The Magic Circle in the Prairie
A young hunter was hunting on the prairie and he came upon a strange, circular shape on the prairie, without any trail leading to or from it. The grass there was smooth and well-beaten, and looked as if footsteps had trod in it recently. This puzzled and amazed him, so he hid himself in the grass nearby see who or what had caused this strange phenomenon.
After waiting for a short time, the young man thought that he heard music coming from the sky. He listened and could clearly hear the strange sound, but when he looked upwards, all he could see was a small speck in the sky. In a short time the speck became larger and larger and the music sweeter and sweeter. The object descended rapidly, and when it came near it proved to be a strange basket which landed in the center of the circle. From out of the basket came twelve beautiful girls, who each had a kind of a ball-shaped drum in their hand which was struck with the grace of an angel. The girls began to dance in the circle, at the same time striking the shining ball in their hands.
The young hunter had seen many a dances, but none were as beautiful or graceful as this. The music was sweeter than any he had ever heard. But nothing about this strange sight could equal the beauty of the girls themselves. He found them all to be beautiful, but he was most infatuated with the youngest. He wanted her for his wife and wanted to speak to her. As quietly as he could, he moved towards the girls and their basket, but before he could speak to his chosen girl, the girls spotted him and they all nimbly leaped into the basket and were drawn back to the skies.
The hunter was completely foiled. He stood gazing upward as they flew away. “They are gone forever, and I shall see them no more” he said to himself as he returned to his lodge. Even so, he could not forget this wonder that he had seen, nor the beautiful girl he wished to speak to. That night he dreamed of her and he made up his mind to go to the circle on the prairie the next day and to better hide himself so he could speak to the girl.
That next day, he went back to the prairie and placed a large log near the circle and hid himself behind it. Soon, he heard the same sweet music and the basket landed. The girls commenced their dance and as he peeked at them, he thought they seemed even more beautiful and graceful than before. He slowly crept slowly towards the ring. Again the girls spied him, but in the confusion the youngest girl stumbled and did not make it back to the basket and it left without her. The girl was extremely upset and cried for her sisters to return. She fell down on the prairie and was inconsolable. The young man spoke to her and begged her to stop crying. He wiped the tears from her eyes and spoke to her to calm down. Once she had calmed down, he led her gently to his lodge and after a short time he and asked her to be his wife. She accepted and from that moment he was the happiest of men.
Winter and summer passed rapidly away, and their happiness increased by the addition of a beautiful baby boy. Even though they were happy, the girl would often cry out of loneliness for her home in the stars and for her people. She did her best to hide these feelings from her husband, but she was always thinking about her family and her home.
One day, she could not take it any longer and she constructed a basket that would be large enough to take her back to her people. While her husband was away hunting, she gathered some of her things, took her son by the hand, and took her basket to the ring on the prairie. As soon as she and her son stepped into the basket, the basket rose and she ascended to the sky. Her husband saw the basket rising into the sky and he ran to the prairie, but he could not reach the ring before they disappeared. In misery, he walked back to his lodge and spent a long winter and a long summer alone without her and his son.
In the meantime his wife had reached her home in the stars. She had almost forgotten the beauty of her home and her people, and she reveled in it all and started to forget her time on earth until one day when her son told her that he missed his father. The girl’s father heard this and he said to his daughter, “Go, my child, and take your son down to his father, and ask him to come up and live with us. But tell him to bring along some of the animals of the earth for me.” She accordingly took the boy and descended back to earth.
The hunter, who was never far from the circle on the prairie, heard the sound of her basket as she came down from the sky. His heart beat with excitement as he saw her and their son step out of it. He rushed forward and grabbed them in his arms. She told him of her father’s message, that he could come live with her in the stars. He was overjoyed by this and began to hunt with the greatest activity to collect the specimens that her father desired. He spent whole days and nights searching for every curious and beautiful bird or animal he could, and when all was ready, they went to the circle, and were carried up in her basket.
Upon arrival at her home-world her father invited all of his people to a feast, and when they had assembled he proclaimed aloud that each person in attendance could take of the earthly gifts. Some people chose birds, others chose other animals such as rabbits, deer, and muskrats. Soon, a very strange confusion arose and the people changed themselves into the animal that they had selected and ran off (or flew off). The hunter, his wife and his son chose hawks. Then they changed to become hawks. They spread their wings and descended to the earth. In this form they could fly between the earth and her home in the sky whenever they wanted to.
They were happy.
A tradition of Bravery
Women have often achieved great fame as warriors (ogichidaa).
Sometimes, when a man went to war, his wife would insist on accompanying him, and sometimes she was lucky enough to succeed in obtaining a war honor by killing an enemy or another act of valor, in which case she received a customary feather for her efforts. In most cases the ogichidaa woman didn’t wear her feather, but instead designating one of her male relatives, usually a son or grandson, to wear it for her. Nonetheless, she was thereafter called by the title ogichidaakwe.
An ogichidaakwe was entitled to go to the ogichidaag lodge at any time when the warriors were dancing, and to join them. When the warriors reenacted their valorous deeds, and counted their coups, she was entitled to do the same, and her narration was received with the same respect as any other ogichidaa.
One ogichidaakwe from Long Plain obtained her title by joining with the warriors when they went to battle. On one occasion when a Sioux was shot from his horse, she ran to count coup upon him, finally she killed the Dakota with her turnip digging-stick. The men in the war party then scalped the Dakota, and she painted her face with his blood.
Another renowned ogichidaakwe was out on the plains digging turnips when the group she was with were attacked by Sioux. The women hastily dug a rifle pit to conceal the party. As the battle was waged, one brave woman ventured forth and dragged the men who were wounded to safety. The Sioux were firing at her each time that she did this, but under fire she rescued each of the wounded men. In this manner she became an ogichidaakwe.
This tradition of women soldiers has continued until today.
Fourteen Native American women served as members of the Army Nurse Corps during World War I, two of them overseas. Nearly 800 Native American women served in the military during World War II. Countless Native women served in Vietnam, and increasing numbers of Native American women entered the military in the 1970s and 1980s. Even during the past decades, Native women have shown bravery as soldiers.
Private Lori Ann Piestewa, was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces. Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent with Mexican-American heritage. Her native name was White Bear Girl.