Myths and Legends of the Great Plains

Page: 34

One day the two tribes had a great battle. The people fought all day. Sometimes the Ponca were driven back, sometimes the Padouca. Then at last a Ponca shot a Padouca so that he fell from his horse. Then the battle ceased. After this, one of the Padouca came toward the Ponca and said in plain Ponca,

[Pg 107] “Who are you? What do you call yourselves?”

The Ponca replied, “We call ourselves Ponca. You speak our language, are you of our tribe?”

The other said, “No. I speak your language as a gift from a Ponca spirit. One day I lay on a Ponca grave after a battle. Then a man rose from the grave and spoke to me. So I know your language.”

Then it was agreed to make peace. The tribes visited each other. The Ponca traded their bows and arrows for horses. They knew where the Padouca lived. Then the Padouca taught the Ponca how to ride, and how to put burdens on the horses.

When the Ponca had learned how to ride, and had horses, they went to war again. They attacked the Padouca in their own village. They attacked them so many times and stole so many of their horses that at last the Padouca fled. We do not know where they went. The Ponca followed the Platte River toward the rising sun; then they came back to the Missouri, and they brought their horses with them.

[Pg 108]



The Dakotas have names for the natural divisions of time. Their years they count by winters. A man is so many winters old, or so many winters have passed since such an event. When one goes on a journey, he says he will be back in so many sleeps. They have no division of time into weeks, and their months are literally by moons.

The Dakotas believe that when the moon is full, a great number of small mice begin to nibble on one side. They nibble until they eat up the entire moon. So when the new moon begins to grow, it is to them really a new moon; the old one has been eaten up.

The Dakota mother loves her baby as well as the white woman does hers. When the spirit takes its flight a wild howl goes up from the tent. The baby form is wrapped in the best buffalo calfskin, or the best red blanket, and laid away on a scaffold or on the branch of some tree. There the mother goes with disheveled hair and oldest clothes, the best ones having been given away, and wails out her sorrow in the twilight, wailing [Pg 109] often until far into the cold night. The nice kettle of hominy is prepared, and carried to the scaffold where the spirit hovers for several days. When the kettle has remained there long enough for the wanagi, the spirit, to inhale the food, the little children of the village are invited to eat up the rest.

When a hunter dies, the last act of the medicine man is to sing a song to conduct the spirit over the wanagi tacanku, the spirit’s road, as the Milky Way is called. The friends give away their good clothes. They wear ragged clothes, with bare feet, and ashes on their hands. Both within and without the lodge there is a great wailing. “