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Curious Indian ceremony at Standing Rock Agency, the Sioux Chief, Fire Cloud, dedicating the sacred Standing Rock to peace and plenty
Curious Indian ceremony at Standing Rock Agency, the Sioux Chief, Fire Cloud, dedicating the sacred Standing Rock to peace and plenty
TitleCurious Indian ceremony at Standing Rock Agency, the Sioux Chief, Fire Cloud, dedicating the sacred Standing Rock to peace and plenty
Date of Original1887
CreatorBarry, D. F. (David Francis), 1854-1934
DescriptionIndian with brush in hand standing next to rock set on a two-layer pedestal. Other Indians and man in suit, likely Major James McLaughlin standing behind the rock.
Ordering InformationConsult:
General SubjectIndians of North America
Subject (LCTGM)Monuments & memorials
Rites & ceremonies
Brooms & brushes
Subject (LCSH)Indians of North America
Indians of North America - Commemoration
Indians of North America - Rites & ceremonies
Personal NameFire Cloud
McLaughlin, James, 1842-1923
LocationStanding Rock Indian Reservation (N.D. and S.D.)
Sioux County (N.D.)
North Dakota
United States
Item NumberFolio 102.InC44.3
Format of OriginalLithographs
Dimensions of Original40 x 28 cm.
Publisher of OriginalFrank Leslie's Publishing House
Place of PublicationNew York (N.Y.)
Transcription"A Remarkable Indian Ceremony. Dedicating a Sacred Rock to Peace and Plenty. We give on page 385 and illustration of an interesting ceremony which took place in November last at Standing Rock, the Great Sioux Indian Agency, near Fort Yates, Dakota, when the 'standing rock' for which the agency was named by the dusky warriors, was unveiled. The rock of itself does not present an imposing appearance, and were it not for the traditions and legends of this, the most famous and warlike of all the Northwestern tribes, would be passed without eliciting any special attention.
The Indians have been taught, and firmly believe, that the rock, which is about five feet in height, and when discovered was standing on its smaller end, is the petrified form of a young squaw who died while in the act of appealing to the Great Spirit for the return of her absent lord. For years the stone has been worshiped, and since the return of Sitting bull and his band from the bloody expedition in which Custer and his soldiers were slaughtered, it has been the coveted and cherished idol of the reluctantly reforming Sioux. Latterly, notwithstanding its sacred character, the rock has been removed from the place in which it was discovered, and its frequent removals aroused fears among the whites that it was losing its civilizing and pacifying influence upon the Indians. In order that the 'standing rock' might be preserved as the sacred idol of the tribe, Major McLaughlin, the agent, announced to Sitting Bull and his fellow chieftains that it would be placed upon a pedestal, vailed, and on a given date, with prayers and thanksgiving, it would be unvailed to the sun god, and that ever after it should there remain, undisturbed and unmolested. The pedestal was erected, and on November 27th the chiefs and their families, followed by the entire population of the Indian city, numbering over 5, 000, filed with reverential tread to the holy spot. For several hours the Indians sat in council, discussing the legends connected with the wooing maiden whose voice had been hushed by a wrathful God and the process of petrifaction, and showed much uneasiness as to who should be honored with the duty of offering the prayers and painting the rock. It was decided that no man who had been guilty of sin should touch the rock. Sitting Bull declared that none but the purest man in all the tribe should perform the sacred service. They must search and catechise until they found a man whose life had been absolutely pure, that the holy rock might lose none of its purity. A hundred chiefs had been questioned, when Fire Cloud, of Fire Heart's band, was chosen.
As no Indian, according to the Indian superstition, could remove the vail, that office was performed by Major McLaughlin, the agent, who then delivered a fried address, telling the tribe that he had found the rock, sacred to the Indians and of great historic interest to the whites, frequently disturbed, and now that he had built for it a pedestal, and it had been dedicated to the Great Spirit, he trusted that it would be ever guarded from the hands of sinful men, and be preserved for their children's children, until all had reached the happy hunting-grounds beyond the dark river.
At the close of the agent's speech, Fire Cloud, the pure Indian, whose purity had heretofore been considered a disgrace by his tribe, stepped forward, and for over an hour daubed and smeared the sacred maiden with paint, praying as he swung his brush. As interpreted, the prayer was remarkable, for it was the first time in the history of the natives that an Indian had prayed for peace. Their prayers are usually for victory with the tomahawk and scalping-knife, or for an abundance of food. But Fire Cloud prayed for peace and the purification of the Indian heart; he asked forgiveness for the sins and transgressions of his people, and promised the great Spirit that the fearless Sioux would for ever protect the holy 'standing rock.' His prayer closed with an appeal to the Great Spirit for an abundance of rain and bountiful crops in the future.
