Immediately following the massacre of Wounded Knee (December 29, 1890), the well-known anthropologist James Mooney, under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Smithsonian, investigated the incident. His interest was primarily in the Indian background to the uprising. Admitting that the Indians had been generally overpowered by the Whites, what led the Indians to think they stood a chance against White arms? His answer was astonishing: the Ghost-Dance Religion.
Investigating every Indian uprising from Pontiac to the 1980s, every Indian resistance to aggression, every incident of importance, Mooney discovered a cultural pattern: a messianic religion that permeated leaders and warriors from Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet on up to the Plains tribes that revived the Ghost-Dance in the 1880s and 90s. The message was: abandon the ways of the Whites; go back to Indian ways; an Indian messiah is coming; the Indian dead are to be resurrected — indeed, some have already returned; and the Whites are to be killed by the Spirits.
Mooney made an exhaustive study of this cult, the rise of its latest version, diffusion to the Plains, and its relevance to the medicine man Sitting Bull and others. Citing many primary documents as well as anthropological data he gathered himself, Mooney gives an extremely detailed, thorough account of the cult; its songs and dances, ceremonies, and its social impact.
This work has always been considered one of the great classics of American anthropology, a book that not only offers an account of a very interesting cultural phenomenon, but also throws light on many events in Indian-White relations that are otherwise dark. Its data have never been superseded and the book remains a work of primary importance in Native American studies.
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The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee
By James Mooney
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1973 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
There are hours long departed which memory brings Like blossoms of Eden to twine round the heart.
The wise men tell us that the world is growing happier—that we live longer than did our fathers, have more of comfort and less of toil, fewer wars and discords, and higher hopes and aspirations. So say the wise men; but deep in our own hearts we know they are wrong. For were not we, too, born in Arcadia, and have we not—each one of us—in that May of life when the world was young, started out lightly and airily along the path that led through green meadows to the blue mountains on the distant horizon, beyond which lay the great world we were to conquer? And though others dropped behind, have we not gone on through morning brightness and noonday heart, with eyes always steadily forward, until the fresh grass began to be parched and withered, and the way grew hard and stony, and the blue mountains resolved into gray rocks and thorny cliffs? And when at last we reached the toilsome summits, we found the glory that had lured us onward was only the sunset glow that fades into darkness while we look, and leaves us at the very goal to sink down, tired in body and sick at heart, with strength and courage gone, to close our eyes and dream again, not of the fame and fortune that were to be ours, but only of the old-time happiness that we have left so far behind.
As with men, so is it with nations. The lost paradise is the world's dreamland of youth. What tribe or people has not had its golden age, before Pandora's box was loosed, when women were nymphs and dryads and men were gods and heroes? And when the race lies crushed and groaning beneath an alien yoke, how natural is the dream of a redeemer, an Arthur, who shall return from exile or awake from some long sleep to drive out the usurper and win back for his people what they have lost. The hope becomes a faith and the faith becomes the creed of priests and prophets, until the hero is a god and the dream a religion, looking to some great miracle of nature for its culmination and accomplishment. The doctrines of the Hindu avatar, the Hebrew Messiah, the Christian millennium, and the Hesûnanin of the Indian Ghost dance are essentially the same, and have their origin in a hope and longing common to all humanity.
Probably every Indian tribe, north and south, had its early hero god, the great doer or teacher of all first things, from the Inskeha and Manabozho of the rude Iroquoian and Algonquian to the Quetzalcoatl, the Bochica, and the Viracocha of the more cultivated Aztecs, Muyscas, and Quichuas of the milder southland. Among the roving tribes of the north this hero is hardly more than an expert magician, frequently degraded to the level of a common trickster, who, after ridding the world of giants and monsters, and teaching his people a few simple arts, retires to the upper world to rest and smoke until some urgent necessity again requires his presence below. Under softer southern skies the myth takes more poetic form and the hero becomes a person of dignified presence, a father and teacher of his children, a very Christ, worthy of all love and reverence, who gathers together the wandering nomads and leads them to their destined country, where he instructs them in agriculture, house building, and the art of government, regulates authority, and inculcates peaceful modes of life. "Under him, the earth teemed with fruits and flowers without the pains of culture. An ear of Indian corn was as much as a single man could carry. The cotton, as it grew, took of its own accord the rich dyes of human art. The air was filled with intoxicating perfumes and the sweet melody of birds. In short, these were the halcyon days, which find a place in the mythic systems of so many nations in the Old World. It was the golden age of Anahuac." (Prescott, 1.) When at last his work is well accomplished, he bids farewell to his sorrowing subjects, whom he consoles with the sacred promise that he will one day return and resume his kingdom, steps into his magic boat by the seashore, and sails away out of their sight to the distant land of sunrise.
