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ing about the Iroquoian confederacy. In this transaction he showed
hmiself so powerful in convincing some of the reluctant chiefs of the
nations, one of which in particular was also a great medicine man
or wonder v:orker, that he was thought to have magic power. Later
legends grew up about his memory on the basis of this supposed

Myths must be viewed as peculiar products of a people living at
a given age. They are culture products, expressions of the mind,
ways of looking at things, reflections of customs and life of the so-
cieties giving them birth. They grade up in the matter of system
and intelligence from the low and crude to the high and esthetic.
The lower are gross or brutal, showing that the people were lower in
civilization. The higher are refined and often filled with the beauti-
ful and something of the higher elhical, consequently indicating a
higher civilization. We mav, therefore, study a people's beliefs,
ideas about nature or themselves, their characters and customs by the
use of their storie.s. Also we sometimes get srlimpses of their past
history in these legends. The myth of the Sabine women in Roman
history is partly an attempt to explain the origin of marriage by
capture, and partly the fact of expansion of territory and the incor-
poration of alien peoples on the part of the Romans. Among the
Mandans many of their stories reflect the previous dwelling place of
that people. It is well established that they originally lived on or


near the southeastern coast of the United States. Their traditions
in incidental ways, such as references to corn, boats, turtles, big river
mouth, all now treated as sacred matters or as mysteries, reflect the
former situation. Our government ethnologists have made use of
this factor to unravel the history of our Indian races in many cases.
There is one caution here. Borrowing is frequent among peoples,
even in matters of myth. One must be careful here lest historical
pointings be imputed to the wrong body of people.

A consideration of the elements which have helped in the production
of myths may be useful in finding their significance in the life of
their holders. Some stories are very fanciful, -and in them we see
the product of the unbridled imagination of the childish mind. Oth-
ers are attempts to get at the origin and explanation of things, and
they reflect the element of prying curiosity in humanity which ulti-
mately led to science and made possible the true explanation of man
and the world. Some are evidently made for the mere object of en-
tertainment, and this was a very much needed item in primitive life.
Some originated in connection with dreams and visions, and we can
see how powerful these phenomena were in early times. A great class
have their motive in fear, and this element is probably the most pow-
erful one of all in the production of myths, for the life of primitive
man was one continuous struggle against agencies, the true nature of
which he did not understand, and his mind peopled the world with
terrors because it could do no better.

Our American Indians were in the stage of barbarism and their
myths were neither as crude as those of people living in pure sav-
agery nor were they as high as those of more advanced people They
have elements expressing the transitional stage in which the Indians
were when European civilization broke in upon them.

Related by Joseph Packeneau, Elbowoods.

There once lived an Indian girl whose father was a chief, and she
had seven brothers who loved her dearly, but because she would not
marry any one of their tribe, nor even the son of a great chief who
lived a long way from them, they found fault with her and threat-
ened to compel her to marry Black Eagle, a very terrible magician
who lived in the land where the sun rises.

Now, Corn Silk was not the least frightened at this threat, for
she was a brave girl, and so to show how little she cared, she secretly
made ready for a journey to the land of Black Eagle. Early one
m.orning she started out alone on her journey to the land of Black
Eagle, carrying only, a little bag of corn pemmican for food on her
long journey. She met with some strange adventures which there is
not time to relate, and traveled a most surprising distance by means


cf her mag-ic arts, and at nightfall she came in sig-ht of a small tepee
standing at the edge of a large wood.

Being- skilled in all manner of wood craft and knowing the ways
of all the animals, she saw at once that this was the summer home of
the mouse people, the smallest of the underground tribes. She could
see the flicker of the fire within and knew from the voices she heard
that they were seated around the fire eating their suppers. She heard
them telling each other of the difficulty they had met in getting the
seeds and other food for their winter store. Said one, "My toe nails are
sore from scratching in the ground, and I am dusty and very tired."
Said another, "My mouth is sore from biting the seeds out of the
husk and carrying them crammed in my cheeks to my little store
house deep in the ground. How happy we will be if we can find
some better food which will cost us less labor and pain to get."

