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NE History & Record of Pioneer Days
Vol V, no 4 (part 2)




The Story as Put in Literary Form by J. C. Lindberg, a Grad-
uate of Doane College, now Teacher at the Aberdeen
Normal School, South Dakota

   Many requests reach the Historical Society for the legend of Weeping Water. There is no established form for this legend. It is, in fact, difficult to determine how far the legend is a real Indian creation and how far the product of the white man's imagination. Prof. O. C. Dake, early teacher of literature in the Nebraska University, and author of the first volume of Nebraska poetry, has a poem upon this legend. His book was printed in 1871. He doubtless gathered the material for the story from people at Weeping Water, Cass County, some of whom settled there in 1856.
   Professor Lindberg sought information upon this legend from the editor of this magazine twenty years ago. Subsequently he wrote the story. A recent published version of his story, printed in South Dakota, follows:
   "Nebraska has but few legends to lend spice to the ordinary prosaic routine of her busy life. The following, the legend of Weeping Water, is an interesting one, and is well worth a hearing, as well as preservation. Doubtless there are many people in the state who have perhaps not heard it, some of these perhaps not far from the scene of action. The Weeping Water is a beautiful little stream in the southeastern part of Nebraska, too large to be called a creek, but scarcely, large or dignified enough to be called a river. Be that as it may, those who live within easy reach, and are able to enjoy its scenery wish it none other than it is.
   But it is with the origin of the stream and not its beauty, that we are concerned, and here it is that the legend becomes of interest. Many years, perhaps centuries ago, two Indian tribes roamed the plains of what is now eastern Nebraska. They were very hostile toward each other, for each claimed this particular territory as its ancestral hunting ground. As years passed on this hostile feeling became more and more strained. These were not the days of arbitration, compulsory or otherwise, and it soon became evident that the only means of settlement lay through an appeal to the god of war. It also chanced that upon the same night each tribe planned to surprise and overawe the other, with the result that at early dawn each found itself face to face with its dreaded enemy. The battle was fierce. Upon the result hung the fate of the whole tribe, and of all that is dear to the heart of an Indian. Each warrior burned with the desire for revenge. All day the bat-



tle lasted with varying successes and defeats on both sides. Now one of the tribes seemed to be the complete master of the field, when suddenly from an ambush would rally forth a swarm of men and overawe the victors with a shower of arrows. No point of the compass pointed out safety of escape. Every tree, every bush, every bank hurled forth its deadly weapons. The result was the total annihilation of one of the tribes and only a handful of the other was left to tell the story.
   As the days passed on and no tidings came to those of the vanquished tribe who were left in the camp, they became uneasy. They knew only too well the meaning of no news. A council was held and it was decided to go en masse to bury their dead. It was indeed a sad sight that greeted them when they arrived upon the scene. There were tears, many tears. After they had buried their dead another council was held at which it was decided that each year upon the anniversary of the battle the whole tribe should journey to the scene of the slaughter and there lament their dead heroes. This custom was dutifully kept up until the white man appeared upon the scene and pushed the Indians farther west. But meanwhile a great many tears had been poured out, so many, indeed that a little stream was formed and made its way down the valley. The bed of the stream is very uneven and broken by many little falls and because of this (as well as from the origin of the stream) there is a constant murmuring, and complaining and so it was christened the Weeping Water. It was in these complaints that the water heard the following, voice:


Though all nature around us is smiling
There's a note of despair in the song.
Come tell me, no longer beguiling,
Come tell me the tale of thy wrong.
Then a murmur as soft as the breeze,
Yet weird as the sighing of waves--
I'm grieving the death of my kinsmen,
I'm grieving the death of my braves."
There's joy in the bobolink's singing
There is music in every nook;
But deep in my heart keeps ringing,
The longing lament of the brook.
'Tis the wail of an Indian maiden,
Like the moaning of far distant waves;
"Return me, return me my lover,
Return me, return me my braves."



Now the sun in its glory is setting,
And the shadows of evening unfold,
No breeze the tree-tops are fretting
And the cloud-land is purple and gold;
Still the soul-rending wail of the mourner,
An echo from countless graves;
"Revenge me, revenge me, my kinsmen;
Revenge me, revenge me, my braves."

   (Editor's Note: Upon the early French maps of the Nebraska region appears the stream of the legend with the name "L'eau qui Pleure"--whose English equivalent is "water which weeps.")