Such was Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs, and such in all essential respects was the culture god of the more southern semicivilized races. Curiously enough, this god, at once a Moses and a messiah, is usually described as a white man with flowing beard. From this and other circumstances it has been argued that the whole story is only another form of the dawn myth, but whether the Indian god be an ancient deified lawgiver of their own race, or some nameless missionary who found his way across the trackless ocean in the early ages of Christianity, or whether we have here only a veiled parable of the morning light bringing life and joy to the world and then vanishing to return again from the east with the dawn, it is sufficient to our purpose that the belief in the coming of a messiah, who should restore them to their original happy condition, was well nigh universal among the American tribes.
This faith in the return of a white deliverer from the east opened the gate to the Spaniards at their first coming alike in Haiti, Mexico, Yucatan, and Peru. (Brinton, 1.) The simple native welcomed the white strangers as the children or kindred of their long-lost benefactor, immortal beings whose near advent had been foretold by oracles and omens, whose faces borrowed from the brightness of the dawn, whose glistening armor seemed woven from the rays of sunlight, and whose god-like weapons were the lightning and the thunderbolt. Their first overbearing demands awakened no resentment; for may not the gods claim their own, and is not resistance to the divine will a crime? Not until their most sacred things were trampled under foot, and the streets of the holy city itself ran red with the blood of their slaughtered princes, did they read aright the awful prophecy by the light of their blazing temples, and know that instead of the children of an incarnate god they had welcomed a horde of incarnate devils. "The light of civilization would be poured on their land. But it would be the light of a consuming fire, before which their barbaric glory, their institutions, their very existence and name as a nation, would wither and become extinct. Their doom was sealed when the white man had set his foot on their soil." (Prescott, 2.)
The great revolt of the Pueblo Indians in August, 1680, was one of the first determined efforts made by the natives on the northern continent to throw off the yoke of a foreign oppressor. The Pueblo tribes along the Rio Grande and farther to the west, a gentile, peaceful race, had early welcomed the coming of the Spaniards, with their soldiers and priests, as friends who would protect them against the wild marauding tribes about them and teach them the mysteries of a greater "medicine" than belonged to their own kachinas. The hope soon faded into bitter disappointment. The soldiers, while rough and overbearing toward their brown-skin allies, were yet unable to protect them from the inroads of their enemies. The priests prohibited their dances and simple amusements, yet all their ringing of bells and chanting of hymns availed not to bring more rain on the crops or, to turn aside the vengeful Apache. "What have we gained by all this?" said the Pueblos one to another; "not peace and not happiness, for these new rulers will not protect us from our enemies, and take from us all the enjoyments we once knew."
The pear was ripe. Popé, a medicine-man of the Tewa, had come back from a pilgrimage to the far north, where he claimed to have visited the magic lagoon of Shipapu, whence his people traced their origin and to which the souls of their dead returned after leaving this life. By these ancestral spirits he bad been endowed with occult powers and commanded to go back and rouse the Pueblos to concerted effort for deliverance from the foreign yoke of the strangers.
Wonderful beings were these spirit messengers. Swift as light and impalpable as thought, they passed under the earth from the magic lake to the secret subterranean chamber of the oracle and stood before him as shapes of fire, and spoke, telling him to prepare the strings of yucca knots and send them with the message to all the Pueblos far and near, so that in every village the chiefs might untie one knot from the string each day, and know when they came to the last knot that then was the time to strike.
From the Pecos, across the Rio Grande to Zuñi and the far-distant Hopi mesas, every Pueblo village accepted the yucca string and began secret preparation for the rising. The time chosen was the new moon of August, 1680, but, through a partial discovery of the plot, the explosion was precipitated on the 10th. So sudden and complete was the surprise that many Spaniards in the Pueblo country, priests, soldiers, and civilians, were killed, and the survivors, after holding out for a time under Governor Otermin at Santa Fé, fled to El Paso, and in October there remained not a single Spaniard in all New Mexico. (Bandelier, 1a, 1b.)
