Spirit Lake's Legend.
It is not difficult to imagine what a paradise lowa was for the nomadic-tribes that first peopled it, writes Mr J. A. Smith in the Sioux, City (la.) Journal. Its Jakes and streams "alive with fish'and fowl; its prairies the pasture ground for almost countless herds of wild ruminating animals; its timber belts furnishing convenient shelter and fuel, while the rich ao 1 responded abundantly to their rude land desultory attempts at agriculture.And thinking of this one is led to wonder if the same people who fought so long and fiercely for possession of the bleak and rugged hills of New England and' the Middle States, and who made of the Ohio valley 'a dark and bloody ground,' sub•mitted with such comparative tameness to be driven from these, their best hunting grounds.
But it is rather for the purpose of recalling one of the most charming of lowa's legends than for speculating upon' the Indian hegira that this narrative Is'j written. One of, the loveliest sheets of water in the world is Spirit Lake, now so I widely known as lowa's beautiful summer resort, and with its name the legend,mentioned. The Indian name' of Spirit Lake is Minne Waukau, or 'Water of the Great Spirit,', arid the. le,gend..gives the> significance of the' name. One who has only seen Spirit Lake on a calm, bright summer day, with scarcely a ripple disturbing the sheen of its broad expanse, could but imagine—sq peaceful, so restful and quiet is the scene—that if spirits abide therein they must surely be those gentle gnomes and fairies whose mission to the human family was always one of kindness. But when one has seen it lashed to fury by the pitiless north wind, watched its steely blue, foam-crested waves roll up high on Sandy beach, or dash in impotent rage against rock-lined clifls, while afar ofl" masses of vapor and the very clouds seemed to meet its angry surface like a besom of destruction—then it would be easy to understand that the superstitious red man might regard such manifestations as threatening death to any who should venture upon its turbulent waters. Many years ago, so runs the legend, a war party of Sioux who had joined their brethren near the great lakes in an incursion to drive away the usurping white man, returned to the tribe, bringing with them captive a beautiful white maiden. After many- weary days of journeying they found the camp fires of their people among the trees that fringed the western shore of Spirit, Lake. The grief and beauty' of the white girl had touched, the heart of "Star of Day," son of a powerful chief, and during the wearisome journey he tried to soften the hardships she ensured and to show her the love she had awakened in his breast. But the poor captive had no thought for any thing but the home and friends from whom she had been so ruthlessly torn, although her heart was filled with gratitude towards the young brave, who protected her in lfis rude fashion,
When the camp on the lake was reached the captive was placed in charge of'an old squaw and confined in a wigwam, where she bemoaned her sad fate with tears and entreaties to be restored to her friends. Star of Day tried for a time, as opportunity offered, to urge his Buit, but without avail. In vain he rehearsed his prowess in battle or pointed to trophies of the chase taken- by his skill. His love-making but added to 'the maiden's misery, and her only answer to his wooing was piteous appeals that he would set her free. . , ' ■ . : . • ,
Finally Star of Day determined not I only to give her her liberty, but to conduct J her safely to her family, hoping that such I generosity would awaken the love he j craved. He chose a time when most of - the tribe were absent on a grand hunt, and selecting a dark and threatening night for greater security the pair launched out upon the lake in a light but frail canoe, The girl's absence was soph discovered by the old squaw, and the alarm spread through the camp. Other canoes were manned in chase of the fugitives, and .being propelled by several pairs of strong 'arms, the flashing light of torches, ere long enabled the pursuers to catch sight of Star of Day's canoe. But just as their' capture was imminent, the storm burst with terrible fury, engulfing all in the surging whirlpool of dark waters. From that time no Indian's canoe ever crossed the lake. Either a'storm would suddenly arise and swamp the frail j bark or some unseen power drag it beneath the waves. Then,the tragic.fate of Star of of Day and the white maiden was invested with Indian superstition, and their spirits were said to haunt the lake t for the purpose of working mischief upon all red men who should venture thereon.
When in after years the adventurous, white hunters who first visited the lake launched boldly upon its surface, and returned safe from their voyages, the fact was accepted as fully confirming the' theory of a mysterious spirit influence which was exercised for the protection of the,pale-faces, as well as for the destruction of the red men. As years passed it .became a part of the tradition that no white man would ever be drowned in the lake, but that in storm or calm his. boat would safely ride its waters, shielded from danger by the enchantment of the spirits that rule the waves and guide the fatal whirlpools.
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Spirit Lake's Legend., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2428, 13 May 1890
Spirit Lake's Legend. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2428, 13 May 1890
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