Chapter III.
Cults of the Omaha, Ponka, Kansa, and Osage

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Beliefs and Practices not Found

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§ 17. There are certain beliefs and practices which have not been found among the four tribes whose cults are treated of in this chapter. Ancestors were not worshiped. They were addressed reverently when alive, and when they died it was not contrary to custom to refer to them by name, nor did their deaths involve the change of name for a single object or phenomenon. It was a very common occurrence for the name of the deceased to be assumed by a surviving kinsman. This is shown by genealogical tables of a few Siouan tribes, the material for which was collected by the author, and which will form part of his monograph on “Indian Personal Names,” now in course of preparation for publication by the Bureau of Ethnology.

§ 18. They never heard of Satan or the devil until they learned of him from the white people. Now they have adopted the terms, “Wanáxe piäjĭ,” “Iñgȼaⁿxe piäjĭ,” and “Wakanda piäjĭ.” The first is used by the Omaha and Ponka, the others were heard only among the Ponka. They have a certain saying, applicable to a young man who is a liar, or who is bad in some other way: “Wanáxe piä´jĭ égaⁿ áhaⁿ,” i. e. “He is like the bad spirit!” This becomes, when addressed to the bad person, “Wanáxe piä´jĭ éȼikigaⁿ´-qti jaⁿ´,” i.e. “You act just like the (or a) bad spirit.”

§ 19. Though it has been said that hero worship was unknown among the Omaha and Ponka, it has been learned that Omaha mothers used to scare their unruly children by telling them that Icibajĭ (a hero of the ┴e-sĭnde gens) or his friend ┴exujaⁿ (a hero of the ʞaⁿze gens) would catch them if they did not behave. There was no worship of demigods, as demigods were unknown. Two Crows and Joseph La Flèche said that phallic worship was unknown, and they were surprised to hear that it had been practiced by any tribe. (See § 132, 164.) As the Ponka obtained the sun-dance from their Dakota neighbors, it is probable that they practiced the phallic cult.

§ 20. Totems and shamans were not worshiped, though they are still reverenced. Altars or altar-stones were unknown. Incense was not used, unless by this name we refer to the odor of tobacco smoke as it ascended to the Thunder-being, or to the use of cedar fronds in the sweat lodge. There were no human sacrifices, and cannibalism was not practiced.

Omaha, Ponka, and Kansa Belief in a Wakanda

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§ 21. According to Two Crows and Joseph La Flèche, the ancestors of the Omaha and Ponka believed that there was a Supreme Being, whom they called Wakanda. “Wakanda t‘aⁿi tĕ eȼegaⁿi, they believed that Wakanda existed.” They did not know where He was, nor did they undertake to say how He existed. There was no public gathering at which some of the people told others that there was a Wakauda, nor was there any general assembly for the purpose of offering Him worship and prayer. Each person thought in his heart that Wakanda existed. Some addressed the sun as Wakanda, though many did not so regard him. Many addressed Wakanda, as it were, blindly or at random. Some worshiped the Thunder-being under this name. This was especially the case when men undertook to go on the war path. 7 Mr. Say recorded of the Kansa: “They say that they have never seen Wakanda, so they cannot pretend to personify Him; but they have often heard Him speak in the thunder. They often wear a shell which is in honor or in representation of Him, but they do not pretend that it resembles Him, or has anything in common with his form, organization, or size.”

Seven Great Wakandas

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§ 22. Ԁaȼiⁿ-naⁿ-pajĭ said that there were seven great Wakandas, as follows: “Ugahanadaze or Darkness, Maxe or the Upper World, ┴ande or the Ground, Iñgȼaⁿ or the Thunder-being, Miⁿ or the Sun, Niaⁿba or the Moon, and the Morning Star. The principal Wakanda is in the upper world, above everything.” (This was denied by Joseph La Flèche and Two Crows; see § 93.) The author thought at first that these were the powers worshiped by Ԁaȼiⁿ-naⁿpajĭ and the members of his gens or subgens; but subsequent inquiries and statements occurring in the course of texts furnish cumulative evidence favoring the view that some or all these powers had many believers among the Omaha and the cognate tribes.

Invocation of Warmth and Streams

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§ 23. Ԁaȼiⁿ-naⁿpajĭ said that Macte or Warmth was a good Wakanda. Ni ȼiⁿ, the flowing Stream, according to him, was thus addressed by a man who wished to ford it: “You are a person and a Wakanda. I, too, am a person. I desire to pass through you and reach the other side.” Two Crows denied this, saying that his people never prayed to a stream; but George Miller said that it was true, for his father, Little Soldier, prayed to a stream when he was on the war path, and that such invocations were made only in time of war.