Despite their bitter disappointment, the southern nations continued to cherish the hope of a coming redeemer, who now assumed the character of a terrible avenger of their wrongs, and the white-skin conqueror has had bloody occasion to remember that his silent peon, as he toils by blue Chapala or sits amid the ruins of his former grandeur in the dark forests of Yucatan, yet waits ever and always the coming of the day which shall break the power of the alien Spaniard and restore to their inheritance the children of Anahuac and Mayapan. In Peru the natives refused to believe that the last of the Incas had perished a wanderer in the forests of the eastern Cordilleras. For more than two centuries they cherished the tradition that he had only retired to another kingdom beyond the mountains, from which he would return in his own good time to sweep their haughty oppressors from the land. In 1781 the slumbering hope found expression in a terrible insurrection under the leadership of the mestizo Condorcanqui, a descendant of the ancient royal family, who boldly proclaimed himself the long lost Tupac Amaru, child of the sun and Inca of Peru. With mad enthusiasm the Quichua highlanders hailed him as their destined deliverer and rightful sovereign, and binding around his forehead the imperial fillet of the Incas, he advanced at the head of an immense army to the walls of Cuzco, declaring his purpose to blot out the very memory of the white man and reestablish the Indian empire in the City of the Sun. Inspired by the hope of vengeance on the conqueror, even boys became leaders of their people, and it was only after a bloody struggle of two years' duration that the Spaniards were able to regain the mastery and consigned the captive Inca, with all his family, to an ignominious and barbarous death. Even then so great was the feeling of veneration which he had inspired in the breasts of the Indians that "notwithstanding their fear of the Spaniards, and though they were surrounded by soldiers of the victorious army, they prostrated themselves at the sight of the last of the children of the sun, as he passed along the streets to the place of execution." (Humboldt, 1.)
In the New World, as in the Old, the advent of the deliverer was to be heralded by signs and wonders. Thus in Mexico, a mysterious rising of the waters of Lake Tezcuco, three comets blazing in the sky, and a strange light in the east, prepared the minds of the people for the near coming of the Spaniards. (Prescott, 3.) In this connection, also, there was usually a belief in a series of previous destructions by flood, fire, famine, or pestilence, followed by a regeneration through the omnipotent might of the savior. The doctrine that the world is old and worn out, and that the time for its renewal is near at hand, is an essential part of the teaching of the Ghost dance. The number of these cycles of destruction was variously stated among different tribes, but perhaps the most sadly prophetic form of the myth was found among the Winnebago, who forty years ago held that the tenth generation of their people was near its close, and that at the end of the thirteenth the red race would be destroyed. By prayers and ceremonies they were then endeavoring to placate their angry gods and put farther away the doom that now seems rapidly closing in on them. (Schooloraft, Ind. Tribes, 1.)CHAPTER 2
THE DELAWARE PROPHET AND PONTIAC
Hear what the Great Spirit has ordered me to tell you: Put off entirely the customs which you have adopted since the white people came among us.—The Delaroare Prophet.
This is our land, and not yours.—The Confederate Tribes, 1752.
