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The Keusca Elopement


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Keusca was a village of the Dakota Indians on the Wisconsin bluffs of the
Mississippi eighteen hundred miles from its mouth. The name means, to
overthrow, or set aside, for it was here that a tribal law was broken.
Sacred Wind was a coquette of that village, for whose hand came many
young fellows wooing with painted faces. For her they played the bone
flute in the twilight, and in the games they danced and leaped their
hardest and shot their farthest and truest when she was looking on.
Though they amused her she cared not a jot for these suitors, keeping her
love for the young brave named the Shield--and keeping it secret, for he
was her cousin, and cousins might not wed. If a relative urged her to
marry some young fellow for whom she had no liking, she would answer that
if forced to do so she would fling herself into the river, and spoke of
Winonah and Lovers' Leap.

She was afraid to wed the Shield, for the medicine-men had threatened all
who dared to break the marriage laws with unearthly terrors; yet when the
Shield had been absent for several weeks on the war-path she realized
that life without his companionship was too hollow to be endured--and she
admired him all the more when he returned with two scalps hanging at his
belt. He renewed his wooing. He allayed her fears by assurances that he,
too, was a medicine-man and could counteract the spells that wizards
might cast on them. Then she no longer repressed the promptings of her
heart, but yielded to his suit. They agreed to elope that night.

As they left the little clearing in the wood where their interview had
taken place, a thicket stirred and a girl stole from it, looking intently
at their retreating forms. The Swan, they had named her; but, with a
flush in her dusky cheeks, her brows dark, her eyes glittering, she more
recalled the vulture--for she, too, loved the Shield; and she had now
seen and heard that her love was hopeless. That evening she alarmed the
camp; she told the parents of Sacred Wind of the threatened violation of
custom, and the father rose in anger to seek her. It was too late, for
the flight had taken place. The Swan went to the river and rowed out in a
canoe. From the middle of the stream she saw a speck on the water to the
southward, and knew it to be Sacred Wind and her lover, henceforth
husband. She watched until the speck faded in the twilight--then leaning
over the side of the boat she capsized it, and passed from the view of

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