Prayer to Wakanda

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§ 24. Prayer to Wakanda, said La Flèche and Two Crows, was not made for small matters, such as going fishing, but only for great and important undertakings, such as going to war or starting on a journey. When a man wished to travel he first went alone to a bluff, where he prayed to Wakanda to help him and his family by protecting them during his absence and by granting him a successful journey. At a time when the Ponka were without food, Horse-with-yellow-hair, or Cañge-hiⁿ-zi, prayed to Wakanda on the hill beyond the Stony Butte. The latter is a prominent landmark in northern Nebraska (in what was Todd county, Dakota, in 1871-’73), about 7 miles from the Missouri River and the Ponka Agency (of 1870-’77)8. Several Omaha said that the places for prayer were rocks, high bluffs, and mountains. “All Omaha went to such places to pray, but they did not pray to the visible object, though they called it Grandfather.”—(Frank La Flèche.) They smoked towards the invoked object and placed gifts of killickinnick, etc., upon it. Compare with this the Dakota custom of invoking a bowlder on the prairie; calling it Tŭñkaⁿcidaⁿ (Tuŋkaŋśidaŋ), or Grandfather, symbolizing the Earth-being.9 Though it has been said that a high bluff was merely a place for praying to Wakanda, and that it was not itself addressed as Wakanda, the author has learned from members of the Omaha and Pouka tribes that when they went on the warpath for the first time, their names were then changed and one of the old men was sent to the bluffs to tell the news to the various Wakandas, including the bluffs, trees, birds, insects, reptiles, etc.10

Accessories of Prayer

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Among the accessories of prayer were the following: (a) The action called ȼistube by the Omaha and Ponka, riçtowe by the three ┴ɔiwere tribes, and yuwiⁿtapi (yuwiŋtapi) by the Dakota, consisting of the elevation of the suppliant’s arms with the palms toward the object or the face of the being invoked, followed by a passage of the hand downward toward the ground, without touching the object or person (see §§ 28, 35, 36). (b) The presentation of the pipe with the mouthpiece toward the power invoked (see §§ 29, 35, 40). (c) The use of smoke from the pipe (See §§ 27, 36), or of the odor of burning cedar needles, as in the sweat lodge. (d) The application of the kinship term, “grandfather,” or its alternative, “venerable man,” to a male power, and “grandmother” to a female power (see §§ 30, 31, 35, 39, 59, 60, etc.). (e) Ceremonial wailing or crying (Xage, to wail or cry—Dakota ćeya. See § 100).11 (f) Sacrifice or offering of goods, animals, pieces of the suppliant’s flesh, etc. In modern times the Kansa have substituted the lives of animals, as deer, grouse, etc., for those of human enemies (see §§ 28, 33, etc.).

Omaha and Kansa Expressions about Wakanda

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§ 25. Samuel Fremont said that before the advent of the white race the Omaha had certain expressions which they used in speaking of Wakanda. When an Indian met with unexpected good fortune of any sort the people used to say, “Wakanda has given him some assistance.”12 Or they might say, “Wakanda knows him.”13 Sometimes they said, “Wakanda has planned for his own (i. e., for his friend, relation, or subject).”14 If a Kansa prospers, he says, “Wakan´da aká aⁿmaⁿ´yüxü´dje aka´ eyaú,” i. e., “Wakanda has indeed been looking at me!” And in speaking of the success of another, he says, “Wakan´da aká níka yiñké uyü´xüdje aká eyaú,” i. e., “Wakanda has indeed been looking at the man.”

Samuel Fremont said that when an animal detected the approach of the hunter and consequently fled from him, the man prayed thus:

Hau´ Wakan´da, wani´ta wiⁿ aⁿȼá‘i éiⁿte iⁿȼégȼize égaⁿ. wiⁿ´ waȼíɔnaaⁿȼákiȼe kaⁿbȼégaⁿ,
Ho, Wakanda, quadruped one you gave
to me
perhaps again you take
from me
somewhat again one you cause to appear
to me
I hope

i. e., “Ho, Wakanda, you may have given me an animal, but now it seems that you have taken it from me. I hope that you will cause another to appear to me.” But if the hunter shot at an animal and missed it, he said nothing.

Ponka Belief About Malevolent Spirits

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§ 26. About eighteen years ago, the author was told by the Ponka, whose reservation was then in southern Dakota, that they believed death to be caused by certain malevolent spirits, whom they feared. In order to prevent future visits of such spirits, the survivors gave away all their property, hoping that as they were in such a wretched plight the spirits would not think it worth while to make them more unhappy. At the burial of Mazi-kide, an Omaha, the author observed that some one approached the corpse and addressed it. In referring to this in 1888, Samuel Fremont said that the speaker said, “Wakanda has caused your death.” In telling this, Fremont used the singular. “Wakanda aka.” On repeating this to George Miller, the latter said that it should have been “Wakanda ama,” in the plural, “the Mysterious Powers,” as the Omaha believed in more than one Wakanda before they learned about the one God of monotheism.

This agrees with what was learned about the Dakota by the late missionaries, Messrs. S. R. Riggs and G. H. Pond, and by the late James W. Lynd, as stated in chapter V.

An Old Omaha Custom

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§ 27. “Abicude,” said Samuel Fremont, “is a word which refers to an old Omaha and Ponka custom, i.e., that of blowing the smoke downward to the ground while praying. The Omaha and Ponka used to hold the pipe in six directions while smoking: toward the four winds, the ground, and the upper world.” The exact order has been forgotten by Fremont, but Lewis and Clarke have recorded the corresponding Shoshoni custom. Capt. Lewis tells how the Shoshoni chief, after lighting his pipe of transparent greenstone (instead of catlinite), made a speech, after which he pointed the stem of the pipe toward the four points of the heavens, beginning with the east and concluding with the north. After extending the stem thrice toward Capt. Lewis, he pointed it first toward the heavens and then toward the center of the little circle of guests, probably toward the ground, symbolizing the subterranean power.15

In addressing the four winds, a peculiar expression is employed by the Omaha:

┴adé dúba híȼaȼĕ ȼáȼiⁿcé, iⁿ wiñ´ʞaⁿi-gă, Thou who causest the four winds to reach a place, help ye me!
Wind four you cause
it to reach
you (sing.)
who move
help ye me.