She waited quietly outside until one of their children came out
for more wood to replenish the fire, and, seeing her, ran back quick-
ly, saying, "There is an Indian woman outside." Then Corn-silk
heard some one say, "Invite her to come and sit by the fire," so
she entered and was made welcome to a seat with the others in the
httle tepee which by her magic arts she entered without difficulty,
making herself of the proper size v^d^ile she was in their company.
As she opened her bag of corn pemmican to eat a little for supper,
the oldest mouse in the company asked her what she had in the bag.
Upon being told that it was her food, they all desired to taste a little
of it. Now, corn pemmican is made of parched corn pounded fine
and mixed with bufifalo tallow and dried bufifalo meat pounded into
powder. When each mouse had eaten its portion of the corn pemmi-
can, they all declared that never before had they tasted such
delicious food. Then the oldest of the mice said to her, "Corn Silk,
we know why you have come on this journey, and because you have
shared your food with us without knowing whether it would last you
to your journey's end, we will help you when you come to the village
of Black Eagle. We will send word to our queen. Grandmother
Mole, and she will give orders to us all. You will see her on the
fourth day of your journey. Tomorrow night you will come to the
home of the next larger tribe of underground people, the gophers."
So the next day Corn Silk set out on her journey, shortening the
distance as before until she had gone as far as one might ordinarily
travel in many days.

She found the tepee of the gopher people, who entertained her,
and to whom she gave some of her precious corn pemmican as she
had done the night before, and they promised to aid her when their
queen should give them permission to do so. The third night she
stayed at the home of the largest of the underground people, the
tribe of prairie dogs, the Wood chucks and the badgers.

The fourth and last night found her at the lodge of Grandmother
Mole. After eating the last bit of the corn pemmican which Corn


Silk gave her freely, Grandmother ]\Iole said to her, "Corn Silk,
because you have given of your wonderful Jood to all the people
over whom I rule, I will order them to help you when Black Eagle
shall try to kill you. Listen carefully to what I tell you, and do not
fail to carry out my instructions exactly. Black Eagle is a terrible
magician who loves to kill those who visit him. Many have come
to his village, but none have ever gone away again. So my people
have told me as they have watched his village from every side ever
smce I have been queen of the underground people. Tomorrow
when you go to his village, which is near by, he will welcome you
and you will become his wife. You need not fear him until he tells
you to come with him to the river to bathe. Then, before you leave
his tepee, take care to unloose your hair so that it hangs freely on
every side, untie your mocassin strings and let them trail upon the
ground, unloose the fringes of your dress at the wrists and the
Vv^aist and be sure that your clothing is not tied or fas-
tened tightly anywhere. As you reach the bank with Black
Fagle he will tell . you to wait for him as he has for-
gotten something in his tepee which he must bring, and
ho will tell vou to stand on a large buffalo skull on the edge of
the bank until he returns. Do not follow his directions, but, instead,
kick this skull over the bank into the water, and we will all be there
to help you escape from Black Eagle. The secret of his terrible
power lies in a magic shell he wears at his throat. He will come
living toward you in the form of a great black eagle, bringing with
him a storm of wind that will sweep you into the river unless you
obe\- my commands. Do not fear him even in this dreadful form, but
snatch the shell from his throat and all will be well ; he will then be
powerless to harm you."

Corn Silk thanked Grandmother Mole manv times for her kind-
ness in promising to help her, and in the morning bade the queen of
the underground people good bye and, after going some little dis-
tance, found herself at the entrance of the village of Black Eagle
As she entered and sought for the tepee of the great chief, she
heard the people of the villasre say to each other as the stood at their
doorways watching her. "What a beautiful young woman to be the
bride of Black Eagle ! What a pitv it is that she must be killed
like the rest of them !" They said this without knowing that Corn
Silk understood their language, for she had learned it from Grand-
mother Mole the night before. So she became the wife of Black
Eagle, and for many weeks she lived in the village and went about
among the people there and heard them speak of her certain death
whenever it should please Black Eagle to kill her. At last one morn-
ing the magician told her to come with him to the river. But Corn
Silk remembered the warnings of Grandmother Mole, and bv her
own quick wit and the assistance of the all the underground people
who were there to help her, she overcame Black Eagle and took


•away his magic power. She lived as his wife many years in this
village ,and when their son was well grown, they all visited her
father's home. Here by accident Black Eagle discovered and won
back the magic shell which Corn Silk had taken from him and
had kept hidden carefully ever since her coming to his village. As
soon as he had possession of his magic power again, he flew away
as a black eagle, and was never seen again.

