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Native American Legends

A Holy Story

A Dakota Sioux Legend

Now I will tell the story of how a Holy Man, the greatest in the tribe, made mystery-power in days of old.

The people were encamped in a circle with the opening towards the east. In the middle of the circle they set up a great tipi made of several tipi's put together. On one side of the tipi sat the women, on the other side the men. And they made ready a great feast. Beyond the central fire, opposite the doorway, the Holy Man made mystery. With a stick like an arrow he made a line of holes in the ground a finger's length deep. Then he touched the ground in front of all the people and came back to the doorway and sat down. And he bade the people hasten to prepare the mystery. So they took the clay and filled the holes with it and covered the holes with earth. When they had done this the Holy Man touched ground. Then he came back to the doorway and was about to sing. And the people watched the ground where the clay was buried and, behold, young plants began to sprout.

Then, before he sang, the Holy Man said:

Far to the west,
Far by the sky
Stands a blue Elk.
That Elk standing
watches over all the females
On the earth.
Far to the east,
Far by the sky
Stands a blue Elk.
That Elk standing
watches over all the females
On the earth.

Thus he spoke. And then he said, "Now I will sing," on the drum he sang a holy song. When he had sung he bade the people pull up the sprouts, and they did so; one by one they pulled them up. And behold, roots were holy mystery-power. And the people took the mystery-power and laid it on sprigs of sage, for sage is holy because it heals. This mystery would protect the warriors in war. No arrow could pierce them, no arrow could strike them, unharmed would they pass through every danger.

So have I told of how a Holy Man made mystery to help the people.

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