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The Legend of Sica Hollow

The Legend of Sica Hollow

by: Wambdi Wicasa

There is a place that today is called Sica Hollow. It is deep and dark, and long memories live there. Fewpeople, except the Sisseton, know its entrance, and these people keep its story a secret.

Once it was a shelter for many camps. Quiet smokes rose up to the prairie. North Wind tried everyopening into the Hollow, but the great trees held back his white breath.

Deer and antelope slipped into the folds of the Hollow. They found open water and salt, when all theearth above was hard with ice.

Great tipis lay under buffalo robes, and the old men sat every day in their meeting houses. Their boneswere warm, and their pipes prayed to Ate, who had blessed them.

But a stranger came from the west into the Hollow.

His bow was broken and his moccasins were worn. He had no family. He made a sign to say his namewas Hand. He was not fall, and his eyes were thin. The young girls looked at him, and something toldthem to be afraid.

He ate much, and did not show thanks. He laughed under his breath at the old men, and no one saw himpray. He did not smile like good men do, nor did he tell stories.

The old women said he should be sent away. But it was cold outside the Hollow, and thick ice coveredthe Big Stone Lake. The old men said he would go when it was warm.

After several moons the great light in the sky, the Sun, began to move back to the north. Earth began toopen and let out her young. Young braves quit their winter games and crept out of the Hollow to searchfor fresh meat and for the eggs of water birds that flew at night from the south.

Hand was older and slyer, and he showed the young boys many tricks. He hid like a lynx in the grass. Hiseye drew the game to him. He was proud and laughed at the mistakes of the young men.

Around the prairie camp fire, when the old men could not hear, he said, "Why do you follow the oldways? What little glory do you have? In the dark of the night I can bring you to big kills that will makeyou warriors, feared by everyone. You will be great chiefs and wear scalps at your belts. Not the tails ofrabbits. Will you listen to me, and keep my secrets away from the council fires?"

It was spring, and the young braves' hearts were beating for the beautiful maidens hidden in their mothers'tipis. A great kill would prove manhood, and the maidens would surrender to marriage.

"Listen, then, to me and prepare your war clubs. Soon the Valley trail will be dusty with camps moving northto the Lakes of Rice. If you follow me, you will strike many coups, and you will have many eagle feathersin your hair. You will be men, not old skeletons who sit and dream in the lodges."

This talk stirred the blood of the youths, and they made war clubs and waited. Every dawn they watched theValley in order to make their first kill.

And it was easy.

The people of the HoIlow had a always been good. The Camps who passed them sent signals of friendshipand slept safe on the open earth.

Now no more. Hand had taught the boys to strike.

Travelers woke to wail over their dead. They ran for their lives into the tall grass, holding their hands overthe mouths of the little ones. Blood ran everywhere. It fell into the River, and even today this River is calledRed.

The horror spread into the Hollow. Children ran for fear when they saw the dripping scalps. Women andgirls spat on the tracks where the boys walked. The old men called for a Council and for the MedicineMan.

"How can we make up for what our Sons have done? How can we wash our Hollow from this crime? Whatwill be our Sacrifice? We want our Hollow to be as it was long ago.

Wicasa Wakan listened to the old men. He went to his own lodge to listen to Wakantanka. He sat with hiswhistle and rattle and burning sweetgrass. He did not sleep, but his eyes were closed. He waited forThunderer to bring him a message.

And Hand did not sleep. He and his killers lit a big fire in the middle of the camp.They leaped and killed again and again. They bragged and shouted to the girls, "Lift up the tipi walls andfollow us out into the grass. Your children will have our blood in them and everyone will tremble when theycall out."

But the camp listened only to the Holy Man and prayed with him. An evil had come into their Peace, and onlyThunderer could cleanse it from them.

A wind stirred . The whistle and rattle in the lodge stilled. Ate, Father, had heard his people. He had acceptedtheir sacrifice. His messenger was coming.

Through the smoke holes women saw the dark wings of Thunderer. A flash and then another come from hiseyes.

Sudden fear touched the shoulders of Hand. He crouched and shook like a water reed. Madness took him,but he could not escape. He ran and ran, but the wings of Thunderer beat him back into the flood that rainedfrom the cloud.

Vines reached out for him and took him by his ankles. The water rose to his screaming mouth and to hisgaping eyes. He was too evil to cry for mercy, and the talons of Thunderer ripped out his sight, so hewould never see the Happy Hunting Ground.

Wakantanka did not take all the sacrifice offered to him by his people in the Hollow. Most sat in theirtipis and went to God with a prayer.

But one was saved. By her father she was called Fawn.

When the Wicasa Wakan had began his prayer Fawn slipped into the door of her mother's tipi. Her hairwas black as a raven and long. With a bone she began to comb it and oil it. She set it into two braids andtied the ends with a bit of ermine. From her bundle she drew her tassled dress and high white moccasins. Her Medicine was calling her to flee the rising water.

Up and up the steep slope she flew. The water rose higher behind her. All the world was covered. On thetop of the highest hill she stood bright and smooth-skinned in the sun light. She was alone, the only one ofher tribe not touched by man or by the evil that Hand had brought to her people.

She began her song, and the Great Spirit behind the Sun listened:

"I am grieved for the evil that my brothers did. Your beautiful land is destroyed. I stand alone with you. Let me sing my song, before I join my sisters. You were good to us before evil entered our Peace. Now I grieve. I ask your kindness. Ate make this ground, where I stand, holy again. Remember this little spot and send your love here. From this ground make a new people and they will worship you always. Now I go to you."

Her song and her great grief made Fawn drop to the ground and she slept. The eye of Wakantanka sawher, and he sent a white cloud to cover her. She slept many days, and the cloud covered her.

She could not feel it, but from the cloud new life stirred in her. She felt no pain either, but a motionawakened her. It was a child hungry for her milk.

A tall brave looked down on her and touched her face.

Below her the Hollow was clean and bright again. Only the memory lingers--Sica Hollow. Some day eventhis bad name will be changed and be forgotten. Gentle smokes will rise again. It will be called by its oldname -- Mokoce Waste. (Good Land)

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