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THE STRONG MEDICINE OF KONATE (1839)
THE STORY OF THE KIOWA MAGIC STAFF
 THE Kiowas are of the great Athapascan family of Indians. In their war days they ranged from the Platte
River of western Nebraska down into New Mexico and Texas. But their favorite hunting grounds lay
south of the Arkansas River of western Kansas and southeastern Colorado.
It was a desert country, of whity-yellow sand and sharp bare hills, with the Rocky Mountains distant
in the west, and the only green that of the trees and brush along the water-courses. Nevertheless it
was a very good kind of country.
It had plenty of buffalo. The timber and the streams supplied winter shelter. The wagon-road of the
white merchants, between the Missouri River and Santa Fe of New Mexico, ran through the middle of it
and furnished much plunder. In the south, where lay Comanche land and Apache land, there were
Mexican settlements that furnished horses.
With the Comanches and Apaches, and with the Cheyennes and Arapahos north, the Kiowas were friends.
To the Pawnees they were enemies, and their name carried dread through many years of fighting.
Now in the summer of 1839, twenty Kiowa warriors
 left their village near the Arkansas River in present southern Kansas, to go down across Comanche
country and get horses and mules from the Pasunke, or the Mexicans of El Paso, which is on the Rio
Grande River border between northwestern Texas and Mexico. However, in those days all that region
The head chief of the party was old Do-has-an, or Bluff. But he did not command. Gua-da-lon-te, or
Painted-red, was the war chief. Dohasan would take command only in case Gua-da-lon-te was killed.
Among the warriors there were Dagoi, and Kon-a-te, whose name means "Black-tripe."
After several days' travel horseback clear across New Mexico they came to El Paso town, where many
goods were stored on the way between New Mexico and Old Mexico, and where the people got rich by
trading and by making wine from grapes. But they could see soldiers guarding El Paso; so they did
not dare to charge in and gather horses and mules from he frightened Pasunke.
Dohasan, who was wise as well as brave, advised against it.
"Another time," he said. "We are too few, and we are a long way from home. Let us go, and come
again. Maybe on the way up we will meet with luck among the other villages."
They rested only the one night, and turned back, thinking that they had not been discovered. At the
end of a day's journey through a bad, waterless land, they halted and camped by a spring, of which
YOUNG KIOWA GIRL
 It was a big rock-sink or round, deep basin, with a pool of water at the bottom, and a cave that
extended under a shelf.
The Mexican soldiers must have struck their trail, or perhaps had followed them from El Paso; for
early in the morning there was a sudden shooting from all around, and much yelling. Bullets whined
and spatted, and horses screamed and fell over.
"Into the cave!" shouted Painted-red. "Quick!"
Hustled by old Bluff and Painted-red, into the cave they bolted. Nobody had been hurt, and the
soldiers were afraid to venture in after them, but right speedily they found themselves badly off.
The soldiers camped along the edge of the well, above, so as to kill them by thirst and hunger. Only
in the darkness might the Kiowas, two or three at a time, crawl out of the cave, gulp a few swallows
from the pool, maybe slash a strip of horse-meat, and scuttle in again.
While doing this, Dagoi was shot in the leg, so that he could not walk. In a couple of days the dead
horses began to decay, for the sun was very hot. The smell grew sickening. The flesh was sickening.
One or two of the dead horses lay in the pool, and the water got sickening. The Mexican soldiers
stayed close and watchful, and yelled insults in Spanish.
But they had with them several Apache scouts; and one of the Apaches called in Comanche, so that the
soldiers would not understand.
"Be of good cheer, brothers," he called. "Be strong and hold out, until these dogs of Mexicans
 The Kiowas had no thought of surrendering. They would rather die where they were, because if they
surrendered, they would be killed anyway. Old Dohasan and others among them belonged to the society
of Ka-itse-nko or Real Dogs—whose members were under a vow never to surrender.
Part of them guarded the cave's mouth, and the rest explored back inside. At the very end there was
a hole which let in daylight. Konate was boosted up; but when he stuck his head through, a soldier
saw it and he had to duck down. Thereupon the soldiers stopped the hole with a large rock.
When ten days and nine nights had passed, they all decided that they would either escape or be
killed. The horse meat could not be touched; neither could the water. It was better to die in the
open, like men, than to die in a hole, like gophers.
The soldiers guarded the only trail that led up the side of the cliff wall, out of the well; but at
another side there was a cedar which had rooted in a crack and almost reached the rim. By hard
climbing a man might manage to scramble up and gain the open.
But what to do with Dagoi, who had only one leg and was weak from pain?
"You will not leave me, my brothers?" implored Dagoi. "It is true I am wounded, but if you leave me,
I shall surely die. Perhaps you can carry me on your backs. Or wait a day or two, and the soldiers
will grow tired."
"No," said old Dohasan. "That is impossible. We must move fast, and to get you up the tree would
 noise. If we wait, or if we stay, we will all die, and it is better that one should die than that
all should die.
"Have a strong heart, my son. You are a warrior, and you must die like a warrior."
Dagoi bowed his head.
"Those are good words," he answered. "I hear them and they make me strong. I am a man, and I am not
afraid. When you get home, tell my friends to come and avenge me."
In the darkness Dagoi dragged himself to the pool, and sat beside it, waiting for daylight and the
bullets of the soldiers.
Old Dohasan sang the death-chant of the Real Dogs. Then he stepped silently out, leading the file of
warriors to the wall under the tree, that he might be the first to climb and meet the soldiers in
case they were on watch.
Up he went, into the cedar, and on; up went all, one after another, as fast as they could. The
camp-fires of the Mexican soldiers were glowing, right and left and behind and before, along the
rim; but without a sound the nineteen gaunt Kiowas, bending low, stole swiftly forward, at the heels
They succeeded. But in finding horses, somebody made a little noise, and the Mexicans fired wildly
into the darkness. However, answering not, and leading the horses out a short way, step by step,
they were ready to vault on.
