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   Chapter 8 WINONA'S CHILDHOOD

Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains By Charles Alexander Eastman Characters: 5873

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


Hush, hushaby, little woman!

Be brave and weep not!

The spirits sleep not;

'Tis they who ordain

To woman, pain.

Hush, hushaby, little woman!

Now, all things bearing,

A new gift sharing

From those above-

To woman, love.

-Sioux Lullaby.

"Chinto, wéyanna! Yes, indeed; she is a real little woman," declares the old grandmother, as she receives and critically examines the tiny bit of humanity.

There is no remark as to the color of its hair or eyes, both so black as almost to be blue, but the old woman scans sharply the delicate profile of the baby face.

"Ah, she has the nose of her ancestors! Lips thin as a leaf, and eyes bright as stars in midwinter!" she exclaims, as she passes on the furry bundle to the other grandmother for her inspection.

"Tokee! she is pretty enough to win a twinkle from the evening star," remarks that smiling personage.

"And what shall her name be?

"Winona, the First-born, of course. That is hers by right of birth."

"Still, it may not fit her. One must prove herself worthy in order to retain that honorable name."

"Ugh," retorts the first grandmother, "she can at least bear it on probation!"

"Tosh, tosh," the other assents.

Thus the unconscious little Winona has passed the first stage of the Indian's christening.

Presently she is folded into a soft white doeskin, well lined with the loose down of cattails, and snugly laced into an upright oaken cradle, the front of which is a richly embroidered buckskin bag, with porcupine quills and deer's hoofs suspended from its profuse fringes. This gay cradle is strapped upon the second grandmother's back, and that dignitary walks off with the newcomer.

"You must come with me," she says. "We shall go among the father and mother trees, and hear them speak with their thousand tongues, that you may know their language forever. I will hang the cradle of the woman-child upon Utuhu, the oak; and she shall hear the love-sighs of the pine maiden!"

In this fashion Winona is introduced to nature and becomes at once "nature-born," in accord with the beliefs and practices of the wild red man.

The baby girl is called Winona for some months, when the medicine-man is summoned and requested to name publicly the first-born daughter of Chetonska, the White Hawk; but not until he has received a present of a good pony with a finely painted buffalo-robe. It is usual to confer another name besides that of the "First-born," which may be resumed later if the maiden proves worthy. The name Winona implies much of honor. It means charitable, kind, helpful; all that an eldest sister should be!

The herald goes around the ring of lodges announcing in singsong fashion the christening, and inviting everybody to a feast in honor of the event. A real American christening is always a gala occasion, when much savage wealth is distributed among the poor and old people. Winona has only just w

alked, and this fact is also announced with additional gifts. A well-born child is ever before the tribal eye and in the tribal ear, as every little step in its progress toward manhood or womanhood-the first time of walking or swimming, first shot with bow and arrow (if a boy), first pair of moccasins made (if a girl)-is announced publicly with feasting and the giving of presents.

So Winona receives her individual name of Tatiyopa, or Her Door. It is symbolic, like most Indian names, and implies that the door of the bearer is hospitable and her home attractive.

The two grandmothers, who have carried the little maiden upon their backs, now tell and sing to her by turns all the legends of their most noted female ancestors, from the twin sisters of the old story, the maidens who married among the star people of the sky, down to their own mothers. All their lullabies are feminine, and designed to impress upon her tender mind the life and duties of her sex.

As soon as she is old enough to play with dolls, she plays mother in all seriousness and gravity. She is dressed like a miniature woman (and her dolls are clad likewise), in garments of doeskin to her ankles, adorned with long fringes, embroidered with porcupine quills, and dyed with root dyes in various colors. Her little blanket or robe, with which she shyly drapes or screens her head and shoulders, is the skin of a buffalo calf or a deer, soft, white, embroidered on the smooth side, and often with the head and hoofs left on.

"You must never forget, my little daughter, that you are a woman like myself. Do always those things that you see me do," her mother often admonishes her.

Even the language of the Sioux has its feminine dialect, and the tiny girl would be greatly abashed were it ever needful to correct her for using a masculine termination.

This mother makes for her little daughter a miniature copy of every rude tool that she uses in her daily tasks. There is a little scraper of elk-horn to scrape raw-hides preparatory to tanning them, another scraper of a different shape for tanning, bone knives, and stone mallets for pounding choke-cherries and jerked meat.

While her mother is bending over a large buffalo-hide stretched and pinned upon the ground, standing upon it and scraping off the fleshy portion as nimbly as a carpenter shaves a board with his plane, Winona, at five years of age, stands upon a corner of the great hide and industriously scrapes away with her tiny instrument. When the mother stops to sharpen her tool, the little woman always sharpens hers also. Perhaps there is water to be fetched in bags made from the dried pericardium of an animal; the girl brings some in a smaller water-bag. When her mother goes for wood she carries one or two sticks on her back. She pitches her play teepee to form an exact copy of her mother's. Her little belongings are nearly all practical, and her very play is real!

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