The English advances were slow and halting, for a long period almost imperceptible, while the establishment of a few small garrisons and isolated trading stations by the French hardly deserved to be called an occupancy of the country. As a consequence, the warlike northern tribes were slow to realize that an empire was slipping from their grasp, and it was not until the two great nations prepared for the final struggle in the New World that the native proprietors began to read the stars aright. Then it was, in 1752, that the Lenape chiefs sent to the British agent the pointed interrogatory: "The English claim all on one side of the river, the French claim all on the other—where is the land of the Indians?" (Bancroft, 1.) Then, as they saw the French strengthening themselves along the lakes, there came a stronger protest from the council ground of the confederate tribes of the west: "This is our land and not yours. Fathers, both you and the English are white; the land belongs to neither the one nor the other of you, but the Great Being above allotted it to be a dwelling place for us; so, fathers, I desire you to withdraw, as I have desired our brothers, the English." A wampum belt gave weight to the words. (Bancroft, 2.) The French commander's reply was blunt, but more practiced diplomats assured the red men that all belonged to the Indian, and that the great king of the French desired only to set up a boundary against the further encroachments of the English, who would otherwise sweep the red tribes from the Ohio as they had already driven them from the Atlantic. The argument was plausible. In every tribe were French missionaries, whose fearless courage and devotion had won the admiration and love of the savage; in every village was domiciliated a hardy voyageur, with his Indian wife and family of children, in whose veins commingled the blood of the two races and whose ears were attuned alike to the wild songs of the forest and the rondeaus of Normandy or Provence. It was no common tie that bound together the Indians and the French, and when a governor of Canada and the general of his army stepped into the circle of braves to dance the war dance and sing the war song with their red allies, thirty-three wild tribes declared on the wampum belt, "The French are our brothers and their king is our father. We will try his hatchet upon the English" (Bancroft, 3), and through seven years of blood and death the lily and the totem were borne abreast until the flag of France went down forever on the heights of Quebec.
For some time after the surrender the unrest of the native tribes was soothed into a semblance of quiet by the belief, artfully inculcated by their old allies, that the king of France, wearied by his great exertions, had fallen asleep for a little while, but would soon awake to take vengeance on the English for the wrongs they bad inflicted on his red children. Then, as they saw English garrisons occupying the abandoned posts and English traders passing up the lakes even to the sacred island of the Great Turtle, the despairing warriors said to one another, "We have been deceived. English and French alike are white men and liars. We must turn from both and seek help from our Indian gods."
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Table of ContentsIntroduction
I Paradise lost
II The Delaware prophet and Pontiac
III Tenskwatawa the Shawano prophet
IV Tecumtha and Tippecanoe
V Känakûk and minor prophets
The Potawatomi prophet
Cheez-tah-paezh the Sword-bearer
VI The Smohalla religion of the Columbia region
Joseph and the Nex Percé war
VII Smohalla and his doctrine
VIII The Shakers of Puget sound
IX Wovoka the messiah
X The doctrine of the Ghost dance
The Mormons and the Indians
Porcupines's account of the messiah
The Ghost dance among the Sioux
Selwyn's interiew with Kuwapi
XI The Ghost dance west of the Rockies
XII The Ghost dance east of the Rockies-among the Sioux
Appendix: Causes of the outbreak
Commissioner Morgan's statement
Ex-Agent McGillycuddy's statement
Statement of General Miles
Report of Captain Hurst
Statement of American Horse
Statement of Bishop Hare
XIII The Sioux outbreak-Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee
Appendix: The Indian story of Wounded Knee
XIV Close of the outbreak - The Ghost dance in the south
XV The ceremony of the Ghost dance
Among the northern Cheyenne
Among the Sioux
Preparations for the dance
Giving the feather
The painting of the dancers
The crow dance
The hypnotic process
The area covered by the dance
Present condition of the dance
XVI Parallels in other systems
The Biblical period
Joan of Arc
Dance of Saint John
"Ranters, Quakers, and Fifth-Monarchy men"
Patterson and Brown's mission
Appendix: Hypnotism and the dance among the Dervishes
Sketch of the tribe
Songs of the Arapaho
1. "Opening song: Eyehe´! nä´nisa´na - O, my children!"
2. Se´icha´ heita´wuni´na - The sacred pipe tells me
3. Ate´be tiawu´nanu´ - When at first I liked the whites
4. A´bä´ni´hi´ - My partner
5. A´-nisûna´a´hu - My father
6. E´yehe´! Wû´nayu´uhu´ - E´yehe´! They are new
7. Hi´sähi´hi - My partner! My partner
8. Ä´-nani´ni´bi´nä´si waku´na - The wind makes the head-feathers sing
9. He´! Näne´th bishiqa´wa - When I met him approaching
10. Häna´na´wunanu - I take pity on those
11. "A-ni´qu wa´wanä´tia´ - Father, now I am singing it"
