CHAPTER XII. SIOUX AND THEIR TRADITIONS.
In the course of a great many years the Sioux and the Scarred-Arms always fought with each other with varying success, whenever they met; sometimes one tribe, sometimes the other, was victorious.
Once a band of the Sioux entered into the very heart of the country of the Scarred-Arms, and while on their return to their own country, fell into an ambush of the enemy, and only six out of the whole party escaped to convey the terrible news to their village.
These six, hotly pursued by the Scarred-Arms, sought refuge in the mountains. They found there a hidden passage leading into a recess in the mountain's side, which they hurriedly entered. They were delighted with it, for it had a gravelly floor, with a spring of pure, sweet, cool water gushing out of the side of its rocky wall. There, believing they might remain secure from their enemy, they proposed to rest for a short time and recuperate themselves; for they were nearly exhausted by their efforts to escape from the bloody scalping-knives of the Scarred-Arms. They kindled a fire, around which the six warriors huddled, telling each other, as is the savage wont, of their numerous hairbreadth escapes and single combats with the common enemy; also trying to devise some means of eluding the Scarred-Arms, who they knew to be still searching for them.
While they were thus discussing the probabilities of the affair, they were startled by a strange noise, like the rustling of leaves, in a dark corner of the cave; but they were more frightened when they suddenly saw the dim form of a person moving about in the subdued light. The figure advanced toward them, and they discovered it to be that of a feeble old woman, who said as she approached them: -
"Children, you have been against the Scarred-Arms, you have fought them, and of a large party you alone are left alive. I know it all.
"You come here into my lodge to escape from your pursuers, and the sound of your voices and the heat of your council fire has disturbed my rest and waked me from a long trance. By your eager looks you would know my strange story. Many ages have gone by (for days, moons, seasons, and ages are painted before me as they pass) since the Shoshones, who lived where now live the Scarred-Arms, visited the lodges of the Sioux and made the prairie drink the blood of slaughtered warriors. I was their captive, and, with scalps of the slain, I was taken from the graves of my people. The Shoshones brought me to this country, when yet the buffalo grazed upon the hills and mountains; for the valleys and plains were the home of the waters.
"Living with the Shoshones, I was not happy. I thought of my people; of all those dear to me; and I prayed to the Good Spirit that I might again behold them ere my passage to the death-land. I fled, hoping to reach the home of my birth; but age had enfeebled me; and being pursued, I sought refuge in this cave. Here, having passed a night and a day in earnest communion with the 'Big Medicine,' a strange feeling came upon me. I slumbered in a dreamy state from then until now. But your looks again ask, who are the Shoshones? what became of them? and from whence are the Scarred-Arms?
"The Sioux will soon know the Shoshones, and bring from their lodges many scalps and medicine-dogs. Divided into two tribes, that nation long since sought homes in other lands. One crossed the Snow-hills, toward the sun-setting; the Sioux shall visit them and avenge the blood and wrongs of ages. The other journeyed far toward the sun of winter, and now live to the leftward of the places where Hispanola builds his earth-lodge.
"Then came the Scarred-Arms from a far-off country, a land of much snow and cold. Pleased with the great numbers of buffalo and other game that they found here, they stopped for the chase, and by many generations of possession have claimed these regions for their own; but they are not theirs. The Great Spirit gave this country to the Sioux, and they shall inhabit the land of their daughter's captivity.
"Why are you waiting here? Go and avenge the blood of your comrades upon the Scarred-Arms. They even now light their camp-fire by the stream at the mountain's base. Fear not; their scalps are yours. Then return to my people, that ye may come and receive your inheritance.
"Haste ye, that I may die; and oh! War-ka-tun-ga! Inasmuch as thou hast answered the prayer of thy handmaid, and shown to me the faces of my people, take me from hence."
The awe-struck warriors withdrew. They found the enemy encamped at the foot of the mountain, as they had been told by the mysterious woman. They attacked them, and were victorious. Thirty-five scalps were the reward of their bravery.
On arriving at their village, their strange adventures excited the astonishment of all the warriors, chiefs, and medicine-men. They planned an expedition against the Scarred-Arms, having been nerved up to a pitch of extraordinary bravery by the story of the old woman of the cave. Thus their enemies were eventually driven from the country, and the Sioux came into possession of their own.
The thankful warriors went to the cave en masse, to do reverence to the memory of the strange medicine-woman who had told them so many wonderful things. They found, upon their arrival there, only a small niche in the side of the mountain, and a sparkling little stream. Both the cave and the woman had disappeared.
For years after this strange occurrence the Sioux warriors visited the land of the Shoshones for scalps, and, as they passed the mountain where the old woman had been seen, they always offered something to the spirit of the place, and stopped to quench their thirst at the sparkling little stream.