Spirit Water Chapter


Devils Lake encompasses approximately 3,810 square miles of water area.

Many moons ago there lived a band of Sioux beside a lake. This lake had sweet water and was plentiful with fish. Their chief, Little Shell, had just led his warriors in a bloody battle during which they had victoriously driven the Chippewa to the Canadian border. The Sioux were planning another attack to push the Chippewa further into Canada, when there appeared a vision to the old medicine man Ke-ask-ke (Big Liar). The vision came from The Great Spirit, Owanda the Seer, with a warning that if they followed through with their war plans a mighty monster would rise up from the lake and swallow them.

Chief Little Shell did not heed this warning. He ordered his strongest men to dress in full war regalia. Young boys and even women dressed and danced as they prepared to go on the warpath.

Suddenly the water began to rise and boil. The earth trembled under their feet and a large ugly monster, with fiery eyes, came out of the lake. The tribe fought for their lives, but the demon was too powerful. One by one he swallowed them. Only a few, including Ke-ask-ke and Chief Little Shell managed to escape to another village.

After a few days the survivors, along with the other band of Sioux, returned to find that the water had mysteriously become salty, like that of the sea. The fish disappeared as if by magic. Not even dead fish could be found. This puzzled Ke-ask-ke so he sent for other tribal medicine men to help him investigate.

They prepared a séance, known as “brains of know-it-all.” All night they feasted, danced, sang and prayed. At last Ma-che-gambe, one of the medicine men declared he had the answer. He ordered the medicine men to board the largest boat and to paddle off on the lake. They came to an area of water that suddenly turned stormy with large bubbles on the surface. The medicine men became panic stricken.

“Ma-che-gambe is crazy,” they said “to bring us face to face with the sea monster. We have no chance of overpowering it.” They wanted to cast him overboard. However, Ma-che-gambe convinced them they need not fear. But the whirlpool pitched one of the medicine men overboard. When he hit the water he began to spin around, going deeper and deeper. Then he disappeared – “vanished to the grave of the sea monster,” his companions thought. This was enough.

“Do you know,” Ma-che-gambe said, “that he who fell into the water is the Spirit Man of the Water? The Great Spirit will not suffer us loss of our brother. This problem is not a matter of one man, but one of concern to all the Native Americans welfare and it is our mission to solve their problem.”

The medicine men for once agreed. They rowed along the boiling hole until the Spirit Man who had fallen into the water appeared again. He described what he had discovered. Deep in the water he said he found a hole where the water came out boiling. This was the mouth of a subterranean passage connecting with an underground river that ran across the country to the Gulf of Mexico. They decided the monster came to Devils Lake from the sea through this underground river. And as he made his way into Devils Lake, the salt drew all the fish into this underground river and they were never able to get back into the lake.