Siŋtéȟda (Rattlesnake), protector of medicines
Siŋtéhda (Rattlesnake), protector of medicines
Created as part of the exhibition “If This Bluff Could Talk” which narrates the story of Ȟemníčhaŋ (Barn Bluff) in Ȟemníčhaŋ Othúŋwe Wašté (Red Wing, Minnesota). On view: October 12-13, 2019 @ Red Wing Arts Festival, booth 95.
Siŋtéȟda (Rattlesnake) helps maintain the balance of life and is considered especially wakháŋ (sacred) because of its ability to detect bad medicine and those who carry it. During prayer, a gourd or rattle is shaken, which imitates the sound of Siŋtéȟda’s tail and indicates someone who possesses good medicine is sending the message. It is said Wakíŋyaŋ, the Thunder Being sought out Siŋtéȟda’s assistance to save the last Khéya (turtle) egg from the destructive jealousy of the water spirits, so sometimes a rattle made from turtle shell is used in prayer.
They say that Siŋtéȟda protects both the ancient burial mounds and sacred medicine plants that are located on the bluffs along the Wakpá Tháŋka (Mississippi River); thus, there are many burial mounds in the shape of rattlesnakes located in the region, including just a few miles outside of Red Wing near Spring Creek. In the Red Wing area as well as the Wisconsin Dells area, Dakota and Hochunk people would have inter-tribal ceremonies in the Spring to honor the dead as well as make offerings to the Siŋtéȟda of the bluffs for continued protection — it is said no Dakota person has ever been bitten by one. For a rite of passage ceremony of the Medicine Lodge, young men and women would climb Ȟemníčhaŋ to seek one that would sacrifice its life to become the serpent staff. Many tribes in the area have spiritual connections to Siŋtéȟda.
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