12. Ha´yana´-usi´ya´ - How bright is the moonlight!
13. Ha´ti ni´bät - The cottonwood song
14. Eyehe´! A´nie´sa´na´ - The young Thunderbirds
15. "A´he´sûna´nini naya´qûti´hi - Our father, the Whirlwind"
16. "A´he´sûna´nini naya´qûti´ - Our father, the Whirlwind"
17. Ninaä´niahu´na - I circle around
18. Ha´nahawu´nen beni´ni´na - The Hanahawunen gave it to me
19. Ate´be´ tana´-ise´ti - When first our father came
20. A-ni´äne´thahi´nani´na - My father did not recognize me
21. Ni´-athu´-a-u´ a´hakä´nith´ii - The whites are crazy
22. Na´ha´ta bi´taa´wu - The earth is about to move
23. Ahe´sûna´nini ächiqa´ha´wa-û - I am looking at my father
24. Ha´anake´I - The rock
25. Wa´wa´na´danä´dia - I am about to hum
26. A-te´be dii´netita´nieg - At the beginning of existence
27. Tahu´na´änä´nia´huna - It is I who make the thunder
28. "Ani´qu ne´chawu´nani´ - Father, have pity on me"
29. A-ni´niha´niahu´na - I fly around yellow
30. Niha´nata´yeche´ti - The yellow hide
31. A-bää´thina´hu - The cedar tree
32. Wa´wa nû´nanû´naku´ti - Now I am waving an eagle feather
33. A-ni´qana´ga - There is a solitary bull
34. A-neä´thibiwa´hana - The place where crying begins
35. Thi´äya´ he´naa´awa - When I see the thi´äya
36. A-hu´hu ha´geni´sti´ti - The crow is making a road
37. Bi´taa´wu hu´hu´ - The crow brought the earth
38. Ni´nini´tubi´na hu´hu´ (I) - The crow has called me
39. Nû´nanû´naa´tani´na hu´hu´ (I) -The crow is circling above me
40. "Iyu hä´thäbe´nawa´ - Here it is, I hand it to you"
41. "Hanae´hi ya´ga´ahi´na - Little boy, the coyote gun"
42. He´sûna´ na´nahatha´hi - The father showed me
43. Nänisa´taqu´thi Chinachi´chibä´iha´ - The seven venerable priests
44. Nä´nisa´taqi Chi´nachi´chibä´iha´ - The seven venerable priests
45. Nû´nanû´naa´tani´na hu´hu´ (II)
46. Na´tanu´ya che´bi´nh - The pemmican that I am using
47. "Häi´nawa´ hä´ni´ta´quna´ni - I know, in the pitfall"
48. Bä´hinä´nina´tä ni´tabä´na - I hear everything
49. A-bä´qati´ hä´nichä´bi´hinä´na - With the wheel I am gambling
50. Ani´äsa´kua´na - I am watching
51. Ni´chi´a i´theti´hi - (There) is a good river
52. Ni´nini´tubi´na hu´hu´ (II)
53. Anihä´ya atani´ta´nu´nawa´ - I use the yellow (paint)
54. Ni´naä´niahu´tawa bi´taa´wu - I am flying about the earth
55. I´nita´ta´-usä´na - Stand ready
56. Wa´wäthä´bi - I have given you magpie feathers
57. "Ani´qa he´tabi´nuhu´ni´na - My father, I am poor"
58. Nä´nisa´taqu´thi hu´na - The seven crows
59. Ahu´nä he´sûna´nin - There is our father
60. "Ga´awa´hu - The ball, the ball"
61. Ahu´ ni´higa´hu - The Crow is running
62. Ya´thä-yû´na - He put me in five places
17. "A´ga´ch ehe´e´ye´ ! - The crow, the crow"
18. "Nä´niso´näsi´stsi he´e´ye´ ! - My children, my children"
19. Agu´ga´-ihi - The crow woman
Sketch of the tribe
Songs of the Comanche
1. Heyo´hänä häe´yo
"The Paiute, Washo, and Pit River tribes"