The son of Corn Silk, He-Who-Watches-for-His-Prey, grew to
be a very remarkable young man, and had two wives, one the daugh-
ter of a very famous northern chief of the tribe of Buffaloes, and
the other, Corn Woman, from a far southern tribe. The Buffalo
woman became angry one day at Corn Woman and returned to her
own people, carrying her son with her, a boy much loved by his
father. Corn Woman sent the father in pursuit of Buffalo Woman
find he flies after them in the form of an eagle. He overtakes them,
but cannot persuade his wife to return, and so he goes with them to
her tribe, a great village in the far north, where the people can take
the form of buflfaloes whenever they choose to do so. Here he had
a long contest with the mother of Buffalo Woman, who is a power-
ful witch, but he wins in every trial, partly by his magic power
and partly by the help of Corn Woman, who comes to help him
when he is caught in a trap and about to perish. He lives here in
this village ever after and becomes the leader of the tribe.

The above much abbreviated form of the beautiful and interesting
legend of Corn Silk contains very much of the tribal law and history
of both the Mandans, who are the tribe of Corn Woman, and the
Grosventres, to whom belongs the bad tempered Buffalo Woman,
and the wicked witch, her mother. At some future time the entire
legend will be published in full and every detail will then appear in
its proper jjlace.






One of the most important results of the field work in the regiort
ol the Missouri valley done by the ;,ecretary during the past two sea-
sons, with the assistance of Frank J. V. Kiebert and A. B. Stout^
has been the careful mapping of a considerable number of old vil-
lage sites. Some of these maps appear in the following pages as-
illustrating the various features of the village types under discus-

The Mandan villages form by far the most important set of re-
mains in the region south of the Heart river, and north of this river
there are several well defined villages belonging to this tribe. From-
the descriptions of the Mandans in the records of the travelers who-
visited them we can gather a fairly accurate idea of the general ap-
pearance of a typical Mandan village. But even the drawings of
Catlin and Maximilian fail to supply the details necessary for a com-
plete picture. It became necessary, therefore, for the Society to
seek other sources of information than the works of early travelers.
In Vol. I. of the Collections of our Society are reproduced some-
charts, drawn by a Mandan living on the Fort Berthold reservation,
showing the arrangement of the tepees in both Mandan and Hidatsa
villages. Since that tipie we have made a careful survey
of the most im:portant historical site of the Mandan tribe
in the state, the one visited and described by Lewis and'
Clark, Catlin and Maxmilian, on the Knife river in the-
vicinity of old Fort Clark. * The Indian chart and the
map of the village as it appears today are here shown. It is seen
that the two representations are not essentially unlike. The group-
ing of the houses about a common center, at one side of which is the
holy tepee, is the predominating characteristic of each. That the
Mandan artist, plate I. depicted the holy tepee larger than it should
be is an error which does not vitiate the correctness of the general
plan. Moreover, his plan includes more details which add much to
our knowledge of the life in and about this old site, The paths to the
water, the location of the gardens, the trails leading to and past the
village, are all points of importance. On the other hand, the survey
of the actual site had added details of value. In plate II. is shown-
the map of the Fort Clark site as it appears today. In the center of
the tepees, on the space devoted by the old Mandans to the "big
canoe" and cedar post of the "elder man," stands now a large tepee-


