story of Wind Cave
From the "Flying River Band"
of Mniconjou-Teton band
“My grandfather, John Little Finger, who
survived Wounded Knee Creek Massacre of 1890, told me
this story. His grandfather Sitanka, Chief Big Foot,
was the leader of this Band of MniconjouTeton, of the
OcetiSakowin Orate or People of the Seven Council Fires.
Later, this nation became more commonly known as the
Great Sioux Nation. The origin of this Band goes back
to a people known as the Wakpa Kinyan Se or Flying River
Band. Their name comes from the rapid flow of the creek
which flows out of the Black Hills, now known as Rapid
Creek. The flow seems as if it is ‘Flying’,
and was their base camp" (Leonard Little Finger: 2003).
In the beginning of time when all things were created,
Maka or Mother Earth was created for all living beings.
This was a time of all created to live in harmony with
one another. In this time, there existed no evil. Life
in this time was of endless harmony and happiness of
all created. A Lakota word, Wicozani, expresses this
life. It means a complete wholeness of well-being including:
spiritual, physical, mental, and economic well-being,
with economic well-being understood as having adequate
food, shelter, and clothing.
Then one day, a trickster came to this world to persuade
one of the two-legged beings to come out of this world
by attempting to convince him that there was a better
world to live in. He came with his message to a man
known as Tokahe or the first. Pte or Buffalo, the holy
man of the people, tried to warn Tokahe of the dangers
that existed should he follow the trickster into this
new world. Pte was a man of great wisdom or woksape.
His power of wisdom and knowledge was the guidance of
the two-legged, but the power of the trickster was so
convincing to Tokahe that he followed the trickster
into this new world. He accompanied the trickster as
he was led into this new world through an entrance that
is located in the Black Hills or He’ Sapa. This
entrance was to become known as Washun Niya, or later
as Wind Cave. This is translated as a “Breathing
Hole" from Mother Earth. This area is known today
as the oldest existing mountain range in the world.
After some time, Tokahe returned from this new world.
Tokahe, had great praise for all the things that he
experienced in his journey attempting to convince the
others that they should follow him back to this new
world. He wanted them to see with their own eyes of
all that was greater in this new world.
Pte, the holy man, being gifted with wisdom had the
power to foresee the future. Within this ability, he
saw only those things that would cause great hardship
and suffering for the people in this new world. But,
despite the warnings, Tokahe was able to convince the
people, as he was by the trickster, to follow him into
the new world through Washun Niye. The responsibility
of a holy man requires one to place the concerns of
the people served, first, and to self, secondly. It
often creates hardship for them. As such, Pte accepted
this great responsibility, and followed them into this
new world. He knew that the needs of the people for
Wicozani or wholeness of well-being must be provided.
In the new world experiences, their needs for Wicozani
would be difficult, and harder to obtain. In this new
world, their survival needs would be far greater, particularly
for food, shelter, and clothing. Thus, Pte, changed
himself into a great shaggy beast. A being who could
provide those needs for the people in this new world.
|This being became an animal to be known as Pte or
later, Tatanka, meaning buffalo in the Lakota language.
In this way, Pte could help them survive in this harsh
new world. As Pte or Tatanko, he could provide food,
shelter, clothing, ceremonial objects, and every day
objects. In total, he could provide over 60 different
items. The only requirement, was for the people to never
forget where they came from, and to acknowledge the
Bison on Wind Cave National Game Preserve
National Park Service photo.
Acknowledging the Past,
and the Circle of Life
As the ages of the people came forward, this acknowledgment
continues. In sacred pipe prayers, thanksgiving is offered
to our Creator, Wakan Tanka, for all beings created
for the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, or now to to all as "The
Great Sioux Nation". Secondly, Pte or Tatanka,
from whom the people are also known as the Buffalo Nation
is recognized for giving life so life may continue.
In the circle of life understanding of the Oceti
Sakowin Oyate, there are 4 seasons. Although there is
daily prayer, this is a time for special prayers beginning
when the day is equal to night, known to others as Spring
Equinox and ends with the longest day or Summer Solstice.
This is the belief of the People of the Seven Council
Fires from the past when they lived in the old world.
During this time, the He’ Sapa or Black Hills
become the prayer sites. At those sites, from time immemorial,
the people gather with their pipes to offer their prayers.
Thus, the Black Hills are sacred to the people.
My Grandfather Remembered
Waka Kiyan Se’ or Flying River Band, whose
home base was within the Black Hills, would follow the
sacred prayer journey to the special prayer sites. As
a child, John Little Finger, relates that he accompanied
the people on this special journey. Washun Niye, from
which Mother Earth breaths, was one of the sites they
went to. In preparation for a ceremony, the women would
prepare a hide of a Pte or Tatanka.
The dried hide would be carried to this site in this
sacred prayer journey. Acknowledgment to Pte was given,
by returning the hide to the old world. Upon completion
of the prayers, the hide would be dropped into the hole.
My grandfather, John Little Finger, remembered this
as he stood within the circle of the Wakpa Kinyan Se’
Band of Mniconjou, along with his family. He watched
as the hide of Pte was dropped into the hole. Washun
Niye carried the hide downward in a spiraling and circular
motion as it traveled downward soon to be enveloped
in the darkness where the old world was. The Power of
the Circle which has no ending was affirmed.