Paiute tribal synonymy
Sketch of the Paiute
The Pit River Indians
Songs of the Paiute
1. Nüvä ka ro´rani´ - The snow lies there
2. Dena´ gayo´n - A slender antelope
3. Do ti´mbi - The black rock
4. Päsü´ wi´noghän - The wind stirs the willows
5. Pägüinäväi - Fog! Fog!
6. Wûmbi´ndomä´n - The whirlwind
7. Kosi´ wûmbi´ndomä´ - There is dust from the whirlwind
8. Dombi´na so´wina´ - The rocks are ringing
9. Su´ng-ä ro´yonji´ - The cottonwoods are growing tall
Sketch of the tribe
Songs of the Sioux
1. Opening song: A´te he´ye e´yayo - The father says so
2. "Michi´nkshi nañpe - My son, let me grasp your hand"
3. He tuwe´cha he - Who think you comes there?
4. Wana´yañ ma´niye - Now he is walking
5. Lechel miyo´qañ-kte - This is to be my work
6. Michinkshi´yi tewa´qila che - I love my children
7. Mila kiñ hiyu´michi´chiyana - Give me my knife
8. Le he´yahe´ - This one says
9. Niya´te-ye´ he´u´we - It is your father coming
10. Miyo´qañ kiñ wañla´ki - You see what I can do
11. Michinkshi mita´waye - It is my own child
12. A´te he´ u-we - There is the father coming
13. Wa´sna wa´tiñ-kta - I shall eat pemmican
14. A´te lena ma´qu-we - The father gave us these
15. "Ina´ he´kuwo´ - Mother, come home"
16. Wa´na wanasa´pi-kta - Now they are about to chase the buffalo
17. He! Kii´ñyañka a´gali´-ye - He! They have come back racing
18. Mi´ye wañma´yañka-yo! - Look at me!
19. Maka´ sito´maniyañ -The whole world is coming
20. Le´na wa´kañ - These sacred things
21. Miyo´qañ kiñ chichu´-che - I have given you my strength
22. "Michi´nkshi tahe´na - My child, come this way"
23. Wana wiche´ shka - Now set up the tipi
24. "A´te mi´chuye - Father, give them to me"
25. Hañpa wecha´ghe - I made moccasins for him
26. Waka´ñyañ iñya´ñkiñ-kte - The holy (hoop) shall run
The Kiowa and Kiowa Apache
Kiowa tribal synonymy
Kiowa tribal sign
Sketch of the Kiowa
The Kiowa Apache
Songs of the Kiowa
1. Da´ta-i so´da´te - The father will descend
2. Da´k'iñ´ago (im) zä´nteähe´dal - The spirit army is approaching
3. Gu´ato ädâ´ga - I scream because I am a bird
4. Da´ta-i nyä´hoânga´mo -The father shows me the road
5. Dak'iñ´a bate´yä - The spirit (God) is approaching
6. Na´da´g äka´na - Because I am poor
7. Ze´bät-gâ´ga igu´ânpa´-ima´ - He makes me dance with arrows
8. Be´ta! To´ngyä-gu´adal - Red Tail has been sent
9. Da´ta-i änka´ñgo´na - My father has much pity for us
10. Da´ta-i iñka´ñtähe´dal - My father has had pity on me
11. Dak'iñ´ago äho´ähe´dal - The spirit host is advancing
12. E´hyuñ´I degia´ta - I am mashing the berries
13. Go´mgyä-da´ga - That wind shakes my tipi
14. Dak'iñ´a dakañ´tähe´dal - God has had pity on us
15. Anso´gyätä´to - I shall cut off his feet
The Caddo and associated tribes
Caddo tribal synonymy
Caddo tribal sign
Sketch of the Caddo
"The Wichita, Kichai, and Deleware"
Songs of the Caddo
1. Ha´yo ta´ia´ a´a´ -Our father dwells above
2. Wû´nti ha´yano´ di´witi´a - All our people are going up
3. Nûna i´tsiya´ - I have come
4. Na´tsiwa´ya - I am coming
5. Na´-iye´ ino´ ga´nio´sit - My sister above
6. Na´a ha´yo ha´wano - Our father above (has) paint
7. Wû´nti ha´yano ka´ka´no´ - All the people cried
8. Ba´wi i´na - We have our mother below
9. Ni´ika´ na´a - Our grandmother and our father above
10. Hi´na ha´natobi´na - The eagle feather headdress
11. Na´ aa´ o´wi´ta´ - The father comes from above
12. Na´iwi´ o´wi´ta´ - See! The eagle comes
13. A´nana´ hana´nito´ - The feather has come back
14. Na´iwi´ ha´naa´ - There is an eagle above
15. "Wi´tu´ Ha´sini´ - Come on, Caddo"