Instead of the singular classifier, ȼaȼiⁿce, the regular plural, nañkácĕ, ye who sit, stand, or move, might have been expected. (See § 33.)

In smoking toward the ground and upper world, the suppliant had to say, “I petition to you who are one of the two, you who are reclining on your back, and to you who are the other one, sitting directly above us. Both of you help me!” “Here,” said Fremont, “the ground itself was addressed as a person.” Two Crows said that some Omaha appealed to a subterranean Wakanda when their word was doubted, saying, “Iⁿc‘áge hídeaʇa aká aⁿná‘aⁿi,” “The venerable man at the bottom hears me.” The author is unable to say whether this was ┴ande or Wakandagi. (See § 37.)

The following was recorded of the Omaha, and refers to a custom relating to the buffalo hunt.16

On coming in sight of the herd, the hunters talk kindly to their horses, applying to them the endearing names of father, brother, uncle, etc. They petition them not to fear the bisons, but to run well and keep close to them, but at the same time to avoid being gored.

The party having approached as near to the herd as they suppose the animals will permit without taking alarm, they halt to give the pipe bearer an opportunity to perform the ceremony of smoking, which is considered necessary to their success. He lights his pipe, and remains a short time with his head inclined, and the stem of the pipe extended toward the herd. He then smokes, and puffs the smoke toward the bisons, and the earth, and finally to the cardinal points successively.

The Sun a Wakanda

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§ 28. In the Osage traditions the “mysterious one of day” is invoked as “grandfather.”17

He replies that he is not the only Wakanʇa. That the Kansa worshiped the sun as a Wakanda appears from the following: “On one occasion, when the Kansa went against the Pawnees, the stick was set up for the mystic attack or ‘waqpele gaxe.’ The war captain addressed the rising sun thus:

“Páyiⁿ áqli kŭⁿ´bla eyaú. Cŭñ´ge wábliⁿ alí kŭⁿ´bla eyaú. Wayü´qpe ckí kŭⁿ´bla eyaú. Haléje
Pawnee I stun by
I wish indeed. Horse I have
I have
come back
I wish indeed. Pulling down
(a foe)
too I wish indeed. Calico (shirt)
uɯíblage. Haqiⁿ´ uɯíblage. Haská cki Páyiⁿ áqli-daⁿ´ mík’ü miñke, Wákanda-é, é gü´aⁿyakiyé-daⁿ.
I tell you
about it.
Robe I tell you
about it
Blanket too Pawnee I stun
by hitting
when I give to
will I who
O Wakanda! that you cause me to
be returning

“I wish to kill a Pawnee! I desire to bring horses when I return. I long to pull down an enemy! I promise you a calico shirt and a robe. I will give you a blanket also, O Wakanda, if you allow me to return in safety after killing a Pawnee!” When warriors performed the “waqpele gaxe” or the attack on the stick representing the foe, no member of the Lṵ or Thunder gens could participate. On such an occasion the warrior turned to the east and said:

“Aⁿmaⁿ´pye kŭⁿ´bla aú. Haská uɯíblage aú, Wákanda-é,”
To follow me(?)
or We follow it(?)
I wish . Blanket I tell you of it . O Wakanda

i.e., I wish my party to pass along the road to the foe(?). I promise you a blanket, O Wakanda (if I succeed?).” On turning to the west he said:

“Uⁿ´hŭⁿ uɯíblage aú, Wákanda-é,”
Boiling I tell you of it . O Wakanda

i. e., “I promise you a feast, O Wakanda (if I succeed?).” When it was decided to perform the “waqpele gaxe,” the dudaⁿhañga or war captain made one of the lieutenants carry the sacred bag, and two of the kettle tenders took bundles of sticks, which they laid down in the road. The four remaining kettle tenders remained at the camping place. The next morning all the warriors but those of the Lṵ gens went to the place where the sticks had been laid, drew a circle around the bundles, set up one of the sticks, and attacked it, as if it were a Pawnee. This ceremony often caused the death of real enemies.

Among the Osage and Kansa prayer was made toward the rising sun in the morning and towards the setting sun in the afternoon and evening.

Among the Omaha and Kansa the head of a corpse is laid towards the east. For this reason no Omaha will consent to recline with his head towards that point. The Kansa lodges also are orientated, and so were those of the Omaha (see § 59). The east appears to symbolize life or the source thereof, but18 the west refers to death; so among the Osage the course of a war party was towards the mythic or symbolic west, towards which point the entrances of the lodges were turned19 (see §§ 83 and 384).

Gahige, the late Omaha chief, said that when he was young all the Omaha prayed to the sun, holding up their hands with the palms towards the sun and saying, “Wakan´da, ȼá‘eaⁿ´ȼa-gă,” etc., i. e., “O Wakanda, pity me!” They abstained from eating, drinking, and (ordinary) smoking from sunrise to sunset; but after sunset the restrictions were removed.20

For four nights the men who thus prayed did not sleep at home. At the end of that period the task was finished. “Íwackaⁿ gáxai,” i. e., they made or gained superhuman power. They could thus pray at any time from the appearance of grass in the spring until the ground became frozen.