"A bullet has gone through my body," said Konate. "But I will try to ride."
 "We must hurry," spoke Painted-red. The camp was all aroused. "Someone help Konate."
Away they dashed, several riding double, and Konate supported in his seat by a comrade. Behind, in
the well, Dagoi sat beside the pool and kept his heart strong for the end that would come by
All that night and all the next day they rode, making northeast toward the desolate desert region of
the Staked Plain, on the homeward way across western Texas. No Mexican soldiers would follow into
the Staked Plain.
When after hard riding they arrived at Sun-mountain Spring, on the top of a high, bare-rock hill
near the Staked Plain, Konate's wound had spoiled in him and he could not sit upright on his horse.
He was very ill.
"I am about to die, friends," he gasped. "Do not try to carry me farther. But go yourselves and some
day come back for my bones."
He spoke sense. Any one might see that he had only a few hours to live, and that soon his comrades
would be carrying only a body across the Staked Plain, where the sun beat hotly and water was far
It was better that they leave him here, at the spring where they might find his bones. So on the
water's edge they built a shade for Konate, with a few crooked cedar branches, and bidding him
goodby they rode on, into the great Staked Plain.
They expected that they would never see him again.
What happened now to Konate, he often told, and he told it always the same; therefore it must be
 For the rest of the long day he lay there, with the sun beating down around him, and his mind and
body very sick from his wound. He was unable to sleep. The sun set, and the air changed to cool, the
twilight deepened to dusk; alone on his hilltop he closed his eyes, and waited for the spirit of the
tai-me, or Sun-dance medicine, to bear him to his fathers.
In the star-light he heard a wolf howl, far off. He listened, and the howl sounded again, nearer,
from another direction. Then he knew that the wolf had scented him and was ranging to find his spot.
That would be bad—to be eaten by a wolf and have one's bones scattered!
Konate groaned. His heart had been strong, until this moment. He had hoped that his bones would be
Soon he heard the wolf, at hand; there was the soft patter of its pads, and the sniffing of its
inquiring nose, seeking him out. And now he saw the wolf, with shining eyes peering into the bough
shelter where he lay helpless, unable even to speak.
That was an agonizing moment, for Konate. But lo, instead of jumping upon him, the wolf trotted
forward, and gently licked his wounds, and then lay quietly down beside him.
Konate was amazed and thankful. While the wolf lay there, next he heard another sound, in the
distance: the shrill eagle-bone-whistle music of the great Sun-dance of the Kiowa nation. The music
drew nearer, and he heard the Sun-dance song; and while he listened, strong of heart again, he saw
the medicine spirit
 of the Sun-dance standing before him, at the entrance to the shelter.
"I pity you and shall not let you die," said the medicine spirit. "You shall see your home and
Then the medicine spirit brought down a rain, to wash Konate's wounds and cool his fever. The
medicine spirit sat with Konate most of the night, and told him many things: told him how to make a
new kind of Sun-dance shield, and also an a-po-te, or sacred forked staff, that should be a medicine
staff and have magic powers.
Toward morning the medicine spirit left, saying: "Help is near."
Every bit of this Konate firmly insisted was true, although white men claimed that he dreamed. For,
Meanwhile the Painted-red party were riding on, and in the Staked Plain they met six Comanches,
bound to Mexico after plunder. They spoke to the Comanches regarding Konate, and asked them to cover
his body so that the wolves should not get it.
This the Comanches promised to do, and continued to the Sun-mountain Spring where Konate had been
left to die.
But when they reached the spring, they found Konate alive and stronger than when his comrades had
bid him goodby! That astonished them. They then knew that he was "medicine." Therefore they washed
him, and gave him food, and putting him on an extra horse they turned back and took him home.
The village, and all the tribe, also, were astonished
 to see him again. As proof that he had been visited by the medicine spirit, he made the medicine
shield of a new design, and the apote, or sacred forked stick.
He took the name Pa-ta-dal, or Lean Bull. After that the keepers of the medicine stick bore the same
Konate carried the medicine stick in the Sun-dance, for several years, and then handed it on to his
nephew K'a-ya-nti, or Falls-over-a-bank, who became Lean Bull the second—but the white people
called him Poor Buffalo.
This apote was a two-pronged stick about four feet long, decorated with wild sage. It was smooth and
had no bark, and was brought out only once a year, for the Sun-dance. The keeper of it used it for
beating time, in the dance. At the close of the dance it was stuck, forks up, in the ground in the
center of the medicine lodge, and left until the next year.
When the stick was eighteen years old Konate's nephew planted it as before, at the close of the
Sun-dance, in the center of the medicine lodge on the plain; and when the Kiowas returned, the next
summer, for another Sun-dance, they discovered that the apote had been planted the other end up, and
was putting forth green leaves!
For a stick eighteen years old, without bark, to do this, was certainly great medicine. No one now
might doubt the story of Konate, to whom the taime spirit had talked, under the bough shelter by the
None of the Kiowas dared to touch the apote, this
 time—or to stay near the medicine lodge. The dance was held at another place.
When, ten years later, or in October, 1867, the Kio was met in a treaty council with the United
States, near the present town of Medicine Lodge on Medicine Lodge Creek, southern Kansas, they were
enabled to show that the apote had grown to be a large tree.
Such had been the strong medicine of Konate, to whom, about to die from his wounds, in his shelter
by the Sun-mountain Spring beyond the Staked Plain, the taime spirit had talked.
Konate was dead; but K'a-ya-nti, his nephew, the other keeper of the stick, was still alive; and he