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The resuscitation of the only daughter

A Lakota Legend

There once lived an old couple who had an only daughter. She was a beautiful girl, and was very much courted by the young men of the tribe, but she said that she preferred single life, and to all their heart-touching tales of deep affection for her she always had one answer. That was "No."

One day this maiden fell ill and day after day grew worse. All the best medicine men were called in, but their medicines were of no avail, and in two weeks from the day that she was taken ill she lay a corpse. Of course there was great mourning in the camp.

They took her body several miles from camp and rolled it in fine robes and blankets, then they laid her on a scaffold which they had erected. (This was the custom of burial among the Indians). They placed four forked posts into the ground and then lashed strong poles lengthwise and across the ends and made a bed of willows and stout ash brush. This scaffold was from five to seven feet from the ground.

After the funeral the parents gave away all of their horses, fine robes and blankets and all of the belongings of the dead girl. Then they cut their hair off close to their heads, and attired themselves in the poorest apparel they could secure.

When a year had passed the friends and relatives of the old couple tried in vain to have them set aside their mourning. "You have mourned long enough," they would say. "Put aside your mourning and try and enjoy a few more pleasures of this life while you live. You are both growing old and can't live very many more years, so make the best of your time." The old couple would listen to their advice and then shake their heads and answer: "We have nothing to live for. Nothing we could join in would be any amusement to us, since we have lost the light of our lives." So the old couple continued their mourning for their lost idol.

Two years had passed since the death of the beautiful girl, when one evening a hunter and his wife passed by the scaffold which held the dead girl. They were on their return trip and were heavily loaded down with game, and therefore could not travel very fast.

About half a mile from the scaffold a clear spring burst forth from the side of a bank, and from this trickled a small stream of water, moistening the roots of the vegetation bordering its banks, and causing a growth of sweet green grass. At this spring the hunter camped and tethering his horses, at once set about helping his wife to erect the small teepee which they carried for convenience in traveling.

When it became quite dark, the hunter's dogs set up a great barking and growling. "Look out and see what the dogs are barking at," said the hunter to his wife. She looked out through the door and then drew back saying: "There is the figure of a woman advancing from the direction of the girl's scaffold." "I expect it is the dead girl; let her come, and don't act as if you were afraid," said the hunter.

Soon they heard footsteps advancing and the steps ceased at the door. Looking down at the lower part of the door the hunter noticed a pair of small moccasins, and knowing that it was the visitor, said: "Whoever you are, come in and have something to eat." At this invitation the figure came slowly in and sat down by the door with head covered and with a fine robe drawn tightly over the face.

The woman dished up a fine supper and placing it before the visitor, said: "Eat, my friend, you must be hungry." The figure never moved, nor would it uncover to eat. "Let us turn our back towards the door and our visitor may eat the food," said the hunter. So his wife turned her back towards the visitor and made herself very busy cleaning the small pieces of meat that were hanging to the back sinews of the deer which had been killed. (This the Indians use as thread.)

The hunter, filling his pipe, turned away and smoked in silence. Finally the dish was pushed back to the woman, who took it and after washing it, put it away. The figure still sat at the door, not a sound coming from it, neither was it breathing. The hunter at last said: "Are you the girl that was placed upon that scaffold two years ago?" It bowed its head two or three times in assent. "Are you going to sleep here tonight; if you are, my wife will make down a bed for you." The figure shook its head. "Are you going to come again tomorrow night to us?" It nodded assent.

For three nights in succession the figure visited the hunter's camp. The third night the hunter noticed that the figure was breathing. He saw one of the hands protruding from the robe. The skin was perfectly black and was stuck fast to the bones of the hand.

On seeing this the hunter arose and going over to his medicine sack which hung on a pole, took down the sack and, opening it, took out some roots and mixing them with skunk oil and vermilion, said to the figure: "If you will let us rub your face and hands with this medicine it will put new life into the skin and you will assume your complexion again and it will put flesh on you." The figure assented and the hunter rubbed the medicine on her hands and face. Then she arose and walked back to the scaffold.

The next day the hunter moved camp towards the home village. That night he camped within a few miles of the village. When night came, the dogs, as usual, set up a great barking, and looking out, the wife saw the girl approaching. When the girl had entered and sat down, the hunter noticed that the girl did not keep her robe so closely together over her face. When the wife gave her something to eat, the girl reached out and took the dish, thus exposing her hands, which they at once noticed were again natural.

After she had finished her meal, the hunter said: "Did my medicine help you?" She nodded assent. "Do you want my medicine rubbed all over your body?" Again she nodded. "I will mix enough to rub your entire body, and I will go outside and let my wife rub it on for you." He mixed a good supply and going out left his wife to rub the girl.

When his wife had completed the task she called to her husband to come in, and when he came in he sat down and said to the girl: "Tomorrow we will reach the village. Do you want to go with us?" She shook her head. "Will you come again to our camp tomorrow night after we have camped in the village?" She nodded her head in assent. "Then do you want to see your parents?" She nodded again, and arose and disappeared into the darkness.

Early the next morning the hunter broke camp and traveled far into the afternoon, when he arrived at the village. He instructed his wife to go at once and inform the old couple of what had happened. The wife did so and at sunset the old couple came to the hunter's teepee. They were invited to enter and a fine supper was served them.

Soon after they had finished their supper the dogs of the camp set up a great barking. "Now she is coming, so be brave and you will soon see your lost daughter," said the hunter. Hardly had he finished speaking when she entered the tent as natural as ever she was in life. Her parents clung to her and smothered her with kisses. They wanted her to return home with them, but she would stay with the hunter who had brought her back to life, and she married him, becoming his second wife.

A short time after taking the girl for his wife, the hunter joined a war party and never returned, as he was killed on the battlefield. A year after her husband's death she married again. This husband was also killed by a band of enemies whom the warriors were pursuing for stealing some of their horses. The third husband also met a similar fate to the first. He was killed on the field of battle. She was still a handsome woman at the time of the third husband's death, but never again married, as the men feared her, saying she was holy, and that any one who married her would be sure to be killed by the enemy.

So she took to doctoring the sick and gained the reputation of being the most skilled doctor in the nation. She lived to a ripe old age and when she felt death approaching she had them take her to where she had rested once before, and crawling to the top of the newly erected scaffold, wrapped her blankets and robes about her, covered her face carefully, and fell into that sleep from which there is no more awakening.

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