The Offering of Tobacco

§ 29. In 1889 George Miller gave an account of what he called “Niní bahaí tĕ,” i. e. the offering or presentation of tobacco. Whether this phrase was ever used except in a religious or superhuman connection is more than the author is able to say. Whenever the Indians traveled they used all the words which follow as they extended the pipe with the mouthpiece toward the sun:

“Haú, niní gakĕ Wakan´da, Miⁿ´ ȼé niñkĕ´cĕ! Ujañ´ge ȼiȼíʇa égaⁿqti uáha ă.
Ho tobacco that
lg. ob.
Wakanda Sun this you who sit Road your the
lg. ob.
just so I follow
its course
will !
Iñgáxa-gă! Edádaⁿ ctécte údaⁿqti ákipañkiȼa´-gă! Edádaⁿ júajĭ wiⁿ´ ĕdedíte ʞĭ´ íbetaⁿañkiȼá-gă!
Make it for me What soever very good cause me to meet it What inferior one it is there if cause me to pass
around it
Ȼi´-naⁿ ámusta waȼíɔna ȼagȼiⁿ´, ní-uȼan´da ȼéȼaⁿ ȼéȼaⁿska édegaⁿ, edádaⁿ waníta ʇan´de
Only thou directly
above (us)
in sight you sit island this
this large but what quadruped ground
uckaⁿ´ckaⁿ ȼaⁿ bȼúgaqti níkaciⁿga ȼaⁿ´ ctĕwaⁿ´ wiⁿ´ aⁿ´ba ataⁿ´ íȼaɔni´gȼaⁿ ʞĭ, égaⁿ-naⁿ.
mv. on it here
and there
the all person the soever one day how
you decide for
when always so.
Ádaⁿ wi´ʞa-naⁿ maⁿ´ hă, Wakan´da”
Therefore I ask a favor
of you
alone . Wakanda

This may be rendered freely thus: “Ho, Mysterious Power, you who are the Sun! Here is tobacco! I wish to follow your course. Grant that it may be so! Cause me to meet whatever is good (i. e., for my advantage) and to give a wide berth to anything that may be to my injury or disadvantage. Throughout this island (the world) you regulate everything that moves, including human beings, when you decide for one that his last day on earth has come, it is so. It can not be delayed. Therefore, O Mysterious Power, I ask a favor of you.”

The Ponka Sun Dance of 1873

In the summer of 1873, when the author was missionary to the Ponka in what was Todd County, Dakota, that tribe had a sun dance on the prairie near the mission house. The scarifications and subsequent tortures and dancing lasted but three hours instead of a longer period, owing to the remonstrances of Bishop Hare, the agent, and the missionary. The head chief, White Eagle, was tied to his pony, after he had been scarified and fastened to the sun pole. Some of his policemen, armed with whips, lashed the pony until it leaped aside, tearing out the lariat that fastened the chief to the sun pole, and terminating his participation in the ceremony. (See Pl. XLVI and § 187.) For obvious reasons the author did not view the sun dance, but he was told about it by some of the spectators. As the chief, Standing Buffalo, had said to Bishop Hare in the council previous to the sun dance, “You white people pray to Wakanda in your way, and we Indians pray to Wakanda in the sun dance. Should you chance to lose your way on the prairie you would perish, but if we got lost we would pray to Wakanda in the sun dance, and find our way again.”

The Moon a Wakanda

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§ 30. No examples of invocations of the moon have yet been found among the Omaha and Ponka. But that the moon is “qube” appears from the decorations of robes and tents. (See §§ 45-47.)

The moon is addressed as a “grandfather” and is described as the “Wakanʇa of night” in “Osage Traditions,” lines 55-59.21


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The Omaha believe that the unfortunate beings, called “Miⁿ-qu-ga,” are mysterious or sacred because they have been affected by the Moon Being. When a young Omaha fasted for the first time on reaching puberty, it was thought that the Moon Being appeared to him, holding in one hand a bow and arrows and in the other a pack strap, such as the Indian women use. When the youth tried to grasp the bow and arrows the Moon Being crossed his hands very quickly, and if the youth was not very careful he seized the pack strap instead of the bow and arrows, thereby fixing his lot in after life. In such a case he could not help acting the woman, speaking, dressing, and working just as Indian women used to do. Louis Sanssouci said that the miⁿ-quga took other men as their husbands. Frank La Flèche knew one such man, who had had several men as his husbands. A Ponka child once said to the author, “Miⁿjiñga-ma nujiñga ama ʇi-gaxe-nandi, miⁿquga, ai,” i.e., “If boys make a practice of playing with the girls they become (or are called) miⁿquga.” This term may be rendered “hermaphrodite” when it refers to animals, as “ʇe miⁿquga,” a hermaphrodite buffalo. It must have been of this class of persons, called “Miⁿ-quge” by the Kansa that Say wrote when he said:

Many of the subjects of it (i.e., sodomy among the Kansa) are publicly known, and do not appear to be despised or to excite disgust. One was pointed out to us. He had submitted himself to it in consequence of a vow he had made to his mystic medicine, which obliged him to change his dress for that of a woman, to do their work, and to permit his hair to grow.22

After giving an account of the Miⁿquga which agrees with what has been written above, Miss Fletcher23 tells of “a man who had the misfortune to be forced to this life and tried to resist. His father gave him a bow and some arrows, but the penalty of his vision so wrought upon his mind that, unable to endure the abnormal life, he committed suicide.” (See §§ 212, 353.)