   A letter from D. A. Young, Plattsmouth, one of the early pioneers of Cass county, tells the story of the Rock Bluff precinct election in 1866. The story is familiar to all old-timers and is one of the fifty stories in the book, "History and Stories of Nebraska." In brief it is the story of the election board which went to dinner at noon taking the ballot box with them. The precinct, voted 2 to 1 Democratic. The Republican canvassing board at Plattsmouth threw out the vote of the precinct, thereby changing the result of the election for legislature. In consequence two republicans were sent to the United States senate instead of two democrats. Throwing out Rock Bluff precinct however did not change the result of the vote upon statehood nor was it in way responsible for President Andrew Johnson's veto.

   The G. A. R. memorial shaft on the court house square at Hastings, now under construction, is to be thirty-five feet high, surmounted by a Union soldier in private's uniform, standing at attention. Its foundation is an eight foot cube of solid cement in which is imbedded a copper box. nine by eleven by five inches containing historical records. The monument is to be of the finest grade of Barre granite and will cost $9,975.

   Harold Cook of Agate Springs ranch in Sioux county, was a Lincoln visitor during the holidays. The Agate Springs ranch has become a center of interest in every museum of the United States. Wonderful discoveries of prehistoric animals continue at that place. Last year over five thousand visitors were received, although the ranch is from twenty to fifty miles from the railroads of that region. A museum building to hold the remarkable collections now at the ranch and others yet to be discovered is contemplated.

   The North Platte Women's Club has done a fine patriotic piece of work by securing for permanent preservation a cedar log cabin now standing in the south part of that city and one of the first buildings erected in North Platte. The cabin will be moved to a convenient spot near the court house, fitted up as a museum and memorial building in cooperation with the Daughters of the American Revolution. A good photograph of this cabin taken by the writer a few years ago is in the Historical photograph collections.




Richard Shunatona, Keeper of Peace Pipe and Chief of the
Buffalo Clan, Furnishes Important Information
Upon the Present Chiefs, Customs and
Traditions of the Tribe

Otoe Names for Months and Seasons

   From Richard Shunatona, member of the Nebraska State Historical Society and representative of the society to the Otoe tribe in Oklahoma, we have received most interesting, and valuable unpublished material relating to that tribe which follows:
   1. The names and addresses of the living chiefs of the Otoe and Missouria Indians are


Hoke S. Dent,

Red Rock, Okla.,

descendant of Shumonecahthee, 1817

R. Shunatona,

Pawnee, Oklahoma,  

descendant of Chongatonga, 1817

Sam Black,

Red Rock, Okla.,

descendant of Woronesane, 1825

S. B. Lincoln,

Red Rock, Oklahoma,  

descendant of Walonithau, 1833

Wm. Fawfaw,

Red Rock, Oklahoma,  

appointed chief by Interior Dept.

Felix Robedioux,  

Red Rock, Oklahoma,  

descendant of Medicine Horse, 1854

Wm. Green,

Red Rock, Oklahoma,

descendant of Lanuwahhah, 1825

Sam Ellis,

Red Rock, Oklahoma,  

descendant of Hahchegesuga, 1830

Moses Harragarra,  

Red Rock, Oklahoma,

descendant of Big Soldier, 1854

John Pipestem,

Red Rock. Oklahoma,  

descendant of Mawthratine, 1854

Robert McGlaslin,  

Red Rock, Oklahoma,

descendant of Mawthratine, 1854

Iowa Coonskin,

Red Rock, Oklahoma,  

descendant of Bahtheecuja, 1825

David Pettit,

Red Rock, Oklahoma

   2. The names of the old and distinguished Indians are: Charles Watson, retired chief and historian of the tribe. Farrar Robedioux, a Civil War Veteran and the oldest member living.
   2. The names of the old and distinguished Indians are:
   James Arkeketa, Sr., or Standing Buffalo, died July 24, 1912. His distinguished deed was in recovering some stolen cavalry horses for the government. He was the last priest of the tribe and head of the Buffalo Clan.
   Richard Whitehorse, died 1922, was a friend of the government and friendly to everybody.
   Josiah Headman, died _______ was the head of the Bear Clan.
   Albert Green, died Jan. 17, 1921, was a teacher and orator. He was really the principal chief when he died.
   Henry Jones, died Sept. 22, 1918. He succeeded his uncle, Whitehorse, as one of the chiefs. He was loved by his tribe.
   In conclusion, permit me to add the following:
   The Otoe and Missouria Tribes were known by the French explorers as early as 1673, under the name of Otantata, or Wah-doe dah-dah.



