Yata, Yanpa, Eya, Okaga, and Yumni – from Anthropological Papers: Vol. XVI by American Museum of Natural History – 1917
The Oglala Lakota tribe has many stories about the wind and this one is my favorite. Wind is an almost constant companion out here on the Colorado prairie and it can change directions many times in one day – causing clouds and weather to circle us much of the time so that no rain or snow will fall. We can see it happening from a distance all around us and feel the wind in a big way – but sometimes wind is the only thing that happens. Seeing the rain and clouds and rainbows that form around us because the wind can’t seem to decide on one way to blow for long – is one of the most beautiful things about where we live. The Lakota Winds series is meant to commemorate that aspect of our environment. It is a beautiful way of explaining why there are the seasons of the year and the cycles of the warming, flowering and freezing of the earth.
Before the creation of the world the South wind (Okaga), the North wind (Yata), the West wind (Eya), and the East wind (Yanpa) dwelt together in the far north in the land of the ghosts. They were brothers. The North wind, the oldest, was always cold and stern. The West wind, next to the oldest, was always strong and noisy. The East wind, the third, was always cross and disagreeable. The South wind, the next to the youngest, was always pleasant. With them dwelt a little brother, the whirlwind, (Yumni) who was always full of fun and frolic.
The North wind was a great hunter and delighted in killing things. The South wind took pleasure in making things. The West wind was a helper of his brother, the South wind, and sometimes he helped his brother, the North wind. The East wind was lazy and good for nothing. The little whirlwind never had anything to do, so he played all the time and danced and made sport for his brothers.
After a long time, a beautiful being fell from the stars. Her hair was like the light and her dress was red and green and white and blue, and all the colors, and she had decorations and ornaments of all colors. As she was falling, she met the five brothers and begged them to give her some place to rest. They took pity on her and invited her into their tipi. When she came in the tipi, everything was bright and pleasant and all were happy, so all the four brothers wanted to marry her. Each asked her to be his woman.
She told them that she was please with their tipi and would be the woman of the one who did that which pleased her the most. So the North wind went hunting and brought her his game; but everything he brought turned to ice as soon as he laid it before her, and the tipi was dark and cold and dreary.
Then the West wind brought his drum and sang and danced before her, but he made so much noise and disturbed things so much that the tipi fell down and she had hard work to raise it again.
Then the East wind sat down by her and talked to her so foolishly that she felt like crying.
Then the South wind made beautiful things for her. She was happy and the tipi was warm and bright. She said that she would be the South wind’s woman. This made the North wind very angry for he claimed that it was his right as the oldest, to have the beautiful being. But the South wind would not give her up. The North wind and South wind quarreled all the time about her and finally the South wind told his woman that they would go away so that they might live in peace. They started, but the North wind tried to steal her. When she found what the North wind was trying to do, she took off her dress, spread it out, and got under it to hide. When North wind came to the dress he thought that he had found the beautiful being and he embraced it, but everything on it grew hard and cold and icy. He heard the South wind coming and he fled to his tipi. The South wind found only a cold hard thing like his woman’s dress but he could not find the woman so he went back to look for her. When he had gone, the North wind came again and said to the woman, “I know you are under this dress and I am coming there also.” So he went to the edge of the dress, but the woman spread it out farther that way. Then he went to the edge at another place and she spread that side out. He kept going from place to place and she kept spreading her dress wider and wider until it became so wide that there was no end or side left.
Then he heard the South wind coming again and he ran to his tipi. When the South wind came again he examined the dress and found that it was truly his woman’s dress and then he knew that the North wind had embraced it. He called loudly for his woman and she answered that she was under the dress and then he knew that the North wind had embraced it. He called again for his woman and she answered him that she was under the dress, but that she had stretched it so wide to keep away from the North wind, that there was neither a side or an end to it, so she could not get out from under it. Then the South wind followed on the trail of the North wind until he came to the tipi where he found him boasting to the other brothers of what he had done.
The South wind went in and reproached his brother. They quarreled and finally fought and the North wind was about to conquer when the West wind rushed in to help the South wind and they conquered the North wind. They could not kill him so they bound his feet and hands and left him in the tipi. The other brothers all sided with the South wind and determined to live no longer with the North wind. So the West wind went to live where the sun sets, the East wind where the sun rises, the South wind went opposite the tipi of the North wind far as he could go.
The little whirlwind was too small to have a tipi of his own, so he lived with the South wind the most of the time, but part of the time he was to live with the West wind. The East wind was so lazy and disagreeable that he would not even visit him.
When they were leaving the North wind, he defied them all and told them that he would forever combat them, that he would break his bonds and go on the warpath against each of them. He said to the South wind, “I know where your woman is. I know what covers her and hides her. When I loosen by bonds I will go and try to get her. I have destroyed the beauty of her dress. If I do not get her I will again destroy its beauty. I will fight you forever for her.”
The south wind came again to his woman’s frozen dress. He called her and she answered, but she could not come from under it, neither cold he go below it for it was spread so wide that there was no end to it. He journeyed to his brothers’ tipi. They came and helped him; they warmed the dress, but it was still ugly and like a dead thing. When his woman found that he was warming her dress, she thrust bright ornaments through it and it was again beautiful with green and red and blue and all colors.
So the three brothers, the South wind, the West wind, and the East wind continued to warm the dress, but the East wind was so lazy that he only worked occasionally in the evening. Little Whirlwind was too small to do much work but he danced about over the dress and threw things in the air and tried to keep the South wind from grieving over his loss. The South wind grew weary with grief and work and went to his tipi to sleep and left only the West wind to guard the dress.
Then the North wind freed himself and came. He and the West wind fought furiously and the North wind was about to conquer and had destroyed all the ornaments on the dress and made it hard and cold. When the North wind came, little Whirlwind sled to South wind’s tipi to tell him. He found South wind asleep and could not wake him. He tried and tried again and again, but could not wake him, so he ran all the way to the tipi of East wind who was sitting looking on at the fight between his brothers, intending to take sides with the one who won. Little Whirlwind persuaded East wind to go with him and wake South wind.
When South wind was told what had happened he came in a great rage to the help of his brother, the West wind. They fought all over the dress and finally North wind was driven back to his tipi, but he would slip away at night and embrace the dress and make it hard and cold until he was bound again. Then the South wind and West wind had to warm the dress again and the woman under the dress had to push the ornaments through it again. Thus began the warfare between the brothers which continues to the present time.