Stars as Wakandas

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§ 31. That the Omaha and Ponka regarded the stars as Wakandas seems probable from the existence of nikie names and the personal mystery decorations. (See §§ 45, 47, and 52.) There are star names in the Night gens of the Kansa, and they point to the mythical origin of the gens. The Kansa made offerings to the morning star. Among the Osage the traditions of the Tsiɔu Wactaʞe and Bald Eagle people mention several Wakanʇas among the stars. These are as follows: Watse ʇuʞa, a “grandfather;” Watse miⁿʞa, a “grandmother;” Miⁿkak’e peȼŭⁿda, the Seven Stars (Pleiades?), a “grandfather;” the constellation Ta ȼadȼiⁿ or the Three Deer, a “grandfather;” the morning star, Miⁿkak’e tañʞa (literally, large star), a “grandfather;” the small star, a “grandfather;” the bowl of the Dipper, called “Wadaha ȼiñkce; the Funeral Bier,” a “grandfather,” and the Female Red Bird, a “grandmother,” the eponym of the Tsiɔu Wactaʞe or “Red Eagle” gens. She, too, was probably a star.24

§ 32 Gaⁿ edádaⁿ ȼiⁿ´ ctĕwaⁿ ȼahaⁿ´-naⁿi ni´aciⁿ´ga ama´, dahe´ ʇañga´ ȼiⁿ, ctĕwaⁿ´. “Wakan´da
And what the
soever usually Indian the
hill large the
soever Wakanda
bȼu´gaqti wi´ʞai ă,” e´-naⁿi. “Hau, ┴an´de niñkĕ´ cĕ, ʞa´ci jiñ´ga e´gaⁿ a´witaⁿ te´ ă,” ai´
all I ask a
favor of
you (pl.)
! they said
Ho Ground you who sit some
little so I tread
on you
will ! say
ni´kaciⁿ´ga ama´. ┴ade´ ui´ȼĕ du´baha tĕ´ ctĭ ȼahaⁿ´-naⁿi. “┴ade´ ui´ȼĕ du´baha nañka´cĕ,
Indians the
pl. sub.
Whence the wind
is sent hither(?)
in four
the too they usually
pray (to)
Whence the wind
is sent hither(?)
in four
ye who are
iⁿwiñ´ʞaⁿi-gă.” Gaⁿ´ gage´giȼaⁿ´i ni´aciⁿ´ga uke´ȼiⁿ ama´, Wakan´da wa´ȼahaⁿi tĕ´di.
help ye me and they speak in that
manner to (one)
Indian ordinary the pl.
Wakanda they pray to

“The Indians used to invoke various objects, including the mountains, saying, ‘O, all ye mysterious powers, I ask a favor of you!’ They prayed to the ground, saying, ‘O, you who are the ground! May I tread you a little while longer!’ i.e., ‘May my life on earth be prolonged!’ When one prayed to the four winds, he would say, ‘Ho, ye four winds, help me!’ Thus did speak when they prayed to the Wakandas.”—(George Miller.)

The Winds as Wakandas

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§ 33. The Omaka and Ponka invoked the winds, as has been stated in part of the preceding section. See also the statement of Samuel Fremont (§ 27).25

In preparing for the pipe dance the tobacco pouch, two gourd rattles, and the ear of corn have a figure drawn on each of them with green paint; it is the cross, indicating the four quarters of the heavens or the four winds.26

Kansa Sacrifice to the Winds

“In former days the Kansa used to remove the hearts of slain foes and put them in the fire as a sacrifice to the four winds. Even now (1882) offerings are made to every Wakanda by the Kansa, to the power or powers above, to those under the hills, to the winds, the thunder-being, the morning star, etc. As Aliⁿkawahu and Pahaⁿlegaqli are Yata men (i. e., members of gentes camping on the left side of the tribal circle), they elevate their left hands and begin at the left with the east wind, then they turn to the south wind, then to the west wind, and finally to the north wind, saying to each, ‘Gá-tcĕ, Wakan´da, mik’ü´ eyau´,’ i. e., ‘O Wakanda, I really give that to you.’ In former days they used to pierce themselves with knives and splinters of wood, and offer small pieces of their flesh to the Wakandas.”27

