously through the
rough pine-studded hills, an alarm was hastily relayed through the
column. Several little girls had wandered off and now were presumed
to be lost. Search parties were hurriedly formed and dispatched
in all directions. Finally the little girls were spotted, but alas,
they were surrounded by a pack of hungry bears. The frightened children
screamed for help. No one was near enough to save them. The rescuers,
still too far away, looked on in horror as the growling bears closed
in on the girls.
Legend of Devil's Tower.
Suddenly a voice from the blue sky spoke to the little girls,
saying Paha akili - climb the hill. It had a strange effect on the
attacking bears. For a time they stood paralyzed, giving the little
girls a chance to clamber up a small knoll.
The girls huddled together on the hill and hid their faces from
the angry bears, as once again the animals, recovering from their
surprise, began climbing after them. The situation appeared hopeless,
but like the wrath of thunder, the earth shook and groaned as the
little knoll, commanded by the strange voice, began to rise out
of the ground, carrying the children high into the air. Higher and
higher the mound rose, as the frustrated bears growled and clawed
at its sides. Sharp pieces of rock broke away from the rising spire
and crashed down upon the angry bears.
The children were now safe from the snarling bears, but other
dangers loomed. How were they to get down? Appearing like tiny specks
on top of a high, sharp mound, they kept their eyes tightly closed,
not daring to look down. But the strange voice spoke again, saying,
Do not cry; you will not fall. I have many pretty birds with
me. Make friends with them, for soon you will ride upon a pretty
bird, away and away down to the ground. And so it was. A covey
of birds appeared. The kindly voice belonged to none other than
Fallen Star. Molten rocks poured down the sides of the mound, burying
the hungry bears. Each little girl now chose a pretty bird upon
whose back she flew into the anxious arms of her frantic mother.
That was how Devils Tower came to be, say Lakota legends.
To prove it, the Indians point to the deep crevices along the walls
of the tower and the claw marks made by the huge bears of long ago.
Indeed it was so, the Lakota say.
Source: LaPointe, James. Legends of the Lakota. San
Francisco: Indian Historian Press, 1976. pp. 65-67. -
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