Uŋčí Makhá says, “Don’t make those without their minds famous”
Vector Illustration, 2018.
Program: Adobe Illustrator CC
This piece is situated at my favorite place in Imníža-ská (“White Cliffs” / St. Paul, MN) along the Wakpá tháŋka (Mississippi River). At present-day Indian Mounds Regional Park, Uŋčí Makhá (Dakota earth spirit) stands to remind you this is Dakota homeland. She is surrounded by Dakota floral medicine plants.
I felt it was important to show Uŋčí Makhá in modern clothing, to represent the fact Dakota people and our beliefs are still alive. The Dakota on her shirt translates to, “Don’t make those without their minds famous” — a warning that if we’re not careful, we’ll end up with leaders who don’t care about the environment or the health of the people.
Place is important to Native people and I chose this location because of its history. There used to be close to 40 burial mounds along the cliffs at Mounds Park, but only 6 remain. They are dated back to 200 BCE and it’s a shame that they survived centuries to only be destroyed within the last hundred years. At the bottom of these cliffs was Thaóyatedúta’s Dakota village of Kap’óža, which relocated near the Čhaŋšáyapi Wakpá (Redwood River) after signing a treaty in 1851. Present-day, it’s the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. It is still home to Wakháŋ Thípi, a cave, which is now sealed with a metal gate. The atrium, which no longer exists, used to have carvings which were thousands of years old, including those of rattlesnakes which represent a place of healing. However, after the Dakota people were removed from the area, these were destroyed and turned into gravel.
This cave Wakháŋ Thípi is said by some to be where the creation of all things began. It is said that in the beginning, there was only Íŋyaŋ (Rock) whose spirit is Wakháŋ Tháŋka (the Great Mystery). He longed for others, so he took from himself and his first creation was Makhá. His blood became the waters and his spirit separated from the waters and became the sky. This sky energy is the source of all movement and is called Skaŋ.
So this is how the first three powerful spirits came into being from Íŋyaŋ (Rock), Makhá (Earth), Skaŋ (Sky/Movement). The fourth spirit Wí (light) would come into being later when Makhá complained of being surrounded by the spirit of darkness (Haŋ). Aŋp is the red spirit of dawn, so the light that follows dawn is called Aŋpétu Wí (sun light) and the light that follows darkness is known as Haŋyétu Wí (Haŋwí / moon light)…
Plant medicines in this piece: mnáȟčaȟčá (wild lily), uŋžíŋžiŋtka hú (prairie rose), ptetháwote (ground plum), čhaŋšáša (red willow), čhaŋzí (smooth sumac), phíŋkpa hiŋšmá (prairie smoke), waȟpé tȟó (harebell), wahíŋheya íphiye (swamp milkweed), thókahu (thistle), zitkáda tȟaŋčháŋ (false indigo) and blanketflower.