Osage Consecration of Mystic Fireplaces

The author considers that the following statement of the Osage chief, ʞahiʞe-waʇayiñʞa (of the Tsiɔu Wactaʞe gens), refers to the invocation of the four winds. It appears to have been associated with fire or hearth worship. Whenever a permanent village of earth lodges was established among the Osage and Kansa, there was a consecration of a certain number of fireplaces before the ordinary fireplaces could be made by the common people. The consecrated fireplaces were made in two parallel rows, beginning at the west and ending at the east. Among the Kansa there were seven on one side and six on the other, but among the Osage there seem to have been seven on each side. Among the Osage, the Tsiɔu Wactaʞe and Paⁿɥka gentes were the ‘roadmakers,’ i. e., those who consecrated the two rows of fireplaces. ʞahiʞe-waʇayiñʞa said, “When the old Tsiɔu man made his speech, he went into details about every part of a lodge, the fireplace, building materials, implements, etc. Four sticks were placed in the fireplace, the first one pointing to the west (see §§ 40, 84). When the first stick was laid down, the Tsiɔu leader spoke about the west wind, and also about a young buffalo bull (Tseʇṵ-ɔiñʞa), repeating the name, Wanie-skă (meaning not gained). When the stick pointing to the north was laid down he spoke of Tsehe-qṵʇse (gray buffalo horns), or a buffalo bull. When the stick at the east was laid down, he spoke of Tse-ʇṵʞa-tañʞa (a large buffalo bull). On laying down the fourth stick, pointing to the south, he spoke of Tse miⁿʞa (a buffalo cow). At the same time a similar ceremony was performed by the aged Paⁿɥka man for the gentes on the right side of the tribal circle. In placing the stick to the east, he mentioned Taʇse ʞaqpa tsĕ (the east wind) and Tahe cade (dark horned deer). In placing that to the north, Taʇse Ԁasaⁿ tsĕ (the north wind, literally, ‘the pine wind’) and Tahe qṵʇse (the deer with gray horns) were mentioned. In placing that pointing to the west, Taʇse Maⁿha tsĕ (the west wind) and an animal which makes a lodge and is with the Tahe pasiʞe (probably a deer name) were mentioned. In placing the stick pointing to the south, he spoke of Taʇse Ak’a tsĕ (the south wind) and Ta wañka he aʞȼaɔi skutañʞa (probable meaning, a large white female deer without any horns).

§ 34. In time of war, prayers were made about the fire (§ 287), when a warrior painted his face red, using the “fire paint,” a custom of the left or Tsiɔu side of the tribe. Those on the right or Hañʞa side used “the young buffalo bull decoration,” and probably offered prayer in connection therewith, in order to be filled with the spirit of their “little grandfather” (the young buffalo bull), as they rushed on the enemy. This will be seen from the words employed by the warrior: “My little grandfather is always dangerous as he makes an attempt. Very close do I stand, ready to go to the attack!”28

The Thunder-Being a Wakanda

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Omaha and Ponka Invocation of the Thunder-Being

§ 35. Among the Omaha and Ponka, when the first thunder was heard in the spring of the year, the Black bear people went to the sacred tent of the Elk gens, and there they assisted the Elk people in the invocation of the Thunder-being. At a similar gathering of the Ponka, the Ponka Black bear people said, “Hau, iⁿc‘áge, ȼiʇúcpa ȼéȼu añ´ga-taⁿ ganáxiwaȼáȼai. Maⁿciáʇahá maⁿȼiñ´gă,” i. e., “Ho, venerable man! by your striking (with your club) you are frightening us, your grandchildren, who are here. Depart on high.”29

Thunder-Being Invoked by Warriors

The Thunder-being is invoked by all present during the feast preparatory to starting on the warpath, when there is a small party of warriors. Each one addresses the Thunder-being as “Nudaⁿhañga,” leader in war, or war captain.30

When a large war party is desired, the Thunder-being is invoked (See history of Wabaskaha, in Contr. N. A. Ethn., Vol. VI, p. 394). Wabaskaha himself prayed, saying, “Oh, Wakanda, though foreigners have injured me, I hope that you may help me.” All who heard him knew that he desired to lead a large war party. When the four captains were chosen, they had to cry incessantly at night as well as by day, saying, “Oh, Wakanda! pity me! help me in that about which I am in a bad humor.” During the day they abstained from food and drink; but they could satisfy their thirst and hunger when night came.

At the feast preparatory to starting off as a large war party, the keepers of the sacred bags sing thunder songs as well as other sacred songs. One of the thunder songs used on such an occasion begins thus:

“Wi-ʇí-gaⁿ naⁿ´-pe-wá-ȼĕ é-gaⁿ,
Wi-ʇí-gaⁿ naⁿ´-pe-wá-ȼĕ é-gaⁿ,
Wé-tiⁿ kĕ gȼi-haⁿ´-haⁿ ʞĭ,
Naⁿ´-pe-wá-ȼĕ ——.”

“As my grandfather is dangerous,
As my grandfather is dangerous,
Dangerous when he brandishes his club,
Dangerous ——.”

When he had proceeded thus far, Ԁaȼiⁿ-naⁿpajĭ stopped and refused to tell the rest, as it was very “waqube.” He said that the principal captains of a large war party tied pieces of twisted grass around their wrists and ankles, and wore similar pieces around their heads. But Two Crows, who has been a captain, says that he never did this. (See, however, the Iowa custom in § 75.)

Ictasanda Custom

The following “nikie” or ancient custom of the Ictasanda gens was related by George Miller:

