THE WARRIOR MAIDEN
(ONEIDA)


Long ago, in the days before the white man came to this continent, the Oneida people were beset by their old enemies the Mingos. The invaders attacked the Oneida villages, stormed their palisades, set fire to their long-houses, laid waste to the land, destroyed the corn fields, killed men and boys, and abducted the women and girls. There was no resisting the Mingos, because their numbers were like grains of sand, like the pebbles on a lake shore..............

The villages of the Oneida lay deserted, their fields untended, the ruins of their homes blackened. The men had taken the women, the old people, the young boys and girls into the deep forests, hiding them in secret places among rocks, in caves, and on desolate mountains. The Mingos searched for victims, but could not find them. The Great Spirit himself helped the people to hide and shielded their places of refuge from the eyes of their enemies...........................

Thus the Oneida people were safe in their inaccessible retreats, but they were also starving. Whatever food they had been able to save was soon eaten up. They could either stay in their hideouts and starve, or leave them in search of food and be discovered by their enemies. The warrior chiefs and sachems met in council but could find no other way out......................................

Then a young girl stepped forward in the council and said that the good spirits had sent her a dream showing her how to save the Oneida. Her name was Aliquipiso and she was not afraid to give her life for her people.

Aliquipiso told the council: "We are hiding on top of a high, sheer cliff. Above us the mountain is covered with boulders and heavy sharp rocks. You warriors wait and watch here. I will go to the Mingos and lead them to the spot at the foot of the cliff where they all can be crushed and destroyed."..........................

The chiefs, sachems, and warriors listened to the girl with wonder. The oldest of the sachems honored her, putting around her neck strands of white and purple wampum. "The Great Spirit has blessed you, Aliquipiso, with courage and wisdom," he said. "We, your people, will always remember you.".................... "I will not show you the way," answered Aliquipiso. The Mingos tied her to a blackened tree stump and tortured her with fire, as was their custom. Even the wild Mingos were astonished at the courage with which the girl endured it. At last Aliquipiso pretended to weaken under the pain. "Don't hurt me anymore," she cried, "I'll show you the way!"...........

As night came again, the Mingos bound Aliquipiso's hands behind her back and pushed her ahead of them. Don't try to betray us, they warned. "At any sign of it, we will kill you." Flanked by two warriors with weapons poised, Aliquipiso led the way. Soundlessly the mass of Mingo warriors crept behind her through thickets and rough places, over winding paths and deer trails, until at last they arrived beneath the towering cliff of sheer granite. "Come closer, Mingo warriors," she said in a low voice, gather around me. The Oneidas above are sleeping, thinking themselves safe. I'll show you the secret passage that leads upwards.......................................

The Mingos crowded together in a dense mass with the girl in the center. Then Aliquipiso uttered a piercing cry: "Oneidas! The enemies are here! Destroy them!"

The Mingos scarcely had time to strike her down before huge boulders and rocks rained upon them. There was no escape; it seemed as if the angry mountain itself were falling on them, crushing them, burying them. So many Mingo warriors died there that the other bands of Mingo invaders stopped pillaging the Oneida country and retired to their own hunting grounds. They never again made war on Aliquipiso's people.............

The story of the girl's courage and self- sacrifice was told and retold wherever Oneidas sat around their campfires, and will be handed down from grandparent to grandchild as long as there are Oneidas on this earth.

The Great Mystery changed Aliquipiso's hair into woodbine, which the Oneidas call "running hairs" and which is a good medicine. From her body sprang honeysuckle, which to this day is known among her people as the "blood of brave women."

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