   In olden times there were only seven chiefs of the tribes. Each chief was a keeper of a Peace pipe which was their symbol or insignia. To become a chief of the tribes was no easy matter, for it required something more than a member of the family to be one. In order to be initiated into the secret order of the Chief's lodge one must be a student of the great schoolroom of Nature, for really a chief must be able to teach the tribes. They derived the figure seven from the Pleiades, and each chief puts his trust in these heavenly stars, because each one represented one of the Pleiades.
   As God gave Moses by word of mouth, on Mount Sinai, the laws which he delivered unto his people, who repeated it until fixed in their minds, so it is with the Indians. The Great Spirit taught them in their own primitive way and since then their laws have been handed down to each generation.
   The Otoe and Missouria Tribes are divided into bands or clans, with chiefs, symbols, badges, etc. The influence of names and families is strictly kept up and their qualities and relative distinction preserved in heraldric family arms.
   The Otoe and Missouria Tribes have two ruling families, viz:--Ah-lu-qwa, or Buffalo Clan and the Tu-nah-be, or Bear Clan. Each clan is the ruler as their respective moon arrives.
   When the moon begins to warm mother earth and when the grass and the leaves begin to have a coat of green, or during the last quarter of Ma-gan-na, (plow month) or the month of April, the Ah-lu-qwa, is the ruler of the tribes and is to be respected.
   When the moon begins to cool mother earth and when the leaves turn brown and begin to drop back to earth, or during the last quarter of Tah-ke-lu- rscha, (mating of deers) or the month of October, the Tu-nah-be becomes the ruler of the tribes. When the change is made certain rites and rituals are performed.
   When the "Guardian of all red children" placed the Otoe and Missouria Tribes here upon the earth, they were given religious customs, which were observed in the old days gone by. Every new moon brought some rituals and when they prepared to give mother earth the seed for their crop, certain rites were had and the same is true when they gather the harvest and when their fall hunt is about to begin. They remembered their Maker daily and always called upon Him for guidance and protection.
   Believing that this will be of some interest and regretting very much that the true history, given by an Indian who is a student of the old Indian teachings, will be forgotten forever, I now close.



(Month Counting)


   Was-se-gay, Me-tah-way,
        People, My own.
   Wah-doe-dah, hay-dah, Nu-dar-chee,
        Otoes and Missourias.
   WAH-COHN-DAH, E-chee-chee-a, A-wa-tah-way-nay,
        Great Spirit    children     his own.
   WAH-COHN-DAH, Ah-blah-a-ah-dah-nay,
        Great Spirit        everywhere they see
   WAH-COHN-DAH, Me-kay, way-glo-he-nay,
        Great Spirit, faithful worshippers."

   The Otoe and Missouria tribes have songs for their Great Spirit because He is everywhere. Their songs are breathed-in songs and these songs are treasured down through the ages from generation to generation.
   Each new moon meant purification and sacrifice from every family in the tribes. The priest of the tribes takes their offerings and takes them to the altar which is built for that purpose only, and the possessor offers them as a sin offering to the Great Spirit. The priest, looking to the heaven, offers a prayer and sings to the Great Spirit, who is watching his children everywhere. An elegy is sung to the new moon.
   The different seasons of the year brought some form of worship. The most important event is spring and in fact their new year begins with the spring. Spring was a day of much thinking because the Great Spirit made everything to live over again. It meant that they, as a tribe or nation, must bury their past and live over again and try to remember their Maker more each day by their prayers. Their feasts for new resolutions are had at the very beginning of spring.
   Winter was also a big event because it brought to their minds of the death of things and to the human race. Winter reminded them of death. The snow covering the whole earth reminded them of the purity of their Great Spirit, and they always tried to live a pure life.
   Their count of the days begins with each new moon, and every important event or act is reckoned as the new moon, when moon was larger than new moon or, when moon was full, when moon was smaller than full moon, which meant new moon, 1st quarter, full moon and last quarter.
   Such is the counting months of the year of the Otoe and Missouri.

Richard Shunatona, Author.    


Otoe and Missouria



Mating of the raccoon


the moon racoon hunts a mate.


Month of the Waterfrog.


The moon when the Indian looks at the Pleiades for early or late spring.


Month of doing nothing,


The moon Indians hold sacred when Great Spirit gives new life to all.




The moon Indians plow the ground, offer rituals to plant the maize.


Sprouting month


The moon that makes plants sprout.


Cultivating month


The moon Indians cultivate their pumpkin and the maize.


Mating of the bison.


The moon bisons hunt a mate.


Bellowing of the elk


The moon hat brings hot winds.


Deer's wallow frosted.


The moon that brings the harvest.


Mating of the deer


The moon that brings the fall hunts.


Buck's horns broken


The moon to find bucks with locked horns on account of fighting.