Najiⁿ´ daⁿ´ctĕaⁿ´ ʞĭ, naⁿ´pai ʞĭ, gaⁿ´ Wakan´da-ma nini´ uji´ wa‘i´i tĕ. Gaⁿ´ nini´ uji´ wa‘i´i tĕ´di e´giȼaⁿ´i
Rain perhaps if they fear
seen danger
if so the Wakandas (pl. ob.) tobacco put in they
gave to
the (past
and tobacco put in they gave
to them
when they said to
tĕ: Ȼéȼu waqpa´ȼiⁿ-qti a´ȼiⁿhe´, aⁿwaⁿ´waʇa´ȼicaⁿ cte´ctewaⁿ ȼiúde ti´gȼe gáxai-gă, ʇigaⁿ´ha.
(past act)
Here very poor I who move in what direction soever to become abandoned
make ye O grandfather.
Ĕ´dedi´ ȼa´ȼiⁿcé (é) jaⁿmiⁿ´. Ȼigȼíze-maⁿ´ȼiⁿ, ĕ´dedí ȼáȼiⁿcé (é) jaⁿmiⁿ´. Ȼiaⁿ´ba-ti´gȼe, ĕ´dedí ȼa´ȼiⁿcé.
You are mv. there I suspect. Walking Forked-lightning, you are mv. there I suspect. Sheet-lightning flashes
you are mv. there
(é) jaⁿmiⁿ´. Ȼiaⁿ´ba-gí-naⁿ, ĕ´dedi´ ȼáȼiⁿcé (é) jaⁿmiⁿ´. Gáagigȼédaⁿ ĕ´dedí ȼáȼiⁿcé (é) jaⁿmiⁿ´. Gaⁿ´
I suspect. Sheet-lightning is often
returning hither.
you are mv. there I suspect (a name referring
to passing thunder)
you are mv. there I suspect. And
gatégaⁿ gáxa-bájĭ ʞĭ´ctĕ níaciⁿ´ga ciⁿȼiqáde ȼégaⁿ najiⁿ´i, maqpi´ kĕʇáȼicaⁿ xagé najiⁿ´i. Gaⁿ´ Wakan´da
in that manner he does not if man (See Note.) thus stands, cloud toward the lg ob. crying stands. And Wakanda
amá wégidahaⁿ´-bi, aí. Níkaciⁿ´ga taⁿ´waⁿgȼaⁿ wédajĭ amá aȼiⁿ´ naⁿ´pai, ijáje gĕ´
the pl. sub. that they know about
them, their own
they say. Person gens elsewhere the pl. sub. to have it they fear seen danger, name the pl. in. ob.
ctĕwaⁿ. Águdi´ctĕ níkaciⁿ´ga amá iȼa‘e´ȼĕ amá Icta´sanda úckaⁿ eʇai´ e´gaⁿ ga´xai. Waaⁿ´
even. In some places
(not specified)
person the pl. sub. those who have visions, etc. Ictasanda custom their the ob. so they do. song
ĕ´qti ga´xai daⁿ´ctĕ giaⁿ´ najiⁿ´i. Nini´ba uji´ aȼiⁿ´i e´gaⁿ maqpi´ kĕʇáȼicaⁿ úgaqȼe
they themselves they make perhaps singing their own they stand. Pipe the lg. ob. filled they have as cloud towards the lg. ob. facing
baha´ najiⁿ´i. Ni´kaciⁿ´ga ama´ a´ji ctĭ ga´xe-naⁿ´i. Ataⁿ´ctĕ nini´ba aȼiⁿ´-bajĭ gaⁿ´ waaⁿ´ si´aⁿȼe´
holding out to they stand. Person the pl. sub. different too they often do. Sometimes pipe they do not have so singing alone
daⁿ´ctĕ najiⁿ´-naⁿi. ni´kaciⁿ´ga ama´ ȼe´ i´ȼa‘e´ȼĕ ama´ úckaⁿ eda´daⁿ údaⁿ uha´ ‘i´ȼĕ tai´
perhaps they stand often. And person the pl. sub. this those who have
visions, etc.
deed what good to follow the course promise will
ʞĭ´ctĕ i´bahaⁿ´i, úckaⁿ júajĭ a´kipa tai´ ʞĭ´ctĕ i´bahaⁿ´i. Gaⁿ ni´kaciⁿ´ga ȼiⁿ aⁿwaⁿ´waʇa gaqȼaⁿ´
even they know, again deed unsuitable they will meet even they know. And person the
mv. one
in what direction large hunting
maⁿȼiⁿ´ ctĕwaⁿ´ nini´ uji´ ‘i´i e´gaⁿ waȼi´gȼañkiȼai´. E‘aⁿ´ ujañ´ge uha´ tai ʞĭ´ctĕ i´bahaⁿ gi´gaⁿȼai´
walks soever tobacco puts in gives to as causes him to prophesy. How road he will follow its
even to know wishes for him
e´gaⁿ waañ´kiȼai´. ataⁿ´ctĕ ni´kaciⁿ´ga ama´ e´gaⁿi, a´ȼade-naⁿ´i, wani´ta daⁿ´ctĕ ube´sniⁿ ʞĭ, wani´ta
as causes him to sing. And sometimes person the pl. sub. just so, they often pronounce, quadruped perhaps they find
if quadruped
d‘u´ba aⁿ‘i´i hă, daⁿ´ctĕaⁿ´i.
some they have
given to me
. he

383, 4, et passim. Ȼaȼiⁿce ejaⁿmiⁿ, contracted in rapid pronunciation to, ȼaȼiⁿcejaⁿmiⁿ.

383, 4-6. Ȼigȼize-maⁿȼiⁿ, Ȼiaⁿba-tigȼe, Ȼiaⁿba-gínaⁿ, and Gaagigȼedaⁿ are “nikie names” of the Ictasanda or Thunder gens of the Omaha. They may refer to four Thunder beings, one at each point of the compass, or one dwelling in the direction of each of the four winds.