(shown in dotted outline) which was placed there by the Arikara
who occupied the village after the small pox scourge of 1837 had
killed or driven away the original inhabitants. The only tepee of
the Mandans, opening directly toward the old sacred cedar post, the
center of the Arikara tepee is the one numbered 1. On either side
are ranged the tepees of the leading men of the tribe with their
doorways opening inward, but none of them directly toward the
sacred post and its enclosing fence. Farther back from the river are
the tepees of the less important members of the tribe with their
doorways pointing in a variety of directions. The location of the
doorways or entrances to the tepees is seen to be of great impor-
tance, it is often the most important element in the identification of
a village site. From accounts of travelers and from the descriptions
by the Indians still living on the Mandan reservation at Fort Berth-
old, we learn that the entrances were made by placing upright slabs
or logs in the form of a small roofed square like a storm entrance in
front of the opening into the tepees. The entrances would repre-
sent a break in the solid earthen wall of the rest of the tepee circle
and when the whole structure decayed, the doorway would be visi-
ble as a considerable depression in the ring of earth left by the tum-
bling down of the thick earthen walls, sometimes three feet through
at their base. The line of the ditch is indicated, but it is not con-
tinuous and serves only to mark the general boundary of the vil-
lage, beyond which only a few tepees are located. •

The names of the leaders who lived on either side of the holy te-
pee in the Fort Clark village were given to the secretary by Bad
Gun, Rushing War Eagle, son of the Ma-ta-to-pe or Four Bears,
whose portrait Catlin painted, and which is preserved at Washington
with the other works of this famous painter.The list is as follows :

Tepee No. 1 was the holy tepee and was also used by Lance

Tepee No. 2 was occupied by Four Bears.

Tepee No. 3 was occupied by Wolf Chief.

Tepee No. 4 was occupied by Chief-Acting-Foolish.

Tepee No. 5 was occupied by Lame Bear.

Tepee No. 6 was occupied by Flying Eagle.

Tepee No. 7 was occupied by Nine Men.

Tepee No. 8 was occupied by One Feather.

Tepee No. 9 was occupied by Little Bufifalo.

Tepee No. 10 was occupied by Boy Chief.

Tepee No. 11 was occupied by Red Cow (Black Eagle's father.)'

Tepee No. 12 was occupied by Big Spring.

Tepee No. 13 was occupied by Sharp Horn.

Tepee No. 14 was occupied by Red Shoulder.

Tepee No. 15 was occupied by the second wife of Red Shoulder.

Closely associated with the Mandans in very early times, and now
quite completely amalgamated with them were the Grosventre or-


Hidatsa tribe. From the Indian chart of a village of this tribe and
from a map made from the survey of the largest Hidatsa village on
the Knife river, plates III. and IV„ a typical arrangement of the
tepees can be clearly seen. There is evidently no grouping about a
common center in this form of village, for there is no holy tepee,
the Hidatsa have none, but hold their ceremonies in a hut of boughs
outside the village.^ The Indian chart, plate III., represents the
second village of the Hidatsa, the home of Charbonneau and Saka-
kawea. The map, plate IV, shows the present appearance of the
tepees circles on the largest Hidatsa village site, located just north
of the mouth of Knife river. From the position and direction of the
doorways, it is seen that these villages show no such large grouping
as is so characteristic of the Mandan village just studied. The te-
pees, instead, seem to lack arrangement and to be placed somewhat
at random, and with their doorways pointing in every direction. One
additional feature of the Hidatsa village must be added from the
field notes made at the time of the survey of the five Knife river
villages. The tepee circles in the three Hidatsa sites were very
much deeper than those in the two Mandan sites. The spaces be-
tween the tepee circles in the Hidatsa sites were in a majority of
cases heaped up into ridges and various sorts of debris showed ev-
erywhere on the outside and in the excavations made in them. The
distance from the bottom of the depression in the center of some
tepee circles to the highest part of the rim was often three feet and
very commonly over two feet. Quite the reverse was true of the
Mandan sites, the tepee circles were quite shallow, there was no
heaping up of refuse between them and no trace of broken pottery,
bones or shells was to be seen. Besides these distinctions between
the two types of village sites, another of considerable importance
was noted. In many cases it was observed that in and near the
Hidatsa villages were mounds of debris of varying heights, while
nothing of the kind was seen on or near Mandan sites. Connected
with this fact it is worthy of notice that traders and travelers report
the presence of swarms of dogs in the Hidatsa villages, and their
comparative scarcity in Mandan villages. All this may go to prove
that the Hidatsa ~ were a northern people migrating southward
from a cold climate, while the Mandans, with their general cleanli-
ness in and about their villages, came from a warmer climate where
the disposal of village garbage was an important matter. The evi-
dence on the important question of origins has not yet been collected,
but it is worth while calling attention to what appears to be a broad
distinction separating these tribes, so long and intimately associated