A few mysterious waves of the paint-brush, several additional daubs on the face of the neck, and the ceremony was closed; the Indians returning to their tents and uplifted hands, chanting to the Great Spirit, and keeping time in the conventional Indian heel-and-tow dance.
To this account fo the peculiar ceremony, supplied by the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, we add an outline of the story of Invan Bostada, or Standing Rock, as told by E.P. McFadden, of Fort Yates: 'Many years ago there dwelt, a little south of Porcupine River, a large and exceedingly brave band of Dakotas under their Chief Mato Watakpe (Charging Bear). For years he had carried on war with the Rees, a fierce and warlike tribe from the north, and although victory did not always perch on the banner of the Dakotas, nevertheless defeat was seldom encountered. One day, in early spring, while most of his warriors were engaged in the chase, his old adversaries made a descent on the village, murdering the defenseless old men and boys, and carrying the women and children into captivity. Among those who were reserved to grace their victorious march was Ista Sapa (Black Eyes), the young and pretty wife of Mato Watakpe. Her captor, Shunka Duta (Red Dog), was a gruff, sullen savage, to whose bosom mercy and pity were utter strangers. He ordered her to follow him. Placing her infant on her back and drawing her robe over it, and taking her other child, a prattling boy of five Summers, by the hand, she silently took up her march.
On leaving the valley she turned to take a final look on the place which was so dear to her. Overcome by emotion, she sat down and began to weep and lament over her sad fate. This did not suit her master. He commanded her to rise and follow, but this only increased lamentations. Exasperated at what he termed her stubbornness, he raised his tomahawk and brained the little boy at her feet. As this had no other effect than to increase her sorrow, he was about to murder the infant also, when his chief, a more humane man, commanded him to desist. Not daring to disobey, he reluctantly left her where she was, but he determined to have his revenge. That night, when all were asleep, he stole out of the camp and returned on the trail to finish his work. Coming near the place where he left Ista Sapa, he saw her sitting in the same position, except she had drawn the robe over her head. Getting down on all fours, he crawled up to her, and when within striking distance he arose with a whoop, knife-in-hand, and made a lunge at her, but the knife was shivered into a thousand pieces. The Dakota God of Mercy, taking compassion on her great tribulations, transformed her into a stone. Terrified at what he saw, Shunka Duta fled in dismay.
Mato Watakpe returned that night, only to find his village in ruins and the inhabitants either murdered or carried into captivity. He saw and recognized his wife, and swore vengeance on the perpetrators. Following the trail, he and his braves caught up with the enemy three miles north of the Porcupine River. For eight hours the battle raged. The stream, on whose banks they fought, ran red with blood, so much so that even to-day it is called Battle Creek, in commemoration of the dreadful carnage.
Finally the Dakotas gave way, and their chief, not being able to rally them, was forced to retreat. Coming to where his wife sat, he stuck his spear in the ground and cried: 'I die here!' A few of his braves, ashamed of their cowardice, rallied around him, bravely withstood the attack of the foe, and finally won the victory, but at a fearful cost; their beloved chief and five-sixths of their band lay dead or dying around them.
The survivors cherished the memory of Ista Sapa, and she was honored as the model of marital virtue and fidelity for ages. But the band, harassed by the fell Rees on the north and the fierce Titwares on the south, was forced to migrate. Ista Sapa was deserted and forgotten by all, or only remembered as the Sanding Rock by the few roving bands, until some years after Fort Yates was built, when the tender hands of a pious paleface chief, had had her removed from her neglected dell to the high bluff just back of the agency; and now Ista Sapa looks down on the broad Missouri and sees her kinsfolk living in peace and amity with themselves and others, under the fostering hand of the Great Father, and is glad that they have washed off their war-paint and assumed the garb of brotherhood and good fellowship." - Text (page 390) that accompanies image.
NotesTitle from caption with image.
'From a photo by Barry." - Below caption text.
ContributorBarry, D. F. (David Francis), 1854-1934
Contributor RolePhotographer;
Repository InstitutionNorth Dakota State University Libraries, Institute for Regional Studies
Repository CollectionDakota Lithographs and Engravings Collection Folio 102
Collection Finding AidConsult:
Credit LineInstitute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo (Folio 102.InC44.3)
Rights ManagementImage in public domain.
Digital IDrsL00059
Original SourceFrank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 22, 1887. Cover.
Digital AlterationsThumbnail image cropped
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