383, 8. Ciⁿȼiqade, with the arms elevated and the hands stretched out, palms down, towards the clouds.

383, 9-10. Nikaciⁿga wedajĭ ama, etc. Other gentes of Omaha fear to mention these Ictasanda names, or to bestow them on members of their gentes.

383, 11. Agudictĕ ... iȼa‘eȼĕ ama, etc. Refers to the Iñgȼaⁿ iȼa‘eȼĕ ama, or the Thunder shamans, of the other Omaha gentes.


When the Ictasanda people become fearful during a shower, they fill a pipe with tobacco and offer it to the Thunder-beings. And when they offer the tobacco, they speak thus: “O grandfather! I am very poor here. In some direction or other cause a place to be abandoned by those (who would injure me?). I think that you are there O Ȼigȼize-maⁿȼiⁿ! I think that you are there. O Ȼiaⁿba-tigȼe! I think that you are there. O Ȼiaⁿba-gi naⁿ! I think that you are there. O Gaagigȼedaⁿ! I think that you are there.”

And when they do not offer the tobacco, they stand with the arms elevated and the hands stretched out, palms down, as they cry towards the clouds. And they say that the Thunder-beings know about them, their worshippers.

The Omaha of the other gentes fear to mention these Ictasanda nikie names, or to bestow them on members of their gentes, as well as to invoke the Thunder-being or beings, unless they belong to the order of Thunder shamans. In that case, they can do as the Ictasanda people do. They make songs about the Thunder-beings, and stand singing their own songs. They fill the pipe with tobacco, and stand, holding it with the mouth-piece toward the clouds, as they gaze towards them.

These shamans often act otherwise. Sometimes they do not fill the pipe, and then they stand singing the Thunder songs, without offering anything to the Thunder-beings.

And these shamans know when anything promises to result in good or evil to the person undertaking it. So when a person wishes to join a large hunting party, he fills a pipe with tobacco, and offers it to a shaman, thus causing him to prophesy. As he wishes him to know the result of following a certain course, (i. e., of traveling in a certain direction), he induces the shaman to sing (sacred songs). And sometimes the shaman predicts the very occurrence which comes to pass; if, for instance, he foretells that the inquiring man will kill game, he may say, ‘The Thunder-beings (?) have given me some quadrupeds.’

Kansa Worship of the Thunder-being

§ 36. The following was a custom of the Lṵ or Thunder-being gens. At the time of the first thunder-storm in the spring of the year, the Lṵ people put a quantity of green cedar on a fire, making a great smoke. The storm ceased after the members of the other gentes offered prayers. The Buffalo or Tcedŭñga gens aided the Lṵ gens in the worship of the Thunder-being, by sending one of their men to open the sacred bag of gray hawk skin and remove the mystery pipe. These objects were kept by a Lṵ man, Kinuyiñge, who was not allowed to open the bag.

Pahaⁿle-gaqli, of the Large Hañga gens, and Aliⁿkawahu, of the Small Hañga, are the leaders in everything pertaining to war. Pahaⁿle-gaqli furnished the author with a copy of his war chart, on which are represented symbols of the mystery songs. In the middle of the chart there should be a representation of fire, but Pahaⁿle-gaqli said that he was afraid to draw it there, unless he fasted and took other necessary precautions. The songs used in connection with the chart are very “wakandagi,” or mysterious. They are never sung on common occasions, or in a profane manner, lest the offender should be killed by the Thunder-being. One of the three songs about the sacred pipe, sung when the wrappings are taken from the pipe (See § 85) by Aliⁿkawahu is as follows:

“Ha-há! tcé-ga-nú ha-há!
Ha-há! tcé-ga-nú ha-há!
Ha-há! tcé-ga-nú ha-há!

(Unintelligible to the author. Said when Aliⁿkawahu presses down on the covers or wrappings of the pipe.)

“Yu! yu! yú! Hü-hü´! Hü-hü´!”

(Chorus sung by all the Large and Small Hañga men.)

This last line is an invocation of the Thunder-being. The arms, which are kept apart and parallel, are held up toward the sky, with the palms of the hands out. Each arm is then rubbed from the wrist to the shoulder by the other hand.31

After the singing of these three songs, Pahaⁿle-gaqli carries the sacred clam shell on his back.

The second figure on the chart is that of the venerable man or Wakanda, who was the first singer of all the Hañga songs. When Aliⁿkawahu and Pahaⁿle-gaqli are singing them, they think that this Wakanda walks behind them, holding up his hands toward the Thunder-being, to whom he prays for them.

When the war pipe is smoked by any Hañga man, he holds the pipe in his right hand, and blows the smoke into the sacred clam shell, in his left. The smoke ascends from the clam shell to the Thunder-being, to whom it is pleasant.

The Kansa used to “cry to” the Thunder-being before going on the warpath. When the captain (the head of the Large Hañga gens) smoked his pipe, he used to say,

Haú, Wákanda-é, Páyiⁿ-máhaⁿ miⁿ´ ts’e kŭⁿ´bla eyau,”
Ho? O Wakanda! Skidi one to die I wish indeed

i. e. “Ho, Wakanda! I really wish a Skidi” (or, Pawnee Loup) “to die!”

The men of the two Hañga gentes unite in singing songs to stop rain, when fair weather is needed, and songs to cause rain when there has been a drought. (See § 43.)

Subterranean and Subaquatic Wakandas

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