Bear getting down


The moon that brings the snow the priest uses to offer tribal sacrament to the Great Spirit.





Spring moons,

Summer moons,     

Autumn moons,


Winter moons



(Continued from Vol. V, No. 3)

sitting on the wagon tongue thinking of hooking up, all of a sudden, without any apparent noise, nine of the biggest, blackest war painted Indians I ever saw suddenly appeared from out of the river all riding good horses. They at once began to parley. Some of them could talk English pretty good, wanting to trade ponies for squaws. As my wife sat on the wagon in plain sight of them they raised their bids from one to four ponies for her.
   All at once the whole party struck out for the bluffs on the full run, which for the moment was a puzzle to me. The mystery was soon solved, for on looking down the road I saw a company of cavalry, that were being sent from Ft. Kearny to Cottonwood Springs, within a mile of us. These cavalry were to establish an outpost near where the trouble was expected. I don't think we would have been disturbed by these Indians at that time except in a badgering way and my reason for belief will be given later.
   From this camp we drove on for another half day. We camped this time at what was called the Deserted Ranch, a place on a dry gulch where someone had started a ranch and gave it up before completion. Soon after going into camp here a mule train, consisting of ten four mule teams, drove from the east and went into camp on the north side of the road about one hundred yards from us. This was August 7, 1864. This train belonged to Frank Morton, of Sidney, Iowa. I will speak further of it later.
   Early in the morning of August 8, we broke camp and made what was called a breakfast drive, a very common thing in those days. We drove to the twenty-one mile point and went into camp, about ten o'clock for our breakfast. We had been there but a short time when the stage coach passed us on double quick time going east and the driver shouted that we had better get out of that as there were ten or twelve dead men lying in the road a little way above there.
   Yet with all this I could hardly believe that there was anything unusual so I hitched up our team and drove four miles to the seventeen mile point, seventeen miles from Kearny. While there in camp, about ten o'clock, a company of cavalry came up from the fort on double quick. The captain halted and asked where I camped last night and when I told him at the old soddy he asked if I saw any Indians. I told him I did not. "Well," he said, "it's strange, for just where you say you camped last night it is reported that ten or twelve people were killed and one woman taken prisoner and their mules run off and wagons burned.".
   And now comes the strange part of my story showing that if such a thing as providence interfering or assisting anyone it certainly showed its full hand in our case from the time we turned around at Cottonwood Springs until we passed on and escaped that massacre known as the Plum Creek massacre. For it is a fact that the people killed in that raid were the same people who camped so near us the night before and the fact that we made an early drive that morning was the only reason that we escaped. Again, when I tell you that Mrs. Morton, who was accompanying her husband on this trip, was an old schoolmate and chum of my wife and the further fact that they failed to recognize each other, in our respective camps, must be another act credited to Providence. The people slain in this outfit consisted of Frank Morton owner of the outfit, of Sidney, Iowa, and ten white men drivers, and a colored cook. Mrs. Morten was taken prisoner and I believe remained with these Indians for about five months when she was rescued through some friendly Indians, taken to Denver and finally reached her friends again.
   Another and most remarkable escape occurred at this time. About four miles east of our camp was a new ranch owned by a German called Dutch Smith. On our drive that morning as we passed the Smith place he was seated in a buggy at the door and his wife was pleading with him to go along. They were going to Fort Kearny, but he seemed to be quite anxious for her to remain home. However, she prevailed, for within one half hour they passed us on the road to Fort Kearny. The Indians who committed the murders at the Morton Camp followed down the road as far as Smith's place, killed his hired man, ran off his stock and burned his buildings. Whether these different escapes all just happened or whether the hand of Providence was guiding us are things that to me are not comprehensible.
   In referring back to the episode at Gillman's ranch with the nine Indians I have come to the conclusion that they would not have harmed us at that time. I consider the Plum Creek Massacre a premeditated attack, as there were depredations committed all along the Overland Trail for a distance of two hundred miles and thus the little squad who visited us would not dare to start the scrap until the agreed time arrived.
   On our arrival back at the old home and starting point we concluded that Nebraska was good enough for us and we have rounded out a full one half century within her confines. We have two sons, thirteen grandchildren, and five great-grand-children all born in Nebraska and all living in the state today, without a death in the family for forty-six years.
   It is marvelous to stop for a moment to consider what has taken place in this great America of ours in one half century. Every mile of railroad west of Minneapolis, Ft. Des Moines and St. Joseph has been constructed since I settled in Nebraska Territory, Fort Des Moines, Iowa, being the nearest to a railroad at the time of my settling in Butler county.

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