It would be impossible to give any idea of the number of the gods of the Dahcotahs. All nature is animated with them; every mountain, every tree, is worshipped, as among the Greeks of old, and again, like the Egyptians, the commonest animals are the objects of their adoration.
May the time soon come when they will acknowledge but one God, the Creator of the Earth and Heaven, the Sovereign of the universe!
“Ever,” says Checkered Cloud, “will Unktahe, the god of the waters, and Wahkeon, (Thunder,) do battle against each other. Sometimes the thunder birds are conquerors—often the god of the waters chases his enemies back to the distant clouds.”
Many times, too, will the daughters of the nation go into the pathless prairies to weep; it is their custom; and while there is sickness, and want, and death, so long will they leave the haunts of men to weep where none but the Great Spirit may witness their tears. It is only, they believe, in the City of spirits, that the sorrows of Dahcotah women will cease—there, will their tears be dried forever.
Many winters have passed away since Harpstenah brought the dead body of her husband to his native village to be buried; my authority is the “medicine woman,” whose lodge, for many years, was to be seen on the banks of Lake Calhoun.
This village is now deserted. The remains of a few houses are to be seen, and the broken ground in which were planted the poles of their teepees. Silence reigns where the merry laugh of the villagers often met in chorus. The scene of the feast and dance is now covered with long grass, but “desolation saddens all its green.”
Dark and heavy clouds hung over the village of “Sleepy Eyes,” one of the chiefs of the Sioux. The thunder birds flapped their wings angrily as they flew along, and where they hovered over the “Father of many waters,” the waves rose up, and heaved to and fro. Unktahe was eager to fight against his ancient enemies; for as the storm spirits shrieked wildly, the waters tossed above each other; the large forest trees were uptorn from their roots, and fell over into the turbid waters, where they lay powerless amid the scene of strife; and while the vivid lightning pierced the darkness, peal after peal was echoed by the neighboring hills.
One human figure was seen outside the many teepees that rose side by side in the village. Sleepy Eyes alone dared to stand and gaze upon the tempest which was triumphing over all the powers of nature. As the lightning fell upon the tall form of the chief, he turned his keen glance from the swift-flying clouds to the waters, where dwelt the god whose anger he had ever been taught to fear. He longed, though trembling, to see the countenance of the being whose appearance is the sure warning of calamity. His superstitious fears told him to turn, lest the deity should rise before him; while his native courage, and love of the marvellous, chained him to the spot.