By Marie L. McLaughlin
Two young men were out strolling one night, talking of love affairs. They passed around a hill and came to a little ravine or coulee. Suddenly they saw coming up from the ravine a beautiful woman. She was painted, and her dress was of the very finest material.
“What a beautiful girl!” said one of the young men.
“Already I love her. I will steal her and make her my wife.”
“No,” said the other. “Don’t harm her. She may be holy.”
The young woman approached and held out a pipe which she first offered to the sky, then to the earth, and then advanced, holding it out in her extended hands.
“I know what you young men have been saying; one of you is good; the other is wicked,” she said.
She laid down the pipe on the ground and became a buffalo cow. The cow pawed the ground, stuck her tail straight out behind her, and then lifted the pipe from the ground again in her hoofs; immediately, she became a young woman again.
“I am come to give you this gift,” she said. “It is the peace pipe. Hereafter all treaties and ceremonies shall be performed after smoking it. It shall bring peaceful thoughts into your minds. You shall offer it to the Great Mystery and to mother earth.”
The two young men ran to the village and told what they had seen and heard. All the village came out where the young woman was.
She repeated to them what she had already told the young men and added:
“When you set free the ghost (the spirit of deceased persons), you must have a white buffalo cow skin.”
She gave the pipe to the medicine men of the village, turned again into a buffalo cow, and fled away to the land of buffaloes.
Legend of Standing Rock
A Dakota had married an Arikara woman and, by her, had one child. By and by, he took another wife. The first wife was jealous and pouted. When the time came for the village to break camp, she refused to move from her place on the tent floor. The tent was taken down, but she sat on the ground with her babe on her back. The rest of the camp with her husband went on.
At noon her husband halted the line. “Go back to your sister-in-law,” he said to his two brothers. “Tell her to come on, and we will await you here. But hasten, for I fear she may grow desperate and kill herself.”
The two rode off and arrived in the evening at their former camping place. The woman still sat on the ground. The elder spoke:
“Sister-in-law, get up. We have come for you. The camp awaits you.”
She did not answer, and he put out his hand and touched her head. She had turned to stone!
The two brothers lashed their ponies and came back to camp. They told their story but were not believed. “The woman has killed herself, and my brothers will not tell me,” said the husband. However, the whole village broke camp and returned to where they had left the woman. Sure enough, she sat there still, a block of stone.
The Indians were incredibly excited. They chose a handsome pony, made a new travois, and placed the stone in the carrying net. Pony and travois were both beautifully painted and decorated with streamers and colors. The stone was thought “wakan” (holy) and was given a place of honor in the center of the camp. Whenever the camp moved, the stone and travois were taken along. Thus the stone woman was carried for years and finally brought to Standing Rock Agency, and now rests upon a brick pedestal in front of the Agency office. From this stone, the Standing Rock Agency derives its name.
About the Author: Myths and Legends of the Sioux was published by Marie L. McLaughlin in 1916 and is now in the public domain. McLaughlin, who was of ¼ Sioux blood and was born and reared in the Indian community, acquired a thorough knowledge of the Sioux people and language at an early age. While living on an Indian reservation for more than 40 years, she learned the legends and folklore of the Sioux. These legends and myths were told in the lodges, at the past campfires, and then later by the firesides of the Dakota. McLaughlin kept careful notes of the many tales said to her by the Sioux elders until she published this book of legends in 1913.