We may now examine another site whose origin is not yet proved
and no records exist of any visit by white men to it. It has recently

'See Vol. I., Collections State Hist. Soc, N. D., p. 435.


Scale 111 ■ 1056 fl
Surveyed and Mapped




been made the subject of a report issued by the Peabody museum.^
In this work there is no evidence given us as to this being a Mandan
village site, and the whole investigation takes for granted what is
a pure hypothesis. A careful surface survey of this site was made
during the last season by A. B. Stout, and plate V. shows the village
site as it appears today. The entire absence of any grouping of the
tepees about a common center and the lack of any order or plan
shown by the position of the doorways prove conclusively that this
is not a Mandan site. Still further evidence of its non-Mandan
origin is to be found in the piles of refuse scattered everywhere
about the village -and between the tepees, some of which form ridges
tilling the intervening spaces completely. The great depth, also, of
some of the tepee circles is evidence in the same direction. It is very
clear that from the surface survey alone we may be justified in call-
ing this an Hidatsa site without a trace of Mandan origin anywhere
visible. The site is interesting in another way, it has an outer and
vn inner ditch, the latter quite certainly marking the boundary of a
shrunken village that previously extended to the larger boundary of
the outer ditch. There are several pieces of evidence that go to sup-
port this conclusion. Tn the first place, within a few miles of this
site are three sites, at all of which the Sioux have destroyed the
villages. In the case of one of these villages, a fairly complete In-
dian record gives the details of the preparations for the attack made
by the Sioux, the account of a regular siege for over a week, ter-
minating in the complete extinction of the village, except for a few
captives whose descendants have perpetuated the story. Second,
the outer ditch is far less perfect and much older than the inner.
Quoting from our careful and accurate field ofificer, A. B. Stout, he
says : "The inner is far the better, it is on an average of about
twenty feet wide. It has fourteen bastions, gently curving but de-.
cided projections of the ditch ; the inner bank is well built up at these
points, and the re-entering angles are also well filled. The outer
ditch is a much poorer ditch than the inner one." Third, an exami-
nation of the doorways of tepees bordering the inner ditch on the
outside show several of them with doorways opening directly into
the ditch. At tepees 113 and 114, for instance, the ditch is one and
a half feet deep on the outside and three feet deep on the inside,
which is not a very desirable state of afifairs for the only entrance
to a house. At tepees 21 and 22 conditions are hardly better, for
the ditch here is twenty feet wide i^nd two feet deep on both sides.
Whatever may have been the earlier history of this village, it is ob-
vious that it was lessened in size by a new and well defended ditch
that cut some old tepees through and passed close by others regard-
less of entrances. To one knowing the history of the INIissouri river
Indians, there is but one explanation of such a movement, namely,
long continued and dangerous attacks by the Sioux. Tn this gradual

'Spinden and Will, The Mandans, Caml)ridge, ]\ras?., IDOci.


letreat before a foe as well armed and numerous as the Sioux the
Hidatsa must have found that their outside refuse heaps of four,
five and even seven feet in height were excellent points of vantage
for the enemy. It is no wonder that the site was abandoned by its
inhabitants when once the Sioux had learned how it could be safely

The above conclusions are directly contrary to those reached by

Online LibraryState Historical Society of North Dakota. cnCollections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota (Volume 2) → online text (page 51 of 76)